Foster Care Case Recording
In September 2021, Section 3, Records in Respect of Children Placed was updated to include information regarding mandatory foster carer training and management of records.
1. Statutory Framework
Standard 26.1 of the Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011 (FNMS 2011) requires the fostering service to produce a written policy on case recording which establishes the purpose, format and content of files and clarifies what information is kept on carer's files and what information is kept on child's case records.
Standard 26.2requires that staff, volunteers, panel members and fostering households understand the nature of records maintained, follow the service's policy for the keeping and retention of files, managing confidential information and access to files (including files removed from the premises).
Standard 26.3 requires that, children and their parents know the nature of records maintained and how to access them.
Standard 26.6 requires the encouragement of children to:
- Read their files (other than necessarily confidential or third party information);
- To correct errors; and
- To add personal statements.
The 1998 Data Protection Act, which came into force on 11th March 2000, gives any living person who is the subject of personal information held by a social services authority, rights of access to that information.
2. Foster Carer Files
The fostering service must maintain a case record for each approved foster carer. All foster carers have an LCS and paper file.
All files in respect of approved carers must contain as a minimum:
- A record of the initial screening process;
- The carer's application form;
- The original report on the assessment of the carer and any other reports submitted to the Fostering Panel;
- Any recommendations made by Panel;
- A record of the carer's attendance and performance at a preparation group;
- The information obtained in relation to the assessment, approval, review or termination of approval of the carer;
- Notice of approval;
- The Foster Care Agreement;
- Annual reviews of approval;
- Notices of the outcome of reviews of approval, including revised terms of approval or notices of termination of approval;
- Any agreement entered into by the carer in respect of an emergency placement;
- A record of each placement made with the carer, including the name, age, ethnicity, religion and sex of each child placed, the dates on which each placement began and terminated and the circumstances of the termination;
- A copy of the carer's safe caring guidelines;
- A copy of the carer's training portfolio;
- A record of any complaints or allegations made in respect of the carer, together with the details of any investigation, its outcome and any action taken;
- Evidence of management oversight and audit;
- Exemption forms.
Files in respect of family and friend /connected person carers who have a child placed under Regulation 24) of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010 must also contain:
- The agreement entered into in accordance with Regulation 24;
- A record in relation to the placement, including the name, age and gender of each child placed, the dates on which the placement began and terminated, and the circumstances of the termination;
- The information obtained in relation to the enquiries carried out under Regulation 24.
All files in respect of applicants who are not approved as carers or who withdraw their application prior to approval must contain as a minimum:
- All information obtained in connection with the assessment;
- Any reports submitted to the Fostering Panel and any recommendations of the Panel;
- Any notices given that Hertfordshire is mindful not to approve or has not approved the application;
- Any representations received in respect of the above notifications;
- A closing summary.
3. Records in Respect of Children Placed
Case recording on carer's files will clearly identify if the recording is in respect of the child or the carer.
However, the nature of fostering is such that it is often difficult to separate the two when recording specific incidents. For example, if the child was missing from placement and the actions taken by the carer were being recorded, then it would be impractical to record this in such a way that kept the child and the carer entirely separate. It must therefore be recognised that such information in respect of children will remain on the carer's file even after the placement has ended.
Other information will also be retained on the carer's file that may contain information in respect of children who have left placement. This will include records of complaints made against the carers.
There is an expectation that foster carers will keep a record of each child placed. All foster carers must attend record keeping training as part of their first year mandatory training. HCC's expectation is that Hertfordshire foster carer complete relevant, clear and concise electronic recordings for each child in placement and that these are sent via secure email to the child's social worker and their supervising social worker on a monthly basis. If there is a significant event during this time the foster carer will be expected to update the child's social worker and their supervising social worker in the same manner so that this can be added to the child's electronic fileIf foster carers are not completing electronic recordings of children in placement with them, then they must ensure that they keep handwritten daily logs. As above, these must be relevant, clear and concise and must include all significant events. The recordings must be on individual sheets of paper, must be stored securely and must be given to their supervising social worker during supervision so that they can be scanned and uploaded onto the child's ICS file. Carers should also prepare memory boxes for all children who live with them that they can take with them when they leave.
