Recruitment, Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers

1. Background

The recruitment and retention of foster carers is a challenge for all local authorities. Nationally there has been a reduction in the number of registered carers and therefore it is paramount for the service to continue to recruit more foster carers in order to meet the diverse needs of our Children in Care across all age ranges in Kirklees.

2. Aim

  • To increase the provision of foster placements for Children in Care  by recruiting a pool of prospective foster carers which reflect sand promotes the assessed needs of Kirklees children, in particular siblings groups, adolescents, children from different ethnic groups and children and young people who have a range of complex behavioural and emotional needs;
  • To ensure that all the children living in Kirklees have the opportunity to grow up in a stable, safe and loving home and where this cannot be provided by the birth parents or extended family, fostering will be considered;
  • To ensure the needs, wishes, welfare and safety of the children and young people is central to the recruitment of foster carers and the fostering process;
  • To ensure that the people that are interested in becoming foster carers are welcomed without prejudice, responded to promptly and given clear information about the recruitment, assessment approval and support services.

3. Criteria for Foster Carers

Individual and Joint

Applications will be considered from married couples, same sex or civil partners, unmarried couples or single people.

Religion

Applications will be considered from people of any race or culture (providing the beliefs and values can be evidenced in terms of not conflicting with the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards (England) 2011 pertaining to the needs of Children in Care.

Age

The minimum age for foster carers is generally 21 years but this will be dependent upon life experience and maturity. There is no specific upper age limit.

Gender

Gender / gender identity is not a factor in determining if an individual is suitable to foster.

Income and Work Commitment

Applications will be considered from people that do not work. If applications are considered from people that work they have to evidence that they and their employers will be flexible in meeting the needs and demands of Children in Care for example availability for statutory requirements like Looked After Children Reviews/Health Care assessments/Personal Education Plans etc.

Health

Applicants will be required to have a full medical and undergo any further tests/checks that may be required by the Fostering Panel's Medical Advisor. The Medical Adviser will advise on the applicant's ability, from a health point of view, to meet the needs of a child who is fostered. Any comments or advice given by the Medical Adviser must be taken seriously by the applicants and will be addressed during the assessment process

Accommodation

Applicants may own their own home or live in rented accommodation.

They will need living and sleeping accommodation appropriate to the number and ages of the children they are seeking to foster. They must be able to offer separate bedrooms for each foster child. Only in exceptional circumstances would sharing of bedrooms be allowed and this would NEVER be with adult sons or daughters of the foster carers.

Applicants that are in local authority accommodation can currently apply to be exempt from the bedroom tax for 1 fostered child only, they are also able to obtain a category (band) C for bidding purposes to move to a larger property for the purpose of fostering but only when it has been evidenced by the Recruitment Team Manager 28 days prior to approval that the applicants have a positive application that is highly likely to endorse approval as Mainstream foster carers.

Child Care Experience

It is important that the applicant who is going to be the main carer has some experience of 'hands-on-' care of children of the age group in which the applicants are interested or are agreeable to a period of sustained voluntary work with children that provides  a foundation for transferable skills and understanding of children's overall developmental needs.

Family Contact

All applicants must be prepared to facilitate contact between any foster child and their parents and significant family members or individuals.

4. Stage 1: Responding to Initial Enquiries

All members of the public who make an initial enquiry by telephone, website or letter in relation to becoming a foster carer will be referred to the Recruitment administration worker (RAW) at the Family Placement Unit. All enquirers will be treated as a potential resource and given a prompt response. They will be contacted by the RAW within 2 working days to obtain basic information, ascertain the availability of a spare bedroom, names, ages, children and identifying sources of marketing/advertising means. If it is not possible to contact them by telephone, a letter or an email will be sent inviting them to contact the recruitment team. Once the basic details have been obtained, these will be entered on to Liquid Logic. All enquirers that are not previously known will be sent an information pack and letter. A Recruitment Social Worker (RSW) will contact them within 2 working days to gather further information and for a general more in-depth discussion about fostering.

The RSW will complete an Initial Referral Form on Liquid Logic in relation to all new enquiries. Preliminary basic information should be obtained - location, numbers in the household, bedroom space, working hours etc. so that inappropriate enquiries can be filtered out and the decision for this recorded on Liquid Logic.

The RSW will pass the Initial Referral Form to the Fostering Recruitment Team Manager for signing off. A check of Children's Services records will be carried out by the administrative staff in relation to enquirers and all members of their household.

