If you have been recently approved and you are about to receive your first placement then you may find the below information helpful. Always remember, all of this information, plus more, can be found in your Foster Carers Handbook
Welcoming A Foster Child
Welcoming a foster child into your home can be an exciting and rewarding experience. You may be worried about making the child feel welcome and comfortable in his or her new home. Getting the foster child settled can be challenging for all parties involved, but with the right preparations and steps, you can ensure they feel like they belong in their new space.
- Introduce yourself by the name you would like the child to use
- Take the child on a tour of the house, including their new room
- Give the child a welcome book. This could be titled "Welcome to your new home" - suggestions could be including family photos, short bios about each family member and trying to make sure you tailor the information specifically towards the child/ren.
- Provide a welcome basket for the child
Keeping Fostering Records
The following are the key issues and events you should consider recording:
- Brief day-to-day record
- Improvements and achievements of the child
- Any changes or concerns in behavior or mood – including details of actual behavior observed, what was happening before it started and your or other people’s response to it
- Dates and times the child is away from your home – friends, away with birth family, missing (please see policy - Children Missing from Foster Care)
- Specific incidents, events or changes in circumstances of family members
- Disagreements or complaints concerning any birth family members and how you dealt with them
- Accidents or injuries (even if slight) to the child
- Dates of meetings, attendance and decisions (sometimes these will be part of minutes sent out to you)
- Any medical, dental and optician appointments and treatments/decisions from these – you need to inform the Child’s Social Worker about statutory medical appointments and dental checks as s/he has to record this information on the Children Recording System record of the Looked After Child.
- Contacts with school, social worker, birth family
- Contact visits, child’s responses before and after
- Requests for help or assistance
- Times when alternative care have been given, e.g. babysitters, with detail of who they were and what they did
- Details of any damage or theft by the foster child
- Involvement with police – reasons and outcome
You need to ensure you make the Child’s Social Worker and your Supervising Social Worker aware of the key events you are recording.
You should record accidents and incidents in the appropriate accident/incident sheet [keeping a copy for yourself as well as emailing a copy to your Supervising Social Worker (SSW) and the Child’s Social Worker (CSW) immediately. All recordings should be up to date and available for inspection by your Supervising Social Worker on their regular home visits.
Over time your recording should reveal trends and patterns in the child’s behavior and development. Your recording may well underline the improvements and progress that have occurred and enhance your satisfaction in a job well done.
The strictest confidentiality of your recording should be maintained and diaries/notebooks and other documents you record in should be kept in a secure place such as a locked cabinet.
If you have difficulties with reading and writing please feel free to raise this with your Supervising Social Worker who will advise and provide you with additional support if necessary.
Separate record for each child
Each foster parent is encouraged to develop an electronic folder for recording and storing information relating to the child placed. This folder need to be kept safe as it will contain confidential information, and the folder and its contents belong to Nurture Fostering Ltd. Moreover within these folders you will need to record, daily on each child, any accidents, and medication.
Further discussion can be had with the Supervising Social Worker on when and how you can email the documents in the folder to your Supervising Social Worker.
Parent and Child parents' recording has to be particularly precise, as developmental changes in the child and any change in parental care has to be charted. Parent and Child parents’ records are part of an assessment, which a Children's Guardian from the court may wish to read and copy for use in a hearing. Though attendance at court is rare, Parent and Child parents need to be prepared for this and will receive support from the Child’s Social Worker and their Supervising Social Worker to attend court.
Electronic copies of key e-mails should be kept on the folder you maintain for each child in placement. If you hold children’s information on a personal computer you should check with your Supervising Social Worker to ensure it conforms to the requirements of the Data Protection Act, and is kept confidential and access to information on the child is restricted to you. Once a child moves on, a copy is sent to your SSW and the document deleted from the computer. The computer folders must be secured with passwords at all times.
