Supervision and Support of Foster Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers including kinship foster carers.
RELEVANT GUIDANCETransfer of Foster Carers Protocol England
All approved foster carers will be allocated a suitably qualified supervising social worker who 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 them working within the National Minimum Standards for Fostering and Cambridgeshire's policies, procedures and guidance.
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 foster carer(s) should be fully aware of the Notification of Significant Events and the need to immediately report to their supervising social worker or Fostering Agency the following:
- The Death of a Child;
- A Serious illness or serious accident of a child placed with them;
- The outbreak at the foster home of any infectious disease (which in the opinion of a general practitioner attending the home is sufficiently serious to be notified);
- An allegation that a child placed with foster parents has committed a serious offence;
- A child placed with them they have concerns about of being sexually exploited;
- The Police calling to the foster carer's home as a result of a serious incident relating to a child placed there;
- A child placed with the foster carer(s) who has gone missing;
- Any serious concerns about the emotional or mental health of a child, such that a mental health assessment would be requested under the Mental Health Act 1983.
2. Planned Supervision
A programme of supervision visits should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the supervising social worker from the time of the foster carer's approval, and agreed with the social worker's line manager.
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;
- 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 needs and their annual review;
- Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate;
- 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;
- Assist foster carers to work in an anti discriminatory way that respects and promotes individual differences.
The agenda for each meeting should include:
- Matters arising from the last supervision;
- Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family;
- Child/ren in placement - their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
- Training / development issues for the foster carers and family;
- Safe caring and health and safety issues;
- Foster carer's recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker who should sign the foster carers' diary.
The supervision visits should be recorded on the Foster Carer Supervision Record, signed by the foster carer and the supervising social worker, and should include:
- Any concerns expressed;
- Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
- Any financial issues.
A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carers' file and a copy given to the foster carers.
The supervision records will inform the Foster Carer's review - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
3. Frequency of Supervision
Supervision meetings between the foster carer and the supervising social worker will be held at maximum intervals of six weeks and additional meetings added as appears necessary or in the interests of the children placed with them. For well-established and settled long term foster placements, the frequency may be reduced by agreement with the Team Manager and the child's social worker, though a minimum of three-monthly visits is required. Where the frequency is reduced, it is especially important that supervising social workers keep in contact with the foster carer and respond promptly to any concerns.The frequency of meetings for short break foster carers will be proportionate to the amount of care provided.
4. Unannounced Visits
There must also be unannounced visits at least twice a 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 supervising social worker who will need to check:
- 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;
- Physical conditions, health and safety, etc.;
- What the child is doing, who is engaging with them, their presentation, etc.
If the foster carers are not at home, the social worker should leave a note for the foster carers to say that they have visited and a further unannounced visit made without delay.
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 would not normally continue with the visit. A further unannounced visit must be made without delay.
Unannounced visits must be recorded.There would not ordinarily be a programme of regular, unannounced visits without a particular reason - for example if a foster carer is being closely monitored. In such an event the rationale would normally be explained to the foster carer.
5. Role of the Supervising Social Worker
Supervising social workers must ensure the following tasks are undertaken:
- Ensure that all new carers complete the Foster Carer Training, Support and Development Standards before their first annual review;
- Provide and introduce the Foster Carers' Handbook to the carer;
- Provide and explain the Foster Care Agreement to the carer: Two copies are to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer's file;
- Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for example, support in completing applications for Carers' Allowance, Disability Living Allowance etc.
- Complete risk assessments for the home, including (where being considered) bedroom sharing, the mix 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;
- Ensure the household safe-caring policy is updated;
- Contribute to discussions about potential placements;
- Attend all Placement Planning Meetings to ensure the suitability of placements;
- Ensure that the child's social worker gives 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 with the social worker and carer potential support needs;
- Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members, including the carer's role in facilitating contact;
- Discuss how child's health needs are to be promoted and how children will be encouraged to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education, including that a school place has been identified and transport arrangements are in place;
- Discuss appropriate training to ensure appropriate and safe care can be provided, including any specific support for children with complex health needs;
- Assist carers 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;
- 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;
- Discuss the carer's holiday plans and the expectation that any child placed would join them. If not (perhaps due to the placement being made at short notice) 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 any specialist equipment required by a disabled child;
- Set the date of a first visit after the placement;
- Let the social worker for any child already in placement know when another child is placed;
- Provide carers with training and the written policy on behaviour management.
- 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;
- Ensure foster carers have opportunities for breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children;
- Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews / support as agreed (see below);
- Report to and attend Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences in relation to children in placement;
- Ensure foster carers receive invitations to the child's Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences and support their attendance as appropriate;
- Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
- Ensure the training programme is accessed by carers and carers' family and children in accordance with their development and support needs;
- Visit regularly in accordance with the Foster Carer's needs, the child's Care Plan for both formal supervision and unannounced visits;
- Review with the foster carer the Safer Caring Plan and any changes in household circumstances;
- 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;
- Advise foster carers on any savings account or Junior ISA which is held for the child, including how contributions can be made;
- Update Disclosure and Barring Service checks on members of the family every three years, including those reaching eighteen years of age and anyone who comes to live at the home who is over eighteen;
- Update medicals on the carers every 3 years, or as necessary;
- Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
- Where appropriate, produce or contribute to Court Reports, as agreed with the child's social worker;
- Explore possibilities, as appropriate, for permanent placement through a child remaining with their current carer, including legal permanence (SGO, etc.);
- Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood, including the possibility of a young person 'Staying Put'.
At End of Placement
- Support the family to enable a positive ending, acknowledging that this can be a very difficult time, particularly where endings are unplanned;
- 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;
- Ensure any records relating to the child are returned to their social worker for retention or destruction;
- Ensure the carer passes on the child's possessions and any personal items such as photographs, life-story work, etc.
- Attend and contribute to any Disruption Meetings.
6. Allegations Against the Carer
For the detailed procedure, see Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure
Where allegations regarding childcare or safeguarding are made, the supervising social worker should:
- Support the family whilst remaining 'neutral' about the allegation;
- Be clear that they have a responsibility to report any concerns or concerning information back to the Strategy Meeting;
- Discuss fully with the carer, and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, to the extent agreed at the Strategy Meeting;
- Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
- Make the carers aware of their own possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice from Foster Talk or other independent sources.