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3.11.4 Assessment, Approval and Review of Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter covers the process of assessment, approval and review of foster carers. It also gives details of terminating foster carers agreements and supervision and support for foster carers.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Fostering Panel Procedure

Fostering Statement of Purpose

Fostering Service Duty Procedure

If you are looking for any standard templates to use that are listed in these procedures, please click on this link below as this will take you to the Children's Social Care area of Izzi (the council's intranet).

N.B. This is only possible if you are logged into the Council's network.

There are a lot of template documents there but if there is any thing you cannot find, please contact the relevant Team or Operational Manager for the area of practice concerned.

Click here to access Izzi.

NOTE

For temporary approval as foster carers of approved prospective adopters, see Section 8, Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters of the Placements in Foster Care Procedure.

AMENDMENT

In February 2018, Section 7, Approval of Foster Carers was updated to clarify that the decision as to the suitability of the applicant must be made within 7 working days of receipt of the panel’s recommendation and final set of panel minutes – The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 4 and Standard 14 (14.9) Fostering panels and the fostering service’s decision-maker.


Contents

  1. Application to Foster
  2. Responding to Enquiries
  3. Recruitment of Council Staff and Elected Members as Foster Carers
  4. Preparation Groups for Carers
  5. Assessment of Carers
  6. Presentation of Applicants to Fostering Panel
  7. Approval of Foster Carers
  8. Action to be taken following Panel
  9. Foster Care Agreements
  10. Reviews of Foster Carers Approval
  11. Termination of Foster Carer Approval
  12. Representation about Non-Approval, Changes or Termination of Approval
  13. Setting Up a Foster Placement
  14. Supervision and Support for Foster Carers
  15. Unannounced Visits
  16. Training for Foster Carers


1. Application to Foster

Islington operates an open and inclusive approach to recruiting foster carers and values and encourages applicants from a wide range of backgrounds reflecting the diverse nature of the local community. The fostering service is looking for people who have the potential to meet the needs of Islington Looked After Children.

Applications will be welcomed regardless of marital status, race, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

Applicants will be considered in terms of their capacity to Look After children in a safe and responsible way and to meet their developmental needs and to work in partnership with the local authority to carry out a child or young person’s Care Plan. Applicants must meet the following basic criteria:

  • To live in the UK;
  • To be resident within reasonable travelling distance of Islington;
  • To offer a stable home life;
  • To have the physical space to take a placement;
  • Spare room for children over 2 years;
  • To have the time to undertake the fostering task;
  • Available to meet the child/young person’s needs.


2. Responding to Enquiries

All enquiries concerning becoming a foster carer will be dealt with by the Fostering Service. Callers will be responded to within one hour of their call within office hours.

On receipt of an enquiry to become a foster carer, either by telephone, by email or in writing, the Fostering Service worker will complete a standard referral form, undertake local authority checks and send out an Information Pack on the same day, inviting applicants to an information meeting.

The initial contact with Islington should be welcoming and encouraging to motivate people to make the next step, unless they are clearly unsuitable.

The Information Pack should provide good quality written information that provides potential foster carers with a clear picture of:

  • The nature of fostering;
  • Children in the public care system;
  • What is expected from foster carers;
  • Islington’s priority areas for recruitment;
  • Islington’s equal opportunities statement;
  • The application, assessment and preparation process and timescales involved;
  • In becoming a foster carer;
  • Eligibility criteria that must be met, including legal requirements;
  • The objectives of the assessment and preparation process;
  • Support available to foster carers including financial support;
  • Planned information sessions and preparation groups.

Information Sessions

The objective of the initial information giving stage is to put potential applicants in a position to decide whether fostering is right for them.

Initial Home Visits

Within 5 working days of receipt of Part 1 application form contact should be made with the applicants to discuss a date for an initial home visit. This may be quicker if this is a strong applicant.

The initial home visit is an opportunity for prospective applicants to find out more detail about fostering and discuss any individual circumstances or ask specific questions. It is also an opportunity for the social worker to gather some basic preliminary information concerning the prospective applicant’s circumstances. We are looking for potential to foster at this stage and capacity and commitment to learn.

The initial home visit should cover the following areas:

Factual Information:

  • Date of visit;
  • Applicant’s name;
  • Applicant’s date of birth and age;
  • Address and telephone number;
  • Family composition;
  • Ethnic and cultural heritage;
  • Religion;
  • Language/s spoken;
  • Occupation;
  • Resource offered;
  • Nearest tube/bus/train;
  • Mileage from office;
  • Travelling time;
  • Pets;
  • Smoking within the household;
  • Where a child will sleep.

