Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter explains the way in which people are dealt with from their initial enquiry, to the consideration of their assessment at the Fostering Panel.
Approved prospective adopters - for temporary approval as foster carers of, see Fostering for Adoption Procedure.
If the enquirer or applicant is a Friends and Family or Connected Person, the process below applies but Viability Assessment/Regulation 24 CS0221F10 constitutes the formal application and the stage 2 assessment is undertaken as a Full Assessment of Relative/Friends/Connected Person Wishing to Care for Children as a Family & Friends Foster Carer CS0221F14.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed and updated in April 2022.
1. Purpose and Function
Fostering Services should recruit a range of foster carers who can meet the diverse needs of children who are looked after or who are receiving a short break service from the service. Recruitment is in line with the Service’s Statement of Purpose, and Managers review, and act on, trends and patterns in the recruitment of foster carers. Careful recruitment and regular monitoring of carers by the Service is designed to prevent unsuitable carers from being recruited and having the opportunity to harm children or to place them at risk. The relevant authorities are informed of any concerns about inappropriate adults. The recruitment, assessment, preparation, training and support of foster carers by the Service have a strong focus on child protection and keeping children safe, including help to ensure that children living in foster homes are safe and feel safe.
Prospective foster carers are made to feel valued and welcomed. The process for assessment is timely and sensitive to the needs of the carers. Assessments that identify foster carers as suitable for a child are informed by a clear understanding of that child’s needs and of the skills necessary to help and support them. Where the Service offers placements to children with complex needs and challenging behaviour, it provides the necessary specialist support and help for as long as they are required.
2. Responding to Initial Enquiries
All members of the public who make an initial enquiry by telephone, email, web response or letter in relation to becoming a foster carer will be referred to the Fostering Recruitment Service from Customer Services. All enquirers will be treated as a potential resource and responded to within 1 working day of the enquiry. Basic information for the Enquiry stage of the process will be obtained from applicant(s). The Fostering Service Initial enquiry form will be completed and electronic record will be created. The enquirer will be provided with basic information about fostering and sent an information pack within 1 working day of their enquiry. An appointment will be made to visit the enquirer's at home, ideally within 5 working days of their enquiry and this will be recorded on the applicants electronic LCS file.
Sections 13 & 19 of the Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011 require that recruitment is undertaken in a formal manner which is fully recorded. The preliminary basic information obtained in the initial enquiry includes numbers in the household, the availability of a separate bedroom for foster children, length of time of partnership, working hours/availability, motivation to foster, health and previous childcare experience. The Recruitment Team will also discuss what the Fostering service needs are and explore the enquirer's ability to provide a resource.Following the initial enquiry, an LCS check will be carried out in relation to enquirers and all members of their household on Children Services records. This will be recorded on the initial Enquiry Form. Where the enquirer or a member of the household is known to Children Services, or where there are concerns that the person who makes the enquiry does not have the capacity to meet the statutory requirements, the enquiry will be passed to the Adoption & Fostering Recruitment (AFRT) Team Manager for a decision on how to proceed. At this early stage, it may also be appropriate to advise these enquirers against pursuing fostering if they clearly do not meet the basic criteria (see Criteria for Foster Carers Procedure). The Team Manager's decision will be communicated to the person concerned, with reasons given, and the decision will be recorded. Where the decision is not to proceed the referral will be closed.
3. Initial Visit: Enquiry stage progressing to Application Stage 1
An Adoption and Fostering Recruitment Team worker will visit the prospective carers in their home to have an in depth discussion regarding the fostering task. To continue with the application enquirers must be advised that:
- The home environment needs to meet the standards set out in the NMS 2011 and HCC’s Health and safety check list;
- They must also have sufficient accommodation in line with Foster Carers Accommodation Policy (CS0331);
- They need to complete and return a Registration of interest form (ROI) to formally give consent for all necessary checks to be completed and officially submit their application to foster;
- Evidence verifying the identity of each individual enquirer and any person living in the household over the age of 16 years must be seen (i.e. birth certificate, passport or driving license) in order for a DBS check to be undertaken. The enquirer's right to work in the UK must also be checked (S19 FNMS);
- They must also be able to provide names of suitable referees, including personal, family and employment. This will include referees from any current and any previous employment where the enquirer has worked with children or vulnerable adults;
- If there have been previous significant relationships the enquirer must also consent to ex-partners being contacted;
- They must (both in respect of couples) be prepared to undertake Skills to Foster training, usually prior to approval;
- If they have lived abroad for 12 months or more in the last 10 years they must be prepared to get a Certificate of Good Conduct from the country where they lived. The cost of the certificate will need to be met by the applicant. The Fostering service may also request a Certificate of Good Conduct for applicants who have lived in the UK for more than 10 years if it is felt necessary to make a decision on the application;
- A social media check may be undertaken during the assessment process;
- Nobody may be approved as a foster carer if they have been cautioned for, or convicted of, a specified offence, unless they were under the age of 18 at the time of the offence.