Where the enquirer or a member of the household is known, the enquiry will be passed to the Recruitment Team Manager for a decision on how to proceed. Where the decision is not to proceed the administrative staff will update Liquid Logic, and the referral will be closed.

Where the decision is to proceed, the Fostering Recruitment Team Manager will allocate the case immediately to a social worker from the Fostering Recruitment Team to carry out an Initial Visit. This information is then updated on Liquid Logic.

Where the decision is not to proceed it would be appropriate to advise enquirers against pursing fostering if they clearly do not meet the basic criteria (see Section 3, Criteria for Foster Carers). The manager's decision will be communicated to the person concerned, with reasons given, and the decision will be recorded.

5. Assessment - Stage One

Stage 1 of the assessment process is intended to provide the decision maker with basic information about the applicant to enable clearly unsuitable applicants to be sifted out without unnecessary bureaucracy or expenditure of time and resource by the fostering service or the applicant. More detailed information is collected in Section 10, Assessment - Stage Two.

Where a person applies to become a foster carer and it is decided to assess their suitability to become a foster carer, the following information must be obtained as soon as reasonably practicable relating to the applicant and other members of their household and family:

  • Full name, address and date of birth;
  • Details of health (supported by a medical report);
  • Particulars of any other adult members of the household;
  • Particulars of the children in the family, whether or not members of the household, and any other children in the household;
  • Particulars of their accommodation;
  • The outcome of any request or application made by them or any other member of their household to foster or adopt children, or for registration as an early years provider or later years provider under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006), including particulars of any previous approval or refusal of approval relating to them or to any other member of the household;
  • If the applicant has, in the preceding 12 months, been a foster carer approved by another fostering service provider, the name and address of that fostering service provider;
  • Names and addresses of 2 persons who will provide personal references;
  • In relation to the applicant and any other member of the applicant 's household who is aged 18 or over, an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check;
  • Details of current, and any previous, marriage, civil partnership or similar relationship;
  • The views of, the local authority in whose area the applicant lives, if different; where the applicant  has previous been, or is currently, approved as a foster carer by another fostering service provider, or as a prospective adopter by an adoption agency, and consents, access may be requested to the relevant records compiled by that other fostering service provider/ adoption agency in relation to the applicant. That service/agency must provide access within 15 working days of a request being received.

Records compiled by another fostering service, or an adoption agency, can be used to inform the new assessment of the applicant's suitability to foster. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.

Where, having regard to any information obtained, it is decided (by the Agency Decision Maker) that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, the applicant must be notified in writing with reasons. This notification may be given whether or not all of this information has been obtained. Such a notification may not be given more than 10 working days after all the information has been obtained. The applicant has no right to make representations about the decision or to have their case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism. However, the applicant must be informed that they can complain via the fostering service's complaints process if they are unhappy with the way in which their case has been handled. The complaints process should address whether or not the applicant's case has been handled in a reasonable way, rather than the question of the applicant's suitability to foster.

Where all the specified information has been obtained and notification has not been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable, then the application must proceed to Assessment -  Stage Two (see Section 10, Assessment - Stage Two).

Note that Stages 1 and 2 of the assessment process can be carried out concurrently, but the Stage 1 information must be sought as soon as possible, and the decision about whether an applicant has successfully completed Stage 1 must be made within 10 working days of all the information required in that Stage being received.

On receipt of the completed application form, consent to medical checks and authorisations for the statutory checks/references, the administrative staff will input the date of the application and details of the household members on the electronic records.

The Fostering Panel must make its recommendation on the application within 8 months of the receipt of the formal application applicant first applying to be assessed.

The manager will book the applicants on to the Skills to Foster Training Course - see Section 7, Training Course.

6. Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer Assessments

6.1 Information-sharing

Sharing information about a person that is held in their existing foster carer or adopter records is permitted for the purposes of informing a new assessment of a person's suitability to foster or adopt. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.

Information that should be shared, upon request, in order to inform a new assessment of a person's suitability to foster or adopt includes:

  • The report of the original assessment of the person's suitability to foster or adopt (if it is considered by the body requesting the information to be recent enough to be relevant);
  • A copy of the report of the last review of the individual's continuing suitability to foster or adopt and any other review report considered useful to understanding the person's current suitability to foster or adopt;
  • Details of any concerns about standards of practice and what if anything is being done/has been done to address them;
  • Details of allegations made against the foster carer/adopter or their household members; and
  • Any other information considered to be relevant to the assessment of the person's suitability to foster/adopt.