Clarification from prospective applicants:

  • Reason for applying now - motivation and why Islington;
  • Brief history including health;
  • Children in the family and everyone living in the home;
  • Occupation and hours worked, implication for fostering * Accommodation - note space, safety, accessibility, transport and local resources;
  • Support networks - friends and family;
  • Religion - how important is it to them, how tolerant are they of other religions;
  • Expectations of fostering and their understanding of the fostering task.

Information to be shared with applicants during this process:

  • Preparation and assessment process - time, checks needed, nature of assessment;
  • Preparation groups-expectations re attendance, time commitment, content;
  • This is about getting to know them and them getting to know us;
  • Encourage them to share any worries they might have, particularly in respect of medical or police checks;
  • Level of commitment and involvement required of foster carers, for example attending meetings;
  • Training and support available to foster carers;
  • Financial support and equipment;
  • Background of children and parents.

It may be appropriate to counsel out prospective applicants during the interview itself if they are clearly not suitable. In other cases where there are reservations, the prospective applicants should be told by the social worker that they will be discussing it further with their supervisor before making a decision. In all cases the decision must be put in writing to the applicant.

The initial home visit should be fully written up by the fostering social worker with a conclusion summing up the main points relevant to application and clearly identifying strengths and areas for development. A decision will be made with the Team Manager fostering Recruitment and Assessment, whether to proceed to the next stage.

It is the responsibility of the team member for recruitment and assessment to ensure that full applications are given at the preparation group and are followed up. Obtaining checks at this early stage in the assessment process allows the fostering social worker to undertake an initial risk assessment if there are:

  • Criminal convictions;
  • Serious health concerns;
  • Recent significant changes in the applicants’ circumstances;
  • Other factors that may seriously affect the applicants‘ capacity to foster.

Where the decision is to proceed to the next stage a letter should be sent confirming the decision and offering a place on preparation groups with dates and the name of the group leaders.

If after the preparation training the prospective application is not thought to be suitable for fostering a sensitively worded letter should be sent to the prospective applicants:

  • Clearly stating why we cannot proceed with the assessment;
  • Recognising any strengths in the application and acknowledging the generosity of the applicants putting themselves forward;
  • Reminding applicants of Islington’s complaints procedure;
  • Inviting the applicants, where appropriate, to consider re-applying when and if their circumstances change or to refer them to another agency or service, for example: becoming a child minder.

All enquiries should be logged and the Fostering Service will keep comprehensive statistical information regarding all stages of fostering enquiries and applications on an annual basis.

All enquirers and fostering applicants should be given written information about Islington’s Complaints Procedure.


3. Recruitment of Council Staff and Elected Members as Foster Carers

Islington will not approve as a foster carer any elected Islington councillor or member of staff employed in the Children’s social care who may be directly involved with offering social care to families. In such cases the agency decision maker will be consulted.

Any elected Islington councilor wishing to apply to become a foster carer should be advised that they should apply to another local authority.

Potentially many members of staff have much to offer as foster carers. However, there are a number of issues that need to be carefully considered prior to any Islington employee becoming a foster carer for Islington:

  • Council guidance in relation to Conflict of Interest;
  • Council’s overarching objective to be seen as fair and transparent in its processes;
  • Employee status should an allegation of abuse or misconduct occur after a child is placed;
  • Confidentiality and access to information;
  • Capacity to focus on the child’s needs as paramount.

The issues outlined above have implications both for employees and children alike. In addition there should be a clear demarcation between the roles of employee, colleague and foster carer.

Applications from staff working in the wider Children's Service,or the council should be welcomed following a discussion of the issues outlined above and whether these can be resolved and managed appropriately.

Applications from all other council employees and partner agencies should be encouraged and welcomed.


4. Preparation Groups for Carers

Applicants to become foster carers should have attended preparation groups as part of the assessment process before being presented to the Fostering Panel for approval. This requirement may be modified for friends and family foster carers.

Where a joint application is made to become foster carers (that is a couple) both applicants must complete the training.

The timing of applicants’ attendance at preparation groups will usually precede the assessment, except for friends and family foster carers where short statutory timescales apply.

The objectives of the groups and learning outcomes should be specific and identified for applicants. The groups should be an opportunity for them to learn as much as possible about the emotional, psychological and practical aspects of fostering and enable them to decide whether it is right for them:

  • Backgrounds of the children in the care system and their families;
  • Working in partnership with the local authority;
  • Working with birth parents and the duty to promote contact;
  • Needs of looked after children;
  • Expectations and responsibilities of foster carers;
  • Safe caring;
  • Valuing diversity;
  • Support available to foster carers.

Preparation groups will be co-facilitated by social workers from the Fostering service and experienced foster carers.

Preparation groups will usually be run on week days and Saturdays to enable maximum participation of applicants.