Key records to keep
The following are key documents and written information about the child placed which should be kept in a secure place:
- Background Information Record
- Placement Information Record
- Care Plan
- Diary or diary sheets clearly written, dated and signed
- Special reports as appropriate such as educational and psychiatric
- Correspondence with the Child’s Social Worker and your Supervising Social Worker
- Copy of LAC reviews
- Specific work done by the foster child and yourself (this would usually belong to the child)
- Court Orders
- Birth Certificate
- Home Office documents
- Contact details – arrangements and correspondence and meeting minutes
- Any important certificates, awards, school reports and photos
- Health and safety – accident/injury records
- Medical, dental and optical appointments and outcomes
- Life story books do NOT need to be kept securely but should be available to children so that they can use them when they need to
Eight tips for effective recording
Before you start be clear about why you are recording.
- Record as soon as possible after an event or observation
- Use plain language and avoid jargon
- Wherever possible stick to the facts
- When you give an opinion separate it from the facts and explain why you have come to that particular opinion
- Record in a way that you would be happy for the child or family to read what you have written
- Don’t forget to sign and date each record
- Completing regular summaries on younger children and with young people can be a good way of monitoring the child or young person’s progress
What happens to records when a child moves?
At the end of a placement your recording and other documents on the child have to be returned to the Child’s Social Worker. You should keep a record of the child’s name, date s/he arrived and left and of when the information was passed to Nurture Fostering in case you need to access it later.
Everyone working with Looked After Children and their families are involved in recording in different ways. Recording is an essential part of the service provided to children and families. It is important to understand its importance and that recording supports positive care of children. This chapter is based on the Government’s Write Enough training pack which is used in the Children and Families training programme for foster parents.
Data Protection Act (1998)
The Data Protection Act regulates how personal information is used and protects individuals from misuse of personal details collected about them. It provides a common-sense set of rules which prohibit the misuse of personal information collected without stopping it being used for legitimate or beneficial purposes.
The details of the Data Protection Act are quite complex, but at the heart of it are eight common-sense rules known as the Data Protection Principles. These require personal information kept to be:
- Fairly and lawfully processed
- Processed for limited purposes
- Adequate, relevant and not excessive
- Not kept longer than necessary
- Processed in accordance with an individual’s rights
- Kept secure
- Not transferred abroad without adequate
The Act provides stronger protection for sensitive information about individuals, such as health details.
The Act, with some exceptions, gives individuals the right to find out what information is held about them by organisations.
Allegations Against Foster Carers
Allegations or suspicions that a foster parent has caused Significant Harm to a child will be investigated thoroughly, speedily and sensitively under those procedures and will involve open and honest communication with and support to all those affected.
It is important to note that, although there may be insufficient evidence to support a Police prosecution, this does not mean that action cannot be taken to protect a child nor that the termination of a foster parent's approval cannot be considered.
It should also be noted that it may be necessary for the Service to consider, during an investigation, what action, if any, should be taken with regards to other children with whom foster parents under investigation, have contact including their own children.
The expectations are that:
- At the time of a child's placement, foster carers will be provided with detailed information as to the child's background and in particular the context of any abusive experiences of and/or previous allegations made by the child;
- All foster carers will receive preparation, training and guidance to help them provide a safe environment for the child and all members of the foster family;
- All foster carers will have received information about this procedure and the London Child Protection Procedures as amended 2017 and Working Together Agreement
- All foster carers will be familiar with and been trained on procedures for recording on a daily basis the progress of children placed with them, including any incidents or complaints, and understand that these procedures have been made to protect all those involved in the child's placement, particularly at times of high stress, and will provide important evidence if an allegation is
In addition, in relation to the Fostering Service, it is an expectation of the Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011 that:
- A Manager within the Fostering Service is identified to be the Designated Person who liaises with the LADO in all cases to which this procedure applies and manages the allegations process;
- All staff within the Fostering Service are aware of the requirements of this procedure, including the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
Any person who receives information, complaint or suspects that a child has suffered or is suffering significant harm in a foster placement must immediately inform the Child’s Social Worker or the Supervising Social Worker.
On receipt of any such information, the Supervising Social Worker or the relevant Manager must consult with the Service Delivery Manager or in his absence the Designated Person to agree whether the following threshold is met:
Standard of Care allegation/complaint;
Serious Standards of Care allegation/complaint; Allegation/complaint requiring a LADO intervention.
Standards of Care allegation/complaint will be managed by the Fostering Service with an outcome that may possibly require a return to the Fostering Panel.
Serious Standards of Care allegation/complaint will require an Initial Evaluation Meeting with the LADO to agree whether a LADO Intervention is necessary and how to take it forward.
