If the child or young person you are looking after fails to come home at the agreed time you should do the following:
Make a judgement based upon your knowledge of the child, about how long you will wait before taking action in respect of their absence.
This will obviously vary according to the age and ability of the child, their familiarity with your area, why you think they are late, who you think they may be with and where they are likely to be.
Contact the person or people they may be with or the place you think they may be and if you locate them ask them to return or arrange to collect them as appropriate
If the child or young person cannot easily be found you should contact your child’s social worker and supervising social worker to discuss what you should do next.
If you do manage to locate them but they will not return you should again contact one or both involved social workers to agree your response.
If the absence occurs out of office hours you will need to contact the local authority out of hours social worker. Please make sure in advance that you know what their telephone number is.
In the event of your being unable to contact your supervising social worker or their manager you should ring GLF’s office number – 020 8347 8741.
You should contact the police at an early stage unless you and the social workers you have consulted agree another plan of action. The police will ask for the child’s details such as name, date of birth, ethnicity and a description of the child and what they were wearing. They will also ask for any information you may have about where the child might be.
You should consider with the social workers whether and when it is appropriate to inform parents or other relatives of the absence and who should tell them.
You should discuss with your supervising social worker or the child’s social worker (if they are available) whether or not it would be appropriate for you or some other person to search for the child or young person.
Foster carers should avoid putting themselves at personal risk in an attempt to locate their foster child.
You should make a written record of any significant absence – including any circumstances of which you are aware which could have led to the absence, the steps you took to find the child or young person and/or report their absence and the times at which these things occurred.
You should complete a GLF incident report and send it to your supervising social worker within twenty-four hours.
If the child or young person ends up in a police station the police will expect the foster carer to collect them.
GLF also expects foster carers to have contingency plans for this situation. If these arrangements break down then the foster carer should discuss the situation with their supervising social worker.
Be prepared to welcome the child back without immediate recrimination.
In most circumstances you should tell the child or young person that the matter will be discussed when you and they have had a good night’s sleep.
Inform the police, social workers and if appropriate the child or young person’s family that they have returned.
Follow this up the next day with a discussion about how worried you and other people were for the child or young person’s safety.
Concentrate on helping them to understand the risks they ran rather than the inconvenience they caused.
Discuss sanctions, if any, with your supervising social worker. They must be reasonable given the offence.
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