3.2.2 Placement with Family and Friends (Regulation 24 Placements)
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure should be read in conjunction with:
All relevant forms and leaflets can be found in the Forms Library.
This chapter was reviewed locally in December 2015 when the following information was added into Section 9, The Panel Recommendation: Where a brief report is presented to the panel, the panel is able to recommend that the applicants are not suitable to foster or request that a full assessment report is completed. In instances where the report submitted to panel does not contain all the required information, the panel is able to request that a further full report is submitted for consideration.
- Situations Where these Procedures do not Apply
- Viability Assessments
- Temporary Approval of Immediate Placements of Children Looked After with Family and Friends Connected Person(s)
- Initial Checks to be Undertaken by the Social Worker
- The Placement
- Assessment and Full Approval of Kinship Foster Carers
- The Panel Recommendation
- After the Panel Recommendation
- Representations / Independent Review Procedure
- Criteria for Foster Carers
- After the Approval
- Register of Foster Carers
- Changes in the Foster Carer's Household or Circumstances
- Ending the Placement
The following procedures cover immediate placements of Children Looked After with family and friends (also known as Connected Person(s), i.e. where the carers are not already approved as foster carers but are known to the child. As with any placement the responsible authority must be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable means to safeguard and promote the child's welfare.
Copies of all forms listed in this chapter can be found in the Forms Library.
These procedures do not apply where a child (under 16 years) goes to live with a relative or friend and this is a private arrangement between the parent/person with Parental Responsibility and carer.
If this placement continues for 28 days or more, the child may come within the definition of a Privately Fostered child. Private fostering applies when children are not placed with close relatives, in which case the local authority's duties in relation to the placement are set out in the Private Fostering Procedure.
Viability assessments are undertaken by the child's social worker in conjunction with a supervising social worker from the kinship care service. The exception to this is where the child needs to be placed immediately and temporary approval needs to be sought, when a regulation 24 assessment should be undertaken using the form KC24.
Where families are identified as potential carers for a particular child, the social work team may need to determine the likelihood of that family being a suitable carer for the child by undertaking a viability assessment using the viability assessment form. This is a different form as is used for temporary approval as kinship care foster carers when a form KC24 should be used. Where more than one family member is suggested the social worker must discuss the families with his/her team manager and for further advice, with the kinship care team in order to decide which family(s) should be considered. Consideration must be given to any established relationship and the quality of the relationship between child and potential carer; their age and health; whether there have been previous concerns about their parenting and whether there are any significant criminal convictions or concerns which would preclude them from being suitable to parent a Child Looked After. Essential checks, including frameworki and Safeguarding Protection Unit must be completed immediately. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks should be completed by requesting the applicants to complete DBS Enhanced Disclosure forms and taking the forms to be witnessed by the area social work office administrator or by careful checking against guidance by the social worker. The DBS forms will be sent to the fostering service for processing.
It is important to look at any social care records which may be held on the prospective carer in order to check historical information as well as any current issues which may preclude a person from being suitable. Family group conferences or a family group meeting are useful vehicles for eliminating or identifying the most appropriate carers (see Family Group Conference Service Procedure).
The viability report must be signed by the team manager and approval to proceed to a full assessment is given by the CSDM. Where there are concerns about the likelihood of an assessment meeting the minimum fostering standards or being suitable to obtain a special guardianship order, the CSDM may wish to discuss the case with either the manager of the kinship care team or the agency decision maker before signing the report.
Once the viability assessment has been completed and approved by the CSDM, then the completed form (viability or KC24) must be sent to the kinship care administration email box with any additional information concerning the child, e.g. date of any court proceedings, care plan and chronology and any other assessments on the child which may assist the supervising social worker in considering the child's needs in relation to the proposed carer's ability to meet the child's needs. Forms (KC24C) Agreement to disclose an assessment to the court and (KC24B) Consent to confidential enquiries must also be forwarded to the kinship care administration email box (these forms to be used alongside either a viability or KC24 form).
The kinship carer assessment will be allocated to a kinship care supervising social worker who will undertake the kinship care assessment within a 16 week period or within the timescales of the court timetable wherever possible.
4. Temporary Approval of Immediate Placements of Children Looked After with Family and Friends Connected Person(s)
Connected Person(s) are defined as: an individual who is a relative, friend or other person connected with the child. Before any placement with a relative or friend who is not already approved as a foster carer is made, the approval of the Head of Service is required.
The temporary approval of carers under the provisions set out in the 2010 Regulations are intended to be used exceptionally. There must be clearly identified reasons why the full assessment process as required by Regulations 25 & 26 of the 2011 Regulations cannot be undertaken before a placement is made. If a child is placed before the full approval of the carer as a local authority foster carer, there is a possibility that the connected person may not be approved at the end of the assessment process. The risk of a child being moved from a placement in which s/he has become settled must be minimised by careful consideration of the appropriateness of a placement before full approval. In some circumstances it may be preferable to use a short term placement with an alternative foster carer which includes appropriate contact between the child and the prospective carer pending the completion of the full foster carer approval process.
The child's wishes and feelings about the proposed arrangements must be ascertained, understood and recorded. Wherever possible, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the connected person's home before the decision is finalised. The views of the child's parents and others with parental responsibility must also be obtained before a decision is made.
Any such approval can only be given for 16 weeks from the date of the placement. After that period of time, a full kinship carer assessment must have been carried out by a supervising social worker and further approval sought at the fostering panel.