The staff running the group will prepare a written record and evaluation of learning and any implications for the fostering task on each applicant for the allocated social worker undertaking the assessment to inform evidence of meeting the competences.


5. Assessment of Carers

Assessment should be a continuing process in foster care. Initially it starts with the completion of an application form and continues until a decision on approval is reached.

The Islington Competence based format will be used as the assessment format for applicants wanting foster to child or young person not known to them.

Modified assessments will be used for specialist family placement schemes such as Short breaks carers or Supportive lodgings schemes and for family and friends foster carers.

The assessment process should be evidence based, fair and fully explained to the applicants. When carrying out an assessment of prospective foster carers it must always be kept in mind that the primary aim is to clarify whether applicants are suitable to safeguard children and young people.

All aspects that give rise to doubts about an applicant’s suitability should be pursued and resolved. Applicants should not be taken forward for approval if doubts concerning safety cannot be resolved satisfactorily.

Fostering is about meeting the needs of children not the needs of adults. The assessment will include a clear and full account and analysis of an applicant’s personal history, background and experiences and their ability or potential to meet the competencies relevant to becoming a foster carer.

Applicants need to understand that the household as a whole is being assessed in order to ensure that it is a suitable home for a child or young person to be placed in.

Where an applicant is married or co-habiting, both partners will be assessed and will have to be approved as foster carers. This also applies where two people, for example a mother and daughter, are to share the care of a child or young person unless one person is the carer and the other the support carer. However checks will need to be undertaken on the second adult and enquiries to assess suitability. This applies in particular to adult partners of the carer living part time in the household.

Applicants should understand that new entrants to the household over the age of 16 will also be subject to enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks.

Applying to be a foster carer is time consuming and demanding. Applicants have to open up very personal details of family life and expose others in their household to close scrutiny. They should be treated with consideration throughout the process and have confidence that they are being assessed in a fair way. They should be given a clear idea at the start of the selection criteria which will be used and of the time scale involved before a decision on approval is taken and be kept informed throughout the process.

All assessments must be evidence based and must distinguish clearly between self-reported and independently evidenced information. The assessment must clearly relate to the fostering competence's.

Honesty and clarity about the reasons for the investigative aspects of an assessment can be the basis for building trust in the assessment process.

Applicants need to be aware that this approach is Islington’s general procedure for all applicants and not specific to them.

Information given by applicants about life events and current circumstances must be thoroughly verified, wherever possible, by examining relevant documents, obtaining references, carrying out official checks and interviewing key people.

This verification work also helps to confirm the veracity of accounts given by the applicants by obtaining corroborative information from others. The following are examples of independent verification or corroboration:

The following key verifications should always be completed as part of the assessment of a prospective foster carer:

  • Employment status - this will normally be provided in the reference obtained from an employer. There may be rare exceptions where this has not been possible and other evidence may be provided;
  • Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks on prospective foster carers and all children over the age of 16 and adults in the household;
  • Statutory Local Authority including Child Protection checks - on all addresses prospective foster carers have lived in past 10 years;
  • Education reference - where prospective foster carers have children of school age a written reference should be obtained from the children’s schools;
  • Medical checks - copies of the relevant medical reports on the prospective foster carers with comments from the medical advisor;
  • Personal references - at least 2 from non related people provided by the applicants;
  • References from previous partners where appropriate;
  • Proof of residency -passport or right to remain in the country should be obtained if this is uncertain;
  • Pet questionnaire;
  • Health and safety check.

All prospective foster carers must have a full medical carried out by their GP on CoramBaaf Form AH. This form plus a stamped addressed return envelope and a standard letter explaining the financial arrangements for the medical should be sent to the prospective foster carers.

The letter will request that they complete their section of the form consenting to release of medical information and requesting that they contact their GP to arrange the medical.

The completed CoramBaaf Form AH when returned to the Fostering Service should be forwarded to the medical adviser. The medical adviser will add their comments to the form commenting on any significant issues for fostering. Where necessary the medical adviser will contact other health professionals. The medical adviser will return the completed CoramBaaf Form AH to the Fostering Service, retaining a copy for their records.

The CoramBaaf Form AH remains valid for 2 years, after which a further medical examination and new CoramBaaf Form AH will be needed.

The timing of when to seek a reference from an employer is of crucial importance. On deciding this, the assessing social worker should be guided by the stage of the assessment, the applicant’s view and the Fostering Service Manager’s advice.

It is not the intention to jeopardise a prospective foster carer’s employment position by a premature or inappropriate application. An employer’s/course supervisor’s reference seeks to verify their suitability for fostering and the employers comments on their trustworthiness in relation to fostering.

Evidence given in references from an employer or course tutor can also be used to help demonstrate competencies.