An initial check will be undertaken in regards to pets and any observations/ concerns will be recorded in the visit report. The CSF4492 Pet Assessment will be undertaken by the assessing social worker during the assessment.
Where the applicant has been previously approved as a foster carer or adopter by another fostering service provider or adoption agency, access may be requested to the relevant records, providing the enquirer gives consent. That agency must provide the information within 15 working days.
Where the applicant has been a child looked after, the fostering service will request to contact the relevant authority in order to view the files.
The outcome of this visit will be written in the Recruitment Initial visit form and passed to the Adoption and Fostering Recruitment Team Manager, who will decide whether to progress the application, taking account of HCC's Policy on Diversity and Inclusion. If the AFRT Team Manager does not think the application should progress s/he must write a personal letter to the applicant and/or offer to meet with the applicants outlining the reasons for not pursuing the application. A copy of the Initial Visit report is sent to all enquirers where a home visit has been undertaken.If the enquirers are already approved foster carers for another local authority or agency, they will be advised of HCC's fostering transfer protocol. Please refer to Section 6.4, Obtaining information from other fostering/adoption services and agencies (Enquiry and Stage 1 Assessment) for further information on transfer arrangements. The IFA/LA Transfer Form should be used, so that details about any child/ren in placement, the agency, supervising social worker and child/ren's social workers can be obtained. The Agency Reference Request letter (CS0459) will be sent to the relevant agency/Local Authority upon receipt of the applicants' notice of their intention to resign.
4. Preparation Training: The Skills to Foster Training Course
Prospective foster carers should be prepared to become foster carers in a way which addresses, and gives practical techniques to manage, the issues they are likely to encounter and identifies the competencies and strengths they have or need to develop.
The Skills to Foster Training Course will cover in detail all aspects of the fostering task. Enquirers/applicants will be booked on the course once the Initial visit form is completed and decision is made for the applicants to progress on to Skills to Foster training. The enquirers are encouraged to complete a Registration of Interest Form prior to attending the course.All enquirers/applicants will be required to attend this training, which is an integral part of the assessment process. Trainers will inform enquirers/applicants that their feedback will form part of their assessment at the start of the course.
The objectives of the course are:
- To raise awareness and understanding of the key issues which need to be addressed by all foster carers;
- To assist applicants to consider more thoroughly the implications of fostering;
- To assist applicants to determine the type of foster care they can offer to the children needing foster placements.
Depending on local need, occasionally a decision may be made to fast-track enquiries. On these occasions, enquirers may attend the Skills to Foster Course at a later stage, but always prior to presentation to Fostering Panel. The Fostering Service Manager must be consulted in these circumstances and agree this decision. If a foster carer transfers from another Local Authority or Independent Agency, their training record will be reviewed and a decision made regarding whether they need to repeat the STF, or whether there is other more relevant training they should attend.
It is expected that enquirers will attend all sessions of the training course. On occasions, it may not be possible for enquirers to attend each session (e.g. work commitments). Wherever possible, the enquirer will be invited to attend the relevant session on a subsequent course and the assessing social worker must check that this has been completed prior to attendance at panel. In exceptional circumstances, it may not be possible for enquirers to attend all sessions. On these occasions, a discussion will be held between the AFRT manager and the relevant area fostering team manager, to agree a plan for these sessions to be covered during the assessment, either by their assessing social worker or a foster carer trainer.
The trainers will provide written feedback on issues relating to the applicants, including evidence of competencies met, for the assessing social worker, which must be used in his/her assessment. A Skills to Foster feedback form will be completed. Should the trainer become aware of any concerns during the course, s/he will raise these with the enquirer and subsequently with the relevant area Team Manager. The Team Manager will decide whether/how the concerns are addressed and if it is appropriate for the enquirer to continue with this process. If the decision is that it is not appropriate, the area Team Manager will write to the enquirer to explain the decision.
