Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to those who enquire about becoming foster carers for the local authority or those who are being assessed as Family and Friends (Connected Persons) Carers and where existing Knowsley approved foster carers wish to be assessed. For temporary approval as foster carers of approved prospective adopters, see Placements in Foster Care Procedure, Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure
To find out who the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) is for your area, please refer to Fostering Panel Procedure, The Agency Decision Maker Procedure.
In December 2019, a link was added to Attending an IRM Panel: Information Sheets. See Section 12, Representations/Independent Review Procedure. This was reviewed in August 2020.
1. Responding to Enquiries
Enquiries by telephone, letter or an office visit will be received by the Fostering Duty Officer or Recruitment and Marketing Coordinator. Personal callers will be seen at reception and referred directly to a duty social worker for a preliminary discussion, where appropriate.
Subject to the individual giving permission to do so, the duty social worker/ Recruitment and Marketing Coordinator will log the referral on Knowsley Children's System (ICS), including the date and time the referral was received.
The referral will then be entered into the Fostering Duty Tray.
The duty social worker or Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator will then make contact with the enquirer within one working day for a discussion. If the enquiry is not deemed appropriate to pursue, for example because there are known child protection concerns in relation to the family, the enquirer will be informed in writing of this decision, with reasons. In addition, where the enquirer decides not to pursue the matter further, the referral on Knowsley Children's System will be closed.
If the prospective applicant is interested following the discussion, the duty social worker or Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator will issue a standard letter and Fostering Information Pack within 5 working days. It will include an Acknowledgement Form and ask enquirers to return the Form if they wish to pursue their interest. In practice, this is followed up either with an initial visit or an Information Session. A list of dates covering a three month period for attending information sessions will be sent in the covering letter to you.
Throughout the process, all contacts with the prospective foster carers and information obtained must be maintained on the foster carer's file and any action taken must be recorded on Knowsley Children's System including any reasons for delay.
If no response has been received within 3 weeks, a duty worker or Recruitment and Marketing Coordinator will make contact with the enquirer to ascertain if they wish to proceed. If they do not, the Team Manager/Senior Practitioner Lead should close the case, complete the Knowsley Children's System outcome and send a standard letter to the prospective foster carers.
Where the Reply Form is returned or a response is received confirming the enquirer's interest and an initial visit (rather than attendance at an information session) is to take place, the Team Manager/Senior Practitioner Lead will allocate the case to a social worker. This will be recorded on Knowsley Children's System showing an outcome of the referral.The allocated social worker will contact the prospective applicants to arrange an initial visit to take place within two months of their initial enquiry. Otherwise, the enquirer will attend an Information Session which may be run as an open meeting or home or office visit.
2. Assessment – Stage One
Stage One of the assessment process is intended to provide the Fostering Service with basic information about the applicants to enable clearly unsuitable applicants to be sifted out without unnecessary bureaucracy or expenditure of time and resource by the fostering service or the applicant. More detailed information is collected in Assessment Stage Two.
Where a person applies to become a foster carer and it is decided to assess their suitability to become a foster carer, the following information must be obtained as soon as reasonably practicable relating to the applicant and other members of their household and family:
- Full name, address and date of birth;
- Details of health (supported by a medical report);
- Particulars of any other adult members of the household;
- Particulars of the children in the family, whether or not members of the household, and any other children in the household;
- Particulars of their accommodation;
- The outcome of any request or application made by them or any other member of their household to foster or adopt children, or for registration as an early years provider or later years provider under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006), including particulars of any previous approval or refusal of approval relating to them or to any other member of the household;
- If the applicant has, in the preceding twelve months, been a foster parent approved by another fostering service provider, the name and address of that fostering service provider;
- Names and addresses of three persons who will provide personal references;
- In relation to the applicant and any other member of the applicant 's household who is aged 18 or over, an enhanced criminal record certificate;
- Details of current, and any previous, marriage, civil partnership or similar relationship;
- The views of, the local authority in whose area the applicant lives, if different;
- Where the applicant has previously been, or is currently, approved as a foster carer by another fostering service provider, or as a prospective adopter by an adoption agency, and consents, access may be requested to the relevant records compiled by that other fostering service provider/ adoption agency in relation to the applicant. That service/agency must provide access within 15 working days of a request being received.
