Coram set up its Concurrent Planning project in 1999, and is now the only dedicated team nationally
Concurrent Planning is designed for very vulnerable children aged 0–24 months going through care proceedings where there is a high level of probability (greater than 80%) that return to the birth family or extended family will not be possible, but a further period of assessment is thought necessary before the courts can come to a final decision. Concurrent Planning works actively to enable the birth family to take up this last chance of demonstrating that they can care for their baby safely. Its aim is to achieve the return of the child, and to avoid the considerable delays and frequent change of foster placements commonly experienced by these vulnerable, very young children before permanent placement can be made, whether this is the child’s return to the birth family or adoption.
Research shows that the longer the delay and the greater the number of foster placements, the greater the potential for damage to a child’s mental health and development, and the less likely it is that they can be placed permanently and successfully with an adoptive family. Concurrent Planning lays the foundations for greatly improved health and emotional wellbeing throughout the child’s life by giving more stability during the vital early years of development. The Coram Concurrent Planning project recruits foster carers who are also approved as adopters. They must be willing to foster a baby in the first instance, and to support the child’s return to the birth parent, with the possibility that the fostering arrangement will lead to adoption.
Key ‘good practice’ points
- Pro-active recruitment of prospective concurrent carers from diverse black and minority ethnic communities,
- Adequate financial support during fostering phase to enable lone parents and those on low incomes to undertake this role – Coram has agreed this with local authorities,
- Settling in time – the baby or toddler needs to be allowed time to settle into the placement before contact with birth parent begins,
- Short travel time – the distance between foster placement and contact venue to be no greater than 20 miles,
- Regularity of contact – ideally no more than three times a week, to lessen disruption to the baby’s routine,
- Active supervisor role – the contact supervisor to coach and model good parenting for the birth parent during contact.