Before approval for any placement with family or friends as carers is made, the child's social worker must undertake an assessment of the suitability of the placement including the level of support likely to be required and the effect of the proposed placement upon the child's contact with parents, siblings and other relatives and friends who are significant to the child.
The 2010 Regulations specify the assessment requirements before the child may be placed under these temporary approval arrangements. See Care Planning, Placement & Review Regulations 2010: Schedule 4 - Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of connected person(s) to care for the child. These are the minimum requirements for assessing the connected person's suitability within what may be a short time frame. The regulation 24 assessment must be completed by using the assessment form (KC24) which guides you through all the information that is required before approval can be given. The relevant forms can be found in the Forms Library.
Every effort must be made to maximise the level and quality of information available to support the decision as to whether a person should be temporarily approved as a kinship foster carer. In particular the assessment must assess the quality of the existing relationship between the child and the proposed carer, as the intention of this provision is that the connected person is already known to the child.
- The social worker must provide the prospective carer with the council's kinship care leaflet;
- The proposed carer must be interviewed to ensure they are able to provide safe and adequate care, are willing and able to work to the child's Care Plan and the proposed contact arrangements, are willing to undertake a full fostering assessment (if the placement is to continue for more than 16 weeks) and understand what this will involve;
- The home must be visited by the social worker as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements. This is to ensure that the physical environment of the home and space available is suitable for that particular child and to identify the need for additional resources such as equipment for a baby or very young child or any specialist equipment to meet the needs of a disabled child in accordance with the requirement set out in this guidance;
- The home visit will also provide the opportunity to identify more clearly the composition of the household and the nature and quality of the relationships between the residents, as well as their view about the proposed arrangements for the connected person to care for the child. The assessment of suitability must also address the history and current lifestyle of other young people in the household who are under 18 years in relation to the needs of the child who is to be placed, including their views about the proposed placement and its possible impact on them;
- The proposed carer and all members of the household aged 16 years and above must be checked with the Police Public Protection Unit, Frameworki and also the Safeguarding and Review Section. Full Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks will need to be arranged immediately if the placement is to last more than a few days. All of these tasks must be completed by the social worker.
Where the social worker is in any doubt as to the suitability of the placement, s/he should consult their team manager for advice or alternatively contact the kinship care team manager.
The social worker must complete the assessment form (KC24) and make a recommendation regarding suitability.
The assessment must be signed by the team manager and CSDM before sending it for approval by the Head of Service for CLA. Where the Head of Service is not available one of the three area Heads of Service must be requested to approve the placement. Ideally the Head of Service who is not linked to the social work team should be approached.
The completed and approved Regulation 24 assessment must be sent immediately to the kinship care administration box in order that the case can be allocated for a full assessment. This form must be sent prior to or on the day the child is placed with the carer.
The proposed carer should be given information about the assessment process which will follow if the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks, including the need for DBS checks and other agency enquiries on all members of the household aged 16 years and over, as well as interviews with two referees, adult children and ex-partners, which will be part of any such fostering assessment.
The consent to enquiries form (KC24B) must be signed by the carer.
The prospective carers need to be made aware that any approval is only temporary and does not imply continued approval beyond the 16 weeks period.
Where the placement details are likely to feature in the court proceedings as a proposed long term placement for the child, the social worker must obtain the agreement of the carers to disclose the assessment report to the court using form (KC24C).
The placement may only continue after 16 weeks if the carer is approved as a foster carer following a fostering panel recommendation or if an alternative order is made by the Courts in which case the carer would cease to be a foster carer.
To continue to be a foster a carer requires an assessment report to be presented to the fostering panel and approved by the agency decision maker within 16 weeks of the child being placed. In exceptional circumstances a further eight weeks extension may be granted by the Head of Service. See Assessment of Foster Carers Procedure.
If an alternative order is to be sought then the necessary paperwork will need to be submitted to the Court.
Before placing a Child Looked After with a relative or friend, the social worker must first:
- Undertake an emergency police check with the local police station using the West Yorkshire Police External Agency Check form. Checks must be completed on all persons in the household over 16 years. This police check must be immediately followed up with an enhanced disclosure Disclosure Barring Service check. Care must be taken to complete the forms accurately and ensuring the full identification documents are seen, copied and signed by the social worker or area administrator. The completed form and supporting evidence must be sent immediately to the Fostering & Adoption Section at Merrion House for processing. Failure to complete this task will result in delays in achieving either a placement or approval;
- The social worker must also check Frameworki to see if the proposed carers are known to the department and whether there are any concerns about them in respect of parenting their own children or any other significant concerns which may deem them unsuitable to care for children;
- Additional checks with the Health Authority, Health Visitor and with the GP are completed by the kinship fostering administrator on receipt of the assessment form (KC24) by the social worker.
A Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement or, where this is not possible because of the urgency of the placement, within five working days, as for all Children Looked After.
Where the placement appears suitable and is approved a written Placement Agreement should be completed by the child's social worker with the proposed carer and signed off by the CSDM.
The carer must also sign the Foster Carer Agreement (KC24A ) and a copy of the agreement should be kept on file and a copy given to the carer. Connected person(s) approved under the regulations will be entitled to the same support and services, including allowances payable / available to unrelated approved local authority foster carers.
On the placement of the child, the child's social worker will ensure the child's Care Plan and the written Placement Agreement is given to the carer. These forms must be signed by the CSDM.
If the child was not previously Looked After, the child's social worker will send a notification of the child's placement and a request for the child's first Looked After Review to the Safeguarding and Reviewing Team.