Records compiled by another fostering service, or an adoption agency, can be used to inform the new assessment of the applicant's suitability to foster. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.
Where, having regard to any information obtained, it is decided by the Agency Decision Maker that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, the applicant must be notified in writing with reasons. This notification may be given whether or not all of this information has been obtained. Such a notification may not be given more than 10 working days after all the information has been obtained. The applicant has no right to make representations about the decision or to have their case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism. However, the applicant must be informed that they can complain via the fostering service's complaints process if they are unhappy with the way in which their case has been handled. The complaints process should address whether or not the applicant's case has been handled in a reasonable way, rather than the question of the applicant's suitability to foster.Where all the specified information has been obtained and notification has not been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable, then the application must proceed to Assessment Stage Two.
Note that Stages 1 and 2 of the assessment process can be carried out concurrently, but the Stage One information must be sought as soon as possible, and the decision about whether an applicant has successfully completed Stage One must be made within 10 working days of all the information required in that Stage being received.The Fostering Panel must make its recommendation on the application within eight months of the applicant first applying to be assessed.
3. Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer Assessments
Sharing information about a person that is held in their existing foster carer or adopter records is permitted for the purposes of informing a new assessment of a person's suitability to foster or adopt. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.
Information that should be shared, upon request, in order to inform a new assessment of a person's suitability to foster or adopt includes:
- The report of the original assessment of the person's suitability to foster or adopt (if it is considered by the body requesting the information to be recent enough to be relevant);
- A copy of the report of the last review of the individual's continuing suitability to foster or adopt and any other review report considered useful to understanding the person's current suitability to foster or adopt;
- Details of any concerns about standards of practice and what if anything is being done/has been done to address them;
- Details of allegations made against the foster carer/adopter or their household members; and
- Any other information considered to be relevant to the assessment of the person's suitability to foster/adopt.
Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with Parental Responsibility would need to be obtained). This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.
If consent is refused, the current fostering service or adoption agency should consider whether there is any information in the records that is a cause for concern. Any information about an applicant's conduct or suitability to foster/adopt that has caused concern should be shared even if the individual has refused consent. If there are no such concerns, and the individual has refused consent, information should not be shared. This may require documents to be redacted to remove information relating to individuals who have refused consent.
Requests for access to information should be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant to the sharing of their information.
The receiving service should acknowledge the request within two working days, seek consent from all others referred to in the information within five working days and the information, redacted where necessary, should be provided within 15 working days.
The responsibility for all checks rests with the assessing social worker. Support in this task is provided by administration staff.
Please note, statutory checks of any kind must not be made in respect of Children Looked After who live within the foster home.
4.1 Forms and Standard Letters
Other than for DBS checks, all forms and standard letters to support the statutory checks are available within the Children's Social Care ICS forms and letters tabs. All forms and letters should be obtained from this site to ensure they are correct, as the site is regularly updated. DBS forms are obtained from administration staff.
Consent to various statutory checks is included within the Application Form Part 1 (back page) and consents are required for all applicants, including Family and Friends Carers. Members of the household aged 16 and over should complete the Statutory Check form (please note, this does not include Children Looked After living within the foster home, who will not be subject to any statutory checks made). Frequent visitors to the household should complete this form.
4.3 Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) - applicable to all
Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on the applicant(s), all members of the household ages 18 and over. Prospective carers should also be asked if any of their children are subject to an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction or are on the Sex Offenders Register. All relevant certificates such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce papers and photographs should be viewed by the social worker in order to verify identity.
The Statutory Check Form should be given to Fostering administration staff for processing and kept in the confidential section of the carer's file. Once the DBS check has been returned to the prospective foster carers, they should notify the Fostering Social Worker so that they can view a copy of it and record the details within the ICS.
