Achieving Permanence – a modular approach

Module 1

Permanence: Every Child’s Right

Module one serves as the foundation for the programme, giving an overview of the process and the content of subsequent modules. It provides a structured approach to evaluate participant’s current practice and identify a personal development plan in relation to achieving permanence for children / young adults.  It enables participants to reflect on what they can contribute to achieving permanence for children / young adults in their current role.  Assessment is the cornerstone for achieving permanence.  Whether attendees work in early intervention, within safeguarding, child in need, residential, fostering or adoption services, the focus on each child / young adult’s social workers encounter informs the plan for their future regardless of whether the assessment is a one-off or part of a long-term piece of work.

The module enables participants to begin coming together to form a learning community which will continue throughout the programme, with a view to their practice leadership contributing to the development of the profession.

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will be offered opportunities to:

  • understand the shape of the course, how each module works, what is expected of each participant, the process of blended learning, and how course completion will be certified
  • engage in collaborative working with a view to forming a safe community of learning with a culture of constructive challenge and critical thinking for the duration of the programme and beyond
  • identify personal learning goals and prepare a study plan
  • consider their current and future contribution to the transformation of practice, and how the interface between core beliefs and professional values drives their practice
  • reflect on the impact of living with loss and uncertainty
  • interrogate what permanency means, why it is important, and how it might involve competing demands / conflicted decisions
  • deconstruct what a permanence plan communicates to the child / young adult and the significance of SMART / ExACT planning
  • explore ethical dilemmas that practitioners face in achieving unique permanence planning for each child / young adult at every stage of their engagement with social work services
  • name the challenges of working in contested political contexts
  • focus on the child / young adult’s identity to shape their plan and ensure the child / young adult’s voice is heard

Module 2

Relationship: The Golden Thread

The core of this module is building relationships. It recognises the central paradox that it is in significant relationships that many children / young adults have been harmed and yet it will be through the relationships they can make with others that they will develop their capacity to recover. Recognising that important relationships are children / young adult’s “golden thread” that sustains them into adulthood, this module is trauma informed and incorporates the latest research. This module rests on the premise that the presence of an adult with a sustained interest in them is an important factor in building resilience for children / young adults. For most children / young adults that person exists in their family, for others it will be the relationship they make with a new carer, and for some it will be from a member of the community developing a passion (e.g. for football/ art etc.).

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will be offered opportunities to:

  • exemplify in-depth working knowledge of development in childhood / young adulthood, how it might be compromised, how it can be supported, and recognition of their changing developmental needs
  • explain the importance of relationships for children / young adults in the home, school, and community, and develop the knowledge and skills to encourage relationship-building, and integrate these elements for children / young adults
  • create, build, and sustain effective relationships with children / young adults, their families, carers, community, and professional networks
  •  consider diverse family structures and parenting styles
  •  examine knowledge around parenting capacity and capabilities, including strategies for how capacity can be developed, and identifying who is available within their community network to support these relationships
  •  apply insight into the experience of trauma (including loss, abuse, and neglect) and its impact across the life course
  •  develop skills in recognising and offering appropriate interventions based on sensory experience, arts, and play
  •  elaborate skills in relation to assessing parenting capacity (including in matching processes), opportunities for sustained change, and exploring permanent options for children / young adults
  •  identify strengths in the family to sustain children / young adults within their existing communities e.g. use of Family Group Conferences
  •  develop advanced skills in communicating effectively with traumatised children / young adults, their carers, support networks, by listening, attuning, and responding verbally and in writing in ways that represent their views accurately and compassionately
  •  evaluate which relationships are each child / young adult’s “golden thread” and what it will take to maintain them with a view to developing caring, safe, and secure networks around children / young adults to sustain them into maturity
  •  recognise how vicarious or unresolved trauma in carers continues to affect children / young adults’ experience with a view to enabling carers to manage this process (within available resources)

Module 3

Making the Permanence Decision

This module provides an overview of the legal system, ethics, core principles of legislation, and the role of precedent and case law. It will explore how case law develops and will equip social workers with the skills, resources, and knowledge to help them remain informed of significant changes, such as relevant case law decisions on threshold criteria and permanence. Its aim is to ensure that decision-making is evidence-informed and based on an understanding of legal processes.

This module addresses the application of critical, analytical, and reflective thinking to assessment, planning and decision-making. It will consider a range of practical tools (e.g. chronologies, The Five Anchor Principles). It equips social workers to consider the advantages and disadvantages of all permanence options for individual children /young adults.  It also provides an overview of significant research evidence relating to these (including options for supporting a child / young adult within the family, reunification to parents and other long-term permanence strategies) to ensure that the decisions that are made are in the child / young adult’s best long-term interests.

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will be offered opportunities to:

  • exemplify the role of practice wisdom in advanced social work
  • express in-depth understanding of the legal system and how to navigate it
  • identify the range of legal orders and permanence options (including reunification) and evaluate the most appropriate option based on individual children / young adult’s needs and evidence-informed practice
  • explain the developments in case law relating to permanence and the purpose of contact for the child / young adult
  • differentiate between intuitive, reflective, analytical, and critical thought processes, with a view to applying these purposefully in social work assessment, planning and decision-making
  • employ deep understanding of how the law can ensure that the child / young adult’s voice is heard and enable best practice
  • compare all the realistic options for achieving permanence, analyse alternatives, and stress-test decisions
  • prepare written and oral evidence that properly reflects that the role of advanced social workers as expert witnesses and advocates in communicating the needs of the child / young adult
  • evaluate relevant and up to date research with a view to sustaining evidence-based assessment, planning and decision-making
  • demonstrate capacity to meet the time frames for the developing child / young adult and challenge court and local authority processes if timely decisions are not made.

Module 4

Sustaining Permanence

The focus of this final module in the ‘Achieving Permanence’ programme is on sustaining and maintaining permanence: a long-term plan for a child / young adult’s upbringing. Planning, achieving, and sustaining permanence represents an underpinning framework for all social work with children / young adults and their families to ensure that children / young adults have:

‘a secure, stable and loving family to support them though childhood and beyond and to give them a sense of security.’ (CA’89 Guidance and Regulations Vol II: care planning, placement and case review’ HM Government June 2015)

This module consolidates and builds on the work undertaken in the first three modules to identify and sustain best practice, supported by a systematic understanding of current research and theory. It addresses planning, managing, reviewing, and supporting children / young adults in their placements and families.

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will be offered opportunities to:

  • evaluate how to plan, manage, support and review placements in complex and unpredictable situations
  • demonstrate effective working with children / young adults, their carers, wider family, informal and professional networks to ensure all placements are stable, safe, and loving
  • create relationships with children / young adults that help them come to terms with their past and present experiences (including loss and transitions)
  • employ effective communication, play, life story work and other relevant interventions to build a strong identity and develop resilience (and recognise when / how to access appropriate therapeutic support where required)
  • develop relationships with a range of carers to understand and meet the needs of the specific children / young adults in their care and beyond
  • identify appropriate contact arrangements that meet the needs of children/ young adults, and support all involved to manage the child / young adult’s practical and emotional experience with sensitivity and care
  • determine risk factors in relation to placement breakdown and work effectively with children / young adults, and with their carers and families to prevent disruption where possible
  • illustrate how to manage any disruption and change as effectively as possible
  • review learning during the programme, draw up CPD plan, and reflect on achievements