Weekly visits (until the first review and then four weekly until full approval) will enable the child's social worker to assess the quality of the child's experience in the placement and how the relationship with the carer and other members of the household is developing. In particular, the social worker must consider whether any additional support and services are required to ensure that the placement continues to meet the child.
The child's social worker must visit and see the child alone in the placement (unless she/he refuses). The visits are to be fully recorded as statutory visits.
The child's social worker will update the electronic record with the details of the placement and notify the finance section of the placement to trigger payments to the carer.
Notification of the placement must be sent immediately to the kinship care team via the kinship care administration email box sending the (KC24) assessment and a request for allocation to a fostering officer.
Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the relevant local Children's Services Department if the placement is in a different local authority area.
The child's social worker must notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.
These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed unless there are safeguarding reasons for not doing so.
The child's social worker must notify the Independent Reviewing Officer, in writing, all those involved in the day-to-day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school, GP and any health professional or YOS worker actively involved with the child.
Notification must also be made to any person with a contact order or Child Arrangements Order under Section 34 or Section 8 of the Children's Act 1989.
It will be necessary for the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to him or her (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.
In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Assessment - see Health Needs Assessments and Individual Health Care Plans Procedure.
The social worker must also arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan - see the Education of Children Looked After Procedure. Every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well being.
This work is undertaken by the kinship care team, building on the work already completed by the social worker.
7.1 Kinship Carer Assessments
All Kinship Care Assessments must be carried out in accordance with Schedule 3 of the Fostering Service Regulations 2011. Timescales for the completion and ratification of an assessment of a kinship foster carer is determined by the Care Planning Regulations 2010. This is 16 weeks from the date the child is placed with the carers. The fostering officer therefore will need to complete their written assessment by the end of the 12th week in order for the assessment to be submitted to panel and to allow for approval by the agency decision maker. In exceptional circumstances, temporary approval can be extended for up to a further eight weeks. These circumstances include:
- Where temporary approval is likely to expire before the assessment can be completed;
- The outcome of the assessment is that the connected person(s) are not approved and a review is sought.
An extension to temporary approval must be agreed by the Head of Service. The KC24 report and a summary report giving a précis of the assessment work completed and the number of visits and activities outstanding must be presented to the fostering panel. The reason for requesting the extension must be clearly stated. The agency decision maker will then decide whether an extension can be given. Where it is evident that the placement is not the most suitable for the child, the placement can be terminated before completion of the assessment process or any extension to temporary approval is applied. This decision will be taken by the area CSDM in consultation with the kinship care team manager.
Early considerations in the assessment process include:
- Identifying the child/children's specific needs in order to accurately assess the prospective carer's ability to meet those needs and any information from the child's record, including the chronology would be useful information to consider as a preliminary before undertaking the assessment;
- Historical information in respect of kinship carers where there has been Social Care involvement in the family must be checked by inspecting the old case files to identify any issues or risks, these should be included in the assessment (contact the child's social worker for this information as this may have already been checked);
- Clarifying the legal proceedings with the social worker or legal representative;
- To have sight copies of any other assessments that have been done, or are any to be commissioned;
- Access to a copy of the viability or Regulation 24 report will be required from the social worker.
The kinship care administrator will arrange a check with the local health authority (Health Visitor) and will arrange for the carers to undertake a medical examination with their GP. Where the applicants live or have lived outside the local authority area, the checks must be made with the local authority and health trust where the applicants live/have lived. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks should have been requested by the social worker but the administrator must check these have been completed.
Where the applicant or any member of the household has been known to Children's Services, information should be obtained from the relevant social worker.
Where applicants have recently moved to the UK (within the last 10 years), checks will also be made through International Social Services and/or the relevant Consulate on all members of the household aged 16 and over.
In addition, where the applicant has school age children, the relevant school(s) will be contacted, with the permission of the applicant, for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education.
On receipt of the statutory checks, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.
Where there are concerns about an applicant's circumstances as a result of the information obtained from the above checks, this should be referred to the manager and the applicant may be advised not to proceed with the application.
If the applicant withdraws, the administrative staff will update the electronic records. If the applicant does not agree to withdraw.
Where the checks reveal that the applicant or a member of the household is a Disqualified Person (Foster Carer) and there are concerns about the placement see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.
Where the information relates to an offence which does not automatically disqualify the applicant, for example because the applicant is seeking approval in relation to a specific child only, the manager must consider whether the application should still proceed. Such convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. In a case where the conviction would usually disqualify an applicant, the case should be referred to the Fostering Panel and the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for a preliminary decision - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure. In any other case where there is doubt, discussion with the kinship care team manager and social worker will be required. An early referral may be made to the Fostering Panel and/or Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).
Information relevant to the application that has been obtained from the DBS may only be retained on the applicant's file for a limited period and should be destroyed when a decision is made on the application. The manager should note on the file that the DBS information has been destroyed and that the information led to a particular view, without citing the information itself. The disclosure number and date received and any details of offences must be recorded on the client record.
Each applicant will be asked to provide the names of two personal referees, who are adults, who have known the applicant for at least five years. One of the referees can be a family member; the second reference must be a non family member. All referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity. For a kinship foster carer it is useful if one of their personal referees is someone who has known them whilst parenting their own children.
Where there is a joint application, referees must know both applicants, or additional referees will be required. A proforma questionnaire must be sent to the referees prior to the visit. This information can then be used in the interview to lead the discussion. A separate record of the interview must be completed and the fostering officer must comment on the weight to be given to the referee comments.
