SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers.
This chapter was updated in April 2020 to reflect in more detail the foster carer's role and responsibilities with respect to Fostering National Minimum Standards – Notification of Significant Events (see Section 1, Introduction) and relevant aspects of Schedule 6 The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 (see Section 2, Planned Supervision Visits).
- Planned Supervision Visits
- Frequency of Supervision
- Unannounced Visits
- Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker
- Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer
- Appendix 1: Bexley Foster Carer Visiting Template Form
All approved foster carers will have an allocated supervising social worker registered with Social Work England. All foster carers holding temporary approval under Regulation 24 of the Fostering Regulations 2013 will also have an allocated supervising social worker. The allocated supervising social worker is responsible for supervising and supporting carers, ensuring that they have the necessary guidance, support and direction to maintain a quality service, including safe caring practices. This will include an understanding that they must work within the National Minimum Standards for Fostering and the agency's policies, procedures and guidance.
The supervising social worker must also ensure that the foster carer's training and development needs are identified, and that newly approved carers work towards completing the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers Workbook. They also have the responsibility to ensure foster carers are familiar and made aware of new policies and guidance.
The foster carer(s) should be fully aware of the Notification of Significant Events and the need to immediately report to their supervising social worker or Fostering Agency the following:
- The Death of a Child;
- A Serious illness or serious accident of a child placed with them;
- The outbreak at the foster home of any infectious disease (which in the opinion of a general practitioner attending the home is sufficiently serious to be notified);
- An allegation that a child placed with foster parents has committed a serious offence;
- A child placed with them they have concerns about of being sexually exploited;
- The Police calling to the foster carer's home as a result of a serious incident relating to a child placed there;
- A child placed with the foster carer(s) who has gone missing;
- Any serious concerns about the emotional or mental health of a child, such that a mental health assessment would be requested under the Mental Health Act 1983.
The child's allocated social worker should be contacted for specific advice or support in relation to the child and their Care Plan and Placement Plan.
2. Planned Supervision Visits
A programme of supervision visits should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the supervising social worker from the time of the foster carer's approval, and endorsed by the supervising social worker's line manager.
Supervision is essentially a supportive and enabling two way process to:
- Ensure the foster carers understand how they contribute to the local authority's services for children;
- Enable foster carers to contribute effectively to the plans for the children for whom they are caring;
- Provide appropriate monitoring and feedback on the foster carer's work to ensure National Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
- Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training and their annual review;
- Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate;
- Give foster carers an opportunity to raise any problems and make sure they are addressed appropriately;
- Acknowledge the challenges and demands that the fostering tasks make on foster families and ensure appropriate support is available;
- Recognise and address any difficulties the foster carer's own children may be experiencing arising from fostering;
- Assist foster carers to work in an anti discriminatory way that respects and promotes individual differences;
- Encourage carers to reflect of the effectiveness of their interventions and to change them where they are not effective in achieving the placement goals.
The agenda for each meeting should cover:
- Matters arising from the last supervision;
- A scaling question about placement stability;
- Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family allocated social worker should be contacted;
- Child/ren in placement:
- Their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
- Progress and work with respect towards each child's Care Plan;
- Any accidents, injuries and illnesses experienced by each child;
- Any complaints in relation to children placed with them and their outcomes;
- Any concerns around behaviour management in relation to children they are caring for;
- Any other significant events (see Section 1, Introduction);
- Any medication, medical treatment or first aid administered.
- Training/development issues for the foster carers and their family;
- Safe caring and health and safety issues;
- Foster carer's recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker who should sign the foster carers' diary.
The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma Foster Carer Supervision Record, signed by the foster carer and the supervising social worker, uploaded to the agency database (currently Liquid Logic) and should include:
- Any concerns expressed;
- Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
- Any financial issues;
- Clear information about the child's wellbeing including whether the child was seen.
A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carer's file and one copy given to the foster carers.
The supervision records will inform the foster carer's review – see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
3. Frequency of Supervision
Supervision meetings will take place at the foster carer's home at least once every six weeks for all approved carers and weekly for carers holding temporary approval under Regulation 24.
Foster carers providing long term foster placements may be visited less frequently where this has been agreed under the agency protocol arrangement s for Long Term Fostering and written approval of such an arrangement has been signed by the agency decision maker and is recorded on the fostering file and the child's file.
Additional visits may be made for the purposes of support (to the foster carer or any member of the foster family) with telephone contact at least every four weeks.
Visits to newly approved carers will be fortnightly for the first six months of approval.
4. Unannounced Visits
There will be unannounced visits at least once a year. The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.
The unannounced visits will be usually undertaken by the foster carer's supervising social worker who will need to check:
- Who is in the home;
- Who is looking after the child;
- If the carer is not at home, what arrangements have been made for the care of the child.
