Complaints, Allegations or Serious Concerns about Standards of Care in Relation to Foster Carers or Members of their Household
This chapter was updated in July 2017 to reflect local practice.
- The Welfare of Children in Foster Care
- Allegations against Foster Carers
- Allegations Regarding Child Protection
- Allegations Regarding Standards of Care
- Termination of Approval
- Resignation of during the Course of an Investigation
- Support to Foster Carers
In the preparation of this chapter, discussions have taken place with foster carers who have been involved in allegations made against them and their families. Reference was also made to the Fostering Network guidance in relation to Managing Allegations (2006). In addition to this, the DfE document 'Getting the Best from Complaints' has been referred to. The chapter has been revised to take account of the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, Associated Guidance and National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011.
This chapter covers complaints or allegations, concerning child care matters, made against foster carers. Adherence is to be paid to the statutory guidance in Working Together to Safeguard Children and the procedure of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, Allegations against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure. Reference should also be made to the Fostering Standards, Regulations and statutory guidance for fostering (2011) and the DFES leaflet, Protecting Children: Supporting Foster Carers, providing foster carers with advice on what to expect in the event of an allegation or other serious concern.
All allegations against foster carers must be taken seriously. The high standards of care expected of foster carers imply that many allegations or complaints will need investigation. However, not all will involve Significant Harm and thus they will not all constitute allegations of child abuse as defined in Working Together to Safeguard Children.
Within the Working Together framework, there may be up to four strands in the consideration of an allegation against a foster carer:
- A police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
- Enquiries and assessment by Children's Social Care about whether a child is in need of protection or in need of services;
- The operation of the Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure concerning a review of a foster carer's suitability to foster, and the decisions of the Fostering Service's Panel and Decision Maker, in accordance with the Fostering Services Regulations 2011;
- A complaint against a foster carer will almost certainly constitute a complaint by or on behalf of a child and must be dealt with under the complaints procedures.
These may be actioned simultaneously depending on the circumstances. For example, the fostering service may decide to suspend the foster carer's approval while a police investigation and/or enquiry by Children's Social Care is underway, and pending a review of the carer's approval to foster.
All cases will be referred to the relevant Assessment Team, for an initial consultation. The Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Procedures set out the process for dealing with those allegations which need a child protection response, i.e. a response under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 - see Section 4, Allegations Regarding Child Protection.
However, if the case does not warrant a child protection response, then staff will follow the procedures for allegations relating to standards of care - see Section 5, Allegations Regarding Standards of Care.
This chapter also provide some guidance in managing the borderline between the two categories.
In all cases, the Service Manager with responsibility for the Fostering Services must be informed promptly of the allegation and will be involved in any subsequent discussion. In the event of serious disagreement, the Team Manager with responsibility for the child and/or the LADO should arrange a meeting of the staff concerned in order to resolve the issue. An episode on the foster carer's FWi file should be completed to record all allegations and complaints, of whatever nature, and their outcome. Service Manager for Fostering and the LADO will also keep a record.
2. The Welfare of Children in Foster Care
Children in foster care are in a vulnerable position, and deserve the highest standards of care and protection. This has been reinforced by reports commissioned by the government (e.g. Every Child Matters, Working Together to Safeguard Children) and local authorities are expected to ensure high standards for all children Looked After. Local authorities have a range of powers and duties to protect foster children from harm, whether or not it is considered to constitute child abuse. What is a minor incident for a child who has grown up in relative security may be much more threatening and distressing to a child who has known instability or abuse.
If a child or young person makes an allegation and or wishes to make a complaint under Stage 1 of the complaints procedure, local authorities must provide information about advocacy services and offer to help obtain an advocate. The child or young person is entitled to advocacy support that is independent and confidential. Leaflets that are age appropriate should be available for all children who require them.
All allegations need to be treated seriously and constitute a Stage 1 Complaint and hence the investigation by social workers needs to comply with the complaints procedure including the timescales outlined in the Complaints Procedure in accordance with the Complaint Regulations (2006).