A written reference must be obtained from each applicant's current employer regardless of the applicant's occupation. Where the carer has had a previous job working with children it will be useful to follow up a reference with an ex-employer. Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference.
Referees and any other family members spoken to during the preparation of the report should be informed in writing about the position in relation to confidentiality. A written reference will not be shown to an applicant unless the applicant requests disclosure and the referee consents to disclosure. The same applies to information and opinions shared in the course of conversation. These will not be disclosed to an applicant without permission. However, referees and others should be made aware that it will often be necessary to discuss with applicants information and opinions expressed although where this happens, the particular source of the information or opinion will not be disclosed.
Where there are existing children in the household, contact with health visitor, nursery or school may be made. All adult children of the applicant(s) living away from home or adult children who are no longer household members must be contacted and interviewed. The assessing social worker will also contact the previous partners / spouses of the applicants, particularly if they have cared for children together (taking care not to disclose confidential personal information about the applicant). Where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the social worker will arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable. See Additional Procedures for Foster Carers for guidance on ex-partners and adult child references.
In kinship care arrangements the views of the child's parents must have been sought by the social worker, so it will not normally be appropriate for the fostering officer to interview them.
The applicants will be provided with the relevant medical form to fill in with their details and send to their GP with a covering letter requesting that the GP conduct a medical examination and complete the form and send it to the kinship care administrator. On receipt the administrator will pass the information to the Medical Adviser for comment.
Where the medical information suggests that the applicant may not be suitable for health reasons, this should be discussed in detail with the applicant(s) and withdrawal may be advisable at this stage. Additional advice may be sought from the Medical Adviser or the Medical Adviser may raise questions with the GP where this is appropriate. It may be necessary for reports from other health professionals also to be obtained and presented to the Medical Adviser and the Fostering Panel.
Where there are concerns about an applicant's circumstances at any point, for example where there are concerns about their health or about the information obtained from referees, this must be referred to the kinship care team manager and the applicant may be advised not to proceed with the application. Any such advice must be confirmed to them in writing and the reasons explained. A further visit may also be arranged to the applicants to explain the decision.
If the information leading to a decision not to proceed relates to a previous conviction of one of two joint applicants or a member of the applicant's household, the details of the offence can only be disclosed to the applicant with the consent of the relevant person; without such consent, the applicant can only be informed that the reason relates to information obtained from the checks but no details can be given.
If the applicant withdraws, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.
Where the applicant disagrees with the decision and/or is not willing to withdraw, a brief report on the application should be presented to the Fostering Panel outlining the circumstances and reasons why approval is not recommended. The brief report must include DBS, medical advisor's summary and referee interviews, if undertaken. The procedure to be followed should be the same as if the report was a full report on the applicants and the applicants will be able to attend the Fostering Panel.
The fostering panel is able to make a recommendation that the applicant is not suitable to foster or it can request that the agency completes a full assessment of the applicants.
7.6 Assessment Report
In each section, the assessing social worker should provide an analysis of the information obtained from the applicants, giving consideration to how the applicants will be able to meet the needs of the child/children for whom they are being assessed. Consider what extra support might be required in order to meet those needs, or identify in what respect the applicant may be unable to meet the identified needs of the child/children.
The assessment should include the following headings:
- Process of the Assessment
A record of how many sessions have been completed with the applicants, who else has been contacted, and any other actions undertaken as part of the assessment.
- The Proposed Placement
What is the proposed placement? Who is the child? Who is being assessed and what is their relationship to the child?
- Reasons for Proposed Placement
A brief overview of why the placement is required, including information provided by the child's social worker, (nb it is not necessary to replicate the whole history of concerns as this is too much information.)
- Pen picture of the child and description of the specific identified needs for each child
The child's social worker must complete the child's needs in the (KC24) assessment. Assessing fostering officers must be proactive in ensuring this information is obtained and included in the full assessment. Areas to be covered include:
- Physical development;
- Attachment capacity;
- Birth family background;
- Contact needs;
- Social skills;
- Likes / dislikes.
- Family/ Household composition
Who lives in the applicant's home, their relationship to the applicant, their ages, ethnicity. Does the applicant have any pets? Complete a dog / pet assessment if required.
- Interest/motivation in taking on this new role now to include relationship to the child and whether blood related.
What is the applicant's motivation in putting them self forward for the child? What is the carer's relationship to the child? How often does the applicant see the child? Has the child stayed with the applicant on previous occasions?
- Analysis: In what ways does the assessing social worker think that the applicant's motivation will benefit the child/children? Are there any disadvantages to the child arising from the applicant's motivation? Are there any discrepancies between the applicant's stated motivation and any information from other sources?
- Individual Profile of each Prospective Carer
- Personal history
Describe family background, childhood experiences, relationship with parents and siblings. Include carer's own experiences of being parented, and their views of what they would do the same and differently. Who cared for them as they grew up? Any childhood experiences of being separated from parents? How did the family in which the applicant grew up show their emotions, for example affection or anger? What sanctions or discipline were used to manage children's behaviour? Did the prospective carer experience any forms of abuse as a child?
Applicant's experience of being educated, and educational attainments.
- Past Employment
Applicant's employment history. Attitudes towards work and unemployment.
- Personality and Interests
How does each applicant see their own personality, and how do they believe they are perceived by others? What hobbies or past times does the applicant take part in, or how do they enjoy spending their time?
How do the applicants perceive themselves in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, disability, and religion? How significant is religious beliefs and observance?