4.4 Where the Applicant and Other Adults have Lived Overseas/Foreign National applicants
Checks on applicants who have lived overseas/are foreign nationals should start at an early stage in the statutory references process, as the checks usually take some time to be returned/completed. Where the applicant and other adults of the household have lived overseas, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) does not currently access overseas criminal records or other relevant information as part of its disclosure service.
Sometimes foreign governments forward intelligence on UK nationals to the UK government and in theory this is entered as soft information on the PNC and will therefore appear on a DBS Disclosure certificate but otherwise it relates only to information held in this country on the Police National Computer.The DBS provides guidance on its website on how further information can be obtained from various countries – e.g. Certificates of good conduct; see the DBS website. If a country is not listed the country's representative in the United Kingdom may be contacted. Contact details for those countries that have a representative in the United Kingdom can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth website or by telephone 020 7008 1500. The general DBS Helpline number is 0870 9090 811.
The following countries have the ability to issue Certificates of good conduct in respect of their own citizens or foreign nationals who have spent a period of residence in their countries:
Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Irish Republic, Italy (excl. Vatican City), Jamaica, Latvia, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.
The procedure for applying for a check is different for each country and the details can be found on the DBS website. Most procedures require the individual applicants to apply directly, therefore the local authority will have no control over the checks and the applicant may need to chase.
Obtaining information from other countries poses difficulties as some countries have no national DBS system and it is therefore very difficult to obtain information. The embassy or consulate of the country in question should be contacted to establish what if anything can be achieved.The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) can on someone's behalf apply for a 'certificate of good conduct' (police records check) from the following countries: Spain, Poland, Italy and Hong Kong. Further information can be found on the FCO website.
For any non-UK applicants their legal status must be established:
- Are they legally able to remain in this country;
- What plans do they have to remain in this country?
It is important to note that any foreign DBS system will only include convictions and is highly unlikely to include soft information. Such systems are not the fault of the applicant.
Employer checks abroad
Because of the restricted information often available in these circumstances, previous employers from abroad (where the applicant has worked with children or in a caring capacity) should be asked if they received a satisfactory Police check. Information should be provided in writing and on company letterhead paper.
Evidence of checks abroad
Efforts to obtain information and pursue checks for applicants who have lived abroad must be recorded and stored on file. It will be important to consider:
- Period of time an applicant has spent abroad;
- Reason for residence abroad;
- Any references available from sources such as employers/people of standing who knew the applicant;
- Length of time since leaving the country of residence and residing within the UK (for example if someone has lived in the UK for many years prior to residence in another country for a short period of time and has then returned to the UK for some time prior to application then the UK period will probably outweigh any gaps which cannot be filled). However, each case must be considered on an individual basis and professional judgements made as needed.
It is the responsibility of the applicant to gain the certificate of good conduct. This information will be required for the assessment to be completed. It should be noted that the length of time for obtaining such checks varies with the country of origin so applicants should apply for this at the beginning of the assessment process.
4.5 Children's Services Authority Checks - applicable to all
The letter/form to request this check from other Local Authorities is the Statutory Check Form. Records of the Children's Services Authority for the area in which the applicant/s currently live will be checked. (In Knowsley this will always mean a full Knowsley Children's System on all family members including prospective foster carers own children (ICS) check covering both the Directorate for Children's Social Care and People's Services.)
4.6 Other Checks - applicable to all applicants and members of the household aged 16 and over
The social worker will also carry out additional checks on the applicant(s) and members of the household aged 16 and over.
Enquiries should be made in writing to the NSPCC, the Probation Provider, Youth Justice Service (for 16 and 17 year olds where a check should be made with both Probation and the Youth Justice Service), Clinical Commissioning Group, GP, Schools/nurseries/colleges (in relation to the applicant's own children) for the area where the applicants live.
4.7 Employment References
Where the applicant and other adult members of the household are or have been employed, a reference will always be sought from the current or most recent employer. References will also be sought from previous employers where the applicant and other adults of the household have worked/been a volunteer as a carer/worked within child care/child care related field or in a position where there has been substantial access to children or Adults at Risk. The relevant employer reference form will be used, dependent on the nature of the employment.
