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Conducting Family/Friend Carer Fostering Assessments

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure outlines the assessment process for conducting Family/Friend Carer Fostering Assessments including (1) Viability assessments, (2) Regulation 38 Assessments and (3) Full Family/Friends Fostering Assessments (F2).

USEFUL GUIDANCE

Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A Good Practice Guide (Family Rights Group, 2017)

OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTER

Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure

1. Introduction

If a family/friend is asked by a Social Worker employed by Kirklees Council to Look After a child, the Social Worker will need to complete an assessment and seek approval to enable the child to be place with the Family/Friends Foster Carer.

This procedure has been produced to enable Social Workers to understand the assessment and approval process to enable a family/friend carer to care for a child/young person.

The child or young person will be Looked After by the Local Authority and will either be subject to an Interim or full Care Order made by the Court or Accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.

Accompanying this procedure are the following documents, which must be completed in all cases:

Caption: Related Documents
   
1. Viability Assessment or Regulation 38 Assessment Report (template) to be completed as appropriate  
2. Guidance for conducting Family/Friends Fostering Assessments All of which must be given to the prospective carer at the start of the assessment process
3. Application form to provide care for a Specific Child
4. Consent to confidential enquires
5. Agreement to Disclose assessment report(s) to the court
6. Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS form)

3. Disclosure Information

The Social Worker will need to make the prospective family/friend carer aware that the Local Authority may be required to submit any information they share with us to the Court as part of any ongoing care proceedings.

This may include sharing the Regulation 38 (emergency approval) Report, the Family/Friends Carer Viability Assessment and the Full Fostering Assessment Report (Form F2) with the Court.

The Social Worker will need to ask the prospective Family/Friends Carer to sign a consent form agreeing to the disclosure of such information if the Local Authority is requested to do so by the Court.    

4. Family and Friends Foster Carers

The number of children/young people who are fostered within their extended family is increasing.  Family & Friends care is the most successful type of fostering with fewer placement breakdowns than other types of fostering. This is probably due to the commitment of family and friends which in turn provides children with a sense of security and belonging.

Children placed within the Family & Friends care system are less likely to experience disruption of schooling and neighbourhood links. Their needs in terms of culture, religion and language are also more likely to be met than children who are cared for by general foster carers.

5. How Does Someone Become a Family/Friends Foster Carer?

The Local Authority has two options regarding the placement of a child(ren) in the care of a Family/Friends Foster Carer. Dependent on the nature of the situation the Local Authority will decide which option to take.

The first option is to complete a Regulation 38 Assessment and to consider the placement of the child(ren) on an emergency basis.

The second option is to conduct a Family/Friends Carer Viability Assessment. This type of assessment will be completed before any child(ren) is placed with you and is the most common type of assessment conducted by the Local Authority.

6. Regulation 38 Assessment, Approval and Placement

If the placement is only going to be for a very short period, e.g. 6 weeks or less, the Social Worker needs to complete an to determine whether fostering would be appropriate for the prospective carer and the child/young person. 

The Social Worker responsible for the child(ren) will need to ask the prospective carer to provide the following information:

  1. Full details of the prospective carers (both adults are assessed and approved as carers);
  2. A copy of the carer(s) birth certificate and marriage certificate (if applicable);
  3. Information about any criminal record held by any adult or child living in the household;
  4. Details of any regular visitors to the household including those that may stay overnight;   
  5. Details of any professionals involved with the prospective carer(s) and the family e.g. General Practitioner, Health Visitor;
  6. Details of any current or past involvement with Probation or Safeguarding Service whether Kirklees Council's Family Support and Protection or another Local Authorities. This department was previously referred as Social Services;
  7. Any significant health matters including both physical and mental health;
  8. Whether anyone in the household is a smoker;
  9. The prospective carer(s)' relationship with the child(ren) and his/her parents;
  10. The carer(s) working hours including any paid or voluntary employment;
  11. Whether the carer(s)have any animals;
  12. Details of 2 referees who have knowledge of the prospective carer(s) as a family (one of which cannot be a relative and neither of which can be an employer).

