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WakefieldCouncil Children and Young People Service Procedures Manual

Foster Carer Manual

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Welcome to the Wakefield Children and Young People Service Foster Carers' Manual.

The manual provides information about policies and procedures for foster carers; it has been designed to support you in your role as a foster carer for Wakefield Children and Young People Service. We have tried to make the manual a simple guide to fostering and we want you to view this as a framework for your role and working with the Fostering Service.

Contents

  1. Useful Telephone Numbers
  2. Understanding the Role of Fostering
  3. Development and Support for Foster Carers
  4. Children's Rights
  5. Court Orders
  6. Allegations of Abuse
  7. Roles within the Service
  8. Health Guidelines
  9. Managing Placements
  10. Bullying
  11. Behaviour Management
  12. Payment for Skills

1. Useful Telephone Numbers

Fostering Duty telephone number: 01924 302163 (weekdays 9.00 to 5.00). This is your principal form of immediate personal support as a foster carer. You can speak either to your own worker or one of our team, any of whom will be happy to advise and support you.

Social Care Direct telephone number: 0345 8 503 503 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year). This is Wakefield's out of hours social care referral service. They are not fostering 'experts' but must be referred to if placements break down or there are serious incidents outside office hours.

ORGANISATION TELEPHONE NUMBER
FOSTER TALK

Online Carers forum: "Foster Talk"

Tel: 0844 800 3880

LAC NURSES

Tel: 01924 305 118

LEAVING CARE TEAM

Tel: 01924 304 100

YOUTH OFFENDING TEAM

Tel: 01924 304 155

REACH TEAM

Tel: 01924 304 248

ADOPTION TEAM

Tel: 01924 302 160

MISSING PERSONS LEAD

Tel: 01977 601 080

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

Tel: 01977 601 080

NHS 111

Tel: 111

CAMHS-WAKEFIELD

Tel: 01924 327 604

CAMHS-PONTEFRACT
(Pontefract General Infirmary)

Tel: 01977 606 319

CAMHS-CASTLEFORD(Castleford & Normanton District Hospital)

Tel: 01977 605 526

EMOTIONAL WELL BEING TEAM

Tel: 01924 304 268

PARTICIPATION WORKER-LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN

Tel: 01924 304 195

2. Understanding the Role of Fostering

Many foster carers would suggest that until a child is placed in your home it is difficult to understand what being a foster carer really means and, whilst we can prepare new carers during their Skills to Foster training, experience does play a big part in truly understanding the role.

Children are in foster care because they cannot live with their own family and this may be for a number of reasons. The objective of foster care is to provide a safe, caring, healthy and nurturing home. The foster carer can help the child or young person understand why they are looked after and also help prepare them for their future.

Fostering is about shared caring, by taking someone else's child into your home. A foster carer will share the care of a child with their parents and also with Children and Young People Service.

The Fostering Service aims to provide stability and permanence in the lives of the children and young people who are placed in foster care. Through offering stability a foster carer can play their part in developing a child's identity, ensuring their educational needs are met, helping to promote their health and wellbeing and helping children to realise their full potential.

Being a foster carer is a skilled role. It is also unique, in that it allows flexibility and room to develop your own skills. It can become a way of life, both rewarding and enjoyable. It can also be challenging. The Fostering Service see foster carers as valuable and important members of a caring team, who often face difficult responsibilities in meeting the needs of children placed in their care.

There are many facets to caring for children and young people. We have to provide a form of care, which promotes the development, health and educational achievement of a child. In order to achieve this you will need to have the ability:

  • To work closely with others;
  • To communicate effectively with children;
  • To provide a safe, stable and caring environment;
  • To ensure that children are safe from harm or abuse;
  • To work as part of a team;
  • To work and communicate with others in an effective manner to ensure that the needs of a child or young person are met;
  • To keep information regarding the child or young person confidential;
  • To promote equality and diversity;
  • To promote positive behaviour and relationships;
  • To care for a child placed with you as if they were a member of your own family; and
  • To promote the child's welfare, ensuring that their Care Plan is adhered to.

