Safe Caring Policy for Looked After Children in Foster Care
RELEVANT GUIDANCEChild car seats: the law (GOV.UK)
Children in care need to feel safe and be safe. They need to understand how to protect themselves and to be protected from significant harm, including neglect, abuse and accident.
The primary aim of foster care is to actively safeguard and promote children's welfare. For foster carers, this means making positive relationships with children and generating a culture of openness and trust so that they are aware of and alert to any signs or symptoms that might indicate a child is at risk of harm. Training is provided both before and after approval, in safer care practices, including skills to care for children who have been abused and to manage the challenging behaviour which is often symptomatic.
Foster carers should encourage children to take appropriate risks as a normal part of growing up, helping them to understand how to keep themselves safe, including when outside of the household or when using the internet or social media.
Foster Carers care for children as a part of family life, providing a nurturing family experience that children can grow and develop.
All agencies in Northumberland who are concerned with child protection, work together to safeguard children in the community and protect them from harm, and their procedures are detailed on the authority's website (see Safeguarding Children, Information for Professionals), and should be read in conjunction with the procedures detailed below.
Children in the public care are especially vulnerable to harm and abuse and this document describes the measures which have been put in place by the Fostering Service to safeguard children placed with foster carers from abuse or neglect, including the procedures to be followed in the event that an allegation of harm is made against the foster carer themselves.
2. Safeguarding Measures to be Taken Before a Child is Placed
All foster carers attend a nationally recognised 3 day course to prepare them for the task of fostering. This is experiential and a significant part of the course addresses the healthy care of children and how to care for them safely.
The assessment form follows a skills based nationally recognised format.
As well as a medical and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, personal references, former partners and employers are interviewed (where employment has involved contact with children) and specifically asked whether children may be at risk from the applicants.
Foster carers are required to complete a Health and Risk Assessment (including a Pet Questionnaire where relevant) and to make any changes to remove risks. Each family prepares a Safe Care Policy which details the kind of care the child will receive in order to minimise the risk of allegations of harm.
Applicants are expected to provide evidence of their ability to safeguard children.
All source material, as above, is available to the Fostering Panel who has a clear remit to prioritise applicants' ability to keep children safe in their remit.
All successful applicants are visited by their Assessor after they have been approved to explain and obtain the foster carers Written Agreement to work within the Fostering regulations, authority's child care policy and procedures. All foster carers will have access to the online portal School 360, which gives access to the Foster Carers Handbook and Family Placement Service Procedures, which contains all their policies, procedures and guidance.
All foster carers are required to achieve training standards within specified timescales and on-going training and development is delivered each year to maintain standards of safe care.
3. Safeguarding Measures When a Child is Placed
Risk assessments are completed as part of the referral process for a child who need a foster home. This is considered at a Placement Planning Meeting which is held on the day a child is placed and chaired by the Fostering Service Duty Officer or within 5 days of the placement having been made. The meeting considers the child's risk assessment and makes any changes that are needed to the carer's safe care policy as well as detailing in the Placement Plan any measures to safeguard the child within contact or in the community.
Detailed arrangements for the delegated authority to foster carers will be included in the Placement Plan, so that foster carers know the decisions they can make to promote the child's welfare.
Safe Caring and the Individual Child
Blanket rules about safer caring can be overly prescriptive and not take account of individual circumstances. Foster carers need to consider the individual child placed and their needs.
Safe Care and affection and touch
Children and young people should not be deprived of affection and physical contact. Caution should be exercised particularly with short term placements where relationships are new and developing. For longer term placements more physical contact may be appropriate. The young person's wishes must be respected and they should be asked what physical contact they feel comfortable with. Foster Carers need to be mindful of risks, the experiences of the young person and their presenting behaviours before deciding on safe and acceptable sorts of physical contact as a part of the safe care strategy. It may be appropriate to discuss this in advance with the child's Social Worker or the carers Supervising Social Worker.
Male Carers should in principle be as fully involved in the care of fostered children as much possible. In deciding about the role male carers should play in the safer care strategy and in making decisions about the division of roles for couples, the following factors should be considered:
- The views of parents in relation the care they want for their child;
- Increasing the child's sense of safety;
- Reducing the risk of allegations.
Foster carers cars should be appropriately maintained and business use insured. Foster Carers must ensure appropriate child safety seats are fitted and used. Individual decisions, as a part of the safer care strategy, need to be made about the suitability of a child travelling alone with a foster carer. The factors bullet pointed above should inform that decision.
Where the placement of a parent and child is being considered, the legal status of both the parent and the child must be clear, and the obligations to the foster carers. If one or both are not in care, the measure to safeguard the child must be clearly stated in any Placement Plan.
If foster carers feel that plans for children are unsafe or that they are being prevented from promoting the child's welfare, they can notify the Family Placement Manager to flag which will be forwarded to the Team Manager concerned.
If these are raised within the context of a foster carer review, the Foster Carer Reviewing Officer (FCRO) chairing the review will ensure that the child's Team Manager, child's Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and Social Worker are informed.
If the foster carer does not think they are being listened to subsequently, the whistle blowing policy enables them to take the matter up directly with senior management.
When a placement ends, children and their social workers are asked for end of placement reports. These are seen by the Fostering Manager so that any complaints / concerns about individual practice can be identified and dealt with and are then made available for the FCRO be chairing the next foster carer review.
When a foster carer review is held, placement reports are obtained from all children in placement and their social workers and made available to the FCRO.
If the FCRO identifies any safeguarding concerns within the review in respect of child care planning or social work practice, a copy of the review will be sent to the IRO for the child as well as the Team Manager.
4. Responding to Complaints / Concerns about a Foster Carer
Foster carers are required to keep written records which are contemporaneous and verbatim of any conversation / event / incident which might impact on a child's safety and may need to be referred to when a child or another professional makes a complaint or allegation.
All complaints / concerns about a foster carer's standards of care or behaviour towards the child placed with them require a verbatim account from the person witnessing / hearing the information, on a standard notification form which is returned to the Fostering Service Manager.
If a minor issue, it is shared with the foster carer during the next supervision session with their supervising worker, as part of feedback on performance to aid learning and development.
This allows the service to encourage a culture of continuous improvement in which foster carers learn from constructive feedback about how others perceive the service they provide to children.
All such complaints and their outcome would be available to the Foster Carer Reviewing Officer at the next foster carer review so that any trends / themes regarding minor issues can be identified and questions asked about capacity / willingness to learn and develop.
More serious complaints would require investigation under the Standards of Care Policy or the Allegations Management Procedures. Please refer to these for any serious concerns.The Family Placement Manager is the Designated Person within the Fostering Service, who manages allegations of harm made against foster carers. Their role is to receive information and liaise with the LADO to ensure that both child protection procedures and procedures to assess the foster carer's suitability to work with children are followed and keeping the subject of the allegation informed of progress during and after investigation.