In some cases of abuse/allegations, the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Safeguarding Children Procedures may need to take precedence over the complaints procedure in the interests of the child's safety.
If a child or other complainant is unhappy with the outcome resulting from a Stage 1 complaint they have the option of proceeding to Stage 2.
Difficult decisions sometimes have to be made about how to handle an investigation in the child's best interests. For example, in deciding whether to remove a child, the need to protect them from possible ill treatment may have to be balanced against the need to avoid abrupt change. In these difficult professional judgements, consideration must be given to the views of those who know the child, and the advice of colleagues. Children must always be listened to carefully before making any decision that affects them.
Restraint and Control: There is additional guidance on the Use of Restraint and Control in Relation to Children Placed in Foster Homes - this is in the foster carers' handbook.
Corporal Punishment: The Foster Care Agreement page 8 Section 12, requires carers to agree that they will not use corporal punishment in line with County Council policy.
3. Allegations Against Foster Carers
Any member of staff dealing with an allegation against a foster carer or a member of their household will need to consider whether the issue is one of safeguarding.
If it is, they should follow the relevant Safeguarding Procedures and Section 4, Allegations Regarding Child Protection. If it is not, they should follow the procedures for Allegations about Standards of Care and Section 5, Allegations Regarding Standards of Care.
If it subsequently becomes clear that the allegation needs to be handled differently, the decision must be taken by those with operational responsibility for the case. In the event of serious doubt or disagreement, the Team Manager with responsibility for the child should arrange an urgent meeting of staff concerned in order to resolve the issue.
4. Allegations Regarding Child Protection
Where it is considered that the issue is one of child protection, the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board's Safeguarding Procedures - Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure - should be followed in full.
Attention is drawn to:
- The need for good communication at all stages between the many members of staff who may be involved. Although Fostering staff will not be directly involved in the investigation, they should always be invited to contribute to its planning;
- The duty to apply the same standards in this as in any other Child Protection Assessment. This means that:
- Notwithstanding the high standards of care expected of foster carers, the threshold of child protection should not be lower than for children in their own families i.e. if there is a likelihood of Significant Harm;
- Foster carers should be accorded the same rights as natural parents to information about the nature of any allegation and the progress of an investigation, subject only to the need not to prejudice the safety of children;
- If a child is removed, it should be clear whether this is being done for his or her protection or for other reasons to do with the plan for the child (foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility should be informed of the reasons);
- Carers must be informed of the financial implications of the allegation in terms of possible changes to their fees and allowances;
- Carers must have access to legal representation through membership of the Fostering Network;
- Carers must be supported at every stage of the process.
4.1 The Investigation
Referral and Initial Discussion
Whoever receives an allegation concerning the physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment of a child by foster carers or a member of their household should refer the details immediately to the child's social worker and the Assessment Team where the child resides (i.e. placement address).
- The Assessment Team worker will inform their line manager;
- If it is determined that an investigation is necessary, then the Team Manager of the Assessment Team where the child is placed will initiate and supervise the investigation. The following personnel should be informed as soon as possible by the Assessment Team worker or Team Manager:
- The child's social worker and line manager;
- The LADO;
- The carer's supervising social worker and line manager;
- The Fostering Service Manager;
- The Fostering Team Manager will decide whether this should be referred to the Comments and Complaints Officer;
- OFSTED (Ofsted will be informed of the instigation of any child protection enquiry involving serious harm to a child placed with foster carers and kept informed of the progress of the investigation).
