When looked after children have little or no contact with their birth family and friends social services must consider whether or not to appoint an Independent Visitor to visit the child and offer friendship and advice. The Independent Visitor would normally attend the child’s Review and visit the child at intervals in between.
Foster carers (and applicants to foster) have had the right since April 2009 to appeal to the Secretary of State for an Independent Review in certain very limited circumstances.
- A recommendation by the fostering agency panel that an application be not approved.
- A recommendation by the fostering agency panel that a foster carer’s terms of approval be changed in ways with which they are unhappy.
- A recommendation by the fostering agency panel that a foster carer be deregistered.
In these circumstances foster carers and applicants will receive a letter from GLF confirming the panel’s recommendation. They then need to do one of the following things:
- Do nothing for 28 days from the date of the letter. The panel recommendation will then be considered by the agency’s decision maker and she will make a decision about whether or not to accept the panel’s recommendation. The foster carer or applicant will then receive a letter from the agency’s decision maker telling them what her decision is.
- Write to the agency’s decision maker within 28 days of receiving GLF’s letter containing the panel recommendation. Tell her that you are unhappy with the panel’s recommendation and that you want them to reconsider it. Tell her exactly why you think the recommendation is wrong. The newer information you are able to give at this point the better your chance of persuading panel that they have made a mistake. She will then ask the panel to reconsider the matter and she will then make her decision taking into account their second recommendation.
- You can contact the Secretary of State within 28 days of receiving GLF’s letter and ask for an independent review of the recommendation (known in the legal jargon as a qualifying determination). Their website irm-adoption.uk/fostering gives up to date information on what you do next.
Most children gradually prepare for living independently as an adult throughout their childhood. For example: toddlers will “help” pair up socks when putting the washing away; pre-schoolers may load and empty the machine with adult supervision; primary aged children will peg it out and secondary aged young people may take turns in doing the family wash.
However, this gradual process of developmentally appropriate opportunities for learning independence skills is often disrupted for children who are looked after and so supporting this is an important role for foster carers.
Whatever age the child, consideration of their self-care skills will be part of their LAC review and foster carers should expect to play a leading role in areas where the child needs extra support or opportunities to practice skills. These areas will be identified by both your own observation and through the care plan.
Self-care skills include all the practical tasks we need to be able to do as adults: shopping economically; preparing nutritious food; housework and basic maintenance; travelling on public transport; washing and ironing etc. Importantly it also involves understanding how ‘the system’ works: the money that gets taken from your pay for tax and insurance; how to register with a G.P; how to claim benefits and how to get a TV licence etc. Most young people leaving the care system get significantly less support than other young people of a similar age so it is particularly important that they gradually get an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of adulthood through their teens.
Learning about making choices and taking responsibility
Usually a child gradually learns about making choices throughout childhood but for many children who are looked after this process is disrupted and so needs particular attention from foster carers. Like other skills, taking responsibility needs to be practiced under adult guidance which then gradually reduces as their ability develops. Children whose lives have been unsettled may need such guidance later than other youngsters and may need it in a more thought out way.
Foster carers should provide children and young people of all ages with a framework of guidance and limits; knowing what is expected and allowed, along with the reasons for these rules. The most effective force for influencing children’s beliefs and behaviour is the model provided by the most important people in a child’s life. So, by sharing the everyday lives of foster carers, a child learns about your values, standards, concerns, and ambitions in a very influential way.
Life involves taking risks. Young people need the opportunity to take risks in a way that helps them develop skills in making choices but doesn’t give them inappropriate responsibility. They need the opportunity to think about the outcome of their choices afterwards in a supportive way.
Feelings about moving towards independence
Helping young people manage change is a key role for foster carers. Young people need help and support to explore changes, make sense of them, and take as much control of their decisions as they are able. Many young people feel powerless in the care system but it is the responsibility of adults to make sure that that they are not burdened by responsibility they can’t handle. Getting the right balance isn’t easy!
