SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers
A new Section 2, Protocol for Supporting Foster Carers within Their First Year of Approval, was added to this chapter in July 2017.
- Protocol for Supporting Foster Carers within Their First Year of Approval
- Supervising Social Worker’s Planned Visits
- Supervising Social Worker’s Unannounced Visits
- General Tasks of the Supervising Social Worker
- Pre-Placement Tasks of Supervising Social Worker
- Tasks of Supervising Social Worker During Child’s Placement
- Tasks of Supervising Social Worker at End of Placement
- Tasks of Supervising Social Worker if Allegations are Made Against the Carer
All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified supervising social worker. The supervising social worker is responsible for supporting carers, ensuring that they have the necessary guidance, support and direction to maintain a consistent and high quality service. This will include an understanding that they must work within the National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011 and the agency's policies, procedures and guidance.
However, it is the social worker of the child or children in the foster placement who hold responsibility for individual placements of children and who therefore will provide specific advice or support in relation to any child in the placement and his or her Care Plan and Placement Plan.
The supervising social worker will ensure that lines of communication between the foster carer and the child's social worker are open and effective.
2. Protocol for Supporting Foster Carers within Their First Year of Approval
- No placements outside terms of approval;
- Fostering Team Manager to meet new foster carers as soon after approval as possible;
- Planned placements only with robust matching and introductions prior to placement;
- Be mindful of the number of changes in SSW, our aim would be no more than two during the first year;
- Carers to be booked on to Safeguarding and First Aid training immediately following panel;
- Personal Development Plan to be discussed at their first supervision following approval and reviewed when first placement arrives;
- Carers to be "buddied" up with experienced foster carer of children within a similar age range. Consideration given to possible support needs of male carers - a male buddy;
- Supervising Social Worker to accompany carers to all meetings, Placement planning meeting, LAC, PEP etc;
- During their first placement they should receive a minimum of weekly phone calls in addition to regular home/office visits, until such time as the carer is happy for this level of contact to be reduced;
- Introduced to their carer-co-coordinator who will offer to accompany them to coffee mornings and introduce to other foster carers;
- Invitation to Induction morning;
- One to one session with supervising social worker to include overview of social services structure and processes;
- Carers introduced to the concept of a resource library to encourage a variety of different training forums- providing reading material, articles and dvds from our library.
Support for children of foster carers
- Ensure a culture of inclusion from the start;
- Wishes and feelings of the children to be gathered during the first placement rather than waiting until the first household review;
- Support them to make links with our children's Fostering ambassador, Bethan Jones;
- Ensure sons and daughters receive thanks for their contribution.
3. Supervising Social Worker’s Planned Visits
The supervising social worker will complete visits to undertake formal supervision and informal contact with a clear agenda.
A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carer’s FWi record and one copy given to the foster carer. The record should include:
- Details of who was present;
- Details of children currently in placement and issues arising from their placement - education, health, leisure;
- Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer’s own family;
- Any changes to the carer’s household;
- Whether the child’s room was seen - any issues raised;
- Any other household issues;
- Training/development issues for the foster carer and family including personal development plans for each carer, linked to their training and their annual review;
- Health and Safety issues;
- Safe caring including environmental issues;
- Foster carer’s recording;
- Details of any unauthorised absences of children from the household since the last visit - see Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual, Children Missing From Home Procedure;
- Details of the use of Consequences or control since the last visit;
- Details of any accidents for foster children since the last visit.
Planned visits to the carer should be within 2 weeks of a placement and thereafter a minimum of six weekly when a child is placed, or three monthly where there is no placement, with telephone contact at least every four weeks.
A child’s Placement Plan/Placement Information Record may provide for more frequent visits.
In stable long term placements, a three-monthly visiting pattern is the absolute minimum direct contact allowed and this is only permitted if it is alternated with a social worker visiting on a similar basis so that a minimum six-weekly pattern of visiting is maintained.
Additional visits should be made when reasonably requested by the foster carer.
4. Supervising Social Worker's Unannounced Visits
There should also be unannounced visits at least once a year - these should take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and will usually be on weekdays. The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.
Supervising social workers 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 foster child.
If the carer is not at home, the family placement social worker should leave a note for the foster carer to say that they have visited. If the foster child is being looked after by someone other than the carer, the family placement social worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit.
Unannounced visits should be recorded on the FWi Unannounced Visit episode.