Allegation/Complaint requiring a LADO Intervention will be considered as a referral to the LADO.
Any allegation(s) that a child has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed requires a referral to the LADO.
The Supervising Social Worker (or Designated Person) is responsible for referring complaints or allegations to the Local Authority Designated Officer. The Local Authority Designated Officer will be available for consultations and support at any stage of the process.
The Designated Person will liaise with the Service Delivery Manager and Local Authority Designated Officer to identify who will investigate the allegation or whether the Supervising Social Worker should also act as the Investigating Officer. They will gather relevant background information and liaise with the Local Authority Designated Officer in preparation for the Strategy Meeting which should be held within 2 working days of the referral.
Other investigative routes may be identified as more appropriate at this stage, for example, whether the allegation/complaint requires a Section 47 Enquiry.
In exceptional cases were immediate action may be necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child, the Child’s Social Worker and his or her manager may decide to liaise with the LADO to request that a new placement be identified.
Pathways following referral to LADO:
-Standards of Care will be managed by Nurture Fostering.
-Standards of Care of a serious nature will be managed via Initial Evaluation Meetings with the LADO.
-All allegations will be managed within Strategy Meetings
-LADO will provide clear indications of time frames for return to panel, and whether annual or extraordinary review is recommended within Strategy Meetings.
3.1) Strategy Meeting
The Strategy Meeting will take place within 2 working days of the referral and will involve a face-to-face meeting. The purpose of the meeting will be to decide if an investigation is necessary and, if so, how it should be carried out. The following people will be invited:
a)The manager of the team undertaking Section 47 enquiry;
b) The Child’s Social Worker and his or her manager;
c) The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO);
d) The Supervising Social Worker of the foster parent, and his or her manager (who will liaise as necessary with the designated Manager of the Fostering Service)
e) The police;
f) Any other agency involved with the child or foster family;
The Strategy Meeting will consider:
a) The nature of the allegation, its source and reliability;
b) Background information relating to the foster family, how long the family has been known, how many children have been placed there, the family's known strengths and weaknesses and any exceptional features about the child and the placement
c) The involvement of other agencies, for example if the child is there under Staying Put;
d) The need to inform other agencies who use the foster home e.g. Shared Lives;
e) A referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion on the Children's Barred List. This should be considered whenever a foster parent is suspended from their duties;
f) The safety of all children in the household including the foster parent's own children and whether any action is necessary to protect the children including the removal of all or any of the children while the investigation is conducted;
g)How the needs of any child who has to leave the placement will be met including contact with other children in the placement;
h)How and by whom the investigation is to be conducted. (It is important that careful consideration is given to the planning of criteria when a joint investigation is recommended. In situations where the Police or Crown Prosecution Service recommend no further action then the Supervising Social Worker/Investigating Officer will interview the foster parent about all allegations and concerns. The Record of Investigation must be completed and made available to future meetings and/or the Fostering Panel);
i) The time-scales for the investigation and any contingencies should timescales prove unlikely to be met;
j) How the child should be informed of the procedure to be followed and supported through the process;
k) Whether the alleged perpetrator should be asked to leave the home while the investigation is conducted and confirmation of how the carers will be informed of the allegation;
l) How to inform the child's parents of the allegation;
m) Once informed of the decision what support to offer the foster carers;
n) How reports of the investigation will be shared with the foster carers and the child or children in the placement;
o) Whether further placements should be suspended in the meantime;
p) Arrangements for reconvening the Strategy
Whether or not the Strategy Meeting considers that the allegation or suspicion has any foundation, the matter should be investigated unless there are exceptional circumstances.
The minutes of the Strategy Meeting must contain clear action points and time-scales for each action. The action points and timescales will be circulated immediately after the meeting. Actions agreed must be recorded and be the responsibility of named individuals.
Copies of the action points and the minutes should be held on the child's and the foster parent's records.
Any decision to take no further action following the Strategy Meeting must be clearly recorded by the decision-maker on the child's and the foster parent's records.
3.2 Investigation and Action
In anticipation of the outcome of the investigation being presented to the Fostering Panel, the Supervising Social Worker or his/her manager should contact the Panel Chair to consider whether a special Panel meeting will be required.
