Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTERThis procedure applies to all approved foster carers, including short break carers and Family and Friends Foster Carers.
1. Frequency and Timing
Formal reviews of foster carers will take place at least annually. Dates and the venue for review meetings will be agreed by the supervising social worker in consultation with the foster carer.
The first annual review meeting will be reported to the Fostering Panel within 12 months of the original approval.
In the event of a significant change in circumstances of a foster carer, reviews will take place more frequently and may be initiated by the supervising social worker or foster carers.
As well as formal reviews, there will be regular supervision, dialogue and feedback between the supervising social worker and the foster carers - see Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure.
2. Consultation and Action Before the Review
Prior to the formal review meeting, the supervising social worker will collate all information relevant to the foster carers' suitability to foster, including the number and type of placements in the last year, information from the Looked After Reviews of children placed, any extensions or exemptions that have been agreed in the previous year, supervision records, post placement reports and records of any complaints or allegations made against the foster carers or members of their household.
The views of the foster carers, all members of the household, any children placed since the last review, their parents (where appropriate) and their social workers, and any other professional whose views are relevant will be sought and taken into account at the review. This may include contacting a social worker from outside the authority if appropriate. Wherever possible these views should be reported to the review in writing.
The foster carer and members of the family (including the foster carer's own children depending on their age and understanding) will be asked to complete their own review form for this purpose.
Any updates on checks will also be carried out - see Section 7, Updates on Checks.
3. Formal Review Meeting
The formal review is usually chaired by a supervising social worker who does not directly supervise the foster carer whose review it is. It is attended by the supervising social worker, the foster carer and members of the foster family as appropriate.
As well as considering the information collated in advance, the supervising social worker will also consider the foster carer's Safe Care Policy, Fire Plan, training programme and any risk assessment in relation to the family pets as part of the review. A health and safety checklist will also be completed.
The review will consider all the available information and views and reach the following conclusions;
- Whether the foster carer continues to be suitable to foster children;
- Whether the terms of approval continue to be suitable;
- What training and development needs the foster carer has;
- How these needs will be met and who will be responsible;
- What support needs the carer has, and how these will be met;
- Any difficulties or concerns since the last review;
- The date for presentation to the Fostering Panel, if relevant;
- Any referral to the Agency Decision Maker regarding change of profile.
The Chair will prepare a review report stating whether the carers continue to be suitable to foster and whether the terms of their approval continue to be appropriate. This report should include a summary of the fostering work undertaken so far and how this relates to the development of the foster carer's skills. Any recommendations for change in the foster carer's approval should be highlighted.
Changes to the stated best match of a carer may be submitted to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision or to the Fostering Panel dependent on the nature of the change.
Where no changes are to be made the Fostering Manager will consider the record of the review, complete a report and arrange for notices to be sent out.A copy of the review report will then be sent to the foster carers and a copy placed on the foster carer's file.
4. Presentation to the Fostering Panel
The review report must be presented to the Fostering Panel on the foster carer's first annual review for a recommendation, and thereafter may be presented to the fostering panel. This may include where significant change in circumstances of the foster carer or any event/incident has occurred affecting the continued suitability of the foster carers (for example an allegation or complaint resulting in a Section 47 Enquiry or investigation) or where there is an unresolved disagreement regarding a review recommendation.
Where the report is to be presented to the full Fostering Panel, the report should set out any proposed changes to the approval, together with reasons.
Whether presented to the fostering panel or not, the report will be presented to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision as to whether the foster carer remains suitable to foster and whether the terms of approval remain suitable. Where it has been presented to the fostering panel, the Agency Decision Maker will take into account the panel's recommendation.
Where the report recommends termination of the foster carer's approval, the report should give full details of the concerns, allegations or complaints and the outcome of any Section 47 Enquiry or investigation. Any mitigating circumstances should be outlined. See 6.1 Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer's Approval.
A copy of the foster carers' Form F and in the case of an allegation the post allegation report and any previous relevant Panel minutes should also be attached to the report.
The report for the Panel will be shared with the foster carer(s) and they should be invited to submit written comments. They should also be offered independent support, e.g. Referral to Foster Talk.
A copy of the report to the Panel (and attachments including any written comments of the foster carer(s) on the report) should be sent to the Panel Administrator within the timescale in line with the Kirklees Fostering Panel Handbook.
Foster carers should be invited to attend the Fostering Panel when their review is being considered, together with a supporter if they wish, and the Panel Administrator should be informed if they intend to do so.
Where the Review recommends the termination of approval of foster carers, the review should be presented to the earliest possible Fostering Panel.
Where the Panel's recommendation is for a different category of approval, see 6.2 Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer's Approval.
