Support for Foster Carers Placed 'On Hold'
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers who are placed on hold.This chapter was added to the manual in March 2022.
Foster carers may decide that they would like a period of time when they do not foster any children and request to go 'on hold'. This may be due to personal circumstances, including family illness or bereavement. There may also be a range of other more practical reasons why foster carers wish to go 'on hold'. The steps identified within this guidance will enable carers to be confident that their 'on hold' period will be protected, and they will not be contacted by the service during this time (other than whereby agreed as detailed below). It will also enable the fostering service to have a clear understanding of when the foster carer may feel ready to offer care to another child and so will assist with the future sufficiency planning of the fostering service.
2. Foster Carers who Request to go 'On Hold'
Before agreeing to place a foster carer 'on hold' the following should be considered:
- What are the reasons for the request?
- How long is the foster carer requesting to go 'on hold' for? A specific end and/or review date should be decided. (Foster carers should not be 'on hold' for longer than 12 months);
- What are the agreed continuing arrangements for support and supervision? At a minimum there should be a support telephone contact every 3 months;
- The agreed arrangements relating to the statutory requirements of annual reviews, unannounced visits and checks. If these requirements are due to go out of date during the 'on hold' period, agreement will be reached as to how these will be best managed. Ideally all checks and statutory timeframes will be brought forward in order to be completed prior to the 'on hold' period commencing. If this is not possible, it will be expected that the annual review and one unannounced visit will take place during the 'on hold' period unless agreed by the fostering service manager due to extreme circumstances experienced by the foster carer;
- Will the foster carer continue to attend training or support groups?
- Would the foster carer benefit or want some support from another foster carer during the “on hold" period?
A brief report outlining the above should be presented to the relevant team manager for comments and approval. This should be agreed and signed by the foster carers and placed on their fostering file along with an update to the case summary. A note will be made not to contact the foster carer regarding referrals until the agreed date.
If it is felt that the period of time being requested is unreasonable, i.e. over 12 months, the supervising social worker and/or team manager should have a discussion with the foster carer about other alternatives, i.e. resignation or re-approval for a different type of fostering.
Where a family has been 'on hold' for longer than 12 months and/or there is significant change to the family circumstances, a foster carer review should be completed and presented to the fostering panel before the foster carer(s) are deemed available for further fostering.
The fostering team manager should be informed of any delay/postponement in a foster carer review being presented to fostering panel due a foster carer being 'on hold'.
When a foster carer returns to fostering after a period of being 'on hold', the supervising social worker should ensure that a discussion is held to include the following issues:
- Is the annual review and unannounced visit still within timescale?
- Are any particular support services required?
- Is increased visiting frequency and/or supervision required for the first 12 months?
- Are the foster carers aware of any new procedures or processes that have been introduced while they have been away?
- Are there any outstanding training needs?
On returning to fostering, the foster carers' details and any conditions to their return should be updated on LCS as appropriate. The Brokerage Team must also be informed of any changes.
3. Placing Foster Carers 'On Hold' Initiated by the Fostering Service
There may be reasons why the fostering service might consider placing a foster carer 'on hold'. It usually relates to a significant change within the fostering household or following a significant event such as a complaint or allegation.
If a carer is placed 'on hold' following an allegation, the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Managing Allegations Against Adults Who Work With Children and Young People Procedure will be adhered to in the first instance.
Any reason to place a foster carer 'on hold' should be fully discussed beforehand with the supervising social worker, team manager and fostering service manager and recorded on LCS. The decisions for placing a foster carer 'on hold' should be put in writing to the carer and the following should be considered and confirmed in the letter:
- The reasons for the carer being placed on hold;
- The date of this decision and who has been involved in making it, including when it was discussed with the foster carer;
- The restrictions that will be placed on the foster carer and the reasons for these. This will include any recommendations on matching and placements;
- What action the fostering service will be taking and any expectations being placed on the foster carer - for example, is medical information/guidance required from a GP or medical advisor or is a standards of care investigation being carried out;
- What outcome is to be achieved before a foster carer can resume fostering;
- What arrangements are to be put in place for continued supervision, support, and learning and development and who will carry out this support;
- Information given to the foster carer regarding the provision of a Fostering Network Mediation and Advice Worker;
- How long the foster carer will be placed on hold for;
- What financial arrangements will be made, if any, by the fostering service during the 'on hold' period.
If a foster carer is put 'on hold' following an allegation that is being investigated under safeguarding procedures, clear guidance must be given to foster carers, and members of their household, about ongoing contact with Looked After Children who have previously left the placement or whose placements have ended as a result of the current enquiries.
Each situation may need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, but the needs of the child, and the prevention of disruption to their care plan should be of paramount importance.
When deciding that a foster carer returns to the fostering task following a period of service placing them 'on hold', all of the issues as outlined in section 2 above should be considered. The decision agreeing the return to fostering, along with any conditions, should be agreed by the fostering service manager and recorded on LCS. The foster carer will be informed in writing of the decision, reasons and any conditions attached. They will also be given information on how to respond if they wish to do so.
In all circumstances of a foster carer being 'on hold', team managers must prioritise and regularly review the ongoing foster carer circumstances within individual supervision with supervising social workers in order to avoid drift in decision making. Team managers will be expected to present findings to the service manager within their own supervision on a monthly basis.
Any subsequent decision about resignation or de-registration should follow the normal departmental policies and procedures and does not fall within these guidelines.