Transfer of Foster Carers
AMENDMENTA link to Sharing of Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer or Adopter Assessment was added as a new Section 7 of this chapter in March 2014. Hyperlinks were revised and updated throughout the chapter.
In all cases where Foster Carers wish to transfer to foster for Hertfordshire County Council, the Fostering Network's Transfer Protocol will need to be followed. This sets out the guidelines under which all fostering agencies, independent or public sector, must manage these transfers. This is to ensure a smooth transfer for foster carers and, most importantly, for any child(ren) in placement.
The protocol ensures that each agency works in a transparent and predictable way. For this reason, we may not begin any assessment until the Foster Carer has written to their current agency to inform them of their intention to resign. See Sample Letters Guidance.
Although we cannot begin an assessment, we are permitted to carry out a visit to discuss the enquirer's wishes and to check that the transfer meets the needs of both the foster carer and Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and does not adversely affect any children in placement.
Once a foster carer has been approved by a fostering service, they cannot be approved by another service until their original approval has been terminated. (Assessment and Approval of foster carers: Amendments to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 4: Fostering Services)
2. Initial Enquiry and Visit
The first step is for the applicant to register their interest with HCC by contacting the duty worker in the recruitment team on 0800 917 0925 or 01438 843281. This initial enquiry will be taken in the usual way with the duty worker completing an initial enquiry form over the telephone. If there are any children in placement who are from any other Local Authority, then HCC cannot proceed any further until that placement has ended. HCC would never accept a foster carer ending a placement prematurely in order to transfer to HCC. If there are no children in placement or if the child(ren) placed are from HCC, then a visit can then be booked in the usual way.
At the initial visit, the protocol should be explained clearly so that the applicant is fully aware of what to expect and the steps they should take.
3. Progressing Process of Transfer
If the enquirer wishes to proceed at the end of the visit, then the following steps should be taken:
- The foster carer must write to their current agency to advise them of their intention to resign. They may compose their own letter or use the appropriate sample letter (see Herts Compass);
It is good practice for the Recruitment Team Manager to contact the Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) at this stage in order to seek an acknowledgement that the IFA have indeed received the letter and are aware of our intentions to proceed;
- Fostering Service should send the enquirer a copy of the initial visit report, an application form, DBS forms and medical forms with a letter asking them to return in the s.a.e. the completed application forms and DBS forms, along with a copy of the letter they have sent to advise their agency of their intentions. They can then book their medicals;
- The assessment process can now be started, but the Protocol Meeting needs to be arranged within 28 days of the application;
- The IRO of any children placed should be informed of impending change upon receipt of the application form.
4. The Protocol Meeting
The Protocol Meeting is held to ensure that each party is fully aware of what is happening and when.
The following Persons must be invited:
- The Assessing Social Worker;
- A representative from Brokerage The child's Social Worker;
- The Supervising Social Worker from the current agency;
- A Manager from the current agency;
- The applicant (s).
If the assessing Social Worker is not a Hertfordshire County Council employee, or if they are unsure of the process, then the Social Worker from the Placement Recruitment Team may also attend to offer support or guidance. Minutes must be taken and typed and included in section C of the assessment under "any other reports". Chairing of the protocol meeting with rest with Hertfordshire (usually the Fostering recruitment or Brokerage representative).
The agenda for the meeting itself is in the Fostering Network's Protocol for the Transfer of Carers. It is designed to ensure that there is no disruption to the current placement as the needs of the child remain paramount, and to ensure that the foster carer's are not disadvantaged by the move. The major items on the agenda are:
- Transfer Date
A date must be agreed by all for the transfer to take place. No carer can be approved by two agencies at the same time, but must be approved by one agency for the placement to be legal. It is necessary then, to ensure that the foster carer is de-registered by the current agency on the same day that they are approved by HCC. The approval date will not be the date of the panel as there needs to be time for the Agency Decision Maker to register the approval, probably seven days later. It is sometimes difficult to fix an exact date at this stage, so if possible, parties should agree that the date will be confirmed and mutually agreed after the panel have made their recommendation. A panel date should be given as an approximate guide;
- Notice Periods
Brokerage will also need to give the required notice to the IFA as agreed in their contract. For some agencies this is 28 days and for others, 14 days. This should be clarified and a date agreed when notice should be given. For the same reasons outlined in the previous paragraph, it is hoped that the notice period can be a minimum of the required period, but flexible to provide for an inexact approval date at this stage. If the notice period is 28 days, notice should be given 28 days before the panel date with agreed flexibility for the extra days it takes for the Agency Decision Maker to sign off the approval;
- Foster Parent Payments
The foster carer's payments also need to be agreed at this meeting. Under the Fostering Network's Protocol, carers are entitled to choose to transfer to HCC rates or to remain on the rates that they are currently being paid by the agency (with a rise each year at the same percentage as agreed for our carers). In order to be able to make an informed decision, Foster Carers need to know that their current rate is probably "all inclusive" whereas HCC rates may appear to be lower, but HCC pays extras such as additional payments for birthdays and Christmas, school trips etc. Once all of this is explained, they are entitled to make their decision. If the carer's choice is to remain on their current payment rates, this will be honoured for the duration of the current placement(s). Any future placements will attract HCC payments for allowances and fees;
- References and Development Records
A letter requesting a reference from the current agency should have been sent already. If this has not happened, a reference request should be sent immediately. The protocol agrees that the reference should be completed and returned to us within 28 days and that a copy of the carer's last review should be attached. The current agency must also make the carer's file available for Hertfordshire County Council's Assessing Social Worker to read. Arrangements should be made at the protocol meeting for this to happen;
- The current agency should share an overview of the foster carer's work performance by way of a verbal reference and also include any recommendations made at their last review;
- If the carer has a training portfolio and/or workbook, these should be given to the carer so that they can continue their development.
5. Assessment and Approval
The Assessing Social Worker, his/her Team Manager, Brokerage, The Child's Social Worker and the Current IFA should all agree to liaise with each other to keep all parties informed of any issues that arise and how the assessment is progressing. Once Panel have recommended that the Foster Carers should be approved by HCC Brokerage must be informed so that they can liaise with the out-going agency to confirm a final date for the approval & de-registration.
6. Other Pertinent Issues Covered in the Protocol
Foster Carers should be free to transfer their services to the agency of their choice. Please remember that this could be from Hertfordshire to an IFA
No placement plan should be dependant upon who the Foster Carer chooses to foster for. The plans for the child should remain the same whether the carer fosters for HCC or an IFA.
Please note that if a carer resigns (first letter) then they will not be approved after 28 days and it will not be possible for their agency to place Hertfordshire children with them. It may be preferable for them to write advising of their intention to transfer and to resign at a later date, perhaps 28 days before panel.