Support and Supervision of Foster Carers

AMENDMENT

This chapter was refreshed in September 2022 and should be re-read in its entirety.

1. Introduction

Foster carers benefit from professional and supportive relationships with the Fostering Service, which help them to provide high-quality care.

Foster carers are part of the team around the child, which is mutually supportive. They are actively involved in planning for the child, and their views are valued by the Local Authority to positively influence children’s progress. They work very effectively together with children’s social workers to ensure that placements are appropriate, planned and meet the needs of children. The support provided to foster carers by the Fostering Service is also designed to help them to cope with the additional demands of fostering on their family life.

All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified supervising social worker. If the social worker did not assess the foster carers, they will read the Fostering Assessment or the  Full Assessment of Relative/Friends/Connected Person Wishing to Care for Children as a Family & Friends Foster Carer CS0221F14 and the supporting documentation presented to the Fostering Panel including the references prior to introducing him or herself to the carers and arranging to meet the carers, their family and members of their support network as appropriate.

The approved Foster Carer will be provided with a contact number so that they can access support in a timely manner. If the allocated social worker is on leave or absent from work, the approved Foster Carer will be provided with a duty number to enable them to access support.

The allocated supervising social worker is responsible for supervising and supporting carers, ensuring that they have the necessary guidance, support and direction to maintain a quality service, including safe caring practices. This will include an understanding that they must work within the National Minimum Standards for Fostering and the agency's policies, procedures and guidance. The supervising social worker should provide effective support and challenge through the supervision and review processes to ensure that carers are providing high-quality care.

The supervising social worker must also ensure that the foster carers' training and development needs are identified, and that newly approved carers work towards completing the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers Workbook. They also have the responsibility to ensure foster carers are familiar and made aware of new policies and guidance.

The child's allocated social worker should be contacted for specific advice or support in relation to the child and their Care Plan and Placement Plan.

Hertfordshire offers a high level of support to their Foster carers, please follow attached link to view the Foster Carer Support Offer.

2. Planned Supervision Visits

Carers will receive regular and effective supervision that is focused on children’s experiences, needs, plans and feedback. Supervision will be recorded by the supervising social worker and stored on the foster carers records.

Purpose

Supervision is a key process in the support of Foster Carers and building a relationship with the approved Foster Carers is crucial in providing high quality supervision and improving outcomes for children. It is important to personalise supervision to the Carers needs.

Supervision is essentially a supportive and enabling two way process to:

  • Ensure the foster carers understand how they contribute to the local authority's services for children;
  • Enable foster carers to contribute effectively to the plans for the children for whom they are caring and ensure that plans for children remain in the children’s best interests;
  • Provide appropriate monitoring and feedback on the foster carers' work to ensure the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
  • Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training and their annual review;
  • Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate;
  • Promote reflection and consider how past trauma may impact on a child’s presenting behaviours;
  • Give foster carers an opportunity to raise any problems and make sure they are addressed appropriately;
  • Acknowledge the challenges and demands that the fostering tasks make on foster families and ensure appropriate support is available;
  • Recognise and address any difficulties the foster carers' own children may be experiencing arising from fostering; and
  • Assist foster carers to work in an anti discriminatory way that respects and promotes individual differences.

Supervision Agreement

A supervision agreement must be completed at the start of all new supervisory relationships.

Supervision Visits

The purpose of supervision visits is to allow foster carers to discuss any children placed with them and look at carer's training and support needs. The Supervising Social Worker should allow time for and encourage foster carer(s) to reflect on how caring for the child(ren) in their care, impacts on them as individuals and, if a couple, in their relationship. (See procedure for what should be discussed in supervision).

The Supervising Social Worker must ensure that supervision meetings have a clear purpose and provide the opportunity to supervise the foster carers work. The role of supervision is to support the approved Foster Carers to explore the needs of the child/ren in placement, taking into account the child’s wishes and feelings, and offer support and a framework to assess the carers’ performance and develop their competencies and skills and to support the needs of the whole fostering family. Supervision to enable carer/s to reflect on their personal development plan, to offer reflection on practice, and agree support needs and actions required.

