When it has been identified that a child can no longer be cared for by their birth parent/s the Public Law Outline and case law has clarified that all realistic options for the child should be explored. By virtue of that case law the local authority has a duty to undertake viability assessments of extended family members who have put themselves forward to provide safe care that will meet the child’s needs until they reach adulthood. A viability assessment is undertaken to determine whether it is a potentially ‘viable’ placement for a specific child. The outcome of the viability assessment will determine whether a more in depth assessment should be undertaken and under which framework the child will be placed. This could be a special guardianship order, a child arrangement’s order or temporarily approval as a foster carer under Regulation 24.
What is a Viability Assessment?
A viability assessment must focus on the needs of the child and their development; this includes their day to day basic care needs and any specific needs they have including their wishes and feelings. The child’s physical, educational, emotional and behavioural and identity needs should be a priority within a viability assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to ascertain whether ‘the family member being assessed could, with the provision of appropriate support, be able to provide for this child’s needs.’
The factors that will be explored during the viability assessment of the potential family carer will include:
An understanding of the child’s and family’s needs
Lifestyle of carers and household members
Experience of parenting and significant other relationships
Relationship with the child
Family dynamics and contact
Ability to work with professionals and placement options
A viability assessment is usually undertaken in one visit although a further visit can be undertaken if more information is required. The outcome of the assessment must be shared directly with the family member and if they do not accept the outcome they have the right to challenge the recommendation of the assessment.