Supervision and Support of Foster Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers.
This chapter was updated in September 2019 to reflect in more detail the foster carer's role and responsibilities with respect to Fostering National Minimum Standards – Notification of Significant Events (see Section 1, Introduction) and relevant aspects of Schedule 6 The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, (see Section 2, Planned Supervision Visits).
All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified supervising social worker. The allocated supervising social worker 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 an understanding that they must work within the National Minimum Standards for Fostering and the agency'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.
The child's allocated social worker should be contacted for specific advice or support in relation to the child and their Care Plan and Placement Plan.
2. Planned Supervision Visits
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 endorsed by the supervising 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 National Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
- Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training 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 cover:
- Matters arising from the last supervision;
- Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family, changes in the carer's situation and circumstances etc.;
- Child(ren) in placement - their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
- Progress and work with respect towards each child's Care Plan;
- Any accidents, injuries and illnesses experienced by each child;
- Any complaints in relation to children placed with them and their outcomes;
- Any issues of control, restraint or discipline in relation to children placed with them;
- Any other significant events (see Section 1, Introduction);
- Any medication, medical treatment or first aid administered;
- Training / development issues for the foster carers and their family;
- Safe caring and health and safety issues.
The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma 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 one 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
Supervisory visits should be planned in advance. For most foster carers these should be at a minimum of 6 weekly. However, there may be times when fewer frequent visits are required, for example for carers providing infrequent respite placements or when no children are in placement at all. Visits to these carers can be more flexible but should be, however at least three monthly. There may also be times when more frequent visits are needed or the carers need additional support or mentoring. A pro forma for supervisory visits must be completed on each visit and a copy given to the carer, and a copy kept on the carer's file.
As part of the visit, it is expected that the supervising Social Worker will make time to meet the child/young person in placement and to obtain feedback from the young person on the quality of care, levels of satisfaction with the placement. It is not expected to replace the statutory visits that should be carried out by the area social worker who has case responsibility. A separate time must be regularly set aside to meet with sons and daughters during some of the supervisory visits.
4. Unannounced Visits
There should also be unannounced visits at least twice a year one should be undertaken the supervising social worker and one by another member of the fostering team. The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.
The unannounced visits 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.
If the foster carers are not at home, the supervising social worker should leave a note for the foster carers to say that they have visited.
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 should not continue with the visit.
Unannounced visits should be recorded on the Unannounced Visit Recording Form (BIC226).
There should not ordinarily be a regular programme of unannounced visits without particular reason - for example if a foster carer is being closely monitored. In such an event the reason for such will be explained to the foster carer.
5. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker
Supervising social workers should ensure the following tasks are done:
- Ensure that all new carers complete the induction programme and that their support, development and training needs are assessed and met so that they meet the standards and achieve the Induction Standards for the Children's Workforce certificate of completion by their first annual review, or soon after if extra support is required;
- Give Foster Carers' Handbook to new carer;
- Ensure the Foster Carer Agreement is signed: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer's file and a Foster Care ID card is issued;
- Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carers' Allowance, Disability Living Allowance etc.;
- Ensuring carers are aware of the independent advice and mediation handbook.
- Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing (each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the placing authority), mixing 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;
- Take part in discussions about potential placements;
- Take part in planning meetings regarding placements;
- Ensure that the child's social worker give the foster family full information about children about to be placed, including any abuse or neglect and the reason for the placement, the child's educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic and cultural needs;
- Contribute to assessments of risk in relation to the placement;
- Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members;
- Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
- Discuss appropriate training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs;
- Assist carer 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;
- Enquire about holiday plans the carers have made, and if the child is able to join them? If not 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 specialist equipment for disabled children;
- Set date of first visit after the placement;
- Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed;
- Provide carers with training and 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;
- Provide foster carers with 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;
- Ensure the supervising social worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child's Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences, and attend when appropriate;
- Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
- Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and their family and children;
- Visit regularly in accordance with the Foster Carer's needs, the child's Care Plan and as required (see also Section 3, Frequency of Supervision and Section 4, Unannounced Visits);
- Review 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;
- Make unannounced visits as required;
- Update Disclosure and Barring Service checks on members of the family every three years, including those reaching 18 years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are 18 plus;
- Update medicals on the carers every 3 years, or as necessary;
- Record contact with carers;
- Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
- Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker;
- Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood.
At End of Placement
- Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time;
- 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;
- Attend Disruption Meetings as required.
6. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer
For the detailed procedure, see Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure.
Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the supervising social worker should:
- Support the family;
- Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, as agreed at the Strategy Meeting;
- Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
- Make the carer's aware of their own possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice from the Fostering Network or other independent sources.