- Previous relationships
Where the applicant has had a previous relationship or marriage within the last 10 years and which lasted for five years or more, the previous partner/spouse should be contacted in order to check whether there are any child protection matters, previous domestic violence incidents and their views of the prospective carers parenting.
- Where there are children from previous relationship then the previous partner MUST be contacted.
- Personal history
- Present Relationship
Describe how this relationship works. What makes the relationship positive for each? How do they resolve differences of opinion or disagreements? How do they cope with problems/stress/anger? What are the strengths and vulnerabilities of the relationship?
- Analysis: Do the applicants resolve their differences of opinion or disagreements in ways that would provide a good model for the child/children?
- Children in Applicant's Household
Individual profile of each child, including personality, ethnicity and education. If any of the children are fostered or adopted give brief background summary. Do child/ children in the household know the child/children to be placed, if so, describe this relationship, and their attitude towards the proposed placement. Awareness of implications for themselves, for example sharing toys/space/bedroom, additional; demands being made on parents/carers. Information should be based on speaking with the children, as well as with the applicants.
- Analysis: What will the attitude of child/children in the household mean for the child being placed? How will the applicants manage any potential rivalries?
- Other Adults
Give details of all adult children of the applicants, whether living at home and the degree of involvement they will have with the child being placed. Give details of any other adults living in the household, or who will play a significant role in supporting the placement, and whether this will include providing any level of actual care for the child to be placed, even for short periods. All adult children must be contacted.
- Analysis: What implications will the above information have for the child/children to be placed?
- Applicant's Support Networks
What support will be available to the applicants from extended family, friends, and neighbours? What support will be available from community resources, for example health service, education, applicant's religious community? Are the applicants aware of resources within their area, for example nurseries, youth clubs, which may help them to meet the needs of the particular child/children. Consider the applicants lifestyle and family routines, and how these will have to change in order to meet the needs of the child being placed.
Please also include an ecomap detailing the applicant's support networks.
Consider contingency plans if appropriate. (Who would look after the child in the event that the carer couldn't?)
Outline what support will be available from the department and other sources to support this placement. Complete the Support Plan (liaise with social worker.) Consider whether any extra financial support is needed, and does this need to be agreed via the Financial Panel.
- Analysis: Please describe how the support network will help the applicant to meet the needs of the child to be placed? Consider the carer's motivation to look after the child, if an application is being considered by the Financial Panel.
Describe the applicant's accommodation, including any issues of hygiene and cleanliness. What type of tenure do they have, and how secure is it? Are the applicants up to date with their rent and mortgage payments? Has the assessing social worker seen the current rent book or mortgage statement? What are the current sleeping arrangements? Where will the child sleep, if placed? Will they be sharing a bedroom, if so, with whom? How suitable is this arrangement, in terms of their ages, personalities, and interests of those sharing, and the amount of space available?
Describe the area where the applicant's live, including ethnic composition of the local community, public transport facilities, accessibility of local resources.
Please complete the Health & Safety Checklist, and a Room Share Risk Assessment (if applicable.) Please look round the house.
Give details of the applicant's income and expenditure. How do the applicants manage money? What financial support will be available for this placement? If the carers are going to lose income, for example through changing or reducing their working hours, in order to accommodate the placement, how will this be managed? Are they willing to open a savings account for the child, and help the child to save regularly?
- Analysis: Will the household income be adequate to provide a reasonable standard of care for the child? Will the placing agency be able to provide any additional financial support if needed?
- Present employment and any necessary childcare arrangements
Does the carer work, if so what are their hours and will they be relying on childcare. Can any childcare needs be met within the family. Consider whether it would be appropriate to place a small child with a carer who works full time? Etc. Think about availability to attend appointments reviews etc.
A reference needs to be obtained from their employer if the applicant works with children/vulnerable people.
- Child care experience to date/ parenting capacity / style
Describe the applicants previous childcare experience, including parenting their own children and any previous experience of parenting children not born to them, or other childcare experience.
- Analysis: Consider the applicant's parenting style and comment on it's strengths and limitations.
- Ability to meet this child/children's specific needs
Describe the child to be placed, and identify their specific needs.
Explore the applicant's attitudes and lifestyle issues in relation to the 5 Every Child Matters expectations and outcomes:
- Be Healthy
Consider the applicant's capacity to meet the child's basic care needs, including healthy diet, adequate sleep, cleanliness, exercise, self care skills, developmental issues, emotional health and well-being, sexual health, views on drug use, promote healthy choices, and any other health related matters.
- Enjoy & Achieve
Consider how the applicant will encourage the child to participate fully in education, leisure and recreational activities. Will they encourage hobbies and after school activities? Will they include the child in their own hobbies and interests?
- Stay Safe
Is the carer able to keep the child safe from maltreatment, neglect, violence, and sexual exploitation? Safe from accidental injury and death? Safe from bullying and discrimination? Safe from crime and anti-social behaviour (both in and out of school?) Ensure that they have security and stability and are well cared for.
- Make a positive contribution
Will the applicant help the child/children being placed to make a positive contribution to society? To be non-discriminatory, to develop positive relationships and to choose not to bully. To develop self-confidence, and to successfully manage with life events.
- Achieve economic well being
Consider the applicants ability to support and encourage further education, employment or training on leaving school. What is the applicants view on employment, decent homes and sustainable communities, and the child's potential to sustain a home free from poverty.
Please consider the framework for the assessment of children in need and their families.