See also Foster Carer Case Recording Policy.
4. Carers Contributing to Records
Carers should be encouraged to contribute to their case records.
For applicants this will begin with an expectation that they contribute to the assessment report. This will be done in a variety of ways including eco-maps and family trees as well as the body of the report itself.
Approved carers will have a number of formal opportunities to contribute to their case record including:
- Feedback on placements;
- Annual reviews;
- The creation and maintenance of their training profile;
- The creation of their individual safe caring guidelines.
Carers should also be encouraged to make more general contributions to their case records throughout the year. Hertfordshire will ensure that carers are aware of their right to access information held in respect of them and welcomes requests for such access.
Where a carer identifies a factual error in information held, this must be corrected immediately.
Where a carer disagrees about an opinion or judgement of their Supervising Social Worker or others and it is possible to reach agreement on amendments to the record, these must be made. If it is not possible to reach agreement, the carer's views must be recorded alongside the worker's.
5. Register of Foster Carers
Hertfordshire will maintain an electronic register of approved foster carers, which will include the following particulars:
- The name, address, date of birth, ethnic origin, religion and sex of each foster carer;
- The date of approval and each review of approval; and
- The current terms of approval;
- The name and address of each person with whom it has placed a child under Regulation 24;
- The date of each agreement entered into in accordance with Regulation 24;
- The terms of any such agreement for the time being in force.
6. Storage of Records
Hertfordshire recognises the importance of case records and will do all in its power to ensure records are kept secure at all times.
Files are the property of Children's Services and should be accessible to authorised staff only. They must be kept in locked filing cabinets, in clearly labelled slings and in alphabetical order.
The worker responsible for a file must ensure that all files are stored in a metal lockable cabinet and that files are never left on a desk overnight, or for any significant period when not being used.
Files may need to be taken out of the office, for example to present at Court or to allow a worker to work away from the office. Prior permission must be obtained from the workers manager.
Whenever a file is removed from its usual place of storage, a note must be made on the form available in the filing room, which clearly states who has the file and when it was taken.
The current volume must be clearly labelled, with the start date and the number of the file in the series of volumes.
7. Retention of Records
The records referred to above under Foster Carer Files (see Section 2, Foster Carer Files and Register of Foster Carers (see Section 5, Register of Foster Carers) must be retained for at least 10 years, from the date an approval is terminated, from the date a placement under Regulation 24 is terminated or from the date an application is not approved or withdrawn. Closed files will be archived off site but can be retrieved within 24 hours.
8. Disclosure of Information and Confidentiality
Personal information is subject to a legal duty of confidence and must not normally be disclosed without the consent of the subject. However, the law provides for confidential information to be disclosed without consent if it is necessary for the protection of health or morals, the protection of the rights and freedom of others or for the prevention of disorder of crime.
Disclosure in such circumstances will be limited only to that information which is necessary for the end that has to be achieved and should be limited to those that need to know.
Decisions about sharing confidential information should be made on a case by case basis and decisions to disclose without consent should be recorded on the file together with reasons.
Where disclosure is to be made without consent, the subject should be made aware that the information is being passed on so that they have the opportunity to correct any inaccuracies or take legal steps to challenge the disclosure unless not doing so can be justified for overriding public policy reasons such as the protection of children or the investigation of a crime.
Requests for the disclosure of confidential information must always be passed to the relevant Team Manager.
Care should also be taken to ensure that confidential information is not accidentally disclosed by the overhearing of telephone conversations or other discussions.
As a principle Herts has a policy of being open with foster carers and should a carer request to see their files this will generally be agreed to, however, third party information will need to be removed first.
Movement between agencies: NMS 26.9 states that when a foster carer seeks to move to a new provider, the new provider can seek information from the previous provider and this request must be complied with within one month of receipt of the written request.