When you become an approved foster carer you will be asked to sign a Foster Carer Agreement, in accordance with the Fostering Regulations. The agreement will outline the expectations of you as a carer and the terms and conditions of the partnership with the Fostering Service. These include:

  • To support and encourage a child in their educational development and to participate in school activities, leisure activities;
  • To encourage attendance at all health appointments;
  • To encourage and on occasions facilitate contact with parents, family and friends;
  • To attend meetings when requested e.g. Looked After Children Reviews, Planning Meetings;
  • To provide age-appropriate learning, independence skills and to encourage the child to understand and value their racial, ethnic, cultural and sexual identity;
  • To provide care which respects the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background;
  • To keep a log of events/incidents in relation to a child placed in your care;
  • To meet at agreed times with your supervising social worker and also keep in touch by telephone;
  • To permit an annual health and safety check of your home and an annual personal health check, if required;
  • To undergo an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for anyone in the household who is over the age of 18 years;
  • To account for and use monies paid for the benefit of the child placed with you;
  • To ensure that any information relating to a child placed in your care is not disclosed to any other person without appropriate authorisation;
  • To comply with the terms of Foster Placement Agreement;
  • To notify us of any significant changes in circumstances which may affect caring for a child;
  • To be familiar with policies & procedures relating to 'Safeguarding of children' and 'Restraint & Discipline';
  • To give at least 28 days notice where possible in the event of a placement ending.

What Foster Carers Can Expect from the Fostering Service?

  • You will be allocated a supervising social worker or placement support worker whose role will be to guide and support you in undertaking the role of a foster carer;
  • Your supervising social worker will visit you every 4 to 6 weeks on a planned basis. They will also make an unannounced visit at least once a year;
  • Your supervising social worker will help you to identify your training and development needs;
  • To facilitate Foster Carer Support Groups which you are expected to attend;
  • You will be paid an allowance for each child you have in placement;
  • You will also receive a weekly skill payment which varies according to your demonstrated skills and experience;
  • Breakaway care may be considered to support complex cases;
  • Equipment for a child may be provided, but any request will need to be authorised by the fostering team. Please refer to the equipment list for information.

How many Children can you Foster?

This will be discussed with you as part of your assessment and on-going development. It is likely that the maximum number of children you may foster at any time is three as this is the legal limit allowed. This does not include your own children. It is possible in exceptional circumstances to exceed this limit usually when the children are siblings or when agreed through an exemption certificate and always when we are satisfied that this arrangement is safe and in the best interest of the children.

We encourage carers to have an agreed approval that best fits into your family circumstances, skills and experience. Some carers want to offer placements for newborns or up to 5 years and others like adolescent placements. These issues will be discussed at the point of approval and, for carers who are already approved, you can explore a change to your approval at your Fostering Review.

Annual Fostering Review

Fostering Regulations require that all foster carers are reviewed every year. In some cases it may be necessary to hold a review in between e.g. if there is a change in circumstances or an issue of concern.

The review is a two way process and will be carried out at your home. It will also give you a chance to express your views about the Fostering Service. We will also request a contribution from the children's social worker.

We also feel that it is important that we gain the views of birth children living at home. Once they reach 18 years of age they might not wish to contribute but if they remain at home they are more than welcome to have their view heard.

Significant Changes in Household Circumstances

Fostering Regulations require you to notify us of any significant changes. Examples of such changes are as follows.

  • If you are planning to move home;
  • If a family member, friend or relative joins your family or is planning to stay in your home and has a criminal record involving offences against children, or violence against any person;
  • Any marital / relationship difficulties that might impact on the child(ren) in placement, including one partner leaving the home. (Even if only temporarily);
  • Any new partner that you want to join your household as they would need to be assessed before they could move in with you. This is means informing the service if you wish your partner to stay overnight as certain processes have to be adhered to;
  • A serious deterioration in health of any family member or a diagnosis of a serious illness of a family member;
  • Any other significant event, which you think is important to share.

Termination of Approval of a Foster Carer

This can occur where there is a serious concern about standards of care or a substantial complaint or breach of your Foster Carer Agreement. In most cases this will necessitate an early Fostering Review being held. A report will be submitted to the review and your supervising social worker will discuss the recommendation with you prior to presentation at the Fostering Panel.

The Panel may recommend that you or your household are no longer suitable to foster and the matter will be referred to the Agency Decision Maker for a final decision.

In the event that termination of your approval is decided then you will be notified in writing of the reasons for the decision.

In accordance with the Fostering Regulations you have the right to appeal, either through the Council's own processes or through an Independent Review Mechanism. In the event, we would provide details of these.

3. Development and Support for Foster Carers

Support Groups

We currently have four Support Groups that run across the district in:

Wakefield
Pontefract
South Elmsall
Castleford

These are held at different days and times so that there is maximum opportunity for carers to attend.

Most carers find the groups a good source of support. They help ensure that you are not isolated as you get to meet and network with other carers. The groups are a good forum for discussing any concerns, current fostering issues and we often arrange for speakers to attend the groups.