5. Application - Assessment - Stage One
When the home visit and initial enquiries lead to a decision to assess the enquirer's suitability to become a foster carer, they will be asked to complete a Registration of interest form. The Registration of Interest will be formally accepted on the date when the applicant has completed the Skills to Foster training, unless prior agreement has been obtained from the Fostering Service Manager to fast-track the assessment. The AFRT Manager will record the decision to progress to assessment/stage one on the ROI Form and a panel date will be booked.
The acceptance of the Registration of Interest Form signifies the start of Stage One and the 'Enquirer' then become the 'Applicant'. Checks and references are then progressed as soon as possible. The Initial Enquiry Form , Initial Visit form and the Registration of Interest Form constitute the full application. Stage One and Two will be undertaken concurrently, although the applicant will not be moved into Stage Two until all the Stage One criteria, as specified in Regulation 26 (1A), have been met.
6. Checks and References - Enquiry and Application Stage 1 and 2
Hertfordshire Fostering Service recognises that safeguarding of children is its highest priority. Therefore, to promote good practice, a number of the checks and references are above the statutory number required, as set out in the National Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, Section 26 & 27 & Schedule 3. Hertfordshire Fostering Service recognises that it is not always possible to obtain required information (e.g. Certificate of Good Conduct for certain countries). Therefore, if it is not possible for applicants to provide the necessary requirements for Hertfordshire, providing the statutory requirements have been met, then a decision will be undertaken by the Fostering Service Manager as to whether the assessment should proceed to panel.
6.1 Checks (Enquiry and Stage 1 Assessment)
These will be started at the Enquiry stage and continued through the Stage 1 of the Application process by the Adoption and Fostering Recruitment Team. These checks should be recorded, including the date when the checks were both requested and received (S19 FNMS 2011).
Health: CSF 4178 Letter to the GP will be sent to the enquirer/applicants' General Practitioner along with the (T10 Medical Form) The applicants will be sent letter (CSF4693 Letter to Foster Carer - GP Medical Letter) with the CoramBAAF Adult Health Report. They will be asked to complete the relevant sections and make an appointment with their GP to undertake the medical. If a medical advisor is available, the completed medical report will then be sent to the county Medical Adviser for their comments on the applicant's suitability to foster. If there are any medical concerns and no medical advisors are available, the Fostering service may ask the applicant for further details from their GP or other health professionals in order to be able to fully consider how the applicants health issues may have an impact on their ability to foster.
Health Visitor Reference Letter (CS0456) – will be sent to the health Visitor for any child living in the household under the age of 5 years.
Local Authority Checks (CS0457): Local Authority checks will be undertaken for each applicant. The form will be sent to each Local Authority where the applicants have lived since the age of 18 years. Where information is obtained confirming that the applicant or any member of the household has been known to Children's Services, information should be obtained from the relevant authority by the assessing Social Worker. If appropriate, arrangements should be made to view files.
Applicants who have recently moved to the UK (within the last 10 years): Applicants will be required to obtain a certificate of good conduct from their respective embassy. The applicants will need to cover the cost of the Certificate of conduct. The Fostering service may also request a Certificate of Good Conduct for applicants who have lived in the UK for more than 10 years if it is felt necessary to make a decision on the application; If it is not possible to obtain a Certificate of good conduct, the applicant/s will be asked to nominate a personal referee, colleague or employer who will be able to account for the period whilst they lived abroad and the Overseas Reference Form CS0462 will be sent.
Education: Where applicants have children of nursery and/or school age, a School Reference Letter/Form (CS0458) will be sent to each child's school.
Other Fostering Agencies/Adoption Agencies (where relevant): An agency reference will have been obtained during the enquiry stage where carers are considering a transfer. However, where previous applications to foster or adopt have been made by the applicants, further information will be requested from the relevant agency or local authority if not already obtained Agency Reference Request Form (CS0459).
Ofsted - if any enquirer has previously been a registered childminder, a check with Ofsted will be made using the Ofsted Reference Letter (CS0460).