- Agency checks will be carried out by the Assessment Team worker as per general child protection procedures;
- The investigating social worker will, if appropriate and always where a crime is suspected, inform the police to request a joint investigation. Foster carers and staff should be aware that Section 115 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 allows for the disclosure of information by and to the police, for the prevention, detection and reduction of crime, as long as disclosure is necessary and expedient for the purposes of this Act;
- In situations where the foster carer is not aware of the allegation, the decision regarding the timing of notification will be made collectively by the Police, Children's Social Care and the Fostering Service. The foster carer will be informed at the earliest opportunity as long as it is consistent with the safety of the child;
- All relevant details of the allegation and subsequent meetings and contacts must be fully recorded;
- A Strategy Meeting may be called to determine the type of investigation required. Information about the child and foster carer and issues regarding safeguarding will be considered. Decisions about the disclosure of information to key people and temporary changes of the foster carers's approval terms will be made (see Managing Allegations and Serious Concerns About Foster Carers' Practice: A Guide for Fostering Services, Fostering Network, 2006);
- The Strategy Meeting should be chaired by the Assessment Team Manager.
Attendees should include:
- Assessment Team Manager;
- Child's Social Worker;
- Fostering Team Manager;
- Foster Carer Supervising social worker and/or Team Manager;
- The LADO;
- The Police;
- Any other agency involved with the child or foster family.
The decisions of the Strategy Meeting will be communicated to the foster carer by the supervising social worker or Team Manager, who will also ensure the carer:
- Is given access to or a copy of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Safeguarding Procedures;
- Has access to legal advice and representation;
- Understands the process of the enquiry and why it is taking place;
- Knows when, where and by whom interviews will be conducted;
- Is informed of the independent support that will be provided;
- Is informed about the financial arrangements the fostering service provider will make in relation to allowances/fees if fostered children are removed or the carer is temporarily suspended from taking further placements;
- Knows the reasons for the removal of the children, if applicable;
- Is informed in writing of the current status of their approval to foster;
- Is assisted in communicating with investigating agencies;
- Is informed verbally, and in writing on a regular basis of the progress of the investigation.
The Assessment Team worker and Team Manager, in conjunction with the Fostering Team and the social work team responsible for the child, will decide if any immediate action is required to safeguard the child.If it is felt unsafe for a child to remain in the family whilst an investigation is carried out, care must be taken to ensure that the child in question is supported through advocacy. If it is decided at the completion of the investigation that the child should not return to the carers a LAC review should take place.
The Team Manager for the Assessment Team will be designated as having a coordinating role for the investigation, ensuring good communication between all the professionals involved, and will approve the conclusion of the investigation whether the allegations are substantiated or not.
Planning the Investigation
In planning the investigation, the following must be considered:
- The nature of the allegation, its source, credibility and reliability;
- The knowledge that the agency has of the carers;
- The knowledge of the child, including the child's needs and how to inform and support the child through the investigation process; in every case the child will be offered the services of an advocate who will meet with them within 5 working days of the allegation being made;
- The safety of all children in the household, including the foster carer's own children;
- How, when and who will inform the foster carers of the allegation and plan for investigation;
- The need to inform the child's parents of the allegation (discretion over the timing of this may be used);
- The need to inform other relevant professionals involved with the child;
- The need to inform the agency that placed the child (if not Oxfordshire);
- The need to inform other agencies who use this foster placement, or have used it;
- The need to inform Ofsted;
- What support can be offered to the carers;
- Whether the matter needs to be reported to the Fostering Panel, and whether a decision should be made to suspend further placements in the meantime;
- The need for follow up Strategy Meetings.
4.2 Decision Making
A report of the findings of the investigation, identifying any further concerns regarding standards of care, will be written and sent to the foster carer before the final Strategy Meeting, with the opportunity for representations.
Decisions regarding the need for further action, a review or termination of approval will be made within 2 days of this meeting.
Where allegations are concluded to be without foundation, all records should be retained but the conclusion must be made explicit on both the child's and foster carers' files, a copy of which should be given to the carer.
Where allegations prove to be inconclusive, the future of all children in the household and the future status and use of the foster carers must be considered.