We encourage all carers to attend a support group.

'Foster Talk' Membership

Wakefield subscribes to Foster Talk a national organisation which provides independent services and advice for foster carers. All carers are enrolled once they are approved and Foster Talk will send you details of their excellent range of membership benefits and contact details.

Training and Development

Training and development is a vital part of the role a foster carer.

It is also the means by which you demonstrate your skill level, which will determine your skill payment. There are a number of skill levels, each of which requires you to demonstrate specific competencies. Your supervising social worker or placement support worker will guide you through this.

We require all foster carers to undergo training. You will have an annual appraisal to determine your training needs and development needs. During this they will discuss with you what development might be necessary and suitable for you to achieve or maintain a skill level and support you in your learning.

Identified training needs can be met in many ways. We provide a rolling programme of local training events covering such subjects as:

  • Attachment, resilience and loss;
  • Life story work;
  • Contact;
  • Sexuality and sexual health.

We recognise that it may not always be easy for foster carers to attend training events due to child care, work commitments and travel. For this reason we encourage on-line training which can be completed in the home at times and pace suitable to foster carers.

We currently subscribe to a comprehensive range of web based courses designed specifically for foster carers.

Development can also occur through reading or research which you can discuss with your supervising social worker to demonstrate your learning.

Department for Education Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers

All foster carers are expected to complete the Training, Support and Development (TSD) standards within the first 12-18 months of being approved as a foster carer.

The standards are part of a national strategy supported by the Department for Education (DfE) for raising the profile of foster carers as valued professionals, and improving and standardising services for children in care.

Click here for more information on the Training Support and Development Standards.

Click here to see the Foster Carer Standards evidence workbook.

4. Children's Rights

The Children Act (1989) places great emphasis on the rights, wishes and feelings of children. Wakefield Children and Young People Service is of the firm belief that all looked after children placed with any foster carer have a right to:

  • Protection from any form of violence, including physical/mental abuse and also corporal punishment;
  • Protection from bullying, ridicule and emotional abuse;
  • Protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse;
  • Live in an environment that acknowledges their ethnicity, culture, religion, sexuality and any disability;
  • Develop their own sense of identity and family history;
  • Be encouraged to value their own language, food, clothing and hair styles;
  • Live within a warm and caring environment where their rights to privacy and confidentiality will be acknowledged;
  • Be consulted about their wishes and feelings regarding their care plan and placement;
  • Make a complaint;
  • Live within a home that will meet their health and safety needs, to include the right to consent or refuse medical examinations (this is dependent on age and understanding);
  • Appropriate, accurate information and advice regarding, drugs, alcohol, smoking, relationships and sex education;
  • An independent visitor if a child has little or no contact with family, friends.

Working with Parents and 'Contact'

The Children Act stresses the importance of family contact and encourages all plans for the child or young person to work towards returning home, where this is an agreed and realistic aim. Foster carers have a crucial role in this process.

There should be contact between a child and their parents, but in some cases a Local Authority may decide that contact is not in the child's best interest. This will only happen if specific incidents have taken place or if there is a risk to a child's wellbeing. Where there are concerns about contact issues, these must be addressed through the child's social worker and, if needed, legal advice will be sought.

Contact can present challenges such as:

  • Venues, times, transport, communicating arrangements to others;
  • The child may be in care against parent's wishes; this may lead to tensions during contact;
  • A foster carer may feel anxious about meeting the child's parents. In some cases it will be a support worker who facilitates contact;
  • Contact does on occasions take place in the home of a foster carer.

A foster carer can help a child to cope with anxieties or any mixed feelings and the changes to routine that contact can sometimes create. Difficulties within contact will not be resolved by stopping it, but rather by working through any the difficulties, which may mean all parties negotiating and drawing up a contact plan. It is important that foster carers do not withdraw contact as a means of a sanction, as it is a child's right to have contact and children should not be punished for something usually beyond their control.

Contact plays an important part in the plan to rehabilitate a child back to their parents and different arrangements will exist for each situation. Contact arrangements will be discussed when a child is placed with the foster carer.

Contact can include significant people outside of the family e.g. childminder, teacher, school friends. It is important to maintain these links within the community. This could be particularly important for accommodated unaccompanied asylum seekers, where there may be no relatives/friends in this country.

An independent visitor could fulfil this role for a child. An Independent Visitor is someone who is appointed by the Local Authority to befriend a child in the area.