6.2 Where Disclosure and Barring Service checks produce a trace
Where the checks reveal that the applicant or a member of the household is a Disqualified Person (Foster Carer), see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure, the AFRT Manager will inform the applicant verbally and in writing that their application will not be progressed. If there is a criminal record which is not considered a Specific Offence, the AFRT Manager or the relevant area Fostering Team Manager will carry out a risk assessment. Where the information relates to an offence, which does not automatically disqualify the applicant, the Team Manager must consider whether the application should still proceed. Such convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed.The manager will forward the completed risk assessment along with a signed copy of the DBS certificate to the Safe Staffing DBS Team to present to the Operations Director of Specialist Services. They must assess the trace against the likely risk to any child placed, taking account of the specified offences set out in the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011. The Operations Director records their recommendation whether to proceed on the risk assessment form, which is then returned to the relevant team manager. A copy of this form is uploaded electronically onto the applicant's electronic case file. The applicant will be informed of the outcome by the relevant team manager.
6.3 References (Stage 1 Assessment)
As part of their Registration of Interest, applicants will be asked to provide the names of a number of referees who are able to account for the applicant's suitability to foster. The references required are as following:
Personal references: Four personal referees are required in total per application (this applies both joint and single applications) and CSF4183 Personal Reference Letter/Form will be sent to all referees nominated. The referees should be adults who know the applicants well and have done for a period of time (at least 3 years). The personal referees can not be family members or an employment referee. Where referees have known the applicants for less than 3 years, the Team Manager will need to approve this and this information will need to be shared with the Fostering Panel.
If the applicants are making a joint application, referees need to know both applicants. They also need to be prepared to be interviewed about the applicants' parenting/caring capacity and other issues relating to their application. Personal referees cannot be family members, nor can they be the same people who have been nominated for an employment reference.
Family references: The applicants are also asked to nominate a family reference for each applicant. Single applicants are therefore required to provide one family reference only. The Family Reference CS0463 will be sent to each family member nominated.
Adult children: Where the applicants have adult children, all of these children will need to be contacted to discuss their parents' application and suitability to foster. Interviews will need to be documented in the Form F Assessment Report. If it is not possible to speak to adult children, a discussion will be required with the relevant Team Manager and a decision made on how to proceed.
Employment Reference: A written reference must be obtained from each applicant's current employer regardless of the applicant's occupation Employment Reference Form (CS0464). Where the applicant has recently changed employers, it may also be appropriate to request a reference from their previous employer. If the applicants are self –employed, then they will be asked to nominate a regular client or accountant who would be able to verify their employment status and a Self Employed Employer Reference (CS0465) reference will be requested.
Previous experience working with children/vulnerable adults: As part of their Registration of Interest form, the applicants are also asked to give contact details of any employment/voluntary experiences they have had working with children or vulnerable adults. Wherever possible, the fostering service should attempt to gain further information from the provider and the AFR team will request a testimonial reference accounting for the applicant's previous work within their setting using the Childcare-Vulnerable Adult Reference (CS0466) form.
Prospective foster carers previous partner reference:
In the recruitment stage, it will be made clear to prospective foster carers that we will request references from ex-partners.
When assessing prospective foster carers it is important to establish at the beginning of the assessment process the applicant's relationship history within the chronology to establish the length and significance of any previous relationships and to obtain an account from the applicant about the nature of the relationship, why it ended and whether there were any children born as a result.
An ex partner reference will always be requested in the following circumstances:
- Where the applicant have had a child with an ex partner, even though they were not living together at the same address;
- Where the applicant has lived with a partner in a significant couple relationship, whether or not this has involved jointly caring for children and whatever the time period of the relationship;
- Where the applicant has had an ongoing relationship with an ex partner for more than 3 years.
For any other relationship deemed to be significant every attempt must be made to interview the previous partner.
If the previous partner cannot be face to face interviewed, a telephone interview must be held (if overseas or more than a 2 hour drive) and if an interview is not possible in any of the above circumstances this must be discussed and a plan agreed with the Fostering Service Team Manager.
If the foster carer has concerns for their own safety in relation to their ex-partner or the contact is deemed to be too difficult this must also be presented to the Fostering Service Manager for a decision about how to proceed. It would be best practice to seek out referees that can corroborate the information about ex-partners and can provide information about them as a couple.
If the prospective carer refuses to agree to the interview of the ex-partner they should be asked to give reasons. These should be recorded and reflected in the assessment.
When prospective foster carers have had previous significant relationships (see above list of what constitutes a significant relationship, a reference would be routinely sought from previous partners and/or adult children using the Ex-Partner reference CS0467. If this is not possible, or the applicant has a good reason why they do not want this (i.e. an abusive relationship) a reference must be sought from someone who knew the foster carers as a couple throughout the duration of their relationship using the Ex-Partner Alternative Referee CS0462 form. Where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the social worker will need to arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable.