The carer(s) must be asked to complete:

  1. A signed consent form regarding the disclosure of information to the Court;
  2. An application form;
  3. A Disclosure and Barring Service Consent Form (known as DBS check);
  4. A medical consent form;
  5. Bank details to ensure payment of fostering allowance if you are approved as a foster carer. 

The Social Worker must conduct an assessment, which will include:

  1. The carer(s) understanding of the reasons the child(ren) need to be Looked After by the Local Authority;
  2. The carer(s) ability to protect the child(ren) from Significant Harm;
  3. The carer(s) ability to meet the health, educational and emotional needs of the child(ren);
  4. An inspection of your accommodation;
  5. The completion of a Safe Care Policy.

What happens next:

The Social Worker for the child(ren) must complete a Regulation 38 Family/Friends Assessment Report.

The Social Worker is required to ask the carer(s) to check that all the information in the report is accurate and then ask them to sign the report. The carer(s) has an opportunity to add their own comments at the end of the report.

The Manager of either the Duty and Advice Service, the Assessment and Intervention Service, the Children with Disability Service or the Looked After Children Team and Care Leavers will then be responsible for granting short-term approval as a Family/Friends Foster Carer (Regulation 38).

The approval enables the Local Authority to place the child(ren) with the carer(s) and for the carer(s) to be paid as a foster carer.

Within 6 weeks of the placement of the child(ren) with the carer(s) the short-term approval will be considered by the Fostering Panel and then by the Agency Decision-Maker (usually the Head of Service).

If approval by the Fostering Panel is given the carer(s) will then be allocated a Social Worker from the Family Placement Unit who will undertake a full fostering assessment. This person will also act as the carer(s) Supervising Social Worker. Details of the Full Fostering Assessment (Form F2) are outlined later.

If short-term approval is not agreed by the Fostering Panel the Local Authority will need to make arrangements to place the child(ren) with another foster carer. If this is the outcome of the Fostering Panel the prospective carer(s) may wish to seek legal advice.

7. Family/Friends Carer Viability Assessment

The Local Authority may choose to conduct a viability assessment prior to the placement of any child(ren) with the prospective carer(s). This allows the Local Authority to consider all the information prior to making a decision as to whether or not to conduct a full fostering assessment (Form F2). Details of the full Fostering Assessment (From F2) are outlined later.

The prospective carer(s) must be asked to provide the following information by the Social Worker responsible for the child(ren):

  1. Full details of the prospective carer(s) (both adults are assessed and approved as carers);
  2. A copy of the prospective carer(s) birth certificate and marriage certificate (if applicable);
  3. Information about any criminal record held by any adult or child living in the household;
  4. Details of any regular visitors to the household including those that may stay overnight;
  5. Details of any professionals involved with the prospective carer(s) and his/her family e.g.  General Practitioner, Health Visitor;
  6. Details of any current or past involvement with Probation or Safeguarding Service whether Kirklees Council's Family Support and Protection or other Local Authorities. This department was previously referred as Social Services;
  7. Any significant health matters including both physical and mental health;
  8. Whether anyone in the household is a smoker;
  9. The prospective carer(s) relationship with the child(ren) and his/her  parents you are being assessed to care for;
  10. The prospective carer(s) working hours including any paid or voluntary employment;
  11. Whether the prospective carer(s) have any animals;
  12. Details of 2 referees who have knowledge of the prospective carer(s) as a family (one of which cannot be a relative and neither of which can be an employer).

The prospective carer(s) must be asked to complete:

  1. A signed consent form regarding the disclosure of information to the Court (see 2 above);
  2. An application form including a consent form to enable statutory checks to be completed;
  3. A Disclosure and Barring Service Consent Form (known as DBS check);
  4. Bank details to ensure payment of fostering allowance if you are approved as a foster carer. 