5. Court Orders

Many children that come into care are subject to a form of order. At times this can be confusing for foster carers but when making any order the guiding principle of the Children Act is that the welfare of the child is paramount.

Care Order

A Care Order places the Child in care of the Local Authority. The Local Authority acquires parental responsibility. A Care Order will remain in place until the Child is 18 years of age unless the order is discharged or replaced with a different order.

Interim Care Order

An Interim Care Order can be made in Care Proceedings and has the same effect as a full Care Order while it lasts. The local authority therefore acquires Parental Responsibility for the child under the Interim Care Order.

There is no limit to the number of interim care orders that can be made.

Emergency Protection Order

An Emergency Protection Order gives to the person who applied the power to remove a child at immediate risk to a 'safe' place. It can also be used to prevent the child from being removed from a 'safe' place. It also gives the applicant parental responsibility whilst the order is in place.

Police Powers of Protection

This is similar to an Emergency Protection Order but enables the police to remove the child to a 'safe' place. A child can be removed under Police Powers for up to 72 hours.

Children Act Section 20 Accommodation

The Local Authority can accommodate a child on a voluntary basis. For example a parent may need hospital treatment and the children may need a period of time being looked after by foster carers.

Under Section 20 the Local Authority has not been granted Parental Responsibility so the parent of the child still retains all rights.

Court Evidence

Occasionally, foster carers may be required to provide court evidence during care proceedings. The evidence may be with regard to observations around parental contact with the child, child's behaviour within the home and direct knowledge of disclosures of abuse.

It is acknowledged that that on these occasions it can be very anxious time for foster carers. The child's social worker and fostering supervising social worker will work closely with you at this time, and the Wakefield Council Legal Section will provide advice and support.

It is important that foster carers keep accurate records of incidents/issues as this may be useful evidence in Court. It will also assist you in recalling information that may need to be shared. You will have received log sheets from your supervising social worker.

Record Keeping

Every record will be different and we recognise that some carers may feel some anxiety about doing it right or wondering what to write. In the ring binder that your supervising social worker will have provided there are some examples as a guide.

Basic Record Keeping

  • Be accurate;
  • Be factual;
  • Be confidential;
  • Share information only with people involved with the child;
  • Keep records up to date;
  • If caring for more than one child, keep individual records on each;
  • Record positives as well as negatives;
  • Ensure records are factual; pleases do not be judgemental.

Why you should Keep a Record?

  • To help you recall events/incidents accurately;
  • To help recall positive and negative events/incidents;
  • To assist yourself and others in assessing the progress of a placement;
  • To assist yourself and others in making decisions at LAC reviews;
  • Record keeping will support an application for additional support for a child;
  • Record keeping will help protect you and family members if allegations or complaints are made against you.

How should I Keep Records?

  • Use a log sheet in which you can make individual recordings of a child;
  • Keep records in a secure place, e.g. secure cupboard or drawer;
  • You only need to write enough information to portray an incident or event;
  • Inform a child that you will keep a record whilst in placement.

What Do I Do with my Records?

  • Keep records in a safe place;
  • A child has a right to confidentiality so ensure no other person has access to them;
  • Share information only with others involved with the child;
  • Records can help you when completing the consultation paper for the Looked After Review;
  • Once the log sheets have been completed the supervising social worker will collect them during a visit;
  • A court can request records. This is why it is helpful to have individual records on each child.

What Do I Share with my Family?

  • Remember a child has rights to confidentiality and consider their feelings;
  • Some information can be shared with your family e.g. sexualised behaviour as you need to ensure levels of safe caring but this must be on a need to know basis;
  • Your family do not have the right to access any placement records.

6. Allegations of Abuse

Managing Disclosures

Before a child is placed it is sometimes known or suspected that the child has been abused. If this information is known by the social workers then this must be shared with you.

Sometimes this information has not been discovered prior to a placement being made. Please remember that a child may not talk about their experiences of abuse until they feel they are in a safe home and a child may disclose information of abuse at the most unexpected of times and this can take the carers off guard.

If a child does make an allegation of past abuse there are some important things to remember:

  • Never prompt the child or ask leading questions;
  • Allegations can be used in court as evidence; if a child has been questioned or prompted in any way then the court could disregard this evidence;
  • Listen to the child and allow them to speak freely;
  • Let them say everything they have to say in a caring environment;
  • Comfort the child if they are distressed;
  • Do not be judgemental as children are the victims of abuse;
  • Wait for a suitable time and write everything down;
  • Keep your recordings factual;
  • Do not record your own opinions;
  • Wait for a suitable time and contact the child's social worker and your supervising social worker;
  • Maintain the family's normal routine, if at all possible, as this will have been a big step for the child.

