Allegations Against Foster Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to foster carers and members of the fostering household (thereafter referred to as the 'foster carers'), where it is alleged that the foster carers may have:
- Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
- Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or
- Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children.
Note - relevant aspects of this procedure should also be followed where there are allegations against a supported lodgings carer.
RELEVANT POLICIES, PROCEDURES AND GUIDANCE
- Working Together (Chapter 2 Organisational Responsibilities);
- National Minimum Standards: Fostering Services 2011 (Standard 22) ('NMS 2011');
- West Yorkshire Consortium Procedures (Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children);
- Kirklees subscribe to the guidance about allegations provided by FosterTalk website.
In accordance with Standard 22 of NMS 2011, Kirklees Family Placement Unit ('FPU') must appoint a designated manager, who is a senior officer, responsible for managing allegations. This role is undertaken by the Service Manager, Family Placement Unit. The designated officer in the Local Authority (LADO) has a broad range of responsibilities including the management and oversight of individual cases that fall within this procedure.
In practice, aspects of the Service Manager's role (i.e as designated manager) may be delegated to a Team Manager within the FPU, but the Unit Manager will maintain responsibility for managing any allegations and have on-going overview of the progress. There will be consultation between the LADO and Unit Manager during the investigation, although the Team Manager is likely to have day to day consultation.
2. Responding to Allegations
2.1 Initial Considerations
All allegations within the scope of this procedure that come to the attention of the FPU must be notified to the LADO within 1 working day. The Unit Manager must be notified at the same time, as they have overall responsibility for managing allegations.
The LADO will discuss the issue with the Unit Manager (in practice, this could either be the Unit Manager or a Team Manager, and this partly depends on the nature of the allegation). If the initial information suggests that there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, then the LADO will immediately ensure that the matter is referred to Children's Social Care Services and a Social Worker will be identified to undertake the Section 47 Enquiry. This will usually be the allocated Social Worker, unless this undermines the independence of the enquiry. If there are other children in the household, such as, the foster carer's own children, or those on a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order, then any investigation would be undertaken jointly by the child's Social Worker and a Social Worker from the Duty and Advice Service. The foster carer's Supervising Social Worker will also be involved in enquiry visits to the foster placement.
2.2 Further Action
Following further discussion between the FPU Manager, child's Social Worker and their Team Manager, and the LADO, the LADO will ensure a Strategy Discussion takes place within 1 working day of the referral. This process is led by the child's Social Worker. If the Strategy Discussion is in the form of a meeting, then, then this will normally be chaired by the LADO (or a senior officer in their absence). Again, it is the child's Social Worker who pulls all this together and in consultation with the LADO ensures that the relevant people are invited, including the police. By virtue of the subject matter, foster carers will not be invited to the meeting.
The Strategy Meeting will incorporate both investigating and safeguarding the child/ren as well as allegations management of the foster carer. The Strategy Meeting will need to consider:
- Discussion with the police;
- Possible involvement of Duty and Advice Service in relation to birth children of the foster carers;
- Involvement of other Social Workers of children in placement;
- Share all relevant information about the foster carer and the child/ren;
- The foster carer's involvement with child or youth activities such as youth work or if a foster carer is employed by an organisation bringing them into contact with children and young people. (It may be the case, for example, that in a fostering household, one carer is employed by an organisation, whilst the other carer is seen as the 'main' carer);
- Undertaking a Section 47 enquiry, including determining the process of interview for child and foster carers;
- Child will be interviewed by the appropriate Social Worker;
- Interviews of the foster carers will be undertaken by the child's Social Worker and Supervising Social Worker;
- Safety of the child and other children in the household are paramount, and it may be that action is needed to protect them, including possible removal from the household during the enquiry;
- Suspension of the foster carers;
- Family Placement Unit - consideration of information sharing with the foster carers and management of risk;
- Whilst foster carers are not entitled to a copy of the Strategy Meeting minutes, consideration should be given to the LADO producing a version for the foster carers (a redacted version maybe necessary);
- Support and information to be given to the child and parents;
- Whether notification of the incident is made to the Disclosure and Barring Service and OFSTED;
- It may be the case that further meetings are required, as the enquiry and investigation process progresses. For example, this may focus on the position in relation to the foster carers and future action. Any meeting held should details clear action points and timescales. The LADO may wish to convene a concluding/post investigation Strategy Meeting, particularly in more complex cases.
Foster Carer/s Position
In accordance with Standard 22.12 (NMS), foster carers should have access to information and support from an independent source if an allegation is made against them. Within Kirklees, independent support is available from FosterTalk. Their website is available at: FosterTalk. The Supervising Social Worker will ensure the foster carer is aware of this.Consideration will need to be given to an early foster carer review and listing this as an item for the Fostering Panel. A report detailing the allegation and outcome will be prepared by the Supervising Social Worker for the Fostering Panel. It should be timetabled for the next Fostering Panel and seen as a priority agenda item. The foster carers will have the right to bring a representative from FosterTalk with them to the Fostering Panel.
3. Confidentiality and Record Keeping
As detailed above, information sharing will be discussed at the Strategy Meeting. Copies of the minutes should be placed on both the child's file and foster carer's record (although it may need to be a redacted version for the foster carer's file). Care should be taken when sharing information with a foster carer's employer. It will usually be the LADO's role to contact an employer.