Early Permanence - a potential route to adoption

A new programme which involves prospective adopters initially fostering a baby or child before the Court makes a decision on the child's future

What is Early Permanence? 

Early Permanence is an umbrella term which covers both Fostering for Adoption (FFA) and Concurrent Planning.

It applies to the placement of a child with approved prospective adopters, who are willing to act as foster carers during the time that the Court is considering the evidence to decide whether the child can safely return to the care of their birth family or whether they should be adopted. 

Whilst Early Permanence is often associated with babies, it can also be used for older children and sibling groups.

This enables children to be looked after by carers whilst the family Court determines whether the best thing for the child is to be adopted, or return to their birth family. For the child this provides the much needed care and stability, and building of relationships at the earliest stage. 

Is Early Permanence right for me?

You will have thought long and hard about what it means for you to become an adopter. You may be at an early stage of considering whether adoption is right for you, or you may have adopted a child or children previously. There are many factors to consider when thinking about adoption.

You may have heard about Early Permanence, or this may be something very new to you. There are additional things that you will need to think about when deciding if Early Permanence is right for you. This includes weighing up the advantages, the challenges, the uncertainties, and the demands of the fostering role.

Benefits and Challenges of Early Permanence

There are many benefits and some challenges to Early Permanence. 

Advantages for the child

  • The child will benefit from stability and continuity of care from the earliest possible stage, avoiding the possibility of multiple family placements and possible placement breakdowns. 
  • Early Permanence enables early bonds to be made and early attachment needs to be met. 
  • It allows for a permanent home to be found for the child as early as possible, with research showing that risks of developmental and behavioural difficulties lessen the earlier the child is placed with permanent carers. 
  • Early Permanence enables the early development of forming a secure attachment to their primary care giver. 
  • Children will get what they need – to become a member of a loving family that will be their family for the rest of their lives – whether that means being adopted or returning to the care of their birth family. 

Advantages for the Early Permanence carer

  • You will provide early stability, love and care to a baby or child, in a time of their life where they are extremely vulnerable. Regardless of the court outcome, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have played a very important role. 
  • You will get to know the child sooner and if you do go on to adopt them you will have already established a bond and will be able to share early memories with them. 
  • There is the possibility of having a very young baby placed with you, even straight from hospital. 
  • You will get to know the birth family better through 'family time' contact sessions, which will give you a better understanding of a child’s birth family and history. 
  • You will be able to talk more meaningfully with the child about their birth family, and offer them real insight into their early experiences. 
  • You may develop relationships with the child’s birth family which can form the basis for meaningful contact in the future if you go on to adopt the child.

Challenges for Early Permanence carers

Being a temporary foster carer does not suit all prospective adopters. You will need to be emotionally resilient and flexible. There will be several things that you will need to consider:

  • Dependant on the age that some children enter an Early Permanence placement, there could be some uncertainties around their health and development.
  • You will need to support and be comfortable with the child maintaining family time with their birth family until the Court makes its final decision about whether the child should be adopted. 
  • You will need to understand your role and position as a foster carer, be able to work with professionals and attend / be available for regular meetings and visits to your home. Until an Adoption Order is granted, you are not ‘Mum or Dad,' and decisions about the care you provide will be made by other people. 
  • The Court may decide to return the child to their birth parents or a family member, so you need to be able to support the child with rehabilitation. You will need to think about how you, your immediate and wider family will cope with this. It will be important for you to think about what support you might need from the outset, what support you have access to and how you typically deal with challenging, upsetting, or painful situations. 
  • If you already have a child you will need to prepare them for the period of uncertainty in the fostering phase. 

As we have highlighted, Early Permanence brings a different role, as you would be fostering under the direct supervision of the Local Authority. This will involve working with Cumbria fostering as well as Cumbria adoption. 

How do I become an Early Permanence carer? 

If you are interested in Early Permanence, you should raise this at the initial visit so that your social worker can provide further information. 

To be an Early Permanence carer you initially must be an approved prospective adopter. You can be a first time adopter or a repeat adopter. The Adoption Information and Reference Guide details the approval process. 

To become an Early Permanence carer, you will be required to undertake additional training which takes place over two days. This training can form part of the Stage 1 or Stage 2 process. 

As part of your assessment to consider your suitability to be an adopter, you and your social worker will explore Early Permanence in more detail, and whether this can be supported as part of your approval. An Early Permanence workbook will be used in Stage 2 to aid discussions about whether Early Permanence is the right route for you. 

The Adoption Panel will make a recommendation to Cumbria Adoption on your suitability to become an adopter including consideration for Early Permanence placements. The Agency Decision Maker will take account of the Panel’s recommendation before reaching a decision on whether you are to be approved as an adopter and whether this includes suitability for Early Permanence.

Prospective adopters who are approved to consider Early Permanence will be temporarily approved as foster carers if selected for an Early Permanence placement. From 1st July 2013 an amendment (Regulation 25A) to the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 enabled prospective adopters approved by both Local Authorities and Voluntary Adoption Agencies to be temporarily approved as foster carers for a named child by the Local Authority with responsibility for that child without having to be approved as foster carers under the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011.

Such approvals do not require consideration by the Fostering Panel, with the decision being made directly by the Agency Decision Maker. This approval continues until a decision is made about whether the child can be adopted and a match for adoption is made. 

Where next?

There are lots of things to think about in Early Permanence, and they need to be considered specifically in relation to you and your circumstances. If you think Early Permanence is right for you, you need to discuss this with your social worker at the initial visit, and they will be able to give you further information. We appreciate that prospective adopters may need time to consider the route of Early Permanence, and therefore it is an ongoing discussion throughout the adoption process.

Whilst there is no doubt that Early Permanence presents challenges for carers who put themselves forward, it is important not to forget the very significant advantages to the child and yourself of an Early Permanence placement, with the real potential for it to be the basis of a lifelong family relationship. The principle of Early Permanence is that it is for the adults to manage the uncertainties and challenges so that the burden of uncertainty and waiting is not carried by the child.