6.2 Consent

Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with Parental Responsibility would need to be obtained). This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.

If consent is refused, the current fostering service or adoption agency should consider whether there is any information in the records that is a cause for concern. Any information about an applicant's conduct or suitability to foster/adopt that has caused concern can be shared even if the individual has refused consent. If there are no such concerns, and the individual has refused consent, information should not be shared. This may require documents to be redacted to remove information relating to individuals who have refused consent.

Requests for access to information should be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant to the sharing of their information.

6.3 Timescales

The receiving service should acknowledged the request within 2 working days, seek consent from all others referred to in the information within 5 working days and the information, redacted where necessary, should be provided within 15 working days.

7. Training Course

Dates for Skills to Foster Training and a birth children's/Portfolio group will be planned a year ahead by the Recruitment Team in conjunction with the Recruitment Team Manager. A rolling programme every 6 weeks will be arranged each year and social workers, foster carers and Children in Care will be identified to facilitate each course. There will be other professionals from differing service areas like Education that will contribute to the training schedule and of which relate to the needs of Children in Care. The RAW will be involved in the practical arrangements e.g. booking venues, letters of invitation and following up on prospective carers that do not respond to invites.

The course will cover in detail all aspects of the fostering task, including the need for approved foster carers to notify the Fostering Supervision Team Manager of any changes in their home circumstances, for example any new relationships they have where they wish their new partners to become a member of the household.

The RAW will book applicants on to Skills to Fostering Training Course - a 4 day course. All prospective foster carers will be required to attend this training, which is an integral part of the assessment process. If they do not attend one or more of the training sessions, they will receive a courtesy call from the RAW and an email and they will be offered the next date. If after 2 training sessions, the couple or individual has not attended the RSW will write to them offering a further opportunity to attend. They will clarify that should they be unable to attend the 3rd invite of the training then they will not be a position to proceed any further unless there are satisfactory circumstances/issues which is preventing their attendance. Advice should be given of any steps they may take in order to meet the criteria or of how they might pursue their interest at a later stage, if appropriate.

The objectives of the Skills to Foster Training are:

  • To raise awareness and understanding of the key issues which are central to the role and tasks that Foster carers need to adhere to; For example, attachment, separation and loss, Child development, contact, birth families, education, leisure activities and health, confidentiality, safeguarding and challenging behaviours, race and cultural issues etc;
  • To assist applicants to consider more thoroughly the implications of fostering;
  • To assist applicants to determine the type of resource they can offer to the children needing foster placements;
  • To assist birth children in understanding the needs of Children in Care and how fostering can affect their lives and what they would need to do if they required support;
  • To assist the applicants to consider their longer term professional and personal development if approved as foster carers.

Those facilitating the course will provide written feedback on issues relating to the applicants for the assessment social worker (ASW) which must be used in their assessment. Any issues of concern should be referred to the Recruitment Team Manager.

Where issues emerge during the training as a result of which the Fostering Team Manager decides that it is not appropriate to proceed with the fostering process, the applicants should be visited by both the Recruitment Team Manager and a RSW involved in the training and notified in writing of the decision, with clear defined reasons. Advice should be given of any steps they may take in order to meet the criteria or of how they might pursue their interest elsewhere, if appropriate.

8. Checks and References

8.1 Checks

The RAW will arrange for the following checks to be made on all members of the household aged 16 and over: Probation, Health, Education Service (including with education Psychology), Children's Social Care Services (including the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan) and the NSPCC, and whether the applicants have a right to work in the UK. Where the applicants live or have lived outside the local authority area, the checks must be made with the local authority and health trust where the applicants live/have lived. These checks should be recorded, including the date when the checks were made.

Education

Where the applicant has school age children, the relevant school(s) will be contacted, with the permission of the applicant, for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education. Also where the applicants may have a child with health/learning needs either the Health visitor, medical consultant or other professional involved with their care would be contacted

Health

The applicants will be asked to complete Form AH and send it to the GP with a covering letter from the fostering service requesting that the GP complete the Form. Once completed the form is returned to the Recruitment Team Manager for checking, it is then this is sent to the Medical Adviser for comment.

