Welsh Early Permanence (WEP)
What is Welsh Early Permanence?
When they are first removed from their birth family, most children in Wales, either just before or at the start of care proceedings are placed either with family members (kinship care) or in a short-term foster placement with foster carers.
- If the local authority plan (ratified by the court) is for the child to either be reunified with birth parents or placed with family members, then the child moves from their foster placement at the end of proceedings to the identified person(s)
- If the local authority plan is for the child’s care plan to become adoption and this is accepted by the court, then the foster carer sees the child through their transition to their adoptive placement
In Welsh Early Permanence, the Welsh Early Permanence carer(s) who take the child at the start of proceedings are also approved prospective adoptive parent(s). During placement a Welsh Early Permanence carer acts as any foster carer would, caring for the child, facilitating contact with birth family, and taking part in the child’s looked after reviews. If the care plan is for reunification or placement with family, then they help the child with the transition to their birth family. If the care plan is for adoption, then the child stays with the Welsh Early Permanence carer who then become their adoptive parent(s).
The impact of Welsh Early Permanence for children
Welsh Early Permanence for a child(ren) means that if their care plan becomes adoption, they don’t have to transition from foster / kinship placement to adoptive placement; essentially leaving the people with whom they have developed attachments.
With some children the uncertainty of return to birth family is small; whilst with others there is a greater chance of reunification or placement with wider family.
The impact of Welsh Early Permanence for Welsh Early Permanence carers
Although the number of children who return to birth family or are placed with family members from Welsh Early Permanence placements is small, there can never be a guarantee that the child will not return. Therefore, Welsh Early Permanence Carers must fully comprehend the gravity of this and the impact this may have on themselves and their own wider family.
Many prospective adopters can see the benefit of Welsh Early Permanence for the child and are prepared, with support, to handle the uncertainty to themselves on behalf of the child.
With babies who are removed from birth parents shortly after birth the Welsh Early Permanence carer gains the opportunity to care for a new-born. However, it should be noted that as with any young placement this placement also carries the risk that developmental trajectory for the child cannot be fully known upon placement.
With older children, Welsh Early Permanence gives the carer the opportunity to provide stable care for a child at an earlier stage of their care experience; whatever the final care plan turns out to be.
The experience of Early Permanence placements in some areas of England (where it’s commonly practiced), is that carers embrace the role of being foster carers. In their experience most children in Early Permanence placements remain in that placement and once the care plan for adoption is ratified by the court the child legally becomes the carer’s child through adoption. Many adopters through Early Permanence share that meeting birth parents (at handovers for contact and at review meetings), really helps them to speak to the child(ren) about birth family in greater detail. And, most importantly, Early Permanence placements prevent the need for a transition from foster to adoptive placement.
Welsh Early Permanence statutory leave and pay
Carers who are dually approved as prospective adoptive parents and foster carers are eligible for statutory adoption leave and pay from the date the child has been placed with them as foster carers. Please note that self-employed carers are not eligible for statutory pay.
The Social Services Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016, regulations 53-54 and 143-148, bring Wales in line with the provisions available in England. More details of the regulations can be found here: Adoption Pay Leave.
The child must be placed with dually approved carers under s81 Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. The local authority responsible for the child must provide a letter for the carer(s) notifying them of the proposed placement of the child and stating that the placement is made with a local authority foster parent, under s81(6)(b) SSWB(W)A, who has been approved as a prospective adopter. This provides the equivalent of a matching certificate in confirming the employee’s eligibility for statutory adoption leave and pay.
From the same date (the date of the letter from the local authority) Welsh Early Permanence carers who are expecting a child to be placed will be entitled to time off; on five occasions for the primary adopter (who will take most of the leave) and two occasions for the secondary adopter (if applicable), for adoption appointments (meetings with the local authority / medical adviser etc).
Welsh Early Permanence carers are eligible for a fostering allowance from the time the child is placed until either the child is reunified with birth family, or the foster placement becomes an adoptive placement. The rate of fostering allowance will be the rate the nominated fostering service pays its foster carers.
In the event of reunification or placement with wider family, it’s recommended that the carers are paid an additional month’s allowance following the end of the placement. However, this will be dependent on the Local Authority arrangements.
In the event of the placement becoming an adoptive placement, the fostering allowance will cease to be paid upon the matching Agency Decision Maker’s (ADM) decision.
If the placement results in reunification with birth family, that has no effect on the leave or pay already received and carers can continue to take the leave already booked, or they can bring the leave to an end eight weeks before it would have ended had the child stayed. If the Welsh Early Permanence carer goes on to take another Welsh Early Permanence placement, they will be eligible for leave and pay for that child. A Welsh Early Permanence carer on adoption leave continues to accrue entitlement to adoption leave and pay.
If the placement becomes an adoptive placement, carers are not entitled to additional leave or pay.
Becoming a Welsh Early Permanence carer isn’t for everyone as the placement comes with a higher degree of uncertainty than a traditional adoptive placement. Essentially, with Welsh Early Permanence the final care plan for a child will be determined whilst the child(ren) is residing in your care. No guarantee can ever be given to you that the child(ren) will remain in your care and the priority will still always be reunification with birth parents or to be placed with extended birth family members, over adoption. Therefore, Welsh Early Permeance carers are first and foremost foster carers and will need to fully comprehend the complexities of this type of placement.
If you are interested in being considered for Welsh Early Permanence you will be required to attend a half-day, online (live webinar) training course: ‘Is Welsh Early Permanence right for you?’ which will look in greater detail at the role. This is usually provided to interested applicants during Stage Two of the adoption assessment process.
At the end of that course, you may decide that Welsh Early Permanence isn’t right for you, but you will at least have explored the option. However, if after the training you’re still interested, then you will need to take part in a further, one-day course that prepares you for being a foster carer. Details of the one-day training will be explained in greater detail during the half-day exploratory course.
If you are interested in exploring Welsh Early Permanence further, please tell us and, if proceeding with adoption please also speak to your assessing social worker during Stage One.