The assessing social worker should ask each prospective foster carer to provide details of at least 2 referees who meet the following criteria:

  • Referees should not be relatives but should be individuals who can comment on the applicant’s home life and capacity to act as good carers;
  • Referees should be chosen to reflect different periods of the applicant’s lives;
  • Referees chosen should clarify whether their reference relates to one or both members of a couple;
  • Referees should have known the applicants for a minimum of 2 years.

The assessing social worker should write to the referees chosen with an outline of what will be covered in the interview. The interview should usually take place at the referee’s home and should cover:

  • How long the referee has known the applicant;
  • The referees comments about the ability to safeguard a foster child, in particular whether they would abuse or neglect a child;
  • The referee’s point of view on the prospective foster carer’s parenting and child care experience and abilities;
  • Their views on the prospective foster carer’s relationship with their spouse or partner if they are in a couple;
  • Their views on the prospective foster carer’s support network and support needs;
  • Their views on the prospective foster carer’s particular strengths and the positive factors they would bring to fostering.

The assessing social worker in recording the interview should identify the “weight” they place on the reference and the referee’s opinions with the reasons. Personal references may provide valuable supporting statements about the competencies, especially about caring for children” and “providing a safe and caring environment” and therefore any evidence given in written references and interviews should be used to help demonstrate these for the Assessment Report.

Consideration should be given to an additional interview with a member of the wider family as this may be helpful in establishing the importance of the wider family and their attitudes to a foster child or young person in the family.

Previous partners can be a source of valuable information and verification in the assessment of prospective foster carers. However this is potentially a fraught area which will require sensitivity and careful handling for both applicants and previous partners. A clear explanation should be given to the prospective foster carers to why this information is needed.

The nature of any existing relationship between former spouses or partners should be taken into account when evaluating information relating to the prospective applicant, for example, is it amicable or acrimonious?

Where a prospective foster carer has been in a significant relationship and has had parenting experience a reference should always be obtained from their former spouse or partner.

Assessing social workers should consult with the manager of the Fostering Service if there are any issues or concerns regarding contact with a former spouse or partner.

Discussions with previous partners should include the following:

  • Their views on applicant’s suitability to become a foster carer;
  • The period and nature of the previous relationship;
  • The reasons for the relationship ending;
  • The nature of any existing relationship, especially arrangements about children;
  • Views on applicant’s previous and current parenting experiences and abilities;
  • Views on whether the applicant would abuse or neglect a child placed with them;
  • Views on applicant’s current relationship with current spouse or partner;
  • Concerns or issues about the applicant;
  • Views on the applicant’s particular strengths and positive factors they would bring to fostering;
  • Any other relevant points.

The reference and interview should be treated in the strictest confidence and will not be shown to the applicant. However there may be some exceptions when certain issues of particular concern noted in the written reference or discussed in the interview need to be followed up with the applicant.

In such cases assessing social workers must seek the consent of the referee or other person/agency providing the information for disclosure to the applicant.

Where this consent is withheld, the social worker must make it clear that the issue of concern will still need to be raised with the applicants and that it will not be possible to guarantee that the applicant does not work out for themselves were the information has been obtained from.

This should be discussed fully with manager of the Fostering Service before considering such a step.

As part of the assessment, applicants to become foster carers will be asked to identify “support carer/s” who will be willing to help them in the task of fostering taking over the care of children in an emergency or for a limited period of respite. Support carers are encouraged to look after a child in the carers’ home in the carers’ absence wherever possible.

They will be people well known to the applicants and usually involved in and part of their regular social network and therefore will become very familiar to any child or young person placed with them as foster carers. The assessing social worker will need to ensure that the following have been completed in respect of support carers:

  • Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check for all adults in the home if the child will visit or sleep at the support carers home;
  • Discussion regarding their role and responsibilities, their understanding of fostering, the expectations of the Department, confidentiality, safe caring and the support available to them.

The foster home will also be thoroughly checked to ensure it provides appropriate and safe accommodation for the child, as well as safe transport. Each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the social worker. An assessment of any risk posed by pets will be part of the assessment.

The above should be included in the Assessment Report for the Fostering Panel.

The finished Assessment Report should be balanced in identifying strengths and vulnerabilities with the need for doubts and uncertainties about the prospective foster carers to be properly explored. The assessing social worker must analyse all evidence collected, draw conclusions from it and make clear recommendations with reasons.

The final draft of Form F will then be shared with the applicants. The applicants should be asked to sign and return the report if agreed, and/or send their comments in writing to the assessing social worker. Any written comments they make will be circulated to Fostering Panel members with the report. The report should be signed by the prospective foster carers, the assessing social worker and the manager assessment and recruitment.