Where applicants have no contact with ex-partners, the assessing social worker will need to see evidence of attempts made by the applicants to obtain contact details. In addition to this, the assessing will also need to make attempts to contact the ex-partner, i.e. via social media or by checking the electoral roll. If these cannot be obtained, similarly an additional reference accounting for the period the applicant was in a relationship will be required using form CS0468.
Written information may be provided by an ex-partner which requires further exploration. In such cases, the assessing social worker may need to undertake an interview. When interviewing ex-partners, the assessing social worker will need to take care not to disclose confidential personal information about the applicant.
Referee interviews: The assessing Social Worker will choose at least three referees to interview for each application, ideally one family member and two personal referees. These three referees will be interviewed in person or, in exceptional cases, virtually if agreed by the Team Manager. Assessing social workers can choose to interview more than three referees if this is required to corroborate information arising in the assessment.
Referees and any other family members spoken to during the preparation of the report should be informed in writing about the position in relation to confidentiality. For any information provided by referees to be shared with the applicants (unless safeguarding concerns are raised), the referees must consent to information being shared. A written reference will not be shown to an applicant unless the applicant requests disclosure and the referee gives consent.
The same applies to information and opinions shared in the course of conversation. These will not be disclosed to an applicant without permission. However, referees and others should be made aware that it will often be necessary to discuss with applicants information and opinions expressed. Although when this happens, the particular source of the information or opinion will not be disclosed, referees should be informed that an applicant may make a challenge through an access to records request. Referees should be sent a written record of the discussion held with the assessing social worker and be asked to sign their agreement to it being a true record. They will also be asked whether they give their consent for the information to be shared with the applicant.
The written references will be returned to the relevant area fostering team, who upon receipt of the references, will upload them and record the date received in the LCS checks tab. Assessing social workers will need to regularly review the progress of all checks and references, to ensure that any potential delays are avoided.
A written reference must be obtained from each applicant's current employer regardless of the applicant's occupation. In addition, where the applicant has frequently changed jobs, written references should also be obtained from past employers.
Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference.
On receipt of the references electronic records will be updated.
6.4 Obtaining Information from other fostering / adoption services and agencies (Enquiry and Stage 1 Assessment)
Sharing of information about a person that is held in other local authority or agency fostering or adoption records is permitted for the purposes of informing a new assessment of a person's suitability to foster or adopt. Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to, including young people (or their parent/person with PR).If consent is refused, the fostering service or adoption agency should only disclose information if it is considered that there is cause for concern. Documents may need to be redacted to remove information relating to individuals that have refused consent and guidance should be sought from the Hertfordshire Information Governance Service in these circumstances.
If consent is given the following should be shared:
- Original assessment (if recent enough to be relevant;
- Last review or any other review considered useful;
- Details of any concerns and how addressed;
- Details of any substantiated allegations (see Children Act 1989 Guidance - Volume 4: Fostering Services para 3.79);
- Any other information considered to be relevant to the assessment of the person's suitability to foster/adopt.
7. Decision not to proceed with assessment following Stage 1
Regulation 26 (1B & 1C) states that if the fostering service's decision maker decides, at any point during the stage one process, that the applicant is not suitable to foster, the applicant must be informed in writing, with full reasons for this decision. This notification may be given whether or not all of this information has been obtained. This decision must be reached and the applicant informed, at the latest, within 10 working days of all the stage one information (regulation 26 (1A)) being received.
The applicant has no right to make representations, or to have their case reviewed, under the Independent Review Mechanism, but will be informed that they can complain via the fostering service's complaint process Complaints, Compliments and Representations. However the guidance sets out that the complaints process must consider whether the case has been handled in a reasonable way, rather than question the applicant's suitability to foster.
Where all the specified information has been obtained and notification has not been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable, then the application will proceed to panel. At this point, the Fostering Team Manager will send a letter to the applicants to advise that stage one has been completed successfully.
8. Assessment - Stage Two
8.1 Stage Two Assessment: Framework and Timeframe
Stage two assessment information will be obtained, and the assessment carried out, in parallel with stage one of the process. Such assessments will be undertaken by a suitably qualified Social Worker or student Social Worker who is closely supervised by a suitably qualified Social Worker. The assessment will gain evidence of the applicant(s)' competencies to become foster carer(s). The evidence could include testimonials from a range of sources in addition to direct observation of their interaction with children.