Where the medical information suggests that the applicant may not be suitable for health reasons, this should be discussed in detail with the applicant(s) and withdrawal may be advisable at this stage. Additional advice may be sought from the Medical Adviser or the Medical Adviser may raise questions with the GP where this is appropriate. It may be necessary for reports from other health professionals also to be obtained and presented to the Medical Adviser and the Fostering Panel.

Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks for all members of the household aged 18 or over must also be made.

Where the applicant or any member of the household has been known to the Family Support & Protection services, information should be obtained from the relevant social worker/case records.

8.2 Employer Checks Abroad

Checks on applicants who have lived overseas/are foreign nationals should start at an early stage in the statutory references process as they can usually take a long time to be returned or completed. Where the applicants and other adults in the household have lived overseas, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) does not currently access overseas criminal records or other relevant information as part of its disclosure service. The DBS provides guidance on its website on how further information can be obtained from various countries. If a country is not listed the country's representative in the United Kingdom may be contacted and details of those countries that have a representative in the United Kingdom can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Website or by telephone 020 7008 1500. The general DBS Helpline number is 0870 9090 811

The following countries have the ability to issue DBS type certificates in respect of their own citizens or foreign nationals who have spent a period of residence in their countries.

Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Irish Republic, Italy (excluding Vatican city), Jamaica, Latvia, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

The procedure for applying for a check is different for each country and the details can be found on the DBS website.

Obtaining information from other countries can pose difficulties as they do not always have a national DBS system. The embassy or Consulate of the country in question should be contacted to establish what, if anything can be achieved. The Foreign & Commonwealth office (FCO) can on someone's behalf apply for a 'certificate of good conduct' (police records check) for the following countries: Spain, Poland, Italy and Hong Kong. Further information can be found on the FCO website.

For any non- UK applicants their legal status must be established.

  • Are they legally able to remain in this country;
  • What plans do they have to remain in this country.

Employer Checks Abroad

Efforts to obtain information and pursue checks for applicants who have lived abroad (where the applicant has worked with children or in a caring capacity) should be asked if they if they received a satisfactory Police check. This must be recorded and stored on file and will be important to consider;

  • Period of time an applicant has spend abroad;
  • Reason for residence abroad;
  • Any references available from sources such as employers/people of standing who knew the applicant;
  • Length of time since leaving the country of residence and residing within the UK (for example if someone has lived in the UK for many years prior to residence in another country for a short period of time and has then returned to the UK for some time prior to application then the UK period will probably outweigh any gaps which cannot be filled). However, each case must be considered on an individual basis and professional judgements made as needed.

8.3 SSAFFA - Where applicable

Where applicable if someone has been a member of the Armed Forces, checks should be made with the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFFA). Please note previous members of the Armed Forces may be on a reservist list and undertake tours of duty whilst maintaining alternative employment.

8.4 OFSTED - Where applicable

In addition where applicable, checks should be made with OFSTED. This will apply to applicants and other household members when anyone has made a previous application to foster/adopt/child mind or run a residential home or day care facility.

On receipt of the statutory checks, the administrative staff will update Liquid Logic. The Recruiting social workers alongside the administrative staff will monitor this process and chase up any late returns.

Where there are concerns about an applicant's circumstances as a result of the information obtained from the above checks, this should be referred to the Recruitment Team Manager and the applicant may be advised not to proceed with the application. This needs to be recorded on Liquid Logic by RAW

If the applicant withdraws, the RAW will update Liquid Logic. Where the applicant disagrees with the decision and/or is not willing to withdraw, a brief Report on the application should be presented to the Fostering Panel and the procedure to be followed should be the same as if the report was a full report on the applicants (see Section 11, The Panel recommendation to Section 13, The Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)).

Where the checks reveal that the applicant or a member of the household is a (Disqualified Person (Foster Carer), see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure).

Where the information relates to an offence which does not automatically disqualify the applicant, for example because the applicant is seeking approval in relation to a specific child only, the Fostering Recruitment Team Manager must consider whether the application should still proceed. Such convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. In a case where the conviction would usually disqualify an applicant, the case should be referred to the Service Manager for a preliminary decision with a brief report outlining the nature of the offence and potential risks in making a placement - (see Standards Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure). In any other case where there is doubt, an early referral should be made to the Unit Manager.

Information relevant to the application that has been obtained from the DBS may only be retained on the applicant's file for a limited period and should be destroyed when a decision is made on the application. The agency should note on the file that the DBS information has been destroyed and that the information led the Fostering Service to form a particular view, without citing the information itself.