The whole assessment process from full application to recommendation by Fostering Panel must be completed within an 8 month timescale, in keeping with National Standards but there is an expectation that assessments will be completed within 4 months wherever possible, given that this is a specialist team.


6. Presentation of Applicants to Fostering Panel

Also see: Fostering Panel Procedure.

The assessing social worker should book a space at the Fostering Panel with the Panel administrator. This should be done well in advance of completion of the assessment to ensure that there is no delay in presenting the case to Panel once the assessment has been completed.

They will then be given a deadline for all paperwork to be completed and lodged with the administrator. Failure to comply with this deadline may result in the assessment being delayed to a later Panel.

The social worker will then send the Full assessment, the applicants' written comments (if any), a full health report, the report on the interviews with the referees, and any other relevant documents, to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant Fostering Panel meeting.

Applicants are invited to attend the Fostering Panels and all applicants should be encouraged and supported to do so. This will include the assessing social worker preparing them for the composition and process of the Panel and what they should expect.

Applicants attending the Panel will be given an opportunity to verbally add anything to the assessment report or ask the Panel any specific questions.

The assessing social worker should attend the Panel to present the case and answer any questions raised.


7. Approval of Foster Carers

The Fostering Panel will make a recommendation on the basis of the information presented to it. The Agency decision maker must make the final decision within 7 working days of receipt of the Panel’s recommendations and the final set of Panel minutes and must be recorded together with the reasons.

The Fostering Panel recommendation and the final decision must be conveyed orally to the applicants within 24 hours by the assessing social worker with written notice of the decision, with reasons, signed by the Agency Decision Maker sent with 5 working days by the panel administrator.

The Fostering or Permanence Panel recommendation and the final decision will include the terms of approval for a foster carer in relation to:

  • Number of placements;
  • Gender of placements;
  • Age range of placements;
  • Name of child or children if approval is in respect of a specific child or children.

The recommendation will also specify whether the approval is for:

  • Any specific type of fostering, i.e. short breaks for disabled children or Family and Friends Fostering or Parent and baby fostering.


8. Action to be taken following Panel

A foster carer’s approval is initially for a year until a carer’s first Annual Fostering Household review.

Following approval as a foster carer the allocated supervising social worker will give the new carer the Islington Foster Carers’ Handbook.

The Fostering Panel Administrator will ensure that the Islington Foster Carer records are updated with all new approvals and ensure the following are undertaken:

  • Inform Fostering Network of approval of new carer;
  • Inform Islington Foster Care Association of the approval of new carers;
  • Ensure all necessary administrative tasks are completed such as opening a new file for the carer;
  • Supply the carer with a first aid kit and camera.

The assessing social worker will write a profile for the social workers use to outline the skills of the carer and family composition and a child friendly profile which can be given to a child who is being matched to the family. The assessing social worker will arrange a handover meeting with the new supervising social worker to ensure that the handover takes place within 2 weeks of the fostering panel recommendation.


9. Foster Care Agreements

After the foster carer has been formally approved but before any child is placed, the foster carer(s) must sign a Foster Care Agreement (Regulation 28(5)(b)).

This should be countersigned by the supervising social worker on behalf of the Department and a copy should be given to the foster carer with the original being retained on the carer’s file.


10. Reviews of Foster Carers Approval

The Fostering Services Regulations places a legal requirement on fostering services to review the approval of all foster carers at a minimum of 12 monthly intervals.

Approval of foster carers is technically only for a period of 12 months and therefore if reviews are not carried out annually the legality of the foster carer’s status is in question.

A Fostering Panel review of a foster carer’s approval must also take place in the event of:

  • The first 12 months after approval;
  • A serious complaint or allegation made about the foster carer;
  • A change in the marital or partnership status of the foster carer;
  • A significant break of more than 12 months from fostering.

In all other circumstances the Foster carers review will be chaired by a Fostering Deputy team manager or Team manager, usually from a different fostering team.

The Annual Fostering Household Review is part of an on-going process of monitoring and assessing the carer’s experience, skills and abilities, reviewing training needs and taking feedback about the quality of service offered to foster carers.

The primary purpose of the annual review is to determine whether the foster carer’s approval should be renewed and whether there should be any change in the terms of approval.

The annual review should also ensure that all up-dates of statutory checks have been carried out. Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks must be up-dated and obtained every three years and medical reports every two years.

The annual review should also take into account:

  • The quality of care offered to children;
  • The development of the foster carers skills and competence's and training needs;
  • To identify any support needs;
  • The carer’s assessment of the quality of service and support provided by Islington Council.

It is the responsibility of each supervising social worker in the Fostering Team to ensure that annual reviews of the foster carers they supervise are kept up to date and planned properly. The supervising social worker has the responsibility for co-ordinating all the information obtained in relation to the review of a carer’s approval and ensuring that it is available for the review meeting.