- Analysis: Does the carer have a realistic view of the child's needs? What is their understanding of these/ are they willing to attend training, access support/ be flexible/ change the way they do things in order to meet the child's needs.
- Be Healthy
- Family Politics/ Child Protection Capacity/ Contact
What are the issues regarding the family relationships. Consider the potential conflicts for the carer, and how they might manage these whilst working towards Care Plan objectives.
Consider the proposed contact arrangements between the child/children and their birth parents, or other significant people, in terms of where it needs to take place, how often, and does it need to be supervised? Will the carers be able to support these contact plans? Is there anything in this relationship which could make cooperation around contact difficult? If so, how will it be dealt with? What support would be necessary to help contact happen? How would the carer deal with any attempts for the parent to see the child outside of contact arrangements?
Are the carers willing to maintain the child/children's knowledge of their past and their birth parents through life story work, even though the carer's may have negative views about the way the parent's treated the child. Will they be able to discuss the child's past, including the reasons for separation from the child's parents, in a way which encourages understanding rather than condemnation.
- Analysis: Can the carer protect the child and keep them safe, if so, how? Is the carer strong enough to stand up to the parent, is there potential for the parent to undermine the placement? Consider the strengths and any potential risks to child/carer, or placement. Have the applicants demonstrated an understanding of the significance of contact for children who are separated from their birth parents?
- Details of any experience of Social Care
Outline whether there has been any previous involvement with the carer or their children. Include a summary of dates of referrals and referral details, also a note of any action taken and subsequent outcome. A brief summary is all that is required here with an analysis of how long since the involvement and whether any risk is posed to the child.
- Statutory Checks:
Comments on the applicant's health, include Medical Advisor's comments. Are there any concerns about the applicant's health that would prevent them from meeting the child's needs?
- Criminal History
Consider the applicant's DBS disclosure, include disclosure number and date. Do they have any criminal convictions that would prohibit them from caring for the child?
- An Assessment of ability to work with professionals
How have the relationships been throughout the assessment, how have the carers presented. Are they able to work in partnership with other professionals towards the care plan objectives? What are the indicators for future working relationships? Have there been any difficulties/differences of opinion, how were these handled. Were the carers open to being offered advice and information?
Consider any identified areas where the carers will need support after placement, including their willingness to attend training, support groups and receive regular supervisory visits.
- Summary and conclusions including an assessment of the strengths and risks in the proposed arrangement
Summarise the significant points. Do not introduce any new information in this section that is not covered elsewhere in the report. Outline and analyse the strengths and risks and identify how any risks can be managed (or not).
- Supervising Social Worker's Recommendations in terms of both the short and long term
Provide a brief sentence outlining the recommendation.
There is an expectation that kinship carers will undertake 'Preparation for Fostering' training. The purpose of the course is to raise the awareness and understanding of the key issues which need to be addressed by kinship foster carers. This course will be offered either prior to approval or just after approval at fostering panel. The course will consist of two half day sessions.
All kinship carers are required to undertake the Induction Standards for Children's Workforce standards and training and it is the responsibility of the supervising social worker to ensure that this is completed within the first year of approval.
The kinship foster carer will be expected to develop their skills and knowledge by undertaking relevant training which will be identified jointly by the kinship carer and their supervising social worker.
The assessing social worker will attend the Panel meeting, together with the child's social worker and the applicants if they so wish. The decision to attend rests with the applicants and a wish not to attend will not prejudice consideration of their application. However, it is often helpful for the applicants to attend as this gives further amplification to the written assessment. Applicants who decide they wish to attend should be fully prepared as to the procedure prior to their attendance and be provided with the leaflet 'Attending Fostering Panel'.
The Panel will consider the reports together with all the supporting documentation and any additional information presented verbally, and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) regarding the suitability of the applicant for fostering.
Where a brief report is presented to the panel, the panel is able to recommend that the applicants are not suitable to foster or request that a full assessment report is completed. In instances where the report submitted to panel does not contain all the required information, the panel is able to request that a further full report is submitted for consideration.
The recommendation, with reasons, will be recorded in writing and, where approval is recommended, the category of fostering, any limitations of the approval to named children (for example in the case of a family and friends foster carer) or conditions as to the age range or number of children to be placed in the foster home will also be specified.
Where the applicant does not attend the Panel meeting, the social worker undertaking the assessment will advise the applicant of the Panel recommendation within 24 hours of the Panel meeting. This will be verbally, by telephone or, where appropriate, a home visit.
The Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will make a decision as to the suitability of the applicant, based on the reports presented to the Fostering Panel and the minutes detailing the Panel's recommendation. Where the decision is to approve the applicants as foster carers, the Agency Decision Maker will specify the terms of the approval i.e. the number and age range of children to be fostered, the type of placement and any specific inclusions/exclusions.
The decision must be made within seven working days of the Panel meeting and must be recorded, together with reasons. Applicants should be advised in writing of the appeals and representations process including the Independent Review Mechanism in respect of contentious issues.
The fostering officer will arrange for the applicants to be given verbal notification of the decision within 24 hours and written notice of the decision, with reasons, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within five working days of the decision.
If the decision is to refuse approval, the assessing social worker and fostering manager will assess the need for further counselling and arrange any necessary follow-up action.
Minutes of the relevant part of the fostering panel meeting which relates to the carer must be kept on foster carer files.