For all other employers the letter/form to be used can be located within the Fostering Sharepoint site and there is a standard letter to accompany the form.
Please note: Where an applicant has worked in a health related setting and there are difficulties in finding the relevant employer address to write to - the Health of Children Looked After nurse for the locality can be contacted for advice.
4.8 SSAFFA - where applicable
In addition, where applicable, checks should be made with the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA). Where someone has previously been a member of the Armed Forces a SSAFA check should always be undertaken. Please note: previous members of the Armed Forces may be on a reservist list and undertake tours of duty both home and abroad whilst maintaining alternative employment. In such cases a SSAFA check should be undertaken.
SSAFA have their own referral form which is on their internet site. A standard letter (SSAFA LETTER) should be used to accompany it.
4.9 OFSTED - where applicable
In addition, where applicable, checks should be made with OFSTED. This will apply to applicants and other adults of the household when anyone has made a previous application to foster/adopt/child mind or run a residential home or day care facility.
The standard letter (OFSTED LETTER) should be sent.
4.10 Other Local Authorities - where applicable
If the applicants or other adults of the household live or have lived in another local authority area within the last 10 years or more if the prospective foster carers have lived at an address for a significant period then all statutory references must be applied for in that area. The standard letter which is located within ICS should be used.
4.11 Tenancy/Mortgage checks - where applicable
Where an applicant is a tenant the owner of the property should be contacted to ask if they consent to the property being used by the tenant for the fostering task. The Form also outlines a request for the owner to state whether or not the tenant has any rent arrears.
Where the applicant has had frequent changes of address additional checks from previous landlords may be required.
The standard form/letter (LANDLORDLETTER) should be used.
Owner/occupiers (mortgaged properties)
Where an applicant is buying a property by mortgage the mortgage provider (usually a bank or building society) should be contacted to state whether or not the householder has any mortgage arrears.
The standard form/letter MORTGAGE PROVIDER LETTER should be used.
4.12 Monitoring the outcome of statutory checks
The administrative staff will record the dates when the checks were sent and the dates when replies were received on the form and input into ICS. The replies to the checks should be retained for placing in the confidential section of the foster carer's file. The social worker will check when all references are returned and completed and will then discuss this with the Team Manager in supervision, where references will be checked.
4.13 Assessments ongoing for more than 12 months
Where an assessment has been ongoing for more than 12 months, all the above checks should be repeated, checks are live for 3 years.
4.14 Checks reveal that an applicant or a member of the household is a Disqualified Person
Where the checks reveal that an applicant or member of the household is Disqualified Person (Foster Carer) under the Regulations, an application can be made to the Fostering Panel for consent to the assessment proceeding if the application is for approval as a Family and Friends Carer of a specific child requiring a placement and where, on the basis of a completed risk assessment, it is appropriate for the assessment to proceed having considered all relevant facts surrounding the circumstances of the disqualification.
In all other cases, the applicant must be informed that the application cannot proceed - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.
4.15 Checks reveal that an applicant or a member of the household has a criminal record although not a Disqualified Person
Applicants and Carers who have offences/ cautions or intelligence information.
This section must be read in conjunction with Persons Disqualified from Fostering procedure.
Persons Disqualified from Fostering
A person is disqualified from acting as a foster carer for the agency (unless a relative of the child or already acting as a foster carer) if s/he or any adult member of the household has been cautioned for or convicted of a specified offence committed at the age of 18 or over.
A specified offence is defined as offence against a child*, an offence specified in Part 1 of Schedule 4 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011, the importation/possession of indecent photographs of a child under 16 and any other offence which involves bodily injury to a child (other than common assault or battery).
In addition, a person is disqualified from acting as a foster carer for the agency (unless a relative of the child or already acting as a foster carer) if s/he or any adult member of the household has been cautioned for or convicted of an offence specified in paragraph 1 of part 2 of Schedule 4 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011committed at the age of 18 or over OR falls within paragraph 2 or 3 of Part 2 of Schedule 4, notwithstanding that the offences listed have been repealed.
