Support and Supervision of Foster Carers
OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTER
AMENDMENTIn March 2016, a link to the Transfer of Foster Carers Protocol was added to this chapter (above).
All Hertfordshire foster carers have an equal right to training, support and supervision from their local fostering team. S20 of the Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011 (FNMS 2011) sets out that support arrangements should be accessible and transparent and that they should also be aimed at hard to reach carers.
2. Support for Foster Carers (Including Shared Carers)
All foster carers will be recruited in line with National Minimum Standards and assessed using the CoramBAAF Form F.
Following initial training, all applicants will be allocated a Social Worker from the Fostering Team, who will complete their assessment.
The process of recruitment, preparation and assessment should prove the starting point for the development of a supportive relationship between the Fostering Team and its foster carers.
All carers, when approved, will have
- Access to the carer's handbook, which offers advice on various subjects together with copies of relevant procedures and appropriate phone numbers;
- An induction (S 20 FNMS 2011);
- An agreed form of identification by the fostering service to enable their role as a foster carer to be identified.
Each approved foster carer will have a named Supervising Social Worker from the fostering team. This Social Worker will visit the carers monthly when a child is in placement (for short break carers & family and friend carers, this arrangement can be more flexible). S21 of FNMS 2011 requires that meetings between foster carers and the supervising social worker must have a clear, recorded purpose and that they operate good systems of communication.
These supervision visits will be recorded on a pro forma CSF4389 and signed by both parties, the carers keeping a copy with the original remaining on the carer's file. The Supervising Social Worker then makes a record on LCS. This should include at least one unannounced visit per year which must be recorded on CSF4389. The visits are to discuss placements and look at carer's training and support needs. The Social Worker may visit more often than this if requested to for a particular reason.
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.
As well as regular visits, the Supervising Social Worker will make telephone contact with the carer as required. If the carer wishes to speak to the Social Worker, a message should be left, with all calls being returned within 3 working days.
When the Supervising Social Worker is not available and the carer needs some immediate support, they can always, within office hours, speak to a duty Social Worker. This Social Worker can listen to concerns and give general advice and guidance. All contacts should be recorded on LCS.
Fostering is a task undertaken by the whole family and therefore it is acknowledged that carers' own children require some support. Carers' children will always be included in the annual review of carers where they will be seen separately from their parents and their views sought. If they have any specific support or training needs, these will be acknowledged and every effort made to find a way of meeting these needs. Carers' children can also have access to the Supervising Social Worker at other times if they request it. Children may also have access to their own support group run by the local fostering team.
The Supervising Social Worker will be responsible for discussing training needs with carers and their families. This may be as issues arise during monthly supervision or at the carers' annual review. HCC provides a number of training opportunities for its carers, both centrally and locally. At times, in certain circumstances, it may be possible for carers to attend external courses. There is an expectation that all carers will attend:
- First aid;
- Safer care - offered to all members of the household;
- Administration and management of medicines.
For carers who cannot attend training courses access to on-line learning can be provided.
S20 of the FNMS 2011 requires that personal development plans must be developed in respect of each carer and that these should be linked to their training and their annual review. Details of the carer's development and training should be made available to the new agency when the carer moves and S26 of FNMS specifies that the records should be provided within one month of the request.
All approved foster carers must work towards meeting the National Standards for Foster Carers and those approved after 1st April 2008 must demonstrate their ability to meet these standards at their first review. (For further details see National standards for foster carers).
S3 of FNMS 2011 requires carers to be provided with training on behaviour management through Webster Stratton or Therapeutic Crisis intervention (TCI) training. S6 sets out that carers must receive training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs and in safely managing medicines.
S21 of the FNMS 2011 requires that foster carers must be provided with breaks from caring as appropriate and these must be achieved in such a way that they meet the needs of placed children
HCC will ensure that all carers receive appropriate remuneration for undertaking the fostering task. Carers will be paid in line with HCC guidelines that are revised annually. If an item is not covered in the guidelines, a discussion will take place between the Fostering Team Manager and the Area Team to provide an appropriate response. All the paperwork for payments to foster carers will be completed by the local Fostering Team.
All foster carers will be expected to attend a local support group. These are run at least monthly and are facilitated by a Social Worker from the local Fostering Team. Each group should have its own "contract" negotiated between the group members. It is important that all members have ownership of the group and share a commitment to it. New members should be introduced to the group in a positive way, possibly with the facilitator and/or one of the members visiting beforehand to introduce themselves.
All foster carers have the right to as much information on the child as is available. Carers should receive copies of the Placement Plan and Placement Plan either before or at the point a child is placed. They should also receive a copy of the Care Plan. This information should be produced by the child's Social Worker.