If a decision is made to refuse an application, the applicant will be advised that if he or she wishes to challenge the decision, applicants should be advised of their right to submit representations within 28 days of the date of the written notice of the decision to the team manager. In addition, as an alternative, they may exercise the right to apply to the Secretary of State to request a review of the decision by an Independent Review Panel. Any such application must be made in writing within 28 days of the decision and supported by reasons.
The only circumstances where the foster carer will not have the right to request a review by an Independent Review Panel is if he or she is 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 this period, the decision to refuse the application can be confirmed.
If written representations are received within the period, the Panel Adviser will arrange for the reports and other documentation to be reconsidered by the Fostering Panel, taking into account the written representations, and make a new recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).
The Panel Administrator will advise the applicant within seven days of the date of the Panel meeting when they can attend and their written representations will be considered.
In these circumstances, applicants who wish to attend the meeting of the Fostering Panel can arrange for a friend or supporter to accompany them.
After considering the representations, the Panel will make further recommendations either confirming or amending their previous views, which the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will consider before a final decision is made.
If the decision remains not to approve the application, the team manager will arrange for the applicants to be informed verbally within two working days. Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant by the Panel Adviser within seven working days of the Panel meeting. Information about the Complaints Procedure must also be sent. A copy of the report to the Panel, the Panel's recommendation and the decision, with reasons, must be retained on the applicant's case file.
If the applicant decides to refer the matter to an Independent Review, the relevant Panel reports, any new information obtained since the Panel meeting, a record of the decision made and reasons, a copy of the written notification of the decision and a copy of the Panel minute, if different, will be sent to the Independent Review within 10 working days of their written request.
The procedure for the Independent Review is operated by Coram Children’s Legal Centre; the applicant and two representatives of the fostering agency will be invited to attend the Independent Review.
After considering the representations of both partners, the Independent Review may make a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker will consider before a final decision is made.
Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant within seven working days of the receipt of the Independent Review recommendation. Here the decision is to approve the application, the procedure set out in Section 13, After the Approval will be followed.
12.1 Individual and Joint
Applications will be considered from married couples, civil partners, unmarried couples or single people.
Applications will be considered from people of any or no religious persuasion.
Applications will be considered from people of any race or culture.
The minimum age for foster carers is generally 21 years. In exceptional circumstances, e.g. with some Family and Friends Carers, the minimum age may be reduced to 18 years. There is no specific upper age limit.
Applications will be considered from people of either sex and from same sex couples.
12.6 Sexual Orientation
Applications will be considered from people of any sexual orientation.
12.7 Income and Work Commitment
Applicants may be in work or not.
Applicants will be required to have a full medical and undergo any further tests/checks that may be required by the Fostering Panel's Medical Adviser. The Medical Adviser will advise on the applicants' ability, from a health point of view, to meet the needs of a child who is fostered. Any comments or advice given by the Medical Adviser must be taken seriously by the applicants and will be addressed during the assessment process.
Applicants are expected to positively promote a healthy life-style which will enable a child to reach his or her full potential. This would encompass attention to nutrition, exercise, routine and hygiene.
It is expected that foster carers will comply with nationally recommended alcohol consumption levels and that children's needs and safety will be met at all times.
12.9 Criminal Convictions
A person who is seeking approval as a foster carer will not be considered if s/he or any adult member of the household is within the category of Disqualified Persons (Foster Carer) unless the application is to foster a child who is already living with the applicant(s) and at least one of the applicants is a relative of the child, in which case the caution/conviction will not automatically preclude the application but will be taken into account when assessing the suitability of the applicant - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.
Other convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. All such cases will be referred to the Fostering Service Manager who may also consult the Agency Decision Maker.
Applicants may own their own home or live in rented accommodation.
They will need living and sleeping accommodation appropriate to the number and ages of the children they are seeking to foster. They must be able to offer separate bedrooms for each foster child. Only in exceptional circumstances would sharing bedrooms be allowed and this would never be with adult sons or daughters of the foster carer.
For kinship foster care it is sometimes necessary for children to share a bedroom in order to keep siblings together within the extended family. Where the placement is intended to be long term, it may be necessary for the foster carers to seek alternative housing or where this is not possible to seek approval for financial support to provide additional space via an extension. The assessing social worker must discuss shortfalls in accommodation at an early stage.
It is important that the home environment is child-friendly, welcoming to children, safe and meets reasonable levels of hygiene.
All applicants will have a safety check on their home undertaken by a trained safety assessor. This will include the outdoor space, animals (including the sleeping and toileting arrangements for any pet) and the holding of any firearms.
12.11 Child Care Experience
It is important that the applicant who is going to be the main carer has some experience of 'hands-on' care of children of the age group in which the applicants are interested or are family members with close ties to the children they intend to care for.
12.12 Family Contact
All applicants must be prepared to facilitate contact between any foster child and his or her parents and significant family members.
Once approved, the administrative staff will enter the foster carers' approval details, including their first review date, on the Fostering Register database (see Section 14, Register of Foster Carers) and update the electronic records. They will also send notice of the outcome to all agencies consulted during the assessment and approval process.
The foster carer will be allocated a supervising fostering officer, preferably the one who has undertaken their assessment. If the social worker does not know the new carer, he or she will read the assessment form (KC24) and the supporting documentation presented to the Fostering Panel including the references prior to introducing him or herself to the carers and arranging to meet the carers, their family and members of their support network as appropriate.
Kinship foster carers are given an amended version of both the Foster Care Agreement and the Foster Carer's Handbook. The Kinship Foster Carer's Handbook contains information about fostering in the local authority and covers policies, procedures, guidance, legal information and insurance details. Kinship foster carers are not currently part of the Payment for Skills arrangements.