*A list of these offences is set out in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, except that it does not include an offence contrary to section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (sexual activity with a child) where the offender was under 20 when the offence was committed and the child was aged 13 or over.
All other offences
Where a DBS check of an applicant or existing foster carer records intelligence (see paragraph 4.19 below about "soft" information), a criminal offence or caution which is not a 'disqualifying offence' a nominated officer must be identified.
4.16 Nominated Officer Visits
This procedure, whilst referring to the applicant or carer is applicable for all members of the fostering household and frequent visitors.
The nominated officer should be a Team Manager or Head of Service.
The nominated officer is responsible for recommending if an application is to progress or not. If the carer is already approved the nominated officer must recommend if there is sufficient concern for a foster carer review to be called and a return to panel for the carer's status to be re considered.
In reaching this conclusion the officer must give consideration to the following:
- The age and nature of the concern;
- If the applicant has been open and honest with regards to the concern - we expect new applicants to notify the Fostering Service of any existing offence or caution at the time of application and to notify the Fostering Service immediately (at the latest within 5 working days) of any new offence or caution;
- In the case of new applicants, has this been addressed within the assessment?
- In the case of existing carers did they bring the issues to the attention of the fostering service in a timely manner? We expect existing carers to notify the Fostering Service immediately (at the latest within 5 working days) of any offence or caution;
- Does the concern have any implications for their care of a child?
Additionally, the nominated officer should make reference to correspondence and guidance as sent by the Human Resources - DBS Team. The guidance note 'Guidance Note on the Employment of Ex-Offenders' includes Management Guidance and a Risk Framework. Particular care must be taken with "soft" information and the guidance note contains information about how this must be dealt with.
In the majority of cases the nominated officer will be required to visit/arrange an office visit with the person concerned to assess the implications for the concern on the person's ability to provide safe and effective care for a child. The exception to this would be:
- A one off minor concern which has been fully explored within the assessment;
- In the case of an existing carer an historic concern which has previously been addressed by a nominated officer visit.
Where information from the checks reveals the applicant has attempted to cover up information about offences, he or she must be advised that the application cannot proceed and given information about the complaints procedure.
Rejections at this stage should be handled sensitively and honestly. There is a standard letter to send to applicants in these circumstances in which applicants are reminded of the complaints process.
4.17 Sharing of Information
The nominated officer should ask the person concerned for permission to share the information with the assessing social worker/supervising social worker. It should be explained that:
- This is required so that a competent assessment/effective supervision of potential and existing carers can be made;
- That there is an expectation that the person concerned will be open and honest; any refusal to share the information will inevitably cause difficulties in progressing the application/continued registration.
A consent form (available in ICS) should be signed when permission is given. Where permission is not given then information should not normally be shared, unless there are child protection concerns, in which case the Knowsley's Safeguarding procedures should be followed.
The nominated officer should consider whether the application can continue or the assessment terminated or whether a foster carer review should be held and a return to the Fostering Panel.
Where the information is not known to a partner/applicant (for example when it is about a frequent visitor or household member) the person concerned should be asked for permission to share the information with the applicant/carer. A consent form should be signed when permission is given. Where permission has not been given the information should not normally be shared, unless there are child protection concerns, in which case the Knowsley's Safeguarding procedures should be followed.
The nominated officer should consider whether the application can continue/ whether or not a foster carer review should be held and a return to the Fostering Panel.
Where the person concerned has given permission and the nominated officer considers in their professional opinion that this would be helpful in enabling the Fostering Service to make a decision, the nominated officer can discuss the relevant information from the DBS check and possible recommendation with the assessing social worker/supervising social worker.
4.18 Recording of nominated visits
The nominated officer must record their visit on a nominated officer record sheet.
A record should be entered on the applicants/carers electronic file to identify only the date a nominated officer visit took place. This record should contain no further detail than the date the visit took place and the name of the nominated officer. Nominated officer record sheets must be filed alphabetically and stored in a locked filing cabinet. The records should not be entered on the applicants/ carer paper file.
All nominated officer visits reports must be forwarded to the Fostering Manager for the recommendation to be ratified.
