SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all new applications for approval as foster carers and to all foster carers who have already been approved as foster carers.
See also Fostering Panel Procedure.
In April 2017, this chapter was reviewed and updated by Bexley to reflect local processes – in Section 3, Approved Foster Carers, information was added with regard to Disclosure and Barring Service checks which cause immediate concern for the child/childrens welfare.
1. Persons Disqualified from Fostering
A person is disqualified from acting as a foster carer for the agency (unless a relative of the child or already acting as a foster carer) if s/he or any adult member of the household has been cautioned for or convicted of a specified offence committed at the age of 18 or over.
A specified offence is defined as an offence against a child*, an offence specified in Part 1 of Schedule 4 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011, the importation/possession of indecent photographs of a child under 16 and any other offence which involves bodily injury to a child (other than common assault or battery).
In addition, a person is disqualified from acting as a foster carer for the agency (unless a relative of the child or already acting as a foster carer) if s/he or any adult member of the household has been cautioned for or convicted of an offence specified in paragraph 1 of part 2 of Schedule 4 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 committed at the age of 18 or over OR falls within paragraph 2 or 3 of Part 2 of Schedule 4, notwithstanding that the offences listed have been repealed.
*A list of these offences is set out in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, except that it does not include an offence contrary to section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (sexual activity with a child) where the offender was under 20 when the offence was committed and the child was aged 13 or over.
2. New Applications
Where Disclosure and Barring Service checks reveal that an applicant for approval as a foster carer is a disqualified person, the applicants must be advised that their application cannot proceed. This must be confirmed in writing to them, together with the reasons, and retained with their application form. The file should also be closed electronically.
Where the applicant is seeking approval as a Family and Friend Foster Carer and the person would otherwise be regarded as disqualified, an application for consent to proceed with the assessment in relation to the particular child can be considered by the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) on the recommendation of the Fostering Panel.
In these circumstances, the assessing social worker responsible for carrying out the checks on the prospective foster carer should prepare a report on the application setting out:
- The reasons for the application;
- The circumstances surrounding the conviction or caution which would result in the person being disqualified unless consent is given;
- An assessment of whether the placement would meet the child's needs despite the conviction/caution; and
- A recommendation as to whether the application should proceed.
The assessing social worker will arrange with the Panel Administrator a date for the Panel to consider the report and a copy of the report should be sent to the Panel Administrator 10 working days before the relevant Panel meeting.
The Panel minutes will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering), who will consider the recommendation of the Fostering Panel on any such applications.
The decision of the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will be recorded in writing and a copy placed on the case record of the applicant. A copy of the decision will also be sent to the person concerned. The decision will also be entered on the electronic records.
3. Approved Foster Carers
Where information is provided or updating Disclosure and Barring Service checks reveal that an approved foster carer has been convicted of or cautioned for a criminal offence as a result of which he or she will become a disqualified person unless consent is given, an urgent review of the foster carer's approval should be held - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure - and a written report detailing the circumstances leading to the conviction/caution, together with background information from the foster carer's file, must be presented to the Fostering Panel as soon as possible. The report should contain a recommendation on whether consent should be granted to allow the foster carer to continue to be approved as a foster carer for the child or children currently in placement.
If the information received from the Disclosure and Barring Service checks causes' immediate concern for the child/childrens welfare, immediate action may be necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child. In these instances the child's social worker and his or her manager should consider whether it is necessary to remove the child to an appropriate placement to ensure that he or she is safeguarded.
Where a child is removed, consideration should also be given to the need to suspend making any further placements with the foster carer(s) concerned pending further investigation. The Fostering Service will inform the foster carer(s) in writing of any such decision.Consideration should also be given to the position of all other children in the household, including the foster carer's own children.
If this is not the case, a copy of the report prepared by the Supervising Social Worker and the Child's Social Worker should be sent to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant Panel meeting.
Where such information is received, the social worker for any child currently in the placement must be informed and any plans for termination of the placement will also need to be considered, as appropriate.
Where the report recommends the termination of approval of the foster carer, the report should be presented to the earliest possible Fostering Panel.
The Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will consider the recommendation of the Fostering Panel on any such applications.
The decision of the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will be recorded in writing and a copy placed on the case record of the foster carer.
Written notice of the decision, together with reasons, must then be sent to the foster carer as soon as practicable.