Where the review is presented to the Fostering Panel, the Panel's recommendation as to the future approval of the foster carer will be submitted to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for a decision to be made.
Whether or not the foster carers are present at the Panel, the Panel Adviser will arrange for them to be informed in writing of the outcome of the review as soon as possible and at the latest within 5 working days after a decision is made and give notice:
- That the foster carer and household continue to be suitable and that the terms of the approval continue to be appropriate; or
- That the approval is terminated from a specified date, and the reason for the termination; or
- The revised terms of the approval and the reasons for the revision;
See Section 6, Representations Procedure where the foster carer wishes to challenge the decision.
5. After the Review
Where the foster carer lives in the area of a different local authority, the local authority for the area where they reside will also be informed in writing of the outcome of the review.
The outcome of the review will also be recorded and the Register of Foster Carers updated as necessary. Where there has been any change in the terms of the approval, the Foster Care Agreement will be updated and signed by the supervising social worker and foster carer.
Where the approval is terminated, the Fostering Service Manager must inform OFSTED.
6. Representations Procedure
6.1 Proposal to terminate foster carer's approval
Where, as a result of a review, the termination of a foster carer's approval is proposed, they must be advised, when informed of the outcome of the Agency Decision Maker's decision that if they wish to challenge the decision, they have the opportunity to make representations to the Agency Decision Maker or to request a review by an Independent Review Panel under the Independent Review Mechanism, as set out in Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure, The Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) (see also Prepare for a Review Panel: Adopters and Foster Carers).
The only circumstances where the foster carer will not have the right to request a review by an Independent Review Panel is if they are regarded as disqualified as a result of a conviction or caution for a specified offence - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.
If no written representations or notification of a request for a review are received within the 28 days. The matter will be referred to the fostering panel, and the Panel Administrator will then notify the foster carer within 7 working days of the date when the Panel will reconsider the matter.
Where the termination of the approval of a foster carer is being considered, plans for the termination of any current placement will also be required and made as appropriate.
6.2 Proposal to revise the terms of the foster carer's approval
6.2.1 Where the Foster Carer is in Agreement
Where, as a result of a review, it is proposed to revise the terms of the foster carer's approval, a statement must be sent to the foster carer setting out whether it is considered that the foster carer or members of their household (including any children placed there) may have additional support needs as a result of the proposed revision and, if so, how those needs will be met, and request the foster carer's agreement in writing to the proposed revision of terms.
Where the foster carer's written agreement is received, the decision to revise the terms of approval may be made immediately.
The Agency Decision Maker's decision in such circumstances is not a Qualifying Determination and the foster carer may not apply for an independent review of the decision by way of the Independent Review Mechanism.
Foster carers must not be pressured to accept changes to their terms of approval.
6.2.2 Where the Foster Carer is not in Agreement
Where the foster carer does not agree in writing to the revision of their terms of approval, then the representations/review procedure as set out in Section 6.1, Proposal to terminate foster carer's approval will apply.
7. Updates on Checks
Disclosure and barring service (DBS) checks on persons aged 18 and over should be updated every 3 years unless the foster carers have subscribed to the Disclosure and Barring Service Update Service and if necessary, a review of the foster carer's approval should be carried out immediately to take account of any new information.
The foster carers should also be asked to complete Declarations of Health and Suitability every 3 years. In the event of any serious concerns about the foster carer's health, a review of the foster carer's approval should be carried out.
8. Resignations by Foster Carers
A foster carer may give written notice at any time of their wish to resign from the role. Once written notice has been given, their approval will automatically be terminated 28 days after receipt of the notice. The foster carer cannot withdraw their notice once it has been received, nor can the Agency Decision Maker decline to accept the resignation. Should a foster carer who has resigned subsequently wish to foster again, they will need to be assessed under the procedure for Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers (see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure). There is no requirement for the fostering panel to be notified of resignations. However the brief report and a copy of the foster carer's resignation letter will be presented to the next available Panel for information and acknowledgement.
The resignation should be recorded formally by the Panel as the termination of the foster carer's approval to take effect 28 days from the date when written notice has been received from the foster carer.
An 'exit interview' will be conducted with the foster carer wherever possible to determine the reasons for their resignation.
A letter of appreciation and thanks will be sent to the foster carer (unless there are circumstances in which this would be unwelcome or inappropriate).
When there is a child in placement, the foster carer must inform the fostering service of their intention to cease fostering in sufficient time to enable an alternative placement to be identified and introductions to take place. If the child is placed by a different local authority, a copy of any notice given must be sent to that local authority.
9. Retention of Foster Carer Records
Foster carers' case records should be retained for a minimum of 10 years after their approval has been terminated.