Approved Foster Carers and Supervising Social Workers need to prepare for the supervision visit to ensure there is an opportunity for reflective practice. These need to be timely and regular and planned in advance so the Approved Foster Carers are available for supervision visits at a mutually agreed time. Partners of the main foster carer must be seen quarterly/ every third supervision and this needs to be clearly recorded.

Recording

Supervision will be recorded on a proforma (Via LCS Form).

Once completed, the Supervising social worker will send the form to the foster carer electronically via the foster carer secure email system and a note will be made on the foster carer’s electronic record that the supervision form has been sent to the carers. The Foster carer should sign the supervision record or confirm via email that they have received the supervision record and any comments they wish to make.

Frequency of Supervision visits:

  • Full-time foster carer carers – require a minimum of 10 supervision visits over 1 year. Most foster carers who care for children full time will receive monthly visits;
  • All foster carers in Hertfordshire require two unannounced visits per year, and more frequently if circumstances require this. (National Minimum Standards (NMS) require one per year);
  • Long term carers caring for a child for 1 year or more if settled– require a minimum of 6 visits per year (bi-monthly) and 6 virtual meetings (bimonthly). This must be agreed with foster carer, Child’s social worker and IRO;
  • Sleepover carers (respite) - a minimum of 8 supervisions per year;
  • Cares on hold – arrangement needs to be formally agreed within a supervision agreement. There must be at least 1 unannounced visit and one supervision every three months;
  • These visits standards hold for fostering carers in the process of adoption until they have been approved as adopters by ADM decision.

The Supervising Social Worker may visit with the Child's Social Worker and joint visits are encouraged. More frequent visits maybe required at any time to support the placement.

Newly approved Carers may require additional supervision in the first year of fostering

3. Unannounced Visits

In addition to agreed supervision visits, at least 1 unannounced visit must be carried out every 12 months (in Hertfordshire, most carers receive 2 unannounced visits per year). The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.

The unannounced visits will be undertaken by the foster carer's supervising social worker who will need to check:

  1. Who is in the home;
  2. Who is looking after the child;
  3. If the carer is not at home, what arrangements have been made for the care of the child.

If the foster carers are not at home, the supervising social worker should leave a note for the foster carers to say that they have visited.

As part of the visit, the Supervising social worker will request to see all rooms in the house, including all household members’ bedrooms.

If the foster carers are not at home but the child is present and being looked after by someone else, the social worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit.

Unannounced visits should be recorded on LCS and foster carers should be provided with a copy of the Unannounced visit form.

There should not ordinarily be a regular programme of unannounced visits without particular reason – for example if a foster carer is being closely monitored. In such an event the reason for such will be explained to the foster carer.

4. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker

Supervising social workers should ensure the following tasks are done: 

Post Approval

  1. Ensure that all new carers start completing the Foster Carer Training, Support and Development Standards which needs to be completed by their first annual review;
  2. Ensure Foster carers are sent The Fostering introduction email including link to Foster Carers' Handbook, and give guidance to carers on where to find information within the Handbook;
  3. Give Foster Carer Agreement (Internal link) to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer's file;
  4. Complete a supervision agreement (see link above);
  5. Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carer's Allowance, Disability Living Allowance etc.
  6. Ensure the Child friendly profile and the Foster carer matching profiles are up to date;
  7. Ensure Foster carers are supported to get access to the Foster carer secure email system;
  8. Support carers to get a Hertfordshire fostering ID badge.