8.5 References

Where the applicant has been a foster carer within the preceding 12 months and was approved as such by another fostering service provider, a reference must be requested from that other fostering service provider. There is no requirement to also interview personal referees (see below). However, additional verbal and/or written references may be sought from personal referees. If the previous fostering service, for whatever reason, does not provide a reference, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.

Otherwise, each applicant will be asked to provide the names of 2 personal referees, who are adults, that have known the applicant for at least 5 years and are not related to the applicant, and 2 other referees who may be family members or personal friends. All referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity.

Where there is a joint application, referees should know both applicants, or additional referees will be required.

A written reference must be obtained from each applicant's current employer regardless of the applicant's occupation. This may be one of the 4 references provided. In addition, where the applicant has frequently changed jobs, written references should also be obtained from past employers. In the event that an applicant is unemployed then a reference will be sought from the most previous employer. Where an applicant has worked with either children or vulnerable adults in the past consideration will be given to obtaining additional references.

Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, permission must be sought to liaise with the relevant agency who must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference. Should the applicant refuse permission then this could affect the decision to proceed and would need to be referred to the Fostering Recruitment Team Manager. Liquid Logic will be updated by the administrative staff if the applicants are withdrawn and a visit by their assessing social worker to the applicants will take place followed up with a letter explaining the reasons

The administrative staff will send requests for written references to each referee onto the approved template.

On receipt of the references, the administrative staff will update Liquid Logic. The assessing social worker and the recruitment administrative team will monitor this process and chase up any late returns.

9. Assessment - Stage Two

Where the Assessment - Stage One information has been obtained, and no notification has been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable to be a foster carer, the following must be undertaken:

  • Obtain the following information relating to the applicant and other members of  the household, together with any other relevant information:
    • Details of personality;
    • Religious persuasion, and capacity to care for a child from any particular religious persuasion;
    • Racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and capacity to care for a child from any particular racial origin or cultural or linguistic background;
    • Past and present employment or occupation, standard of living, leisure activities and interests;
    • Previous experience (if any) of caring for their own and other children;
    • Skills, competence and potential relevant to their capacity to care effectively for a child placed with them;
  • Consider whether the applicant  is suitable to be a foster carer and whether the applicant 's household is suitable for any child;
  • Prepare a written report on the applicant  which includes the following matters:
    • The information required to be obtained, as set out above;
    • Any other relevant information;
    • An assessment of the applicant's suitability to be a foster carer;
    • Proposals about any terms of approval. (There are no specific regulatory requirements about the way in which assessment information must be collected or presented to panel).

Where, having regard to information obtained during Stage 2, it is decided that the applicant is unlikely to be considered suitable to become a foster carer, notwithstanding that not all the Stage 2 information has yet been obtained, a Brief Report may be prepared and submitted to the fostering panel in the same way as for a full assessment report. (There is no prescribed length or format for a brief report).

At the end of the 10 working days, (or when the applicant's observations are received, whichever is sooner), the report, the applicant's observations on that report, if any, and any other relevant information obtained, must be sent to the fostering panel.

The assessing social worker will:

  • Familiarise themselves with the application form;
  • Contact the applicant(s) and arrange a visit;
  • Draw up a written agreement setting out the dates for the assessment visits and the date for the presentation to the Fostering Panel;
  • Interview couples individually and together and ensure the children of the applicant or other significant members of the family/household are seen alone;
  • Contact ex partners (see below);
  • Inform the applicant(s) of any revised timescales if there are delays.

The assessing social worker will complete all parts of CoramBAAF Form F, which will record all appropriate factual information and address issues including the applicants' understanding of the following areas:

  • Child rearing;
  • Caring for children born to someone else;
  • Contact between children and their families;
  • Helping children to make sense of their past;
  • Sexual boundaries and attitudes;
  • Awareness of sexual and other forms of abuse;
  • Health and health promotion;
  • Promotion of education;
  • Approaches to parenting styles that incorporate safe care, routines, boundaries and behaviour management;
  • Awareness of how to promote secure attachments between children and appropriate adults;
  • Awareness of safe caring and safeguarding;
  • Religion;
  • Standards of living and lifestyles;
  • Racial, cultural and linguistic issues;
  • Experiences of disability and attitudes to disability;
  • Awareness of equal opportunities;
  • Understanding and dealing with young people's behaviour including encouraging children to take responsibility for their behaviour and helping them to learn how to resolve conflict.