The foster carers will receive, within one week of their approval, a letter which will include:
- Foster Care Agreement;
- ID registration and request form;
- Bank details form;
- Training and support group information where appropriate;
- Kinship Care Handbook.
An induction session will also be undertaken by the supervising fostering officer to follow up the above issues. The Foster Care Agreement should be used by supervising fostering officers at the carers post approval induction session, to explore and develop carers' understanding of their roles and responsibilities, foster carer tasks, and what carers may expect from the fostering service.
The foster carer will be given two copies of the Foster Care Agreement for signature, and will retain one signed copy. The other will be kept on the foster carer's file, together with the report and supporting documents presented to the Fostering Panel, a copy of the Panel's recommendation and a copy of the approval decision. The Team Manager will also sign the agreement.
The Foster Care Agreement will contain the following information:
- The signed Foster Carer Agreement, form the basis of the on-going agreement, between Leeds City Council and its foster carers;
- The terms of the foster carer's approval including number, age range gender and type of placements;
- The support and training to be provided to the foster carer;
- The procedure for the review of the foster carer's approval;
- The procedure for making representations and complaints;
- The requirement to inform the fostering service of any change of circumstance, address or in the household composition, or of any registration as a childminder or application to adopt or of any offence;
- The requirements in relation to confidentiality and internet usage;
- The procedures for behaviour management and unauthorised absences of children placed with the foster carer including the ban on corporal punishment;
- The procedures for informing the supervising social worker of the child's progress and any significant events relating to the child;
- The need to give 28 days' notice in writing of they wish to cease fostering;
- The need to allow access to the Regulatory Authority;
- The duty to promote the child's well being and in particular to promote their Health and Education.
The foster carer(s) must sign confirmation of receipt. The signed and dated confirmation of receipt will be placed on their file.
Foster carers will be assisted by their supervising social worker to produce a Safe Caring Policy and Fire Plan.
The supervising fostering officer will continue to provide support and supervision to the foster carer up to, during and after all placements and ensure that they understand the need to undertake DBS and other checks and assessments on any new member of the household - see Section 15, Changes in the Foster Carer's Household or Circumstances - and the need to repeat DBS checks on themselves every three years - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
A register of all approved foster carers will be maintained by the fostering service containing the following particulars:
- The name, address, date of birth, sex and ethnic origin of each foster carer;
- The date of approval and of each review of the approval;
- The category and current terms of the approval;
- The name, address, date of birth of each person with whom a child is placed under Regulation 24 who is a relative or friend (but not an approved Family and Friends Foster Carer) and who has entered an agreement to provide care for the child placed, together with the date and terms of the agreement.
Once approved, the administrative staff will be informed and will enter the foster carers' approval details, including their first review date, on the Fostering Register database.
The supervising social worker will ensure that any newly approved foster carer is clear about his or her responsibility to notify the fostering service before any change in the composition of their household occurs or where there is any significant change in their circumstances which affects their fostering, for example any new relationship, pregnancy or bereavement.
If the supervising social worker discovers that there has been a change in the foster carer's household without prior notice, the manager must be informed and an immediate review of the foster carer's approval must be convened. In these circumstances, a suspension of the foster carer's approval may have to be considered at the review.
15.1 Foster Carer's Partners
Where the proposed new member of the household is a partner of the foster carer, there will be a presumption that he or she will have a part to play in caring for any child in the placement and therefore a full assessment of his or her suitability for this role must be completed before the partner moves into the foster home. The same procedure for this assessment will be carried out as for any foster carer applicant and it will be presented to the Fostering Panel and the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) in accordance with the preceding paragraphs of this chapter. There will be no presumption that any such assessment will be approved.
Pending the completion of the full assessment, where the foster carer wishes his/her partner to stay overnight before the full assessment is completed, a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) enhanced check must be carried out, and a risk assessment must also be completed to determine the level of additional checks required, before agreement to overnight stays can be given. The risk assessment should take account of, amongst other things, the number and ages of the children in the placement, their views about the foster carer's partner, the significance and stability of the relationship (including how long they have known each other) and the foster carer's history of fostering. Any agreement to overnight stays must be endorsed by the Service Manager.
15.2 Other members of the household
Where a foster carer proposes that any person will join the household, notice must be given before this occurs in sufficient time to enable a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) enhanced check to be carried out on the relevant person and an assessment at the appropriate level to be undertaken before the change in household composition occurs. The required detail of the assessment will depend on the extent to which the new member of the household will undertake a caring role in relation to any child placed. Where the new member of the household will play a part in caring for the child in the placement, consideration will be given to the need for a full Form F assessment as for any new partner of the foster carer. Otherwise, the assessment will be considered at a Foster Carer Review which should be convened to consider the change in the foster carer's circumstances. This will determine whether any change to the foster carer's terms of approval is required and if so, a report to the Fostering Panel will be prepared.
For Exemptions to the usual limit of three children and Alterations or other Extensions to Approval, see Exemptions and Extensions/Variations to Foster Carer Approval Procedure
Where there is a proposal to end a placement, a review of the child's case must be undertaken to ensure that the views of all the people concerned has been heard.
When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic record and send notification to the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease.
The kinship care admin team should be notified immediately that a placement has ended and the reason.
The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made, including the independent reviewing officer.
Where appropriate, consideration must be given to holding a Disruption Meeting in which case the procedure set out in Placement Planning Meetings and Disruption Meeting Procedure should be followed.