If a Child Discloses to your own Children?

  • Do not question the fostered child after the disclosure;
  • Write down what your child has said and advise them not to talk about this to other people;
  • Comfort your child if they are distressed;
  • Inform the child's social worker and your supervising social worker at a convenient opportunity.

We will offer support to you throughout this time, as needed, as a disclosure is confidential, sometimes stressful and needs to be managed appropriately. You must not promise the child you will keep this information to yourself. This can often be very difficult as a child may feel you have broken their trust and, again, we will offer support and training around these issues. Do not be afraid to ask for support at this time.

If it is outside office hours, contact the Out of Hours service on 0345 8503 503.

Allegations of Abuse Against Carers

It is an unfortunate fact that on rare occasions foster carers may find themselves subject to an allegation from a child in their care or a referral from a member of the public or a professional person. This allegation may be about physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect.

The nature of foster care means that carers are often uniquely vulnerable to such allegations. For this reason we have 'safe caring' policies which seek to ensure that circumstances which may lead to allegations are identified and controlled in advance.

Although some allegations are false and may be related to the child's own experiences and situation, some have also turned out to be true. For this reason, allegations will always be treated seriously. However, neither will we pre-judge carers who are the subject of an allegation and we follow a set and very fair procedure. Despite this, we know that this can be a worrying and anxious time for foster carers, their families and the child involved.

Carers will be advised to contact Foster Talk for any support or legal advice that they may need. In particular circumstances we will also purchase further specific and personal independent support from Foster Talk. There are support arrangements for a child making an allegation.

Most concerns or allegations will mean a Strategy Meeting being held (see Allegations or Concerns about Foster Carers or Members of their Household Procedure).

Once the Strategy Meeting has decided on what course of action is needed. The carer will be notified of any allegation or concern, if not already aware, as soon as possible by the Fostering Service.

However, depending on the nature of the allegation, there may be times when more enquires are made before the carer can be advised of the specific detail of the allegation. The carer may need to be interviewed and this may be a joint interview by the child's social worker and the Fostering Team. In the event that the child or children have to be placed with another carer whilst the investigation is ongoing, the carer will still receive the skill payment but not the allowance for the child. The timescale for the skill payment to be received will be reviewed by the service. A letter will be sent outlining this course of action.

When there has been a strategy meeting in relation to a foster carer this will often result in an early Fostering Review being held and in some cases the matter will be referred to the Fostering Panel. In some cases the allegation may mean that the Fostering Service will take the decision to terminate the approval of the foster carer.

7. Roles within the Service

Field Social Worker

Foster carers will have dealings with a number of professionals involved in the child's life. The role of the Fostering Service and the children's social work team can be confusing but it is important to note that whilst they are two different roles the overall goal is promote good outcomes for a looked after child. The teams work closely together and will at times undertake joint visits to foster carers to discuss aspects of a care plan.

Under the Children Act, Local Authorities are required to provide every child in foster care with an allocated social worker. These will usually be from the Looked After Children's (LAC) Teams but could be from the Initial response or Family Support Teams if the child has only recently come into care.

The child's social worker has a statutory responsibility to visit the placement within the first week of a child being placed there and then at least once every six weeks. Once a placement has been agreed as a long term placement usually following a 12 month period the frequency of the visits will be less and these will be agreed within the review process.

The child's social worker will be responsible for the overall planning for the child and is supervised by a team manager from within their area. At the point of a child being placed, or during any change over of social worker, it is important for foster carers to know the name of the child's allocated social worker and their team manager and any emergency numbers for the Local Authority.

If a child does not have an allocated worker, it is important for foster carers to obtain the name of a duty social worker/team that are dealing with the child. If a social worker is not in the office, foster carers will need to leave a message or speak with the team manager. If neither is available, ask to speak to someone on duty.

In some cases you may need to contact the Fostering Service duty worker or your supervising social worker. We would always encourage this, as we need to ensure that information is relayed as soon as possible and this also provides the foster carer with another avenue of communication in the event that the child's social worker or team is not available.

The child's social worker will establish a pattern of regular contact with the foster carer and child. The frequency of visits will vary in each case. There are times when a social worker will have to visit more frequently than every six weeks; visits will be discussed beforehand with the foster carer.

A social worker will also need to talk with a child or young person alone.

The social worker for the child will play an important role as a link with the child's family; the social worker will arrange contact visits with the child's parents, relatives or friends. These contact arrangements will be discussed with the foster carer.