Young people react in different ways to moving towards living independently. Their feelings will be affected by what the change means to them; how it comes about; whether it is sudden or planned and the amount of control they feel they have in the move. Generally young people will have mixed feelings whether they express positive feelings (exciting step towards adulthood) or negative ones (being dumped or left on their own). Either way, they will have a need for reassurance and continuity.
Young people moving on may arouse strong feelings in foster carers too and you may need particular support for yourself during this period.
The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 (the Leaving Care Act) sets out the responsibilities of local authorities to provide support for young people after they have left care. This may include: Personal Advisors; emotional and practical support; accommodation; drop-ins and support groups. Foster carers will often know more about the young person than any of the other professionals and so often have an important role in identifying the possible risks when the young person moves on and how they might be reduced.
The social worker is responsible for drawing up a Pathway Plan, setting out who is responsible for what in preparing the young person for independence and for their continuing support. It is important that foster carers are clear and realistic about their role in this and it should be discussed with your supervising social worker.
Incident Reports must be completed in the following circumstances and copies sent to your supervising social worker who will pass them on to appropriate managers and directors
- When a young person absconds from the foster home. If despite your best efforts this becomes a regular problem then your supervisor and you can agree to record the dates that the young person is late home or missing and send them once a week (or other time scale as appropriate)
- Whenever a child or young person suffers an accident which receives medical attention.
- Whenever a member of the foster family sustains an accident or injury which can be attributed to fostering.
- Whenever a child or young person is restrained by their foster carer.
GLF expects foster carers to include their foster children in family holidays in most circumstances.
The cost of holidays is included in the normal fostering allowance and foster families, like all other families need to budget in advance for such expenditure.
If a child joins a family shortly before they are due to go on an expensive holiday, GLF will negotiate with the appropriate local authority with a view to their paying the holiday costs, so long as GLF and the local authority are told about the family’s holiday plans before the child moves into the placement.
Children’s social workers and supervising social workers need to be consulted about holiday plans at the earliest opportunity and certainly before booking any holidays either with or without foster children.
In some circumstances the child’s local authority or parent may not give their permission for a child to go on holiday with their foster family. Such problems take time to resolve.
Holidays abroad in particular need to be planned well in advance. Foster children often do not have passports and obtaining a passport for them may prove to be a lengthy process.
Many, if not most, children living with their own families are involved in out of school activities and hobbies. Foster children should have the same experience.
GLF foster carers are expected to encourage all children placed in their care to pursue their hobbies and interests and to develop whatever talents they may have.
It is expected that carers will spend a proportion of their fostering allowance on purposeful activities which nurture a child’s interest in a particular activity or talent. This expectation will be discussed in supervision from time to time.
Although principally aimed at older children, this expectation holds for younger primary and even pre-school children who can be encouraged to develop outside interests and activities.
Carers should talk to children, their families and social workers about any interest the child might have had prior to placement. Every effort should be made to continue such interests. Carers should also help children to develop new interests.
Local authorities often run taster sessions in various sports during school holidays. Swimming classes are usually available in most localities.
The Woodcraft Folk, Scout and Guide packs or other similar organisations operate in most areas.
Schools sometimes offer music tuition either free or at a small cost and the fostering allowance should cover even full cost tuition for a beginning musician. Dance and drama classes are available sometimes through school or otherwise commercially.
GLF foster carers need to understand that they are personally responsible in law for the health and safety of foster children in their care.
This means that they must take all reasonable steps to ensure that foster children are kept safe at all times.
Foster carers will be visited at least once a year by GLF’s health and safety advisor whose recommendations must be complied with unless he agrees an alternative solution to whatever problem has been identified.
Keeping children safe requires foster carers to make good assessments of the risks their foster children face and as circumstances and children differ it is impossible to make rules that govern all situations.
However, some risks are always present and the following list attempts to give some do’s and don’ts which foster carers must always follow.
Some do’s and don’ts for keeping children safe
- Check at least once in three months that smoke alarms are working.
