Ladybird Pre-School Nursery is committed to providing quality provision based on equality of opportunity for all children and their families. All staff are committed to doing all they can to enable ‘looked after’ children in their care to achieve and reach their full potential.
Definition of ‘Looked After Children’ (LAC). Children and young people become ‘looked after’ if they have either been taken into care by the local authority, or have been accommodated by the local authority (a voluntary care arrangement). Most LAC will be living in foster homes, but a smaller number may be in a children’s home, living with a relative or even placed back home with their natural parent(s).
- We recognise that children who are being looked after have often experienced traumatic situations and abuse. However, we also recognise that not all looked after children have experienced abuse and that there are a range of reasons for children to be taken in to the care of the local authority. Whatever the reason, a child’s separation from their home and family signifies a disruption in their lives that has an impact on their emotional well-being. Most local authorities do not place children under five with foster carers who work outside the home; however there are instances when this does occur or where a child has been placed with another family member who works. Ladybird Pre-School Nursery does not offer provision to children who are under two years of age.
- At Ladybird Pre-School Nursery we place emphasis on promoting children’s right to be strong, resilient and listened to. Our policy and practice guidelines for looked after children are based on these two important concepts: attachment and resilience. The basis of this is to promote secure attachments in children’s lives as the basis for resilience. These aspects of well-being underpin the child’s responsiveness to learning and are the basis in developing positive dispositions for learning. For young children to get the most out of educational opportunities they need to be settled enough with their carer to be able to cope with further separation, a new environment and new expectations made upon them.
- The term ‘looked after child’ denotes a child’s current legal status; this term is never used to categorise a child as standing out from others. We do not refer to such a child using acronyms such as LAC.
- We do not offer placements for babies and children under two years old.
- We offer places for funded two year old children who are in care. In such cases, the child where possible will have been with the foster carer for at least two months and show signs of having formed a secure attachment to the carer. We expect the placement in the Nursery will last a minimum of three months where possible.
- We offer places for funded three and four year old aged children who are in care to ensure they receive their entitlement to early education. For these older children where possible the child will have been with a foster carer for a minimum of one month and will have formed a secure attachment to the carer. We expect that the placement in the Nursery will last a minimum of six weeks where possible.
- Before any looked after child starts at the Nursery we expect a Personal Educational Plan (PEP) to be in place.
- Where a child who normally attends our Nursery is taken into care and is cared for by a local foster carer we will continue to offer a placement for the child.
- The designated person for looked after children is Jo Bircham (as the designated safeguarding /child protection Lead Practitioner) or, in her absence, Kate Daniels or Yvonne May.
- Every child is allocated a key person before they start and this is no different for a looked after child. Jo Bircham ensures the key person has the information, support and training necessary to meet the looked after child’s needs.
- Jo Bircham and the key person liaise with agencies, professionals and practitioners involved with the child, along with his or her family, to ensure appropriate information is gained and shared.
- The Nursery recognises the role of the local authority social care department as the child’s ‘corporate parent’ and the key agency in determining what takes place with the child. Nothing changes, especially with regard to the birth parent’s or foster carer’s role in relation to the Nursery, without prior discussion and agreement with the child’s social worker.
- At the start of the placement there is a professionals meeting that will determine the objectives of the placement.
- Within the first few weeks of the placement a meeting will be set up by the child’s key person with the social worker and foster carer(s) to ensure the following procedures are adhered to:
- how information will be shared with the foster carer and local authority (as the ‘corporate parent’) as well as what information is shared with whom and how it will be recorded and stored;
- what contact the child has with his/her birth parent(s) and what arrangements will be in place for supervised contact.
- what written reporting is required;
- wherever possible, and where the plan is for the child’s return home, the birth parent(s) should be involved in planning; and
- with the social worker’s agreement, and if part of the plan, the birth parent(s) should be involved in the Nursery’s activities that include parents/carers, such as outings, fun-days etc. alongside the foster carer.
- The settling-in process for the child is agreed. It should be the same as for any other child, with the foster carer taking the place of the parent, unless otherwise agreed. It is even more important that the ‘proximity’ stage is followed until it is visible that the child has formed a relationship with his or her key person sufficient to act as a ‘secure base’ to allow the gradual separation from the foster carer. This process may take longer in some cases, so time needs to be allowed for it to take place without causing further distress or anxiety to the child. If COVID restrictions are in place at the time of settling in, it will be decided between the social worker, foster carers and the Nursery Manager if it would be in the child’s best interest to postpone starting Nursery until a more sensitive transition can be supported. The Nursery Manager will work closely with other professionals while this decision is being made.
- In the first fortnight after settling-in, the child’s well-being is the focus of observation, their sociability and their ability to manage their feelings with or without support.
- Further observations about communication, interests and abilities will be noted to form a picture of the whole child in relation to the Early Years Foundation Stage.
- Concerns about the child will be noted in the child’s file and discussed with the foster carer.
- If the concerns are about the foster carer’s treatment of the child, or if abuse is suspected, these are recorded in the child’s file and reported to the child’s social care worker according to our safeguarding children procedure.
- Regular contact should be maintained with the social worker through planned meetings that will include the foster carer.
- Transition to school will be handled sensitively and Jo Bircham and the child’s key person will liaise with the school, passing on relevant information and documentation with the agreement of the looked after child’s birth parents. (As detailed in our transition policy)