Supervising Social Worker/Placement Support Worker

Once you are approved, the Fostering Service will allocate you a supervising social worker. Sometimes this person will not be a qualified social worker but an experienced child care professional called a Placement Support Worker. Placement Support Workers may also work with any foster carers for a limited period where a particular support need is identified.

The Fostering Service is not directly involved in the care planning of the children in your care as this is why the child has a social worker. The Fostering Service and the child's social worker do work closely together as the main goal is to achieve positive outcomes for looked after children. There might be times when joint visits are needed to a placement.

The Fostering Service tries to ensure that carers are visited every six weeks. There will also be at least one unannounced visit every 12 months but in some cases these may be undertaken more frequently, but you will be made aware of this and the reasons for it.

We have a statutory duty, as does the child's social worker, to see a child's bedroom.

During the visit, the Supervising Social Worker will carry out 'supervision' which is a discussion with you about your role as foster carers. We have a supervision contract for carers, which defines what will be discussed in supervision and a Supervision Form which the worker will use to make a record of the supervision session. You will receive a copy of this.

8. Health Guidelines

In accordance with The Children Act, The Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011, Wakefield Fostering Service sets out its guidelines and requirements for medical issues and promoting healthy lifestyles for all children placed with Foster carers.

There are five key outcomes for children and young people. These are:

Staying Safe

  • Safe from maltreatment, neglect, violence and sexual exploitation;
  • Safe from accidental injury and death;
  • Safe from bullying and discrimination;
  • Safe from crime and anti-social behaviour, in and out of school;
  • Having security, stability and being cared for;
  • Parents, carers and families provide safe and stable homes.

Being Healthy

  • Physically healthy;
  • Mentally and emotionally healthy;
  • Sexually healthy;
  • Healthy lifestyles;
  • Choose not to take illegal drugs;
  • Parents, carers and families promote healthy choices.

Enjoying and Achieving

  • Ready for school;
  • Attend and enjoy school;
  • Achieve educational standards at primary school;
  • Achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation;
  • Achieve educational standards at secondary school;
  • Parents, carers and families promote and support learning.

Making a Positive Contribution

  • Engage in decision making and support the community and environment;
  • Engage in law abiding and positive behaviour in and out of school;
  • Develop positive relationships and choose not to bully and discriminate;
  • Develop self-confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges;
  • Parents, carers and families promote positive behaviour.

Achieving Economic Well Being

  • Engage in further education, employment or training on leaving school;
  • Be ready for employment;
  • Live in decent homes and sustainable communities;
  • Know how to access transport and material goods;
  • Parents, carers and families are supported to be economically active.

Foster Carers Can Help Achieve the Five Outcomes in many Ways. For Example:

  • Being aware of Child Protection and the need to safeguard children;
  • Encouraging children to eat well and lead healthy life styles;
  • Actively encouraging children in their hobbies and education;
  • Helping children develop good friendships and show kindness and respect to others;
  • Promote contact with family;
  • Promote activities and hobbies for children;
  • Provide a positive environment.

Healthy Lifestyles

It is important that foster carers give attention to the positive promotion of healthy lifestyles. Foster carers must be good role models and demonstrate a healthy lifestyle and provide a healthy environment. This can be achieved through encouraging children to take physical exercise, raising the importance of healthy dietary needs and avoiding health risks such as high fat/high sugar diets, smoking, alcohol or drugs.

Foster carers will need to recognise that a child placed in their care may come with a different cultural view of their dietary needs. Foster carers should be flexible and find a balance between maintaining the young person's identity and what is best for the carer's own family, introducing new foods as appropriate. There is information available for foster carers on the dietary needs of children, including cultural and religious diets.

Some children may be unable to express their feelings verbally and can use food to show signs of distress. Comfort eating and over eating can lead to obesity. Equally, eating disorders can lead to extreme weight loss. Both these situations can be worrying and difficult to manage. If there are any concerns then a foster carer should discuss these with the child's social worker and also their supervising social worker

Foster carers should ensure that all basic hygiene standards are followed before, during and after preparation of food, especially if a child is helping.

All foster carers need to ensure that any children placed in their care are appropriately protected from the sun, even in windy weather conditions when the sun is present. When outdoors, sun block cream should be applied and re-applied on a regular basis throughout the day. One application of sun block is not enough to protect from harmful rays or a wind factor. Sun hats should also be worn as an additional means of protection. For babies and toddlers who require prams or pushchairs please ensure there is adequate cover when they are sat outside for periods in their pram or pushchair.