- Make sure that any gas appliances you have in the house are checked for safety at least once a year.
- Check from time to time that your first aid kit is where you think it is and contains all the things that it should do.
- Ensure that your car or other vehicle is kept in good working order.
- Make sure that foster children always wear appropriate restraints when travelling by car.
- Do not allow foster children to travel in a car with too many occupants
- Take every opportunity in an age appropriate way to teach children about how they can deal with different risks e.g.: road safety; how to operate equipment safely and how to protect themselves from unwanted physical approaches from strangers or people known to them
Health Promotion of foster child
Foster carers must help children to learn about healthy living and set them a good example. The foster family should eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Foster carers should teach children in an age appropriate way the basics of good nutrition and exercise.
GLF foster homes must be entirely non-smoking. Foster carers who smoke tobacco products will not be approved for the care of children under 5 even if they only smoke outside of the home. If foster carers of children over 5 smokes outside of the home, children must be properly supervised and they must never smoke in front of children. Foster carers should make sure that children know the dangers of smoking.
Coram/BAAF recommends that agencies now consider e-cigarettes as different to tobacco cigarettes. They state that agencies should recognise the low risk to children and young people and not see the use of e-cigarettes as a reason to preclude foster carers from caring for certain age groups. With this in mind GLF will not exclude carers who use e-cigarettes from caring for children under five years of age.
Carers must always keep e-cigarette products out of reach of children as the components can be harmful if swallowed.
Carers are advised that e-cigarettes should never be used in the presence of children or young people and should only ever be used outside of the home.
Foster carers should not tolerate illegal drugs their home. They should make sure that their foster children understand the dangers of drugs and other substances open to abuse.
Foster carers should ensure that their children have age appropriate sex education. Foster carers should teach their children how to keep themselves safe from unwanted sexual approaches.
Foster carers must ensure that they themselves have up to date knowledge on all of these issues which might be relevant for their foster children either by attendance at training, reading or advice from relevant experts.
Foster carers should look after the health of their foster children even more carefully than that of their own children.
They should seek medical advice more quickly than they might for their own children both because they will not know this child’s personal and family health history as well as they know their own and because they are publicly accountable for decisions they make in respect of a foster child’s health.
Foster carers cannot exercise the same degree of discretion parents have in respect of not seeking advice to see if the child recovers of their own accord, discontinuing treatment if they think a child is better or pursuing unorthodox or home remedies.
Under delegated authority some decision making about everyday health matters can be delegated to foster carers. The will be agreed in a specific document and signed by all those responsible.
If foster carers have any difficulty in complying with medical treatment for their foster child they must discuss this with the child’s social worker and the doctor concerned.
Foster carers should be given information on the health history and current health needs of any child they are asked to look after. They must make sure that they understand the implications of any medical condition the child has and the treatment programme which must be followed. They must follow GLF’s policy on medication and ensure that they understand the implications of any allergies a child might have.
If information about children’s health is not forthcoming foster carers must do everything they can to obtain such information. They should speak in the first instance to the child’s social worker and their supervising social worker
Foster carers must make an initial assessment of whether or not the child seems well at the start of the placement. A written record of this assessment should be made.
If foster carers are in contact with birth parents they should check the information they have been given by social services or the agency for accuracy. Parents are usually best placed to fill in any gaps.
Foster carers are responsible for ensuring that their foster children attend all medical and associated appointments and comply with medical advice given.
Foster carers must take steps to ensure that foster children are registered with an accessible GP within one week of placement.
Foster carers must establish either at the placement planning meeting or in some other way whether or not the child needs to have a check-up at a dentist or optician and arrange such check-ups if appropriate.
Foster carers will often be asked to arrange a statutory medical for foster children at the start of a placement. The child’s social worker will either make arrangements for the child to be seen by a doctor of the local authority’s choosing or will ask the foster carer to take the child to the foster carer’s GP for such a medical.