The actions agreed at the Strategy Meeting should be implemented by those responsible within the agreed timescales.
-In planning any investigation (at any stage) Fostering Service will identify whether the allocated Supervising Social Worker is able to support the foster carer as well as conduct the investigation based on the unique circumstances of each case and if not, what arrangements will be made to appoint an Investigating Officer to ensure it is completed in a timely manner, and that the foster carer continues to be supported by the Fostering Service and/or an Independent Person.
-Fostering Service will use the Record of Investigation, which will also be signed off by the Service Manager before it is provided to the foster carer as a record of investigation.
-All verbal feedback from Initial Evaluation Meetings, and Strategy Meetings will be provided by the Supervising Social Worker to the foster carer.
-Any limitations to what can be feedback to foster carer (for instance if police are still actively investigating) will be discussed within any LADO related meetings.
-LADO Strategy/Initial Evaluation minutes will not be provided to the Fostering Panel unless they will or are to be provided to the foster carers.
-LADO will attend Panel when cases with direct LADO involvement are discussed.
-Any follow on actions from the Fostering Panel such as a referral to DBS, if required, would be made by the Fostering Service led by the LADO in addition to minutes of the Strategy/Evaluation Meeting.
Unless there are circumstances when the details or nature of the allegation cannot be shared immediately, the foster carers should be advised of the allegation as agreed at the Strategy Meeting and of the process to be followed in the investigation, including the possibility that an Initial Child Protection Conference may be convened in relation to their own children.
Where considered appropriate by those at the Strategy Meeting, the foster carers should be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations before any final decision is made about necessary action to protect the child and other children in the household. Such protective action may include asking the person against whom the allegation has been made to leave the household while the investigation is conducted.
Any decision to suspend further placements with the foster carer while the investigation is being conducted should be communicated in writing to the foster carer by the Unit Manager of the Supervising Social Worker.
Those supporting the foster carers must contact the foster carers as soon as practicable after the foster carers are made aware of the allegation, and explain their role to the foster carers. They must make clear their responsibility to report to the Local Authority, the Police and in some circumstances to the Court if any information relevant to the investigation comes to their attention. They must inform the foster carers on how they will be supported whilst they are under investigation.
All foster carers against whom allegations are made and where the child is removed while investigation is being conducted will be paid the reward element of the fostering allowance only if there is no other child in the placement. The full allowance will be reinstated after the investigation and where the child is returned to the household.
If an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, the Conference Chair must be consulted in advance to discuss whether the foster carers should be invited to attend. In any event, the Child Social Worker is to obtain the views of the foster carers for and communicated to the Conference.
3.3 Concluding the Investigation
The Strategy Meeting will be reconvened to conclude the investigation. The same people will be invited and the same person will chair the meeting.
The purpose of the final Strategy Meeting is to agree on the outcome of the investigation and responsibilities for any further action including presenting the findings to the Fostering Panel and/or considering whether it may be appropriate to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion of the foster carers on the Children's Barred List.
Although this will always be envisaged as the final meeting, should new information come to light further actions may be required thereby necessitating the suspension and rescheduling of the meeting.
Prior to Fostering Panel, the foster carers and their representative should have seen, and had time to comment on the report being presented to the Panel 28 days before the date of the panel. The procedure to be adopted for the Fostering Panel will be the same as for any other foster parent review - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
All relevant documents in relation to the investigation, whatever the outcome, must be retained on the child's and the foster parent’s records, a copy of which should be given to the parent.
Consideration should be given to holding a debriefing meeting for all involved as to the impact of the allegations and the investigation, whatever the outcome, and any necessary assistance made available.
Insurance And Foster Care
It is your responsibility to advise your household and car insurers that you are fostering. Premiums are not usually affected and most household content policies include accidental damage.
We strongly advise you to ensure that you have adequate insurance in place, in particular for accidental damage.
If you are using your car to transport foster children you must have a fully comprehensive insurance cover.
Fostering While On Benefits
You are not entitled to claim state benefits and allowances for fostered children such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.
Any taxable ‘profit’ you make from fostering (on which you pay income tax) will be taken into account for any Child Tax Credit you may be entitled to in respect of your own children and in calculating Working Tax Credit entitlement.