Pre-Placement

  1. Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing (each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the children’s Social worker (s) mixing with other children in home, etc. Discuss and check equipment (especially in the child's bedroom) and ensure it is appropriate to the age of the child in placement;
  2. Take part in discussions about potential placements;
  3. Take part in planning meetings regarding placements;
  4. Ensure that the foster carers are provided with full information about children about to be placed, including any abuse or neglect and the reason for the placement, the child's educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic and cultural needs;
  5. Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members;
  6. Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
  7. Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
  8. Discuss appropriate training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs;
  9. Assist carer with training needs for appropriate safer care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children;
  10. Discuss financial issues with the carer: allowances, pocket money, leisure activities, toiletries and travelling etc. and the importance of complying with the terms of the Council's insurance policy for carers;
  11. Enquire about holiday plans the carers have made, and if the child is able to join them. If not the carer must inform the child's social worker so alternative arrangements can be made;
  12. Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family, including out of hours support;
  13. That arrangements are made for the provision of specialist equipment for disabled children;
  14. Set date of first visit after the placement;
  15. Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed;
  16. Provide carers with Foster carer training catalogue, Children’s guides and Hertfordshire Fostering behaviour policy.

During Placement

  1. Where necessary, check and follow up on all issues raised during the placement. Discuss any areas of concern with foster carers and ensure appropriate support/advice is addressed and in place at the time rather than waiting for reviews;
  2. Provide foster carers with breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children;
  3. Take part in any strategy meetings and section 47 enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
  4. Ensure the supervising social worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child's looked after reviews and Child Protection Conferences, and attend when appropriate;
  5. Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (see Foster Carer Reviews Procedure and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers and Supported Lodgings Carers Procedure);
  6. Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and their family and children;
  7. Visit regularly in accordance with the foster carer's needs, the child's Care Plan and as required (see also Frequency of Supervision visits and Section 3, Unannounced Visits;
  8. Review the Safer Caring Plan and any changes in household circumstances;
  9. Assess and review any health and safety issues within the fostering household including the addition of any new pets and the environment in which they are kept;
  10. Make unannounced visits as required;
  11. Update Disclosure and Barring Service checks on members of the family every 3 years, including those reaching 18 years of age, other persons who come to live at the home, who are over 18 years; adult children living away from the foster home and anyone carrying out regulated activity with a foster child;
  12. Whilst there is no statutory time interval, as good practice medical information should also be updated at least every 3 years by writing to the foster carer's GP. In the event of any serious concerns about the foster carers health, a review of the foster carers approval should be carried out immediately;
  13. Record contact with carers;
  14. Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
  15. Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker;
  16. Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood;

At End of Placement

  1. Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time;
  2. Discuss fully with the carer and their family all the issues that have led to any unplanned end of a placement and identify any learning/training opportunities;
  3. Assist the foster carer to complete their end of placement report if required;
  4. Attend Disruption Meetings as required.

5. Other Support Provided to Approved Foster Carers

Hertfordshire has a varied and extensive support offer to our foster carers in addition to the support offered by the allocated supervising social worker which is outlined in the Foster Carer Support Offer.

6. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer

For the detailed procedure, see Managing Allegations Against Adults Who Work With Children and Young People Procedure, Allegations Against Carers.

Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the supervising social worker should:

  1. Support the family and make carers aware of Hertfordshire support offer for foster carers which includes:
    • Supervision and support continues with allocated Supervising social worker or another member of the fostering team;
    • Access to legal support via Fostering network and independent support via Foster talk;
    • Offer of counselling support via Employment assistance programme or other counselling service;
    • Support by another foster carer;
    • Ensure foster carers are provided with Managing allegations leaflet which outlines the process and support on offer.
      See: Managing Allegations Against Foster Carers (hertfordshire.gov.uk);
  2. Once agreed with LADO and/or Strategy meeting, discuss fully with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation;
  3. Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
  4. Make the carer's aware of their own possible conflict of interests;
  5. Once the investigation has concluded by LADO, LADO will write to the foster carers confirming the outcome. In addition to this, once LADO has concluded, a letter will be sent to the foster carers by the Fostering manager to confirm next steps and outlining the process, i.e. the IRO process and panel.