The child’s social worker will give the foster carer a form to take to their own GP. The child’s local authority will pay the GP for undertaking this medical.
Statutory medicals need to take place once a year and should always be done for younger children. Children who are old enough to understand what’s involved can refuse if they choose to.
FOSTER CARE AGREEMENT
In accordance with schedule 5 of the Fostering Regulations 2011 this agreement is made between Greater London Fostering and the foster carer/s named below.
|Name of Foster Carer / s:||
Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval
Support and Training
Foster carers will be supervised and supported by a team of qualified and experienced GLF staff. Each family will have an allocated worker who will visit them at least once in four weeks and undertake supervision once in eight weeks for as long as there are children in placement.
Foster carers will receive induction from their allocated worker and are expected to attend six post approval training days organised by the agency. GLF will support foster carers to achieve the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care so that they are able to evidence that they have achieved these Standards within 12 months of approval.
We will regularly review on going learning needs with foster carers and will provide the training and development needed to carry out the fostering role effectively and meet the individual needs of fostered children.
- Review of terms of approval
GLF will arrange a first review approximately six months after a foster carer’s first placement. Subsequent reviews will be held at no more than annual intervals. The review format and process are to be found in the GLF foster carer’s handbook.
All first reviews are discussed at the GLF panel as are any subsequent reviews which recommend a change of terms of approval; or when there have been significant changes in circumstances; or there has been an allegation or complaint about standards of care.
- Placement of children
GLF will ensure that foster carers are given all the information they have received in respect of children to be placed with the family. They will endeavour to obtain the fullest possible information prior to placement. A placement plan will be agreed that sets out how the placement will meet the child’s needs and the arrangements for their day to day care. The GLF foster carer’s handbook has details of what the placement plan covers.
- Legal liabilities of foster carers
GLF pays for membership of the Fostering Network for all foster carers other than those approved for respite only. This entitles them to legal advice at any time and legal representation in certain circumstances. Separate insurance is taken out by GLF for all respite foster carers and adult members of all fostering families to achieve the same degree of protection. Further information on this legal cover can be obtained from the Fostering Network, the GLF foster carer’s handbook or GLF staff.
GLF has a complaints procedure which is fully described in the Foster Carer’s Handbook. The complaints procedure of placing authorities can also be used by foster carers in appropriate circumstances.
- Change of circumstances
Foster carers must give written notice to GLF of the following:
- Any planned change of address with as much notice of the move as possible
- Any change in the composition of the household
- Any other change of personal circumstances or any event affecting the foster carer’s capacity to care for any child/young person placed or the suitability of the household to foster.
- Any request to adopt a child or to be registered as a childcare provider under the Childcare Act 2006.
- Corporal punishment
Foster carers are not allowed in any circumstances to use corporal punishment
Foster carer’s must ensure that all information pertaining to foster children and their families is kept confidential and not disclosed to any person without permission.
- Placement Plan
Placement plans must be complied with.
- Promotion of foster child’s welfare
Foster carers are responsible for promoting the welfare of any child/young person placed in their household in accordance with the agreed plans for the child and agree to care for foster children as if they were members of the family.
- Compliance with GLF’s policies and procedures
Foster carers are required to comply with GLF’s policies and procedures as contained in the latest version of the foster carer’s handbook along with such procedures are from time to time separately sent to foster carers.
Fostering agencies such as GLF are regularly inspected by OFSTED. Foster carers are required to cooperate with all reasonable requests by OFSTED to visit the foster home and to interview the foster carers.
- Foster child’s progress
Foster carers must keep GLF and the child’s placing authority informed about a fostered child’s progress and notify them immediately of any significant event affecting the child.
- Removal of child from placement
Foster carers agree to cooperate with the removal of foster children from their care if required to do so by appropriate local authority staff.
I / We have read and understand the terms of the Foster Care Agreement, and arrangements.
Signed by Carers/s:
Signed by Carers/s:
Signed on behalf of Greater London Fostering: