SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers, including CONNECT carers and Connected Persons. In relation to the tasks of the supervising social worker where there are allegations or concerns about the care provided by the foster carer or any member of the household, see Allegations or Concerns about Foster Carers or Members of their Household Procedure.
Section 5, Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker (During Placement) was amended in November 2017 to reflect that the Safer Caring Plan should be kept under review and updated when there are any changes in household circumstances (including the addition of any new pets) and when any health and safety issues are identified.
- Planned Supervision Visits
- Frequency of Supervision
- Unannounced Visits
- Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker
All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified supervising social worker. The allocated supervising social worker is responsible for supervising and supporting the foster carers, ensuring that they have the necessary guidance, support and direction to provide and 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.
However, it is the social worker of the child or children living in the foster placement who holds responsibility for providing specific advice or support in relation to the child and their Care Plan and Placement Plan.
It is also the child's social worker who holds responsibility for carrying out statutory visits to the child - see Social Worker Visits to Children in Care Procedure.
The supervising social worker has the responsibility to assist in the individual development of the foster carers, to ensure they are equipped-emotionally and practically-for the fostering task, to establish their training needs and to make appropriate plans to meet their identified needs. This includes working towards meeting the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers.
It is important that the foster carers see the role of their supervising social worker as twofold; namely, to supervise the foster carer in carrying out the fostering tasks and to give support through the provision of advice and advocacy. The supervision process is crucial in helping foster carers to achieve the standards of care and practice required. The required standards of practice will be achieved through the supervising social worker's own observations, together with the views of the child/children placed, their parents, the foster carer and their family and the views of the child's social worker and other professionals involved.
Supervision and support should be presented as a positive and a right the carer has throughout their career as a foster carer, rather than as an imposition.
2. Planned Supervision Visits
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;
- Ensure they are aware of the need to notify the local authority of any significant events relating to the care and protection of the child or children placed, as required e.g. notifiable diseases;
- 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 the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
- Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training and their annual review;
- Discuss risk in the home and ensure foster carers are able to safely balance the needs of children in their care, including children who may be in the household through formal or informal child-minding arrangements. N.B. It is a requirement that where child-minding is permitted by the Fostering Service, each and every alteration in child-minding arrangement is notified to and agreed by the Fostering Service;
- Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate and providing the names and addresses, times and venues of any support groups, the Fostering Service Support Line and the out of hours support;
- Give foster carers an opportunity to raise any problems and make sure they are addressed appropriately;
- Help foster carers cope with the stresses fostering may entail;
- 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. the effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family;
- Child/ren in placement - and their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs-and any support needs;
- Training and development issues for the foster carers and family-progress on training portfolio;
- Safe caring and health and safety issues;
- Foster carer's recording.
The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma Foster Carer Supervision Record, signed by the foster carer, the supervising social worker and the Fostering Supervision Team Manager, 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
The supervising social worker will undertake a minimum of 4 supervisory visits per year and additional visits as required. All visits and contacts with the foster carer will be recorded.
Additional visits and telephone contact will be made for the purposes of support (to the foster carer or any member of the foster family) as required according to the foster carer's circumstances.
The timing of visits will be agreed with the foster carer at the beginning of each placement and each visit will have a clear purpose and be recorded on the foster carer's file. See Section 5, Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker for a list of the tasks which may be undertaken.
If the supervising social worker is unable to meet the minimum visiting requirements, they must inform the Fostering Supervision Team Manager and alternative arrangements must be put into place. In the event of the long-term absence of the supervising social worker, the Team Manager must ensure that appropriate levels of contact and visits occur.
Should a foster carer be taking an agreed break from caring then the supervising social worker will maintain telephone contact during this period and when the foster carer is available for further placements. A visit will be made to the prior to making a first placement to consider the need for any re-assessment depending on the level of the break, which has been taken.
4. Unannounced Visits
There should also be unannounced visits at least once a year. These will normally take place in office hours but in certain circumstances it might be more appropriate for visits to take place out of hours, and although usually on weekdays they may be arranged to take place at weekends.
The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.
The unannounced visits will be undertaken by the foster carers' supervising social worker who will need to check:
- Who is in the home;
- Who is looking after the foster 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 child is being looked after by someone other than the carer, 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 Pro-Forma and a copy placed on the foster carer's file.
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 Foster Carer Training, Support and Development Standards by their first annual review;
- Give Foster Carers' Handbook to new carer;
- Give Foster Carer Agreement to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer's file;
- Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carers' Allowance, Disabled Living Allowance etc;
- 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), pets, caravans (if applicable) 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 a history of abuse or suspected abuse and the reason for the placement, the child's educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic and cultural needs;
- 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 carers' 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 3 years, including those reaching 18 years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are 18 or over;
- Whilst there is no statutory time interval, as good practice medical information should also be updated at least every 3 years by writing to the foster carer's GP. In the event of any serious concerns about the foster carers health, a review of the foster carers approval should be carried out immediately;
- 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;
- Provide support and take part in any investigation processes where concerns have been raised about the standards of care or practice of the foster carers' as set out in the Allegations or Concerns about Foster Carers or Members of their Household Procedure;
- Compile reports relating to the maintenance of or change in the foster carer's skill level and associated payment.
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.
All prospective foster carers will normally undertake the Skills to Foster training as part of their assessment and a report of their participation on this course will be provided and any issues raised will be considered within the assessment process.
All foster carers will be provided with information each year about the Foster Carer Training Programme, which they will be required to complete.
All carers are expected to complete the Foster Carer Training, Support and Development Standards.
Foster carers should receive training to help them understand, manage and deal with young people's behaviour including encouraging children to take responsibility for their behaviour and helping them to learn how to resolve conflict.
They should also be trained in 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, including storage and administration of medicines, treatment and first aid.
Each allocated supervising social worker will:
- Ensure that each carer they are responsible for is aware of the training opportunities available;
- Ensure that carers are aware of their responsibility to take advantage of the training available in order to increase their knowledge and skills and enhance their child care practice;
- Continually assess the training needs of each carer to inform both their support plan for the carer and planning for future training programmes;
- Assist foster carers to attend training events through providing advice and assistance with child care arrangements and transport requirements;
- Maintain a record of all training undertaken by each foster carer they are responsible for;
- Ensure that an evaluation of the impact of training undertaken and training needs is included in each foster carer annual review - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure;
- When carers' training needs are being considered, this will include consideration of additional internal and external training.
Foster carers will have the opportunity to undertake National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ). A degree of selection may be necessary to balance numbers and the range of carers. The supervising social worker will discuss with the carers the opportunity to undertake a NVQ taking into account their attendance on the Foster Carer Training and other courses undertaken.
Foster carers should be aware of the Whistleblowing Procedure and what to do if they have any concerns.