Employees of Hertfordshire County Council Acting as Foster Carers
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed in August 2016.
S5.35 of the Foster Service Regulations 2011 permits the recruitment of members of staff from the fostering service (or the wider organisation) and their families as foster carers but advises that care must be taken to avoid a conflict of interest.
2. Key Issues to be Considered in Respect of Applications from HCC Staff Members
The key issues to be considered where other Hertfordshire County Council employees wish to become foster carers for Hertfordshire County Council fostering service are:
Ensuring the Welfare of the Child
This must be the overriding consideration in relation to any placement. The placement must be deemed appropriate, bearing in mind all aspects, including supervision, monitoring and review. The Department is ultimately responsible for safeguarding the welfare of children in substitute care.
Will this be compromised in any way? Will the substitute carer have access to confidential information, e.g. about the child's family, by virtue of their position as an HCC employee, which they would not otherwise see? Will other HCC employees have access to confidential information about the carer?
Avoiding Conflict of Interest
This is likely to arise if the carer comes into contact with the child as part of their job, e.g. as a Child Care Worker, or if they are likely to be making policy decisions which impact on their role as a carer.
S4.11 of the 2011 Fostering Service Regulations state 'care must be taken to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest or negative impact on foster children... for instance the person may have access to records or may be in a position to influence a placement or approval decision'.
Ensuring Adequate Supervision of the Placement
This may be difficult if the Supervising Social Worker knows the carer as a colleague, or is junior to the carer at work. It must be addressed prior to any placement.
In relation to any application from an HCC employee to become a foster carer, the normal assessment procedures must be followed, plus the following features.
All applications from an HCC employee must be referred in the first instance to the Team Manager of the relevant Fostering Team, who will determine the appropriateness of the application. The Fostering Team Manager must consult with the applicant's line manager to explore possible areas of conflict of interest. If necessary, they must consult with the Head of Adoption and Fostering.
Concerns are likely to be in relation to the above key issues, and could include:
- Whether or not the applicant is employed by Children's Services;
- How senior their position is;
- How closely they are involved with Children Looked After;
- Whether the nature of their work gives them access to confidential information about Children Looked After.
In general terms, the more closely the applicants are involved in working with children in Children's Services the more senior their position, the less likely it will be that their application will be suitable.
If it is felt inadvisable to proceed with the application in Hertfordshire, this must be explained to the applicants, and if appropriate, they should be advised and helped to contact another County or organisation to make an application.
If it is decided to proceed with the application, the Fostering Team Manager should consider negotiating with a fostering team in another area to do the assessment.
The completed application must go to the Fostering Panel.
As part of the assessment, all the normal checks must be completed (personal references, health and Disclosure and Barring Service).
Following discussion between the assessing social worker and applicant consideration to be given to removing identifying details (name, address) from the assessment document presented to Panel, or shared with another team.
Once accepted, if carers work in an area team or have regular close contact with that team, children from that area must not be placed with them, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that there is no conflict of interests.
Hertfordshire County Council employees are bound by the same rules of confidentiality as any other carer in relation to information about the child, and they must not be given access to additional information by virtue of their position as an employee. Please see CSF4331 LCS Confidentiality Agreement.
The position of the Supervising Social Worker must not be compromised. Any potential difficulties must be addressed prior to any placement, and resolved to everyone's satisfaction before the placement goes ahead.
The overriding consideration Win relation to all such applications must be whether or not the applicant's position as an employee is likely to prevent them and the Department working together successfully to meet the needs of children who may be placed with them.