We're looking for early permanence carers for babies from birth to two years old. This type of placement is called Best for Baby.
Becoming a Best for Baby carer allows prospective adopters, who are also approved as foster carers, to give babies and young children under two years old a better start in life. This way, children who are taken into care when they are born or soon after are placed with Best for Baby carers.
You may also hear professionals referring to this as Concurrent Planning.
This type of early permanence placement is like Best for Baby, but Best for Baby is for babies and young children under two years old and Better Beginnings is for children of any age. This may include babies but also older children.
Better Beginnings enables children to be placed earlier with their adopters (acting as foster carers) so that bonds and attachments can form both for the children and their carers. It minimises potential moves within temporary foster care and provides them with stability at the earliest opportunity.
You may also hear this referred to as Fostering for Adoption.
Read our guide to early permanence placements (PDF 1.64 MB) – in one handy information pack.
Both Best for Baby and Better Beginnings carers are assessed and trained both as prospective foster carers and adopters. When a child is initially placed with early permanence carers, they act as foster carers for the child, supporting contact with birth family members while the court decides the child's future.
It is important that carers work co-operatively with the child's family and the professionals involved.
If a baby or child has been considered for early permanence, this means there is a strong argument that they will not be returned to their birth family. However, if the court decides that the birth parents are able to meet the needs of the child, their carers would help them return to their birth parents. Carers will have given the child the love and security that they need as well as helping them to settle back with their family.
Should the child be unable to return to the care of their birth family, early permanence carers adopt the child and become the legal parents.
If you want to hear from people who have first-hand experience of a Best for Baby placement, Louise and Simon can give you an insight into the process. They are Best for Baby carers looking after a four month old girl named Chloe. David and Katy have been through the process twice and they have now adopted a baby boy called Harry, who they cared for since birth.
In traditional care planning for children, a child is placed with foster carers while the court makes decisions about their future. If the judge agrees that a child should be adopted then suitable adopters will be found and the child will move from the foster carers to adoptive parents through a process called bridging.
Because early permanence carers are approved as both foster carers and adopters, a child does not have to move. They remain with their carers who will become their adoptive parents if this is the decision of the court.
These type of placements aren't suitable for all children. They are considered for babies and children of all ages where social workers believe it is highly likely that the child will be adopted.
There are two types of placements:
What both placements have in common is that we feel these children are highly likely to be placed for adoption. A child's older siblings may have been adopted with little change in the family circumstances since then, or parents may have high levels of needs themselves meaning they are unable to care for their child.
These type of placements are not a definitive plan of adoption. During court proceedings both a plan of adoption and a plan of rehabilitation are considered side by side. The eventual outcome will depend on whether birth parents are able to make the necessary changes to their lives to enable them to safely care for their child. When this is not possible a child will be adopted by their carers.
Early permanence means babies and children will have enjoyed a more secure start in life, and greater stability and security during the early months and years of their lives. Other benefits include:
Jack's profile should help give you an idea of the children that have been placed with Best for Baby carers. His story is based on a typical child's profile as described by one of our social workers.
As with all fostering and adoption applicants, we give serious consideration to anyone wishing to become an early permanence carer, regardless of age, marital status, gender, sexuality, disability or employment status. You need to be over 21 and live within Lancashire or close proximity with travelling time no greater than one hour.
This isn't for everyone. You might feel you can't accept the small risk that the child might not stay with you permanently. But with our support, you'll know that you've given a child a better start in life whatever the outcome is.
The idea behind early permanence placements is that it's better for the adults involved to bear the uncertainty, so that the child can enjoy more stability and security.
You may feel that with the high level of ongoing support on offer you are prepared to try this alternative route to adoption. If you feel this is the right option for you, a social worker who specialises in these type of placements will work with you and carry out your assessment, and make sure you are fully prepared for this role.
The child may return to their birth family and there may also be uncertainty about their health and future development. Because of this you need to be:
The first step to becoming an early permanence carer is to make an initial enquiry. You can do this by contacting the fostering and adoption recruitment and assessment team.
We aim for carers to be formally approved as both foster carers and adopters within six months from the start of stage one of the adoption process (PDF 88 KB).
The assessment will then be presented to both the fostering and adoption panels for approval as early permanence carers (both foster carers and adopters concurrently).
Throughout your enquiry, application and training, you will be offered a high level of ongoing support and guidance, from qualified professionals in the fostering and adoption recruitment and assessment team. A social worker will work with you and carry out your assessment and make sure you are fully prepared for this role.
After you have been approved, you will be supported by your social worker. At this stage you will be supported as a foster carer. If the court decides the child should remain in your care as adoptive parent/s we will support you to do this.
Additionally, if you are considering an early permanence placement, during the latter stages of your approval and post-approval, you will have access to specialist early permanence support groups. This is a great opportunity for you to meet other people choosing to adopt this way, as well as the lead social workers. We recognise that by participating in these groups you will not only receive professional support, but you will also find the support of your peers invaluable.
Adoption has permanent implications for you and the child. Additionally post-adoption support services will be available to offer you advice, information and support.
In Lancashire we are dedicated to the continuing professional development of our carers. We offer a comprehensive package of training opportunities, some of which can be accessed online, which cover every aspect of the fostering and adoption roles.
The following courses and training sessions are mandatory:
We undertake a process referred to as 'matching'. Once approved, we will look to match you with a suitable child whose needs you are able to meet and for whom you will be a good match. You will be given as much information as possible about the child and family circumstances, and will also have the opportunity to talk to the child's social worker before making a decision to proceed.
A matching report is prepared and considered to ensure that the match is appropriate and agreed by professionals involved with the child. This match is for you both as a foster carer for the child and as their prospective adopter.
We recognise that some of the people who consider Best for Baby placements may have limited experience of caring for very young children. We work in partnership with the Children and Family Wellbeing Service (previously children's centres) to provide the kind of help and advice in caring for babies that would be provided to birth mothers as part of pre-natal care.
Your employment status will not stop you from becoming a carer. We are looking for families from all sections of society as long as you are able to meet the general additional living costs that parenting a child entails.
All children require time and energy, but babies and toddlers in particular need consistency of care from a primary care giver with whom they can form secure attachments. As such we would require one carer to be at home for at least nine months, preferably one year, to care for young children and whilst contact is ongoing with the birth family during court proceedings. If you are a couple this may be shared between you, but the needs of the child must remain the paramount consideration.
If you are a working carer you get the same adoption leave and pay entitlements as birth parents, applicable from when the child comes to live with you. We advise you to speak to your employer to find out exactly what you are entitled to.
Please contact us and our experienced staff will answer any questions you have whether you want an informal chat or confidential advice. Complete the enquiry form or contact the early permanence placements social worker on 0300 123 6723 or 01772 535 196.
Or why not drop in to one of our adoption information evenings to find out more face to face?