If the foster carers are not at home, the supervising social worker must leave a note for the foster carers to say that they have visited.
If the foster carers are not at home but the child is present and being looked after by someone else, the social worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit.
All unannounced visits should be recorded.
There should not ordinarily be a regular programme of unannounced visits without particular reason – for example if a foster carer is being closely monitored. In such an event the reason for such will be explained to the foster carer and recorded in writing on the fostering file and the child's file.
5. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker
Supervising social workers should ensure the following tasks are done:
- Ensure that all new carers complete the induction programme and that their support, development and training needs are assessed and met so that they meet the standards and achieve the Induction Standards for the Children's Workforce certificate of completion by their first annual review, or soon after if extra support is required; if this is not achieved within the timescale then a request for deferment of the certificate clearly explaining the reasons why and identifying the proposed new submission date must be made in writing to the fostering team manager who will agree/not agree the request. Where a deferment request is not agreed, the foster carers will return to the fostering panel who will consider the suitability of their continued registration;
- Give Foster Carer's Handbook to new carer;
- Give Foster Carer Agreement to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer's file. No child will be placed until the foster carer has signed the Foster Carer Agreement;
- Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carer's Allowance, Disability Living Allowance etc.
- Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing (each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the placing authority in line with the bedroom sharing policy), mixing with other children in home, etc. Discuss and check equipment (especially in the child's bedroom) and ensure it is appropriate to the age of the child in placement;
- Take part in discussions about potential placements prior to the child being placed;
- Take part in pre-placement planning meetings;
- Ensure that the Placement Team and the child's social worker give the foster family full information about children needing to be placed, including any abuse or neglect and the reason for the placement, the child's educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic and cultural needs. This will normally include provision of the chronology, any assessments undertaken for the child and the family, a copy of any Statement of Education Needs or Education and Health Care Plan;
- Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members including any known or potential risks;
- Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
- Discuss training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs;
- Assist carer with training needs for appropriate safer care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children;
- Discuss financial issues with the carer: allowances, pocket money, leisure activities, toiletries and travelling etc. and the importance of complying with the terms of the Council's insurance policy for carers;
- Enquire about holiday plans the carers have made and ensure the child is able to join them. If not, the carer must explain why and inform the child's social worker so alternative arrangements can be made;
- Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family, including out of hours support;
- That arrangements are made for the provision of specialist equipment for disabled children;
- Set date of first visit after the placement;
- Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is proposed to be placed and ensure appropriate matching considerations have been taken into account and a record made;
- Provide carers with training and written policy on behaviour management.
- Where necessary, check and follow up on all issues raised during the placement. Discuss any areas of concern with foster carers and ensure appropriate support/advice is addressed and in place at the time rather than waiting for reviews;
- Provide foster carers with breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children;
- Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
- Ensure the supervising social worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child's Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences, and attend when appropriate;
- Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
- Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and their family and children;
- Visit regularly and in accordance with the child's Care Plan;
- Review the Safer Caring Plan and any changes in household circumstances;
- Assess and review any health and safety issues within the fostering household including the addition of any new pets and the environment in which they are kept;
- Where placement sustainability is challenged, arrange maintenance meetings promptly and make a record of these;
- Where placements cannot be sustained arrange disruption meetings promptly and make arrangements as required to achieve planned endings;
- Make unannounced visits as required;
- Update Disclosure and Barring Service checks on members of the family every 3 years, including those reaching 18 years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are over 18 years;
- Update medicals on the carers every 3 years or as necessary;
- Record every contact with carers on the case note section of the file;
- Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
- Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker;
- Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood and arrange transition to Staying Put arrangements where required in a timely manner.
At End of Placement
- Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time;
- Discuss fully with the carer and their family all the issues that have led to any unplanned end of a placement; identify any learning/training opportunities and make a written record of these;
- Assist the foster carer to complete their end of placement report;
- Attend Disruption Meetings as required and ensure a record of the same is placed on the carers file.
6. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer
For the detailed procedure, see Allegations and Serious Concerns Against Foster Carers Procedure.
Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the supervising social worker should:
- Offer to support the family within the limits of the SSW role outlined in the Allegations Policy;
- Discuss with the person against whom the allegation has been made the issues that have led to the allegation within the limits on information sharing agreed at the Strategy Meeting. This may often involve sharing some details of the allegation with other family members who dwell in the home but this should only be done with the consent of the person against whom the allegation has been made;
- Make the carers aware in writing of the process and of their rights during any investigation as described in the Allegations Policy, in particular their right to independent advice and support from a person independent of the fostering service;
- Make the carer's aware of their own possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice from including the Fostering Network or other independent sources.