The assessment will be undertaken over a series of visits; and have at least one session individually with each applicant. Arrangements will need to be made to undertake interviews with any children of the household where they are of an appropriate age and understanding. The social worker will also need to undertake a tour of the property to complete the HCC Health and Safety checklist, which needs to also be signed by the Team Manager, as well as a Pet Assessment for each pet in the household.
The assessing social worker will draw up a written agreement in an assessment plan setting out the dates for the assessment visits and the date for the presentation to the Fostering Panel. Any delays in presenting the report to panel must be agreed by the team manager and fostering service manager, setting out clear reasons for the delay. The assessing social worker must also inform the applicant(s) of any revised timescales.
At the start of the assessment, the applicant(s) will be:
- Notified that the case is to be referred to the fostering panel, who will consider their application;
- Informed of the date of the fostering panel and advise them of the expectation that they will attend;
- Advised they will be given a copy of the completed report before it is sent to panel members;
- Invited to send any observations in writing within 10 working days (beginning with the date on which the notification is sent).
A letter will be sent to the applicants with the date, time and venue of the Fostering Panel, together with written information about the Panel process, who will attend and their respective roles. If the applicants know a particular Panel member, the applicants may request that the Panel member stand down. (Panel members are in any event expected to declare an interest in these circumstances - see Fostering Panel Procedure).
8.2 Stage 2 Assessment Content
The information gathered during the assessment, feedback from the Skills to Foster Preparation Course alongside the checks and personal references, will form the basis of the assessment. The assessing social worker will need to complete a written report, which analyses the information obtained, to consider whether the applicant is suitable to be a foster carer and whether the applicant 's household is suitable. This written report will be set out as specified in the Prospective Foster Carer Report (Form F) England, which covers the following sections:
- Factual information;
- Family background and childhood (including education);
- Adult life (including employment and previous relationships);
- Personality and current relationship;
- Household members (including children) and lifestyle;
- Other children (including adults) and social/support network;
- Caring for children: providing warmth, empathy and encouragement;
- Caring for children: providing structure and boundaries;
- Caring for children: providing durability, resilience, and commitment;
- Working effectively with others;
- Understanding identity and diversity Motivation and timing of application;
- Preparation, training, and expectations;
- Anticipated impact of fostering;
- Understanding of safer caring;
- Future training and development;
- Checks and references, including DBS and medical information;
- Any relevant specialist report;
- Summary and recommendations.
The assessing social worker will complete all parts of the assessment report, which will record all appropriate factual information, analysis, highlight strengths and vulnerabilities and consider areas for development. The report will need to include information relating to the applicants' understanding of the following areas:
- Childcare experience and ability to care for children born to someone else;
- Ability to include a child in family life, be inclusive and help a child feel they 'belong'. All applicants are expected to complete a child-friendly welcome profile as part of their assessment;
- Ability to help children make sense of their past, as well as promote contact between children and their families;
- Awareness of the impact of physical, emotional and sexual abuse and the long-term effects of neglect;
- Attitude to healthy living and an ability to promote a child's healthy development, including sexual health;
- Promotion of education and encouraging achievement;
- Approaches to discipline and promoting positive behaviour;
- Awareness of how to promote secure attachments between children and appropriate adults;
- Standards of living and lifestyles;
- Sexuality & attitudes to sexuality;
- Sexual practices & boundaries within the home, including evidence of applicants' understanding of safe caring practices and a completion of a safe caring family policy;
- Experiences of disability and attitudes to disability;
- Awareness of Diversity and Inclusion and equal opportunities;
- Evidence of a social media check & applicants' awareness of online safety;
- Assessment of the applicant's financial stability and security of tenure, providing confirmation (if in Social Housing or Privately Rented accommodation) that the landlord has granted permission to use the property for fostering;
- Attitude to training and development, including completion of a Personal Development Plan (PDP).
The list is not exhaustive - other issues relevant to the individual applicant and his or her family may need to be addressed. The skills and personal qualities that need to be evidenced will be different according to the type of fostering the applicants wish to do, e.g. short/long term, dependent upon the ages and needs of children. The assessment should focus on an analysis of the information obtained and present a clear picture as to how the applicants are able to meet the fostering task, as well as identify any further areas for development.