5. General Tasks of the Supervising Social Worker
Supervising social workers should ensure the following tasks are done:
- Ensure approval letter is discussed and given to new carer(s), Foster Carer Agreement is completed with the new carer and is uploaded to FWi and a hard copy placed on carers paper file;
- Give Foster Carers’ Handbook (Oxfordshire County Council Website) link to new carer;
- Provide carer with Foster Carer Diary and explain the use of the diary for appointments and other non-personal information;
- Welcome pack
- Welcome letter from Fostering Service Manager;
- Welcome letter from OFCA;
- Welcome letter from Fostering Network;
- Induction Day;
- Contact Sheet - important telephone numbers;
- Latest OFCA Magazine;
- KEEP Project letter;
- Training information, Learning and Development Team;
- Bank details form;
- Confirm your details;
- Fostering Handbook and training;
- Leisure centre benefits letter;
- Oxford United Football club letter;
- ‘My Family Fosters’ Handbook for sons and daughters of foster carers;
- Self-employed information for foster carers.
- Provide Training Portfolio and recording file;
- Panel Administrator registers new carers with ‘Fostering Network’ and ‘Oxfordshire’s Foster Carers Register’;
- Explain about the availability of relief care, which will be discussed on a case by case basis and wherever possible set out in the child’s Placement Plan at the beginning of the placement.
6. Pre-Placement Tasks of Supervising Social Worker
- Complete safe caring policy, including risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing (each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has to be agreed by the placing authority), 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;
- Help foster family devise welcome pack based on safe caring policy;
- Take part in discussions about potential placements;
- Take part in introductory planning discussions relating to long term placements with carers;
- Take part in planning meetings regarding short term placements;
- Take part in placement planning meetings, ensuring that individual risk assessments are completed by social workers to complement activity risk assessments;
- Ensure social worker gives foster family required information and foster carer has necessary information on behaviour management and any other pertinent information;
- Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents;
- Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education. Make sure carers realise they must register the child with a local GP, dentist and school, where appropriate, and that s(he) should be booked in for a Health Assessment and have a medical consent form signed by the parent;
- Assist carer with training needs for appropriate safer care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children;
- If a child has special health needs, to ensure that the foster carers have received child specific training to meet those needs as laid down in the Shared Care Protocols for Children;
- Discuss financial issues with the carer: allowances, pocket money for clothing, leisure activities, toiletries and travelling etc. and the importance of Insurance;
- Enquire about holiday plans. Have they made plans for the child to come with them?
- Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family;
- Set date of first visit (within two weeks of placement);
- Provide carers with training and written Fostering Handbook.
7. Tasks of Supervising Social Worker during Child's Placement
- Where necessary, check and follow up on all issues raised during pre-placement. Discuss any areas of concern with carers and ensure appropriate support/advice is addressed and in place at the time rather than waiting for reviews;
- Provide foster carers with breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children;
- Take part in Strategy Discussions/Strategy Meetings and Child Protection Assessments relating to link families. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed. See Complaints, Allegations or Concerns about Standards of Care in Relation to Foster Carers and Members of their Household Procedure;
- Ensure they and the foster carers receive invitations to child’s Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences, and attend when appropriate;
- Carry out foster carer’s Annual Review, (see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
- Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and carers’ family and children. Identify training needs, inform carers of relevant courses relating to training and support groups. The expectation is to complete their Fostering Induction Standards and mandatory training; first aid and safeguarding, and manual handling (disability foster carers);
- Visit regularly. Be active in protecting and promoting their interests. Ensure the foster child and members of the carer’s own family are seen as often as possible at these meetings;
- Make unannounced visits as required;
- Organise equipment as required;
- Update DBS on members of the family every three years, including those reaching sixteen years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are sixteen or over;
- Update medicals on the carers as necessary;
- Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood;
- Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed;
- Record contact with carers;
- Provide reports for Panel when linking, updating, extending use and inform Panel of significant changes;
- Contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child’s social worker;
- If the carer is also a childminder, liaise with OFSTED regarding approval and notify of any Child Protection allegations, concerns, etc;
- Send carer a Christmas/appropriate religious card on behalf of the Department;
- Follow procedure in Altering the Approval of a Foster Carer and Exemptions Procedure where an exemption is required.
When any placement ends, the supervising social worker has a responsibility to ensure that a period of reflection is provided to celebrate and note the successes and learn from mistakes and deal with any issues of loss.
If an unplanned termination of the placement occurs, the family placement social worker should:
- 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 the end of placement and identify any learning/training opportunities;
- Attend a Disruption Meeting if one is held - see Disruption Meetings (Foster/Residential Placements) Procedure.
Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the family placement social worker should:
- Support the family;
- Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation;
- Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during it;
- Make the carer’s aware of the supervising social worker’s possible conflict of interests and advise them to seek independent support from the local Carer Coordinator and the Fostering Network Advice and Mediation Officer;
- Discuss with manager in supervision to agree a plan.