At whatever point the child protection investigation is concluded, a clear and comprehensive summary should be completed to include details of any allegations made against the carer or member of the fostering household, details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved and a record of any action taken and decisions reached. A copy of the report should be sent to the manager responsible for the Fostering Service and the LADO. A copy should also be given to the foster carer as soon as the investigation is concluded. This information should also be placed on the foster carer's file.
Following an investigation there will be ongoing support offered to a carer and it is the supervising social workers task to ensure all those who are supporting the family are aware of the plans.At the conclusion of the investigation, the child will be invited to take the matter to stage 2 of the complaints procedure if they are unhappy with the outcome. They should also be helped to contact Ofsted should they wish to.
5. Allegations Regarding Standards of Care
This section is concerned with allegations or complaints that foster carers have fallen below the high standards expected of them: for instance, in using physical punishment, treating a child unfairly, or in any other way failing to promote the welfare of children for whom they are responsible. This presupposes that a judgement had already been reached that any physical punishment does not constitute abuse and does not require a child protection response on the basis of what is currently known.
Allegations about standards of care should be dealt with jointly by an appropriate Family Placement worker and by the social worker for any child involved, as directed by their respective managers. The LADO will be informed immediately and and the Comments and Complaints officer will be notified at the discretion of the Fostering Team Manager. Where an investigation is necessary, the foster carer will receive written notification, including information on:
- The substance of the allegation;
- Who will be involved in investigating the allegation;
- The process and time-scales;
- Who will be informed or interviewed;
- The right of the foster carer to independent advice and support throughout the process and details of where this can be obtained;
- Financial arrangements;
- Decisions about children currently in the placement and reasons for them;
- Any temporary variation in the foster carers' terms of approval;
- Next steps. (Model Procedure for Fostering Service Providers: Appendix 1, Support for Foster Carers, Fostering Network, 2006).
Arrangements required to safeguard a placement, e.g. temporary alternative accommodation for a member of the household, will be considered and assistance provided where possible.
The Fostering worker will ensure that the foster carer has access to appropriate independent support and will seek to support the carer throughout the process. (See Section 8, Support to Foster Carers).
Full information should be obtained from the complainant and any other relevant person (e.g. child, other children in the household, parents, school, health professionals, previous carers), and the matter fully discussed with the foster carers, wherever practicable within five working days. Notes of the discussion with the carers should be written up within seven working days and sent to them for their comments. A full report should then be made to the appropriate managers. If at any time a need for child protection measures is identified, the appropriate referral should be made and the investigation about standards of care should be suspended.
If the child has made the complaint or allegation it will be investigated under Stage 1 of the complaints procedure. If the child is unhappy about the outcome, they should be invited to follow the complaints procedure/or Stage 2, given the number of Ofsted and our own Complaints Office, who will make an advocate available to them to support them throughout the process, if they so desire.
In every case the child will be offered the services of an advocate who will meet with them within 5 working days of the complaint being made. At the conclusion of the investigation, the child will be invited to take the matter to stage 2 of the complaints procedure if they are unhappy with the outcome. They should also be helped to contact Ofsted, should they wish to.
Any complaint made by the carer against the Department should be investigated thoroughly at the same time in accordance with the Oxfordshire County Council Corporate Complaints Policy.Where it transpires that a foster carer has, for example, smacked the child, there needs to be a full discussion with the foster carers' supervising social worker and/or the child's social worker as to:
- The circumstances leading up to this event;
- Why other strategies were not used;
- Did the foster carers themselves report the incident to staff;
- The implications of the Foster Care Agreement and this clause in particular - will the carer seek to act within the agreement in future;
- Any training needs;
- Any support needs;
- Is this child particularly difficult?
- What strategies will be used in future?