Medical and Health Issues

At the point of initial referral for a child to be placed the child's social worker (or duty social worker) will establish as much background information regarding the health needs of the child and share these with the foster carer. The duty social worker will also establish any current medication and health appointments that are in place. If regular hospital appointments are in place and/or there are specific medical needs, the social worker can liaise with the appropriate medical professionals to establish if any training may be necessary for the carer prior to a child being placed.

On occasions there may be an emergency placement and current medical needs may not be fully established, in such cases the supervising social worker will liaise with the child's social worker to establish this as soon as possible.

Smoking

BAAF guidance outlined that children under five years of age should not be placed with carers who smoke.

Wakefield has adhered to this guidance when we have approved new foster carers. However, due to the risk involved in second hand smoke we do advise all foster carers not to smoke in the presence of children and young people placed in their care. Where possible we ask that foster carers identify a designated place in the home or outside to smoke. It is also important that foster carers provide a good role model to children in their care. We know that some young people in care, like other young people, will smoke. You should never encourage this or give a child cigarettes or smoke with a child. You should also be aware that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy cigarettes so must not support or condone this.

BAAF have recently (2015) issued updated guidance relating to e-cigarettes. They recommend that agencies recognise the low risk to children (from e-cigarettes) and not to see the use of these solely as a reason to preclude foster carers or adopters.

See also Smoking: Policy and Guidance.

Statutory Medical Checks

All Looked After Children are subject to an annual Health Needs Assessment and the child's social worker will arrange for this to take place with a Looked After Children's Nurse. Foster carers have a statutory duty to ensure that the child's Health Assessment is undertaken when requested by the social worker.

Registering with a G.P.

The child's social worker will provide details of previous G. P. The foster carer should then register the child with their G. P if necessary

Dentist and Opticians

The social worker will also discuss any dental needs. If appointments with dentists or orthodontists have been made then the foster carer should ensure that these appointments are maintained.

If a child has not received dental treatment for some time then the foster carer should book a dental appointment at the earliest opportunity. Follow up treatment and regular check-ups should be arranged on a six monthly basis.

All health services have specific duties to Looked After Children and so should generally be helpful. In the event that you are experiencing difficulties in securing an appointment, please notify the child's social worker as soon as possible.

Emergencies and Admission to Hospital

If a child is admitted to hospital or has an accident, then the foster carer should attend to the medical need as a priority and then report to the child's social worker and their supervising social worker. If a hospital admission or emergency treatment is needed after our hours please inform Social Care Direct.

Foster carers should notify their supervising social worker of a serious illness or serious contagious disease as OFSTED (the government body which regulates and inspects foster care) has to be notified of this.

9. Managing Placements

Paperwork that carers should have when a child is first placed.

The social worker has to provide a current risk assessment, which includes any concerns from the family.

Placement information record that includes:

  • Name of child;
  • Date of birth;
  • Address of carers;
  • GP address and name;
  • Some details of child's routines if possible;
  • Contact arrangements;
  • Consent signed by parents re medical;
  • Signed by carers to agree to take child.

If it is appropriate and available a copy of the child's Care Plan although this might not be readily available at the point of admission or if it is an emergency placement.

For older children 16+ carers should have copy of the Pathway Plan.

Placement plan: This will be undertaken with your supervising fostering social worker and where possible the child's social worker. This outlines the child's needs and the foster carers roles and responsibilities in meeting all identified needs. Depending on the age of the child it is important that they also contribute to the placement plan.

If foster carers do not receive this relevant information and or feel they need more information in relation to the child's needs then they must contact their supervising social worker or fostering duty immediately so that this can be followed up.

If possible the Referral Information Record which has details of other family networks. Or some background information on family and reasons for placement.

Absence from Placement and Holiday Arrangements

Foster carers should always discuss proposed absences with the child's social worker, particularly if this involves an overnight stay, as the social worker has to be notified about this.

It is important that looked after children are given the same opportunities as their peers and this may mean staying over with friends, for example. The Fostering Service wishes to encourage and support this but it is important that this is conveyed to the social worker in case of any emergency situation arising.

In most cases, if the overnight stay is less than 24 hours, a Disclosure and Barring Service check of adults where they are staying will not be needed.

Breakaway Care

In the event that you need breakaway for a child in your care, the fostering team must be notified along with the child's social work team. The need for regular breakaway provision will be discussed at the start of the placement and will usually be dictated by the child's individual needs. However, breakaway should not be used as a means of a sanction for behavioural issues. The purposes of breakaway is to cover holiday arrangements, medical issues or as a support to a placement where this has been identified as being needed to sustain the placement.