The supervising social worker must inform their supervisor when a review of a foster carer’s approval is needed due to considerations previously discussed.

The supervising social worker will initiate the review process 3 months before the review is due, liaising with the administrators to get all the references out.

Islington holds a comprehensive Foster Carers’ Review which must be used for reviewing the approval of foster carers. It contains:

  • Supervising social worker’s report;
  • Child’s social worker’s feed-back report for all children placed within the last 12 months;
  • Child’s/young person’s feed-back;
  • Birth parent/s feed-back;
  • Foster carer/s’ feed-back;
  • Foster carer/s’ children’s feed-back;
  • Pro- forma for the Review meeting;
  • IRO feedback;
  • Health and safety check.

Where placements have not ended and a review of approval is due then the child’s social worker will be asked for the reports prior to the review of approval.

Copies of all reports received should be given to the foster carer prior to the review meeting, unless these are given as confidential.

When a carer’s review of approval is due the supervising social worker will send out the feed-back reports for the foster carer and their children to complete.

It is an expectation that all foster carers will complete their reports fully and supervising social workers should help carers to do this if appropriate. As part of the review process the supervising social worker will discuss with the children of foster carers their views and experiences of fostering over the last year.

The supervising social worker will compile a review report which should take into account any feed-back from social workers, children and young people and the foster carer. Also, respond to comments or concerns raised in the previous review. This report should be shared with the foster carer prior to the review and carers should sign the report and contribute their own written comments to the report if they wish.

The Chair of the Foster carers review will write a report with recommendation to the Operations manager who will sign and send to the carer and onto the file. The foster carer will be asked to sign the foster carers agreement after the foster carers review with the new terms of approval.

Where termination of approval is being recommended then the foster carer must be informed in writing with the date of the Panel. The letter must also confirm that the carer may submit a written statement to the Panel if they wish within 28 days of the date of the letter and/or attend Panel. The foster carer must also be sent a copy of the report to the Panel which includes the recommendation to terminate approval in sufficient time to enable them to seek support and advice and to respond to the concerns.

Written confirmation of the outcome of the Panel meeting will be sent to the foster carer within 7 days of the final decision by the Agency Decision Maker.


11. Termination of Foster Carer Approval

Any recommendation for termination should be discussed with the Operations Manager children’s placements before it is communicated to the foster carer.

Any written proposal to terminate approval may be considered as a Qualifying Determination the Independent Review Mechanism, which may accept a referral to it at this stage. The only circumstances where the foster carer will not have the right to request a review by an Independent Review Panel is if he or she is regarded as disqualified as a result of a conviction or caution for a specified offence.

Terminations of approval should be presented to the Fostering Panel for their recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker.

The case will be presented to the panel with the foster carer review report and a termination report. Foster carers will be offered independent representation where the situation is considered necessary in keeping with good practice and DFE guidance.

Prior to a panel considering a case for termination of approval, the foster carer must be:

  • Informed in writing of the date of the Panel meeting;
  • Given a copy of the report to be presented to Panel along with the recommendation and the reasons for this;
  • Informed in writing that they may submit a written statement to panel if they wish within 28 days of the date of the letter and/or attend Panel;
  • Given the option to resign, to respond to the concerns at panel and to appeal any termination proposal or to take the matter on to the Independent review mechanism.

If the fostering panel recommends termination of approval, a letter of termination will be sent to the foster carer following the Agency Decision Maker’s final decision and must include the:

  • Notice that approval is being terminated;
  • Date this is effective from;
  • Date of the Fostering Panel recommendation;
  • Reasons for the termination of approval as given by the panel;
  • Process of representation and appeal regarding the decision;
  • An explanation of their right to present their case to the Independent review mechanism or to appeal to the Agency Decision Maker to review the decision.

Where a foster carer has decided to give up fostering and resigns, this should also be presented to the Fostering Panel for noting and a letter of formal notification and this must also be sent to the carer.

Presentation to the Fostering Panel and a letter of termination must also be sent where, although no formal notice of resignation has been received, it is clear that a foster carer does not intend to continue or resume fostering.

The Fostering Panel administrator will ensure that the Islington Foster Carer records are updated with all terminations of approval.


12. Representation about Non-Approval, Changes or Termination of Approval

12.1 Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer’s Approval

If the Agency decision maker, after taking into account the recommendations of the Fostering Panel, considers that an applicant is not suitable to foster or decides to terminate or revise a foster carer’s approval then written notice of this with the reasons and a copy of the Fostering Panel’s recommendations must be sent to the applicant/foster carer inviting her/him to submit any written representations within 28 days of the date of notice.