At the conclusion of an investigation:
- All standard of care incidents and investigations are taken seriously. The number of issues that are recorded will be monitored carefully by the Team Managers and discussion will take place with the Service Manager for Fostering;
- Those responsible for the welfare of any children involved will need to consider whether any changes need to be made to their plans;
- The foster carers should be informed clearly in writing and by visit of the outcome of the investigation at this stage, even if further consideration is necessary, i.e. even if it is only an interim response;
- The Fostering Service Manager will review the details of the investigation and will confirm whether the carers' terms of approval should be reviewed under the Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure. The views of the Adoption or Fostering Panel should be sought if appropriate. This decision will be taken by the Fostering Service Manager in consultation with colleagues. Referral to Panel will depend on extent or frequency, of problems, but if termination is thought to be the appropriate course, a report must be taken back to Panel and the carer may well be referred to Ofsted;
- If a decision is taken to review the carers' approval at the Fostering Panel, the supervising social worker must complete a household review and include a detailed chronology of all previous allegations, complaints or standards of care issues together with details of actions taken and the outcome. The report must also include a chronology of previous placements and any training undertaken by the carers. The report must be signed by the supervising social worker and Team Manager;
- If the matter is considered by the Fostering Panel the carers should be advised of the outcome of the panel process in writing and their right of representation and to appeal against the decision made clear in writing. Any disagreement between Panel and the Agency Decision Maker will be referred to the Corporate Parenting Manager;
- A review of a foster carer's approval following an allegation or serious concern should normally be completed within 27 working days (10 days for the investigating officer's report, 2 days for the fostering service's decision on a Panel hearing, and 15 days for Panel to take place and a decision to be made);
- Following a review of a foster carer's suitability to foster as a result of an allegation or serious concern, the fostering service should review the circumstances of the case and the way any investigation was conducted to determine whether there are any improvements to be made in their procedures or practice.
6. Termination of Approval
In all cases, the Fostering Service Manager must be contacted, who will make the decision whether to suspend the carer's status during the investigation. This in turn will be marked on the Foster Carers' Register.
If the investigation then identifies serious concerns and/or unanswered questions about either the carer, or their care of a child, then further specialist assessments may be carried out. A report must be prepared for Panel who will make a recommendation about the carer's future registration.
The Agency Decision Maker will make the final decision/qualifying determination. If consideration is being given to ending the approval for a carer, because of child care concerns, then they will be notified and offered representation. Carers who have their approval terminated for child protection/standards of care will be notified in writing and offered 28 days to appeal against any decision/qualifying determination made. Any disagreements about decision making will be referred to the Safeguarding manager and deputy director who will make the final decision. The lead member for children (Corporate Parenting Panel) will be informed of any disagreements.
Carers should be aware that termination of approval resulting from a child protection investigation or standards of care could well result in a referral to the Secretary of State for consideration of inclusion in the Protection of Children List. (See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure). Likewise, Ofsted requires that serious complaints against foster carers are notified to them.
Some people will be automatically barred from becoming a foster carer because either they or an adult member of their household have been cautioned for or, convicted of, certain offences committed at or above the age of 18. It is important to check any offences committed at or above the age of 18 and against the details given in Regulation 26 and schedule 4.
Extract from regulation 26:
|(5)||Subject to paragraph (8), X is not suitable to be a foster parent if X, or any member of X's household aged 18 or over-|
|(a)||has been convicted of a specified offence committed at the age of 18 or over, or|
|(b)||has been cautioned by a constable in respect of any such offence.
|(6)||In paragraph (5) "specified offence" means-|
|(a)||an offence against a child,|
|(b)||an offence specified in Part 1 of Schedule 4,|
|(c)||an offence contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979(19) in relation to goods prohibited to be imported under Section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876(20) (prohibitions and restrictions relating to pornography) where the prohibited goods included indecent photographs of children under the age of 16,|
|(d)||any other offence involving bodily injury to a child, other than an offence of common assault or battery, and the expression "offence against a child" has the meaning given to it by Section 26(1) of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000(21) except that it does not include an offence contrary to Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003(22) (sexual activity with a child) in a case where the offender was under the age of 20 at the time the offence was committed and the child was aged 13 or over.|
Other Criminal Offences
- Not all Criminal Offences permanently or temporarily exclude a person from Fostering;
- Those who have been convicted of criminal offences of a violent nature are not eligible to foster, except in cases where: considerable time has passed, no further offences have been committed during that time, and an open disclosure of the nature, timing and circumstances is made;
- In all cases an open & honest disclosure must be made of any criminal offence and the circumstances around that offence. A full and detailed assessment will be made in every case.