The list is not exhaustive - other issues relevant to the individual applicant and their family may need to be addressed. The skills and personal qualities that need to be evidenced will be different according to the type of fostering the applicants want to do, e.g. babies and toddlers, short term or long term, respite or emergency.

As well as providing a written reference, 2 (or more, if considered appropriate) personal referees will also be interviewed during the assessment. Referees and any other family members spoken to during the preparation of the report should be informed in writing about the position in relation to confidentiality. A written reference will not be shown to an applicant unless the applicant requests disclosure and the referee consents to disclosure. The same applies to information and opinions shared in the course of conversation. These will not be disclosed to an applicant without permission. However, referees and others should be made aware that it will often be necessary to discuss with applicants information and opinions expressed although where this happens, the particular source of the information or opinion will not be disclosed. Referees should be sent a written record of the discussion held with the assessing social worker and be asked to sign their agreement to it being a true record.

The assessing social worker may also contact the previous partners of the applicants (taking care not to disclose confidential personal information about the applicant). Where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the social worker will arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable. All adult children of the applicant(s) living away from home may also be contacted.

Applicants will be encouraged to be actively involved in contributing towards the assessment, and supported to provide their own written report/portfolio for Panel and the 'All about us booklet for Looked After children' to evidence their capabilities and to support their application.

The foster home will also be thoroughly checked to ensure it provides appropriate and safe accommodation for the child, as well as safe transport and a risk assessment must be conducted in regards to pets, caravans or (firearms licence/weapons) this is recorded appropriately on the Health and Safety proforma's. The applicant must be notified that the case is to be referred to the fostering panel, be given a copy of the report and be invited to send any observations in writing within 10 working days beginning with the date on which the notification is sent.

At the end of the 10 working days, (or when the applicant's observations are received, whichever is sooner), the report, the applicant's observations on that report, if any, and any other relevant information obtained, must be sent to the fostering panel.

Each child should have their own bedroom however; there are rare occasions when the Family Placement Unit would consider placing babies in foster carer's bedrooms. This practice will be dependent upon service /resource needs or due to the exceptional circumstances in relation to the applicants e.g. their child going off to university within the first year of a baby being placed. In this event the assessment will cover the implications of this practice for both the baby and the applicants.

10. CoramBAAF Form F

The information gathered during the assessment, the Training Course and the checks and personal references, will form the basis of the assessment set out in CoramBAAF Form F (or other forms that may be approved for use by Kirklees).

Once the assessing social worker has completed a draft and within their designated timescale for quality assurance, it should be submitted to the Fostering Recruitment Team Manager for Quality Assurance and discussion in order to identify whether there are any issues that are unclear or need further work before the assessment is completed and submitted to the Panel administrator.

The final draft of Form F will then be sent to the applicants. The applicants should be asked to sign and return the report, if agreed, and/or send their comments in writing to the assessing social worker. It should be explained to them that they have 10 working days to do this, (or they can be asked to sign a disclaimer stating they do not wish to take 10 days to comment) and that any written comments they make will be circulated to Fostering Panel members, with the report.

The CoramBAAF Form F will then be passed to the Fostering Recruitment Team Manager  to be endorsed and counter-signed with managers comments added.

The applicants should also be advised of their right to attend the meeting of the Fostering Panel, which considers their application.

The social worker will then send the CoramBAAF Form F, the applicants' written comments (if any), a full health report, the report on the interviews with the referees, the report from the local authority for the area where the applicant lives (if outside the district) and any other relevant documents, to the Panel Administrator at least 2 weeks before the relevant Fostering Panel meeting.

The date, time and venue of the Fostering Panel meeting will be communicated to the applicants as soon as possible, together with written information about the Panel process, who will attend and their respective roles. If the applicants know a particular Panel member, the applicants may request that the Panel member stand down. (Panel members are in any event expected to declare an interest in these circumstances - see Kirklees Fostering Panel Handbook).

Case Allocation to Supervisory Team

At the point of receipt of the application form from the applicants the Recruitment Team Manager will have given the details of all applicants and the dates for Fostering Panel to the Fostering Team Manager of the supervisory Team to consider and allow for the allocation to a supervisory social worker 28 days prior to the Fostering Panel.