If no representations are received, the Agency decision maker may proceed to make his/her final decision. The foster carer has a choice to go to the Independent Review mechanism at this stage if they would prefer an independent hearing.

If written representations are received within 28 days, the decision maker may then refer the case to the Fostering Panel for further consideration.

The applicants will be advised within 7 days of the date of the Panel meeting when they can attend and their written representations considered. In these circumstances, applicants who wish to attend the meeting of the Fostering Panel can arrange for a friend or supporter to accompany them. Applicants/foster carers will be invited to attend the panel meeting in part to discuss their written representation. Applicants/foster carers can provide any further information to the panel that they wish.

Following this the panel makes its recommendation, taking into account the representations of the applicants/foster carers. This recommendation is a fresh one. It may uphold a previous recommendation but it has to take account of the representations.

The decision maker can then make his/her final decision taking into account panel’s fresh recommendation. If the decision remains not to approve the application the manager will arrange for the applicants to be informed verbally within 2 working days. Written notification of the decision, together with the reasons, must be sent to the applicants/foster carers within 7 working days of the panel meeting. Information about the Complaints Procedure must also be sent. A copy of the report to Panel, the Panel’s recommendation and the decision, with reasons must be retained on the applicant’s case file.

There no right of appeal at this stage but if the applicants / foster carers are not satisfied with the process of reaching the decision they can make a formal complaint through Islington Council’s Complaints Procedure.

12.2 Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval

Where, as a result of a review, the it is proposed to revise the terms of the foster carer’s approval, a statement must be sent to the foster carer setting out whether it is considered that the foster carer or members of their household (including any children placed there) may have additional support needs as a result of the proposed revision and, if so, how those needs will be met, and request the foster carer’s agreement in writing to the proposed revision of terms.

Where the foster carer’s written agreement is received, the decision to revise the terms of approval may be made immediately.

The Agency Decision Maker’s decision in such circumstances is not a Qualifying Determination and the foster carer may not apply for an independent review of the decision by way of the Independent Review Mechanism.

Foster carers must not be pressured to accept changes to their terms of approval.


13. Setting Up a Foster Placement

  • The matching process;
  • The introduction process;
  • The placement plan;
  • The safe caring plan for each child or young person;
  • Placement stability and risk of disruption.


14. Supervision and Support for Foster Carers

Role of Supervising Social Worker

Islington Fostering Service is committed to ensuring that foster carers working for the council are offered a high level of quality support and supervision to enable them to undertake the fostering task.

All foster carers will have an allocated supervising social worker who will visit the foster carer at monthly intervals or more frequently as required or less often if this part of an agreed management plan.

They will ensure that they are accessible and available to foster carers and that foster carers have the name of their line manager to contact if they are unavailable for any reason. The supervising social worker will liaise closely with the social worker or workers for the children in placement.

The role of the supervising social worker covers three areas:

Management

  • Ensuring foster carers’ understanding of roles and responsibilities;
  • Supervising and supporting carers to give the very best care to children meeting the 5 outcomes;
  • Assessing the risk of placement breakdown and acting to prevent breakdown;
  • Ensuring the rights of children and young people are respected;
  • Monitoring placements;
  • Liaising with other professionals;
  • Ensuring that children are safeguarded;
  • Ensuring that a file is set up and maintained for the foster carer and a record;
  • Chairing and completing Placement Agreement meetings;
  • Preparing all Annual Fostering household reviews.

Support

  • Recognising achievement and exploring reflection with foster carers;
  • Clarifying personal versus professional boundaries for foster carers;
  • Providing opportunity for foster carers to explore impact on self and family;
  • Giving an opportunity for foster carer to express their concerns about or difficulties with the task and to deal with it appropriately;
  • Giving advice, guidance and informal training to foster carers;
  • Ensuring that foster carers have access to a support group;
  • Ensuring that foster carers receive appropriate financial support.

Education

  • Acknowledging and building on foster carers’ previous experience;
  • Clarifying learning objectives and establishing foster carers’ training needs;
  • Monitoring effectiveness of training;
  • Providing regular, constructive feedback to foster carers;
  • Helping foster carers develop professional competence and the capacity for self appraisal;
  • Supporting foster carers to identify their value base and develop anti-discriminatory practice.

The supervising social worker and the foster carer should form an effective open working partnership where difficult things can be discussed and good care acknowledged. Any difficulties in this relationship should be discussed with the carers supervisor.

Visits to Foster Carers

All non related foster carers will be visited by their supervising social worker for supervision at least once a month, unless there is an alternative agreement. Family and friends carers may be visited at 6 weekly intervals in the first year.

These supervision visits should normally be pre-arranged, however there must be at least one unannounced visit a year.