7. Resignation during the Course of an Investigation
Resignation should not prevent an allegation being followed up and a conclusion should be reached and recorded. Working Together to Safeguard Children: A Guide to Inter-agency Working to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children, DfES, 2006.
If the foster carer resigns before or during an investigation, the Fostering Service manager will immediately notify the senior manager/s in the local authorities responsible for all the children involved.
A report will be considered by the Fostering Panel, including where necessary a recommendation for referral for inclusion on the Children's barred list. Panel will submit a recommendation to the fostering service decision-maker. Ofsted should be informed of any decision to refer a carer for inclusion on the Children's barred list.Where a foster carer wishes to transfer to another fostering provider during the course of an investigation, the foster carer's current provider will notify the other fostering agency that the foster carer is subject to investigation/review of approval.
8. Support to Foster Carers
The Department is committed to ensuring that all foster carers are properly supported, especially at times when they are under particular pressure. This support may be provided by Departmental staff or by outside service (please see page 12 for details). In any case, it is the responsibility of the family placement team to see that the support is there when it is needed.
8.1 Preventative Measures
Supervision, training (pre - and post - approval) and continuing support and guidance are in place to ensure that foster carers are enabled to safeguard children in the placement and minimise the possibility of allegations being made against them. The tasks and risks involved in fostering are made clear in the preparation process.
Written guidelines for foster carers on Safe Caring and Recording are provided, along with training on behaviour management, self-esteem, abuse and safe caring. All foster carers will record any incidents or complaints made by children placed with them.
8.2 Support In the Event of an Allegation
Every effort is made to establish a fair and honest relationship between the fostering service provider and the foster carer. The foster carer will be informed as quickly as possible of any allegation against them and kept promptly informed of enquiry procedures and timescales, progress and decisions throughout the investigation. They will be given opportunity to answer any allegation against them prior to a decision about their future as foster carers.
Foster carers will be provided with ongoing support from their supervising social worker and informed of independent sources of advice and support and advice about insurance arrangements for legal expenses. Carer coordinators are also available.Criminal investigation is unlikely in relation to standards of care, but where it occurs in child protection cases, the carers should be advised of their right to obtain legal advice (which is provided by the legal membership of NFN).
If appropriate a meeting will be offered to foster carers at the conclusion of any investigation, providing them with a forum in which to consider:
- The impact of the allegation and investigation on the foster carers and the family member who was the subject of the allegation/others in the family;
- The impact of any decision to remove children in placement;
- The needs of everyone in the foster carers' family;
- The perspective of the fostering service provider;
- Clarification of the foster carer's current approval to foster and the need for any review of their approval;
- The foster family's comments on the way in which the fostering service provider undertook their roles and responsibilities;
- How any needs raised by the foster carers or identified by the fostering service will be met.
The Evaluation Meeting should be chaired by the Fostering Team Manager or Service Manager and attended by the foster carers and their supervising social worker. A record of the meeting should be sent to all in attendance.
8.3 Independent Sources of Support
Access to information and advice from an independent source will be made available to foster carers immediately following any allegation against them or notification from the fostering service of a serious concern about their practice or standards of care. In accordance with Standard 22.12 of the National Minimum Standards 2011 independent support will be provided during an investigation into an allegation. An independent provider will be commissioned, in consultation with the foster carer, and consideration given to support for the foster carer's sons and daughters, whether or not the allegation has been made against them. Independent support will remain available throughout any review of a foster carer's approval.