The Social Worker must conduct an assessment which will include:

  1. The prospective carer(s) understanding of the reasons the child(ren) need to be Looked After by the Local Authority;
  2. The prospective carer(s) ability to protect the child(ren) from significant harm;
  3. The prospective carer(s) ability to meet the health, educational and emotional needs of the child(ren);
  4. An inspection of your accommodation;
  5. The completion of a Safe Care Policy.

What happens next:

The Social Worker for the child(ren) must then complete a Family/Friends Viability Assessment Report.

The Social Worker is required to ask the prospective carer(s) to check that all the information in the report is accurate and then ask you to sign the report.

The Manager of the Duty and Advice Service, the Assessment and Intervention Service, the Children with Disability Service or the Looked After Children Team and Care Leavers will then be responsible for determining whether or not to proceed with a Full Family/Friends Assessment.

If it is recommended that a full Family/Friends Foster Carer Assessment is to be completed the prospective carer(s) will be allocated a Social Worker from the Family Placement Unit who will conduct the assessment and present the assessment to the Fostering Panel. Details of the Fostering Panel's role are outlined later.

If it is recommended that a full Family/Friends Foster Carer Assessment is not to be completed then the Local Authority will not consider the placement of a child(ren) with the prospective carer(s) and the prospective carer(s) will not be paid as a foster carer.

As part of the Family/Friends Viability Assessment, the Social Worker will also need to discuss with the prospective carer(s) other types of legal orders known as Child Arrangements Order and Special Guardianship Order, which you may wish to consider. The Social Worker will need to comment on the prospective carer(s) suitability for caring for a child(ren) with regard to these legal options within the viability assessment.

Should either of these options be recommended, further assessment will be undertaken of the prospective carer(s) in accordance with the Local Authority's procedures relating to Child Arrangements Orders and Special Guardianship Orders.

If the Court grants these types of orders the prospective carer(s) will be able to care for the child(ren) but you will not be paid as a Foster Carer.

The prospective carer(s) may be eligible for the payment of Child Arrangments Order or Special Guardianship Order allowance. The prospective carer(s) needs to be made aware that this allowance is mean tested by the Local Authority and the child(ren) must have been looked after the Local Authority immediately prior to any placement with the prospective carer(s) being confirmed. The prospective carer(s) will be asked to provide details of your financial circumstances to enable a financial assessment to be completed and a decision made regarding the prospective carer(s) entitlement to Child Arrangements or Special Guardianship Allowance. Refer to separate procedures for the payment of Child Arrangments / Special Guardianship Order Allowance.      

8. Full Family/Friends Foster Carer Assessment (Form F2) Undertaken By Family Placement Unit Social Workers 

If the carer(s) have been approved by the Fostering Panel as a Regulation 38 Family/Friends Foster Carer or have a positive viability assessment he/she will be allocated a Social Worker from the Family Placement Unit who will undertake a full assessment to consider further the prospective carer(s) suitability to be a Family & Friends Foster Carer.

The assessment will cover all aspects of the prospective carer(s)' life including childhood, past and present relationships, own parenting experience, support networks, understanding of children's development/behaviours and awareness of cultural diversity. The Social Worker will need to assess the prospective carer(s) understanding of child protection issues and ability to protect children as well as working with parents and in partnership with staff from the Local Authority. Please refer to the Policy relating to the approval of foster carers and the guidance notes relating to completing Form F Assessments.

The prospective carer(s) will be asked to give details of 2 referees (one could be a relative) whom we will visit. The prospective carer(s) will be asked to attend for a medical (Kirklees Council pay for this). We will also undertake checks with the Police, Probation, NSPCC, Education, Area Health and Safeguarding Services. All these checks are required by Law (Fostering Regulations) to enable you to act as a foster carer.

