Reunification: Children’s return home from care

The role of the IRO is to review and improve care planning, to challenge drift and delay and to ensure that the right permanence plan is achieved. Good planning and review is essential to achieving timely permanence and the right care for looked after children.

The chance to build a trusting long-term relationship with a carer who shows their love, warmth and commitment on a day-to-day basis makes a world of difference.

Failures occur where care placements initially made as a short term measure drift and become ‘long term’ without a full assessment. This can result in confusion, frustration and upset resulting in the placement breakdown at a later point. IROs have a crucial role in ensuring that all arrangements for children in care are appropriate and necessary.

Case study

The following example shows how IROs can use dispute processes to ensure  improvements to children’s stability and permanence outcomes.

Example courtesy of the South East Region:

An IRO identified a number of young people she had reviewed who had been waiting for some time for permanent placements with foster carers. These were children who did not have any special needs or difficulties. The IRO advocated on their behalf and in one case opened a dispute to challenge senior managers about placements. Timeliness of any move is often critical and in one of the cases, the move needed was so acute that the young person could not start senior school in a planned way. A dispute was raised and escalated to the Director of Children’s Services and the Chief Executive. In this case the dispute was thankfully resolved and the child and his sibling were placed permanently with foster carers where they have maintained a high level of continuity. The other young people have also been placed.

The IRO Handbook is clear that IROs must challenge where necessary to make sure children and young people experience placement stability and permanence. There is widespread acceptance amongst the IRO community that if we are to improve the outcomes for young people who spend time in care then we must use our powers to challenge effectively.

Relevant Care Planning Regulations and Guidance

Early permanence placements and approval of prospective adopters as foster carers

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review 2010

Statutory guidance for local authorities and adoption agencies July 2014

Permanence, long- term foster placements and ceasing to look after a child Statutory guidance for local authorities March 2015

Research in Practice

In September 2016, Research in Practice ran a series of workshops looking at key messages from research to help guide practitioners when making decisions on whether or not it is safe for a child to return home. It drew upon the NSPCC’s Taking Care: a practice framework for reunification as well as the Reunification: An Evidence-Informed Framework for Return Home Practice, which were written in response to findings that highlight the reoccurrence of maltreatment and poor outcomes from children returning home from care.

The workshop highlighted some of the factors associated with successful reunifications, including:

  • thorough assessment/s including a case history
  • preparation for return home being made for the child and parent
  • specialist support services being provided for parent/child
  • foster carers/residential workers working with parents and children towards return and being available for help afterwards
  • conditions being set before return
  • informal support from wider family, friends and communities
  • consistent and purposeful social work and monitoring
  • clear evidence of parental change.

Read more at source: Research in Practice

Other relevant publications

Ofsted criticises failure to review section 20 arrangements in ‘inadequate’ council


2 thoughts on “Reunification: Children’s return home from care

  1. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:

    “The role of the IRO is to review and improve care planning, to challenge drift and delay and to ensure that the right permanence plan is achieved. Good planning and review is essential to achieving timely permanence and the right care for looked after children.”


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