The Fostering Service must manage all breakaway arrangements, as it is important that we know the placement that a child is going to and who will be caring for the child.

Holidays

We want children in care to have the same experiences as other young people, which includes going on family holidays. In the event that you are travelling abroad with a Looked After child then you will need a letter of consent from the child's social worker as passport control may ask for this.

For all holidays it might be likely that the parents' permission is needed so all holiday arrangements must be discussed with the child's social worker. You must also be mindful of the impact on any contact arrangements that the child may have. Therefore, prior notice is usually needed so this can be discussed with a parent/carer, as alternative contact arrangements might be needed.

Any holidays which are arranged must be in the school holidays, as permission will not be given to take a child out of school during term time unless there are truly exceptional circumstances. This current guidance is not just applicable to looked after children but all children of school age.

Missing from Placement

Unfortunately, some young people may sometimes leave placements for short or longer periods. If we know where the young person is, this is classed as 'unauthorised absence'. If we do not know where the young person is it is classed as 'missing from care'. We take all such absences very seriously and will always make strenuous efforts, in partnership with the police, to ensure that young people are first of all safe and then returned to placement.

We collect information on children who are absent to inform the Wakefield Safeguarding Children Board (the independent, multi-agency body that oversees children's safeguarding in the district). Therefore it is important that all such absences are recorded and the information passed on to the Fostering Service as we request it.

Disruption Meetings

Placement stability is very important to outcomes for Looked After Children. If a placement breaks down we will hold a Disruption Meeting to determine the causes for this and any resulting actions that may be necessary to prevent a repeat of this either for the child or the foster carers. The foster care will be involved in this meeting.

Giving Notice on Placements

Again, because of the importance of placement stability, we ask that carers persevere through difficulties in long-term placements and will offer every support for this. Most difficulties can be resolved through joint working and support to the placement but where a carer really feels unable to continue to care for a particular child or children we ask that 28 days notice is given (unless there is an overriding reason for an urgent move) to allow us to match the child to another carer and plan and prepare for a move properly.

10. Bullying

Signs of Bullying

Bullying can have a very negative effect on the lives of any children.

Foster carers often feel guilty and confused that they have not recognised that a child in care is being bullied or is bullying as a lot of children who are being bullied or bully are often very good at hiding their feelings.

The first sign may be that a child suddenly does not want to go to school, or says that they are ill when PE lessons are on the agenda.

Other indicative situations that can occur include:

  • Losing dinner money;
  • Falling out with previously good friends;
  • Being moody and bad tempered;
  • Being quiet and withdrawn;
  • Wanting to avoid leaving the house;
  • Doing less well in school;
  • Anxiety;
  • Coming home with cuts/bruises;
  • Torn clothes;
  • Asking for stolen possessions to be replaced.

Carers may have to be more vigilant of children's behaviour as it can be difficult to separate out behaviour that stems from the children's background and behaviour that stems from being bullied.

The Fostering Service recognises that it is essential for a foster carer to have as much knowledge of the child's background and behaviour before or at the start of a placement.

Angry reactions to bullying may further damage the child or young person. If a foster carer did not know the child was being bullied or a bully then other people may not have realised it either.

If a foster carer thinks that a child is being bullied or is a bully then they must discuss the issue with their supervising social worker and the child's social worker. The foster carer and social worker will put a plan in place to gather information, which will help build up a picture of evidence.

Taking Action

The child's social worker is responsible for following through any issues or action plan put in place due to concerns around bullying. Foster carers and social workers have a duty of care, and allowing a child to be continually bullied when they have been alerted to the problem could be seen as a breach of that duty.

Supporting the Child

At this stage the foster carer should be able to support and comfort the child in the home setting. The process of dealing with bullying can be stressful for children who may feel that they will get into further trouble with the bully or feel guilty for causing more trouble for the social worker or the foster carer.

If Bullying Continues

The plan may work for a time but the child may begin to suffer from bullying again. Foster carers should be available to support and comfort the child.

If you believe that the bullying has started again you should contact the child's social worker, also your supervising social worker. Keep a diary of what the child says is happening.

11. Behaviour Management

You will find a comprehensive foster care behaviour management policy in the Fostering section of this website (see Behaviour Management and Safe Caring Procedure). Please familiarise yourselves with this.

12. Payment for Skills

You will find information on Foster Carer Payments and Allowances in Local Resources and One Minute Guides.