The RAW will 14 days prior to the Fostering Panel, organise a joint meeting with the supervising social worker and the prospective carers with the aim of:

  • Preparing the applicants for transfer to the supervisory team;
  • Having the opportunity of building  up a professional and trusting relationship with their nominated supervisory social worker; 
  • To support the fostering supervisory worker in understanding the personal and professional needs/background of the applicants;
  • To have the opportunity for the supervising social worker to attend the Fostering Panel with the applicants and the RAW;
  • For prospective foster carers to have the opportunity to ask any relevant questions about the fostering task/role, support groups or relevant training that would be available post approval.

11. The Panel Recommendation

The assessing social worker will attend the Panel meeting, (and their manager where appropriate) together with the applicants if they so wish. The decision to attend rests with the applicants and a wish not to attend will not prejudice consideration of their application.

Applicants who decide they wish to attend should be fully prepared as to the procedure prior to their attendance.

The Panel will consider the reports together with all the supporting documentation and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) regarding the suitability of the applicant for fostering.

The recommendation, with reasons, will be recorded in writing and, where approval is recommended, the category of fostering, any limitations of the approval to named children (for example in the case of a Kinship Foster Carer) or conditions as to the best match or number of children to be placed in the foster home will also be specified.

Where the applicant does not attend the Panel meeting, the social worker undertaking the assessment will advise the applicant of the Panel recommendation within 24 hours of the Panel meeting. This will be verbally, by telephone or, where appropriate, a home visit.

12. After the Panel Recommendation

The Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will make a decision as to the suitability of the applicant, based on the reports presented to the Fostering Panel and the minutes detailing the Panel's recommendation. Where the decision is to approve the applicants as foster carers, the Agency Decision Maker will specify the terms of the approval i.e. the number of children, the best match, the type of placement and any specific inclusions/exclusions. The decision must be made within 7 working days of receipt of the panel's recommendation and final set of panel minutes and must be recorded, together with the reasons. The Manager will arrange for the applicants to be given verbal notification of the decision within 24 hours and written notice of the decision with reasons, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within 5 working days of the decision.

Where a Brief Report has been submitted to the fostering panel, the Agency Decision Maker will, taking into account the fostering panel's recommendation, make a determination about whether to terminate the assessment or whether the full assessment should be completed.

Approval

When the application is approved, the foster carer(s) will then sign a Foster Care Agreement with the fostering service. This agreement is governed by the Fostering Service Regulations under regulation 28(5)(b). The agreement sets out the terms and conditions of the partnership between the approving fostering service and the foster carer and will be reviewed annually. Schedule 5 of the Fostering Service Regulations clearly identifies the matters to be included:

  • The terms of approval;
  • The support and training to be given to foster carers;
  • The procedure for the placement of children, and matters to be included in the foster placement agreement;
  • The arrangements for meeting any legal liabilities of the foster carer arising from placement;
  • The procedure available to foster carers for making representations;
  • The requirement to give written notice of changes of address, composition of household, any change in circumstances affecting capacity or suitability to care for a child placed, and any request or application to adopt a child or registration for child minding or day care.

If the applicant is not approved to foster, then the reasons for this decision must be explained to them.

Upon approval, foster carers should be issued with an agreed form of identification to enable their role as a foster carer to be verified.

13. The Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)

The Independent Review Mechanism (GOV.UK) is operated by Coram Children's Legal Centre on behalf of the Department for Education. The IRM offers foster carers in England who have had their approval removed, and prospective foster carers in England who are not granted approval to foster, the opportunity to have these decisions reviewed and a fresh recommendation made to their fostering service.

Where it is decided at Stage 1 of the assessment process that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, there is no right to have the case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism.

If at Stage 2 of the assessment process, the Agency Decision Maker gives a Qualifying Determination that they propose not to approve the applicants as foster carers, the applicant will be advised that if they wish to challenge the decision, they have a right to submit representations within 28 days of the date of the written notice of the decision to the Agency Decision Maker.

The IRM is not an appeals process and the reviewing panel has no powers to overturn decisions. The function of the panel is to review all the document s and information relating to a 'qualifying determination' and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker about whether or not a person is suitable to act as a 'local authority foster carer' (which includes foster carers approved by independent fostering providers) and/or a recommendation about the terms of approval, as the case may be. The final decision about the individual's approval/terms of approval will continue to rest with the Agency Decision Maker.

HM Government have published information sheets which set out to expect from an IRM Panel - Prepare for a Review Panel: Adopters and Foster Carers