Applicants will be encouraged to be actively involved in contributing towards the assessment, and supported to provide their own written accounts to evidence their capabilities in support of their application.
The Fostering Team manager will arrange a midway assessment meeting with the applicants.
8.3 Progression to Fostering Panel Recommending Approval
Once the assessing social worker has completed a draft, it should be submitted to the Team Manager for discussion in order to identify whether there are any issues that are unclear or need further work before the assessment is completed.
The final draft will then be sent to 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. It should be explained to them that that they have 5 working days to do this and that any written comments they make will be circulated to the Fostering Panel members with the report.
The Assessment will then be passed to the Team Manager to be endorsed and counter-signed. If a second opinion is required, another Social worker from the Fostering service will undertaken this visit and complete a second opinion report.
The social worker will then send the Assessment and the applicants' written comments (if any), a full health report, the report on the interviews with the referees, the report from the local authority for the area where the applicant lives (if they live in a different local authority area) and any other relevant documents, to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant Fostering Panel meeting. This should be held to enable the Fostering Panel to make its recommendation on the application within eight months of the receipt of the formal application.
8.4 Progression to Fostering Panel Recommending 'Not Suitable'
If a decision is made that the applicant is not suitable to foster, and the 10 days have passed since all stage one information has been received, then a brief report or a partially completed report will need to be taken to fostering panel. This report will need to summarise the details of the assessment undertaken and outline the reasons for considering the applicant unsuitable.
The applicant must be:
- Advised that the brief report is to be sent to the Fostering Panel;
- Provided with a copy of the brief report;
- Given 10 working days from the date of the notification to send their observations to the Team Manager;
- Invited to attend the Fostering Panel, with date, time and venue and information about the Panel process.
The brief report or assessment report should then be presented to the fostering panel for consideration along with any observations/verbal feedback submitted by the applicant and any other relevant information. The Fostering Panel will then make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker.
9. The Foster Panel Recommendation and Decision Making
Please see Fostering Panel Procedure, Recommendations and Decision Making for coverage of recommendations and decision making.
The Fostering Panel will consider the reports together with all the supporting documentation and any additional information presented verbally, and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) regarding the suitability of the applicant for fostering. The recommendation, with reasons, will be recorded in writing and, where approval is recommended, the category of fostering and any limitations of the approval in relation to named children (e.g. for long-term placements). The panel will also make recommendations regarding the approval age range and number of placements.If the decision is to refuse approval, the Assessing Social Worker and Team Manager will assess the need for further counselling and arrange any necessary follow-up action e.g. offer to write to the GP.
10. Representations / Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)
If the Agency Decision Maker determines that the applicant is not suitable to foster, the applicant will be sent a copy of the report and informed in writing that they may:
- Make an Appeal to the Fostering Panel; or
- Exercise the right to apply to the Secretary of State to request a review of the decision (Qualifying Determination) by the Independent Review Mechanism. They must write within 28 calendar days of the written notice by the manager, with their reasons for so doing.
11. Post Approval
If the panel recommends approval, the Agency Decision Maker reviews the fostering panel minutes and makes a decision on approval. Advice may be provided by the ADM as part of their decision. Once approved, the Panel Administrator will enter the foster carers' approval details, including their first review date, on LCS (see Section 12, Register of Foster Carers) and update the electronic records. They will also send notice of the outcome to all agencies consulted during the assessment and approval process.
For information on support and supervision of foster carers following approval, see Support and Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure, Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker.
12. Register of Foster Carers
The Fostering Service holds a Register with information provided from LCS of all approved foster carers. This will have:
- The name, address, date of birth, gender identity and ethnic origin of each foster carer;
- The date of approval and of each review of the approval;
- The category and current terms of the approval;
- The name, address, date of birth of each Connected Person with whom a child is placed under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 and who has been granted temporary approval as a foster carer, together with the date and terms of the temporary approval.
Note: Hertfordshire Stage 1 and 2 are undertaken concurrently. This diagram, devised by the Department for Education as part of Assessment and approval of foster carers: amended guidance illustrates how stages 1 & 2 of the assessment process fit together. It is not intended to cover all actions a Fostering Service must undertake as part of the process - Foster Services must refer to the regulations and statutory guidance for this information. It should be noted that at any point in the process applicants (1) can withdraw, in which case the process ends; and (2) can complain to the FS (and must be informed of their right to do so if they are turned down in stage 1).See: Stages 1 and 2: Foster carer assessment & approval process.