BAAF Practice Note No 51 in Relation to Smoking
See also Foster Carer Manual, Smoking.
- Guidance for Foster Carers who Smoke
- Guidance for Foster Carers for Young People who Smoke
The Wakefield Council Fostering Service provides the following policy and guidance for foster carers on tobacco smoking and related health issues in relation to the care of Looked After children. The service is working towards smoke free fostering environments for its Looked After children.
Wakefield Council policy and guidance takes into account the best practice guidance from BAAF (British Association of Adoption & Fostering: Practice Note 51, 2007).
The aim is to promote health and wellbeing of children who are Looked After and Accommodated, whilst at the same time ensuring that there is a widest possible choice of placement, which are available to meet the needs of children from 0-18 years.
Where children are placed with Connected Persons, this policy should be used as best practice based on the needs of the child.
From the implementation date of this policy, the following conditions apply.
Fostering applicants for children under 5 years must be non-smokers. This also applies to other adults in the house. This is because smoking is known to adversely affect the health of babies/young children in the following ways:
- Exposure to smoke is known to increase the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy;
- 17,000 hospital admissions/year due to parental smoking;
- Increased bronchitis and pneumonia rates;
- Increased rates of asthma;
- Increased rates of glue ear;
- Impact on time missed from school due to ill health.
Fostering applicants for children and young people of all ages who have a disability which is specifically related to respiratory problems such as asthma, heart disease or other medical conditions deemed relevant by the medical advisor, must be non-smokers.
Fostering applicants who smoke and wish to provide short breaks for children with disabilities above the age of five may only provide care to children who are independently mobile and have no associated respiratory conditions. Parents (or those with Parental Responsibility) must consent to a placement with carers who smoke, and this should be documented in the Placement Plan.
All fostering applicants, whether wishing to provide short breaks or long term care, will be expected to provide a smoke free environment within the home. All foster carers will sign an agreement to this effect, and this will be monitored through supervision and unannounced visits to the placement by supervising social workers.
Fostering applicants who have successfully given up smoking will not be approved to foster children under five years until they have given up smoking successfully for a minimum period of 12 months. This is because relapse rates in the first three to six months are high; after six months the risk of relapse is less and after 12 months most people will be permanent non-smokers.
Fostering applications for children under 5 years or for children with related health problems with existing foster carers who smoke shall only be approved in exceptional circumstances.
Children from non-smoking birth families shall only be placed with foster carers who smoke in exceptional circumstances.
All older children, who are able to express a view, have the right to request a non-smoking fostering family.
3. Guidance for Foster Carers who Smoke
It is estimated that around 500 children start smoking in the UK every day. Many children have their first cigarette at home and in one study, 22% said they had first smoked with a parent figure. Children are twice as likely to smoke if their parent or carer does. In contrast, children are significantly less at risk of smoking than their peers if a parent or carer figure disapproves of smoking;
- Don't smoke around children or permit others to do so. Their lungs are particularly susceptible to smoke;
- Keep your home smoke free. Because smoke lingers in the air, children may be exposed even if they are not around when an adult is smoking;
- Smoking only outside the house;
- If you smoke inside, limit smoking to a room where you can open windows for cross ventilation;
- Never smoke in the room where a child sleeps and do not allow anyone else to smoke there;
- Never smoke while you are washing, dressing or playing with your child;
- Never smoke in the car with the windows closed, and never smoke in the car when children are present. The high concentration of smoke in a small closed space greatly increases the exposure to other passengers. Since October 2015 it has been illegal to smoke in a car (or other vehicle) carrying a child under 18 years.
4. Guidance for Foster Carers for Young People who Smoke
Foster carers are encouraged to have house rules which actively discourage smoking. It may be helpful to have a house rule of 'no smoking indoors' or 'only in certain rooms'. This may help in restricting smoking without making it a source of conflict in the household. If house rules on smoking exist then they should apply to everyone, including visitors.
- No child under the age of 18 years are legally allowed to buy tobacco products (UK law);
- No child under the age of 18 years are legally allowed to smoke tobacco products (UK law);
- Foster carers caring for a child who smokes under the age of 18 years can not give permission or condone the action. They must actively encourage a child to stop and where safely possible insist the child smokes off their property. Foster carers should inform their Fostering Officer and the child's social worker if they are unaware;
- In addition:
- Cigarettes/tobacco should not be bought or offered to children Cigarettes/tobacco should not be used as a reward or punishment.
Foster carers should always advise and inform a child of the health risks associated with smoking and other consequences of becoming addicted.
Children need support to be healthy and stay healthy. Foster carers therefore need to promote and provide an environment that encourages improvements in the health and well being of looked after children in their care.
The Fostering Service promotes a smoke free environment for Looked After children and supports smoking cessation advice. For advice on giving up smoking and smoking related issues you can access:
NHS Smoke Free advice line: 0800 022 4332.