The full Family/Friends Foster Carer Assessment (Form F2) will be undertaken over a period of time (12 weeks minimum). This time frame allows the Local Authority to meet the requirements of the Fostering Regulations including:

  1. The completion of all the statutory checks.
  2. To enable the worker to complete a thorough assessment;
  3. To enable the worker to address any issues that may arise as a result of the information provided or obtained from either the statutory checks or the assessment;
  4. To give the prospective carer(s) an opportunity to reflect;
  5. For the prospective carer(s)  General Practitioner to complete a medical and for the Fostering Panel's Medical Advisor to produce their report;
  6. To enable the worker to complete the Safe Care Policy;
  7. To enable the worker to complete the Health & Safety Checklist.

The prospective carer(s) may also be asked to attend some training.

What happens next:

Once the prospective carer(s) assessment is completed he/she will be able to read it and make any comments. The prospective carer(s) will be asked to sign the report.

The Social Worker from the Family Placement Unit will submit his/her report (Form F2), a copy of the Safe Care Policy and Health & Safety Checklist two weeks prior to the date of Fostering Panel.

The Social Worker for the child/young person will also produce a Child Permanence Report about the child, which will be submitted to the Fostering Panel at the same time.

9. Fostering Panel

A Fostering Panel is made up of representatives from Family Support and Protection, Education, Health, Voluntary Organisations, Independent Representatives and Foster Carers from other Local Authorities.

The Panel will read the reports then decide whether to recommend the prospective carer(s) approval as a foster carer or not. All the information in the report is treated confidentially.

The prospective carer(s) will have the choice of attending the Fostering Panel. If the prospective carer(s) choose not to it will not alter the decision-making process.

The Fostering Panel can make one of 3 recommendations:

  1. To approve the prospective carer(s) as a Family/Friends Foster Carer;
  2. To defer the decision as they need additional information;
  3. To not approve the prospective carer(s) as a Family/Friends Foster Carer.

Once the Fostering Panel has made a recommendation, this will be considered by the Agency Decision-Maker who will make the final decision. The prospective carer(s) will be sent a letter informing you of the outcome within one week of the Fostering Panel date.

Please note that without the completed medical and Disclosure and Barring Service Check, the Fostering Panel can not make a recommendation. See Kirklees Fostering Panel Handbook.

10. If the Prospective Carer(s) Are Approved as a Family/Friends Foster Carer

If the prospective carer(s) is approved as a Family/Friends Foster Carer the Local Authority will decide the timing of the placement of the child(ren) with the prospective carer(s).

Although the prospective carer(s) may be approved as a Family/Friends Foster Carer the Local Authority may decide to wait before placing the child(ren) with the prospective carer(s) due to the ongoing court proceedings. The Local Authority may wish to wait until a decision is made about whether or not the child(ren) can return to the care of his/her parents. 

If the child(ren) is to be placed with the prospective carer(s), he/she will be asked to sign a Foster Carer's Agreement which outlines the prospective carer(s) responsibilities towards the Local Authority regarding the fostering of a  child/young person.

By becoming a Family & Friends Foster Carer the prospective carer(s) take on the day to day care of the child/young person, working in partnership with the Local Authority Family Support and Protection and the child(ren) parents/persons with Parental Responsibility.

The prospective carer(s) should receive written information about the child/young person. These papers are called 'Looked after Children' forms. The information contained in them should help the prospective carer(s) to care for the child/young person e.g. details of the school/nursery they attend; any health problems; other professionals involved with them; contact arrangements etc. These forms also delegate consent for medical treatment to the prospective carer(s). However, the prospective carer(s) will need to seek additional consent for any planned medical treatment/operations. In line with statutory guidance the child/young person's Social Worker must visit within the first week the child(ren) are placed with the prospective carer(s) and then at least once every 6 weeks. In practice Social Workers often visit more frequently.

It is recommended that the prospective carer(s) record significant events in a diary (which will be provided) the good and not so good to discuss with the Social Worker.

