Supervision of Foster Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers and is in line with the requirements of:
- Fostering Service (England) Regulations 2011;
- Fostering Service National Minimum Standards (2011).
There may be other actions which supervising social worker or carer may be requested to undertake which are not detailed in this procedure. This however provides a basic framework for the supervision of placements.
This chapter was updated in March 2020 to reflect in more detail the foster carer's role and responsibilities with respect to Fostering National Minimum Standards – Notification of Significant Events (see Section 1, Introduction) and relevant aspects of Schedule 6 The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 (see Section 2, Planned Supervision Visits).
All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified supervising social worker. The allocated supervising social worker is responsible for supervising and supporting carers, ensuring that they have the necessary guidance, support and direction to maintain a quality service, including safe caring practices. This will include an understanding that they must work within the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers and the agency's policies, procedures and guidance.
The supervising social worker must also ensure that the foster carers' training and development needs are identified, and that newly approved carers work towards completing the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers Workbook. They also have the responsibility to ensure foster carers are familiar and made aware of new policies and guidance.
The foster carer(s) should be fully aware of the Notification of Significant Events and the need to immediately report to their supervising social worker or Fostering Agency the following:
- The death of a child;
- A Serious illness or serious accident involving a child placed with them;
- The outbreak at the foster home of any infectious disease (which in the opinion of a general practitioner attending the home is sufficiently serious to be notified);
- An allegation that a child placed them has committed a serious offence;
- Concerns that a child placed with them is being sexually exploited;
- The Police being called to the family home as a result of a serious incident relating the foster child;
- A child placed with them who has gone missing;
- Any serious concerns about the emotional or mental health of a child, such that a mental health assessment would be requested under the Mental Health Act 1983.
2. Planned Supervision Visits
A programme of supervision visits should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the supervising social worker from the time of the foster carer's approval, this will be reflected in the Foster Carer's Agreement.
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;
- 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 carer's work to ensure National Minimum Standards and TSD standards are fully met;
- Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate;
- Give foster carers an opportunity to raise any problems and make sure they are addressed appropriately;
- Acknowledge the challenges and demands that the fostering tasks make on foster families and ensure appropriate support is available;
- Recognise and address any difficulties the foster carer's own children may be experiencing arising from fostering; and
- Assist foster carers to work in an anti discriminatory way that respects and promotes individual differences;
- A checklist for first visits to a carer is available to ensure early tasks are completed. The supervising social worker can use this as a tool when a carer is first approved.
The agenda for each meeting should cover:
- Matters arising from the last supervision;
- Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family, changes in the carer's situation and circumstances, etc;
- Child/ren in placement:
- Their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
- Progress and work with respect towards each child's Care Plan;
- Any accidents, injuries and illnesses experienced by each child;
- Any complaints in relation to children placed with them and their outcomes;
- Any behaviour management concerns in relation to children placed with them;
- Any other significant events (see Section 1, Introduction);
- Any medication, medical treatment or first aid administered.
- Training/development issues for the foster carers and their family;
- Safe caring and health and safety issues;
- Foster carer's recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker who should sign the foster carer's diary.
The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma foster carer Supervision Record, signed by the foster carer and the supervising social worker, 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 carer's 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
Supervision meetings will take place at least once every 6 months.
Additional visits may be made for the purposes of support (to the foster carer or any member of the foster family) with telephone contact at least every 4 weeks.
4. Unannounced Visits
There should also be unannounced visits at least once a year. 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 carer's supervising social worker who will need to check:
- Who is in the home;
- Who is looking after the 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 carers are not at home but the child is present and being cared for by someone else, the social worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit;
- Unannounced visits should be recorded and the appropriate Business Support Officer should be informed so that it can be recorded on central computer information systems;
- 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 and recorded as part of a Practice Development Plan.
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 induction programme and that their support, development and training needs are assessed and met so that they meet the standards and achieve the Training, Support and Development certificate of completion by their first annual review, or soon after if extra support is required. Also that they are fully aware of their membership in Foster Talk and the Kirklees Fostering Network who will be in touch with them directly;
- Give Foster Carers' Handbook to new carers. All carers should aim to have an electronic copy of any guidance and policies supplied by the department;
- Give Foster Care 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, Disability Living Allowance etc.
- Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing, mixing with other children in home, etc. Discuss and check equipment (especially in the child's bedroom) and ensure it is appropriate to the age of the child coming into the placement;
- Take part in discussions about potential placements with the Placement s Team and ensure that matching considerations are discussed and agreed;
- Take part in planning meetings regarding placements; ensure that minutes are taken and that a Placement Plan including delegated responsibility or specific risk assessments are completed. Sometimes this will need to undertaken once the child is in placement dependent on the urgency of the placement;
- Ensure that the child's social worker give the foster family full information about children about to be placed, including any abuse or neglect 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;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
- 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, then the supervising social worker must ensure that appropriate plans are made for the child and that the child's social worker is informed. It may be that the carer will decide to use their delegated responsibility to decide on alternatives but this must always be discussed with the social worker unless it is pre agreed in the delegated responsibility plan;
- Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family as advised by the child's social worker, including out of hours support;
- Organise equipment as required. Be aware of the process for Occupational Therapy referrals for adaptations and items of support for disabled children, and liaise with the child's social worker to ensure these services are acquired;
- Set date of first visit after the placement;
- Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed.
- 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 in place;
- Take part in any Allegation Management Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support/assessments 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 carers individual training programme is updated and accessed by carers and their 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 & Barring checks on members of the family every 3 years, including any other member of the household reaching 18 years of age 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.
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.
6. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer
For the detailed procedure, see Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure.
Where allegations regarding childcare or Child Protection are made, the supervising social worker should:
- Keep in contact with the family;
- Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, as agreed at the Allegations Management Meeting or directly with the LADO;
- Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
- Offer the carer independent support and a referral to Foster Talk;
- Make the carer's aware of their own possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice from the Foster Talk agency or other independent sources;
- Undertake in consultation with the fostering line manager a post allegation review and report to the fostering panel with a recommendation regarding future approval.