The frequency of visits to carers with approved long term placements should be arranged with regard to the needs of the child or young person in placement but should be at least every 6 weeks with monthly telephone contact.

The supervising social worker and the foster carer should plan ahead for the issues that need to be discussed in supervision visits.

Supervision visits are a partnership between the supervising social worker and the foster carer/s. These meetings are an important and essential activity to ensure that the foster carer is clear about her/his role and responsibilities.

Supervision is the place where good practice can be developed, which ensures that children receive a quality service. It assists a foster carer’s development, helps to reduce their stress and is a time when resources can be reviewed to ensure the foster carer/s manage the fostering role.

The supervising social worker will expect to see a child on every 3rd visit. The child or young person must be seen alone by the supervising social worker with their agreement. A brief note of this contact should be recorded on the Child's ICS record with any other relevant matters.

The supervising social worker should ensure that they see the foster carers’ own children regularly to discuss with them the impact of fostering on their family and their lives and to ascertain their views on this and identify any concerns or the need for any extra support for them. The foster carers partner should also be seen. This may require a separate visit in the evening.

Supervision visits should always have an agenda agreed at the start between the supervising social worker and the foster carer. Notes of the supervision visits should be made by the supervising social worker and sent to the foster carer within 7 days.

A record must be kept on the foster carers’ file.

The roles and responsibilities of the supervising social worker:

  • Support, guide and offer advice to foster carers;
  • Evidence that duties and responsibilities towards foster carers are in line with Care Matters and regulations governing the fostering service;
  • Help carers to be accountable in their of offering high quality care to children looked after;
  • Undertake clear concise and analytical recording of foster carer visits and supervision.

The purpose of the visits will be to:

  • Demonstrate the work that the carer has undertaken with the looked after child over the period of time;
  • How the carer has contributed / enabled the care matters/ECM outcomes to be met;
  • What the carer has done to achieve the outcome;
  • Evidence the carers ability to enable children to achieve better outcomes;
  • Safeguarding and safer care should be intrinsic to the visiting and supervisory processes.

The Purpose of the supervisory visits:

  • To enable the carer to reflect on the needs of the child and how they can be met within the household, to follow up on key themes for carers (impact of fostering on the family);
  • Report on the role, understanding and performance of the carer;
  • To track and evaluate the carers development;
  • To evidence an outcome focused approach to addressing themes;
  • To track major developments events or incidents.

Evidencing the care matters objectives:

  • The care matters objectives are in line with the 5 outcomes set out under the Department for Education framework;
  • The core role of supervising social workers, in recording, will be to evidence the foster carers ability to enable children and young people to achieve better outcomes;
  • It is important that if carers are not achieving the required standard that this is assessed that there is a problem and evidence is provided as to how it has been addressed;
  • If there are repeated gaps of evidence this may indicate a problem and assist in tracking and monitoring the carers ability to meet children's needs.

Evidence of safeguarding should be intrinsic to the discussion and recording process and made explicit where there has been issues or incidents which have impacted on the placement for example the child has been exposed to risk or harm inside or outside the placement.

The framework for supervision will have the core goal of supporting foster carers to continually develop their skills as critical reflective foster carers and identify their on going needs.


15. Unannounced Visits

Supervising social workers must make occasional unannounced visits, at least once each year.

The main purpose of the visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in. Islington Children’s Services recognises that our carers provide a high quality of care but we are constantly striving to ensure that children are safe in foster care and unannounced visits are one of the mechanisms available to ensure this.

Supervising social workers must ask to see the foster child’s bedroom and communal areas available to the child such as the bathroom, kitchen and living rooms. They will not need to see the carer’s bedroom or their children’s unless they share with the foster child.

Supervising social workers must also 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 foster child.

If the carer is not at home, the supervising social worker must leave a note to say they have visited. A further unannounced visit should be made.


16. Training for Foster Carers

It is essential that all carers are given the opportunity to take up a range of training courses and access training materials to enhance their skills and abilities as carers and give them the opportunity for further development. This includes foster carers with panel approved permanent foster placement, friends and family foster carers, respite carers and “support carers”.

Core training courses are mandatory following approval and other training courses and events will be planned as appropriate. A dedicated member of the training section takes lead responsibility for foster care training and ensuring full information is sent to carers about forthcoming training events. Training will be delivered in a variety of ways and formats to allow for maximum participation.

It is good practice where possible to plan for carers and family placement and fieldwork staff to train together to further develop partnership work and increase the understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities.

Supervising social workers must regularly discuss carers' training needs on their visits to carers and a separate section of the foster carers annual review documentation addresses carers’ training and development needs. This will inform the development of future foster carer training plans.

Foster carers will also be trained and supported to deliver training themselves to other carers and appropriate professionals.

End