Independent support may take many forms and not all will be appropriate in all cases. It may include information and advice, mediation, advocacy, emotional support.
Details of Oxfordshire Carer Co-ordinators are available from Supervising Social Workers.
All Oxfordshire foster carers are automatically members of the Fostering Network and are encouraged to use their advice and mediation service.
Fostering Network Contact details
Telephone: 07918 684990
(7 days a week/24 hours a day)
A 24-hour legal advice line is made available to individual carers upon registration.
'Fosterline' has been commissioned by the DfE to provide a national information and advice service to foster carers. The service operates between 9.00am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday except bank holidays.
Freephone: 0800 040 7675
Textphone: 0800 040 7675
Providing advocates/Independent visitors for young people looked after by Oxfordshire county council.
Some carers may need private counselling from someone unconnected with the Department. The Fostering Service Manager can authorise some funding with a counsellor recognised by the Department. Please also see the names and addresses listed in the Handbook/support guide contained in the Statement of Purpose.
Financial Implications for Foster Carers:
The payments and allowances received by a foster carer may be affected by an allegation. The Fostering Service will confirm in writing the details of financial support available to carers where children have been removed or who are suspended from taking further placements.
Fostering Network Recommendations:
The letter terminating a foster carer's approval should also confirm when payments will cease.
Arrangements for paying foster carers in the event of an allegation or serious concern should be set out in the foster carers' handbook and confirmed in writing to the foster carer if they are suspended from taking further placements.
Role of Supervising Social Worker:
Whether the allegation is of abuse or of poor standards of care, the supervising social worker has the prime responsibility for ensuring that foster carers are properly supported during and after an investigation, and that they are properly informed, as far as practicable in writing, and their views heard. However, the supervising social worker may also have the prime responsibility for investigating allegations where they concern standards of care. Furthermore, any allegation of abuse is likely to raise questions about standards of care. All this has implications for the role of the supervising social worker:
- Support for the carers is likely to involve some discussion of the substance of the allegations against them and the supervising social worker will often begin to form their own view of the situation. This needs to be acknowledged;
- The supervising social worker may have to represent the views of the carers to colleagues, as well as maintaining an objective viewpoint of their own. Good supervision will be necessary to avoid the danger of collusion. The involvement of another supervising social worker may be a helpful way to deal with this and it should be considered;
- Other members of staff may need to offer assistance, and in many cases it will be appropriate to encourage the carers to use alternative sources of support. (In all cases they should be given the choice).
Allegation Record Keeping:
The following information will be recorded on the carer's file and a copy given to the carer:
- Summary of allegation made;
- Details of follow up and resolution;
- Details of action taken and decisions reached.
Records should be kept on the foster carer file, even after the carer leaves the organisation, until the person reaches normal retirement age, or for 10 years if this is longer.
Protecting Children - Supporting Foster Carers: Dealing with an Allegation, DfES, 2006.
Safeguarding children in foster care: a practice guide to inform Local Safeguarding Children Boards in the preparation of local procedures, Fostering Network, 2006.
Managing Allegations and Serious Concerns About Foster Carers' Practice: A Guide for Fostering Services, Fostering Network, 2006.
Model Procedure for Fostering Service Providers: Appendix 1, Support for Foster Carers, Fostering Network, 2006.
Allegations process "Unfair", fostering survey concludes, Fostering Network News and Press Releases, Tuesday 17th October 2006.
Managing Abuse Allegations Against Foster Carers, Fostering Network, 2003.
Allegations in Foster Care: A UK Study of Foster Carers' Experiences of Allegations, Fostering Network, 2006.
The Role of Male Carers in Adoption and Fostering, Practice Note 49, CoramBAAF, 2006.
Getting the Best from Complaints, Change for Children - Every Child Matters DfES 2006.
Oxfordshire Child Protection Procedures.
The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011.
The Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011.
Statutory Guidance for the Children Act 1989: Volume 4 (revised 2011).