Regular meetings or 'reviews' are called to ensure the plan for the child/young person is being achieved. The prospective carer(s) will always be asked to attend and contribute to a review. The child/young person should also be invited to contribute to and attend their review. The first review takes place within a month, the second after 3 months and thereafter every 6 months.

The prospective carer(s) will receive a handbook all about fostering; it is a useful reference book to advise you on many topics from financial matters to children going missing.

The prospective carer(s) will also receive visits from your Supervising Social Worker - usually every 6 weeks to discuss all aspects of the fostering task.

Finally the prospective carer(s) will have an annual review, to look at how he/she has managed the fostering task, how it has effected his/her family, what, if any, extra help could be provided and what training would be useful for you to attend. Hopefully the carer(s) approval to be a foster carer will then be renewed for another year. Fostering Panel will consider the recommendation from the carer(s) first review.

11. What is Expected of Family & Friends Foster Carers

As a foster carer the carer(s) will be expected to work as part of a team with other professionals, such as social workers, teachers and health visitors etc.

The Carer(s) opinions will be important and the carer(s) will be asked to take part in various meetings where decisions will be made about the child for whom he/she is caring.

The carer(s) will be expected to attend training to help to care for the child(ren) living with him/her. Attending this training is essential to enable all foster carers to meet the requirements of the Children's Workforce Development Council, which the carer(s)' Supervising Social Worker will discuss with him/her. These standards came into effect in April 2008 for all newly approved foster carers and all existing foster carers must meet these standards by 2011.

As a foster carer he/she will be expected to show an interest in the child's education, attending parents' evenings and helping with homework.

The carer(s) will also be expected to ensure that the child for whom he/she is caring has regular health and dental checks and that any hospital appointments are kept.

It is likely that the carer(s) will have to manage contact between parents and child but these arrangements are usually made by either the courts or the Local Authority. The carer(s) will not be expected to make plans, which affect you and your family without support.

12. What Financial Support can a Family/Friends Foster Expect?

If the person(s) is approved as a Family/Friends Foster Carer he/she will receive a weekly fostering allowance for the child/young person.  This varies according to the age of the child.

Fostering allowances include money for clothing, food, and normal transport to school, school dinners, social activities, toiletries, hair/skin care and a contribution towards your daily living costs. Additional payments are made for an annual holiday, birthday and Christmas or other religious festivals.

Fostering allowances are not income and do not affect state benefits.

Foster carers cannot claim child benefit, income support or child tax benefits for the child/young person.  However, if the child/young person has a disability, you may be able to claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Family/Friends Foster Carers, like general foster carers, can be considered for a weekly 'payment for skills'. The Social Worker from the Family Placement Unit will discuss this with the family/friends carers as it involves the carer(s) attending training and providing written work.

13. If a Person(s) is/are Not Approved as a Family/Friends Foster Carer

The letter sent advising the prospective carer of the decision of the Fostering Panel will include details of the appeals process.

The prospective carer(s) have 28 days from the receipt of the letter in which to lodge an appeal.  The appeal needs to be sent directly to:

Service Manager
Family Placement Unit
Westfields
Westfields Road
Mirfield
WF14 9PW

Once the appeal has been lodged, the Agency Decision Maker recommends what should happen next. There are two options:

  1. The collation of further information and then a review by the Fostering Panel;
  2. Consideration by the Fostering Panel.

Following the consideration of the appeal the person(s) will receive a letter advising him/her of the outcome. If the outcome of the appeal is in the person(s) favour the Local Authority will consider the placement of a child(ren) with him/her. If the appeal is not in his/her favour the Local Authority will not place a child(ren) with him/her. The prospective carer(s) may wish to seek legal advice regarding alternative legal orders available.

The Social Worker for the child(ren) or from the Family Placement Unit  must inform the prospective carer that for legal advice the carer should contact a solicitor approved by the Law Society Children Panel. The allocated Social Worker for the child can give the carer(s) a copy of the list of approved Law Society Children Panel if required.

Trix procedures

Only valid for 48hrs