Guidance for Supervising Social Workers when Foster Carers Separate
Fostering Services Regulations 2011
Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011RELATED CHAPTERS
This chapter was added to the manual in March 2018
When foster carers separate it needs to be considered a "significant event". As a consequence, the Foster Carers approved status and changed circumstances need to be referred to the Fostering Panel. This is a period of uncertainty and change within the household and requires careful consideration.
It should be acknowledged that the Foster Carers will themselves probably be unclear and uncertain about the future and the need for the fostering service to be sensitive to the needs of all members of the household is essential.
However, as a fostering service, it is particularly important that alongside the support we offer carers, there remains a clear focus on their ability to continue with the fostering task. This specifically refers to their ability to meet fostering standards and the needs of the children following their separation.
As soon as it is apparent that carers are planning to separate and one partner is going to leave the family home, then the social worker for every child in placement must be advised immediately and their views sought by the carers Supervising Social Worker. Consideration must be given as to whether a child's placement is to continue.
It is therefore essential that a professionals meeting is convened, chaired by the Team Manager from the Fostering Service, to consider the need to provide additional support to the household and children in placement. It should also be recorded at this meeting as to whether any children need to be moved to an alternative placement, assuming this decision has not already been made. The social worker for each child in placement (or their Manager) should be in attendance.
Careful consideration should also be given as to whether either, or both, of the Foster Carers should be invited to attend this meeting. Their attendance should not be considered essential, although clearly their views and future plans must be taken in to account to ensure the best interests of any child in placement are maintained.
The minutes of this meeting should be counter signed by the Fostering Team Practice Manager.
When a couple separate and one partner moves out of the home, then the Supervising Social Worker must also provide a brief written update for the Fostering Panel outlining the changed circumstances. This report must be submitted to the panel within 28 working days. The Panel Adviser should initially ensure that this update is noted by the panel under any other business.
2. Report to Fostering Panel
The initial report to the fostering Panel should include the following information:
- Details of the couple – name address and dates of birth;
- Date of original approval;
- Current terms of approval;
- Copy of carers last review;
- Details of children in placement.
The brief summary should outline the circumstances surrounding their separation and detail how the couple are proposing to manage on going contact with the looked after children – and their birth children where applicable.
Detail should also be provided about the additional support that has been put in place and how the carer is continuing to meet the requirement of the fostering task. Information should also be included about any children who have subsequently been moved to alternative placements since the separation of the carers.
It is not anticipated that this report will be a particularly lengthy document, 2 sides of A4 would be considered sufficient for the Panel to note the change in circumstances.
3. Foster Carer Review / Need for Re-assessment
A review should be convened within three months of the couple's separation. The focus of the review needs to address the work that has been undertaken by the remaining foster carer in order to meet the needs of the child(ren) who stayed in placement.
Monthly supervision should be maintained by the Supervising Social Worker and additional visits made if and when required.
The supervising Social Workers report for the review should make particular reference to how the Foster Carer will continue to meet the needs of the child(ren) in placement and meet fostering standards and expectations as a single carer.
The supervising Social Workers report should also provide detailed information which outlines the chronology of events which led to the couple's separation. It should also address how arrangements for the children were addressed by the couple since their separation and comment in general terms about how each of the carers has responded to the breakdown of their relationship.
The report should also address the issue of the remaining carers approved status, with a clear recommendation with regard to any change of their approved status that might be appropriate.
Part of the review paperwork will include an update to the form F (on a word document) with particular emphasis on:
- The carers support network;
- The carers financial situation;
- Stability of accommodation;
- Emotional impact on carers/other household/family members;
- Any potential 'future relationships'.
In the event that a new partner is to join the fostering household however, a full reassessment of the new arrangements must be undertaken.
This review and updated Form F should then be presented to the Fostering Panel at the earliest opportunity in order that a recommendation can be made for the Agency Decision Maker. It is anticipated that the single Foster Carer will attend the Fostering Panel meeting in these circumstances.
The Foster Carer who left the family home should be encouraged to offer their resignation unless they wish to be assessed as a Foster Carer in their own right. If they do wish to continue then it would generally be anticipated that a full re-assessment of their changed circumstances and new home will be undertaken.
In a situation where a couple re-unite following a separation, a further update should be provided for the Fostering Panel. Initially, a carer review should also be convened within 28 days and the Supervising Social Worker will need to undertake a reassessment of the couple's relationship, looking specifically at the stability of it, for submission to the review. The assessment would also need to look at factors leading to their separation, how these have now been resolved and what has changed to ensure the stability of their relationship in future.
This review should also be submitted to the Fostering Panel in these circumstances, for a recommendation to be made for the Agency Decision Maker with regard to the carers on going status as Foster Carers.
4. Circumstances where both Carers Remain in the Home
There may be circumstances where a couple determine that they are to separate, although they are both to remain living within the family/foster home. In this event it is not considered to be in the best interests of children to remain living in an environment for any significant period of time where there is potential for considerable conflict. It would generally be anticipated that any children in placement would be found alternative placements and the carer's status placed on hold until such time as their relationship issues are finally resolved.
In the event of reconciliation in these circumstances, a carer review should be convened and submitted to the fostering panel for further consideration and recommendation for the Agency Decision Maker. The Supervising Social Workers report for the review in these circumstances should reflect the issues addressed in Section 3, Foster Carer Review / Need for Re-assessment.Otherwise, the carer's resignation should be sought by their Supervising Social Worker.