At each child's Placement Agreement Meeting and subsequently at their reviews any other support needs should be identified and discussed. It is important however that, consistent with S13 of the (FNMS 2011 any concerns or need for additional support that are identified between reviews are addressed at the time rather than waiting to be dealt with at a review.
This may include regular respite, day care or, in certain situations, extra financial support.
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) offer specific support to foster carers via consultation.
There is also a service to offer immediate response to carers who are having difficulties. For any other specific health needs there is a nurse for Children Looked After who is available for consultation and advice.
For any educational needs, each area has an Advisory Teacher who is employed by Children's Services to liaise with schools and assist in the planning process for Children Looked After. For more specific educational needs, Children's Services also employs an educational psychologist who may be used to assess a child's needs.
Each child looked after placed in foster care should have a statutory review within 28 days of becoming looked after, then within a further three months and every six months after that. These are minimum requirements and consideration must be given to bringing forward the date of a review where a child moves into a new placement.
Copies of minutes should be made available to foster carers. These meetings are to look at the needs of the child and to ensure that the placement is still meeting those needs. If any extra support is needed, this should also be discussed.
The Social Worker for the child should visit the child once in the first week of placement, and then at intervals of six weeks during the first year of placement, and thereafter visit at intervals of not more than three months. There should be a mutual exchange of information between the Social Worker and the foster carer throughout the placement.
If a carer requires any assistance outside normal office hours, they have direct access to the Emergency Duty Team who is available to give advice and guidance.
Carers will be encouraged to develop support networks with other carers. This may be on a formal basis through support groups or mentoring or more informally through the local Foster Care Association. The local Foster Care Association provides social events for carers, both with and without children; they meet regularly with managers, locally and centrally to discuss aspects of fostering and represent carer's views and are available to offer advice if possible.
Each carer, when they are approved, will be linked to a more experienced carer who they can call on for advice or guidance. Carers may get together more informally in groups or on a one to one basis to offer mutual support.
Carers will be given advice on obtaining more independent support, if needed. HCC will fund membership to Fostering Network for all approved carers.
Each year foster carers have their approval reviewed. This involves a formal meeting between the foster carers Supervising Social Worker and possibly an IRO to look at how things have gone in the past year and plan the carer's future career. It gives the opportunity to discuss any specific problems that may have been encountered and look at ways of working together in the future
The Supervising Social Worker from the Fostering Team must contact the foster carer monthly.
The worker or another member of the team must be available on a working day basis for discussions of need.
Allocated workers must return calls to foster carers within 3 working days unless they are not at work. In the absence of an allocated worker, the member of staff taking the call must advise the carer of the allocated worker's expected availability.
All supervision/support visits must be recorded on Record of Supervision CSF4387 - link to follow and CSF4388 - link to follow. A copy must be put on the foster carers file and a copy of supervision reports must be given to the foster carers.
4. Unannounced Visits
All foster carers must have at least two unannounced visits per year. These visits must be written up on Proforma for Unannounced Visits CSF4389 and entered on LCS.
The Fostering Team Manager must maintain a record of unannounced visits.
Unannounced visits are monitored by the Team Manager and can take place at any time. These visits may be routine or in response to a complaint or concern. The reason for the visit should in all cases be fully explained to the foster carers.
Unannounced visits provide an opportunity for Supervising Social Workers to ensure that foster carers are providing a safe and nurturing environment for the children and young people they look after.
The following list should be used to aid Supervising Social Workers when completing unannounced visits, taking account of the age and experiences of the children and young people in the home at the time of the visit:
- Who is in the home;
- Who is looking after the child;
- If the carer is not at home what arrangements have been made for the care of the child;
- Home is warm and clean;
- Child's bedroom has appropriate furniture and fittings;
- Evidence of age appropriate play materials;
- Selection of appropriate foods available including fresh fruit;
- Evidence that the child has appropriate clothing;
- Appropriate records are kept and stored safely;
- Medication and tools are stored safely;
- To observe and report on interactions within the home and where possible evidence where foster carers are working towards an agreed plan, i.e. star charts.
Supervising Social Workers should aim to observe these points where possible in the least obtrusive manner, i.e. noting that a child or young person is appropriately dressed or age appropriate toys were being played with.
Foster carers sometimes need equipment to undertake the foster-care task, i.e. a cot, buggy, raised toilet seat. For further information please see Allowances and Payments Procedure.
Requests from carers must be made to the allocated worker who must complete CSF4197 Requisition - Carers Equipment form.
The Team Administrator must keep a record of equipment issued to and held by carers.
6. Respite Care
Respite care can be provided where this meets the needs of the child and provides placement stability. Regular respite should be provided by consistent foster carer givers wherever possible.
The fostering service promotes the need for children to develop strong attachment to a consistent care giver. Respite should only be provided as part of the child's Care Plan.
This would not be considered good practice for babies and children under three years old.
7. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker including Post Approval
The foster carer will be allocated a supervising social worker, preferably the one who has undertaken their assessment - If the social worker does not know the new carer, he or she will read the Fostering Network Assessment or 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 supervising social worker will visit the foster carers within one week of their approval and request the foster carer to sign a Foster Care Agreement between the local authority and the foster carer, which contains the information the foster carer needs to carry out his or her functions as a foster carer effectively, ensuring that the foster carer understands its contents.
The foster carer will be given two copies for signature, and will retain one signed copy. The other will be kept on the foster carer's file, together with the report and supporting documents presented to the Fostering Panel, a copy of the Panel's recommendation and a copy of the approval decision.The Foster Care Agreement will contain the following information:
- The terms of the foster carer's approval;
- The support and training to be provided to the foster carer;
- The procedure for the review of the foster carer's approval;
- The procedure for placements of children;
- The procedure for making representations and complaints;
- The requirement to inform the fostering service of any change of circumstance, address or in the household composition, or of any registration as a childminder or application to adopt or of any offence;
- The requirements in relation to confidentiality and internet usage;
- The procedures for behaviour management and unauthorised absences of children placed with the foster carer including the ban on corporal punishment;
- The procedures for informing the supervising social worker of the child's progress and any significant events relating to the child;
- The need to give 28 days' notice in writing of they wish to cease fostering;
- The need to allow access to the Regulatory Authority;
- Additionally they will be provided with ID that identifies them as HCC foster carers.
New foster carers will also be given their personal copy of the Foster Carer's Hand-Book, which contains information about fostering in the local authority and covers policies, procedures, guidance, legal information and insurance details. Information about local foster carer support groups will also be provided.
The foster carer(s) must sign confirmation of receipt. The signed and dated confirmation of receipt will be placed on their file.
Foster carers will be assisted by their supervising social worker to produce a Safe Caring Policy and Fire Plan.
The supervising social worker will continue to provide support and supervision to the foster carer up to, during and after all placements and ensure that they understand the need to undertake Disclosure and Barring Service and other checks and assessments on any new member of the household - see Change in Composition of Foster Carer Households Procedure or where there is any significant change in their circumstances which affects their fostering, for example any new relationship, pregnancy or bereavement.
- and the need to repeat Disclosure and Barring Service checks on themselves every three years
8. Foster Carer Reviews
Supervising social workers will also:
- Ensure that all new carers complete the induction programme and that their support, development and training needs are assessed and met so that they meet the the Induction Standards of the Children's Workforce by their first annual review or soon after if extra support is required;
- Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carers' Allowance, Disabled Living Allowance etc.
- Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing, mixing with other children in home, etc. (S10 of the FNMS 2011 requires that foster homes provide appropriate and safe accommodation and space for each child as well as safe transport. Further each child over three years of age is required to have their own bedroom unless sharing of a bedroom has been explicitly agreed by the placing authority) Discuss and check equipment (especially in the child's bedroom) and ensure it is appropriate to the age of the child in placement;
- Take part in discussions about potential placements;
- Take part in planning meetings regarding placements;
- Ensure that the child's social worker give the foster family full information about children about to be placed, including a history of abuse or suspected abuse and the reason for the placement, the child's educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic and cultural needs;
- Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
- 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;
- 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;
- Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family, including out of hours support;
- That arrangements are made for the provision of specialist equipment for disabled children;
- Set date of first visit after the placement;
- Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed.
- 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 in place;
- Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
- Ensure the supervising social worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child's Looked After Reviews (see Looked After Reviews Procedure) and Child Protection Conferences and attend when appropriate;
- Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings. See Foster Carer Review Procedure;
- Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and carers' family and children;
- Visit regularly;
- Make unannounced visits as required but at least twice a year;
- Update Disclosure and Barring Service checks on members of the family every three years, including those reaching sixteen years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are sixteen plus;
- Update medicals on the carers every 3 years or as necessary;
- Record contact with carers;
- Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
- Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker.
At End of Placement
- Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time;
- 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;
- Assist the foster carer to complete their end of placement report if required;
- Attend Disruption Meetings as required;
- Encourage and allow time for foster carers to reflect on how caring for children with varying degrees of difficulties, may impact upon them as individuals or on their relationships.
9. Delegated Authority
In order to support foster carers and children, CS is developing the use of the Supporting Placement Planning Handbook on Delegated Authority. See the Delegated Authority Handbook.
10. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer
For the detailed procedure, see Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures Manual, 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:
- Support the family;
- Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, as agreed at the Strategy Meeting;
- Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
- Make the carer's aware of their own possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice from the Fostering Network or other independent sources.
11. Complaints by Foster Carers
If foster carers come across a persistent issue that they cannot resolve through their supervising social worker s/he can use the Complaints, Compliments and Representations Procedure.