4.20 Notification of decision
Any decision will be notified in writing to the applicant, carer, relevant member of the household or frequent visitor and they will be informed of their right to make a complaint.
All applicants must agree to a written report on CoramBAAF Form AH1 being obtained from their GP on their health and any other relevant medical issues. On receipt of Form AH1 from the GP, the Team Manager will consider whether to seek advice from the Panel Adviser where medical issues are recorded which cause concern and, where necessary, the Panel Adviser will forward the Form AH1 to the Medical Adviser to the Fostering Panel. The Medical Adviser's written advice will be sent to and retained by the Panel Adviser, and a copy will be forwarded to the Fostering Team responsible for carrying out the assessment to be taken into account in their assessment analysis.In such cases, the advice of the Fostering Panel may be sought at an early stage in which case a brief report should be prepared and the implications fully discussed with the applicant.
6. Personal References
Where the applicant has been a foster carer within the preceding 12 months and was approved as such by another fostering service provider, a reference must be requested from that other fostering service provider. There is no requirement to also interview personal referees (see below). However, additional verbal and/or written references may be sought from personal referees. If the previous fostering service, for whatever reason, does not provide a reference, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.
Otherwise, the names of three personal referees must be obtained for each applicant covering a range of people who have known the applicants for a significant time in various periods of their life. This will be on the Fostering Application Form Part One. All referees must be over 18.
Requests for written references from three referees will be sent. The first and second referees must not be partners of each other and should not be related to the applicants. The third may be a family member.
The social worker will arrange to send requests for written references to the referees, enclosing the required reference Form for the referees to complete, sign and date.
Any reference supplied will be treated in confidence. However, the referees must be informed that the reference may be disclosed to the applicant if he or she makes a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 2018 and that if such a request is made, the referee will be informed.As part of the home study, the assessing social worker will also interview at least two of the referees and the third family member reference can be discussed by means of a telephone conversation (see Section 9, Assessment - Stage Two).
7. Previous Partners
Where the applicant has been previously married or lived with someone, they should be made aware that their previous partners will be asked to complete a questionnaire which asks questions about child protection issues. Information about previous partners will be on the Fostering Application Form Part One.
The letter/questionnaire (LETTER PREVIOUS PARTNER and QUESTIONNAIRE PREVIOUS PARTNER) will be sent to previous partners. Where replies indicate concerns about child protection, arrangements should be made to visit the previous partner to discuss further.
8. Preparation Course
Applicants who have confirmed their wish to proceed with their application (see Section 4, Checks) will be sent a written invitation to attend a Preparation Course. If a home visit has not been made by this stage, this should take place prior to any Preparation Course.
The "Skills To Foster" course may be provided in-house or externally commissioned. It may be arranged between two or more Fostering Teams.
The attendance of applicants at the Preparation Course will form part of the assessment of their suitability as foster carers. In the case of couples, both must attend.
The course provide an opportunity for the Fostering Team to find out more about the applicants and have a clearer idea of their strengths, areas for further work and any concerns that need to be clarified as part of the assessment process.
The sessions are also aimed at self-assessment in that they enable applicants to find out more about fostering and help them discover whether fostering is right for them and their family.
Topics to be covered at the course are:
- Attachment, separation, child development, safe care;
- Helping children with life story work when they move, contact, birth families, education and leisure opportunities;
- The promotion of personal and sexual health (including sex and relationships education for those aiming to foster children aged 10 and over);
- Challenging behaviour and appropriate discipline, child protection;
- Disability issues;
- Race and cultural issues;
- Gender issues;
- Assessment procedures, legal aspects and financial considerations;
- Support pre and post placement;
- Foster carers own children.
Applicants are expected to attend all the training sessions offered before being considered for further assessment as prospective foster carers.
If the prospective applicant does not attend one or more of the training sessions, they will receive a courtesy call from the allocated social worker and they will be offered the next course dates.If they indicate that they do not wish to pursue their interest, the case will be closed on Knowsley Children's System (ICS). A standard letter will be sent to the applicant explaining that the case is closed but that they make a further enquiry in the future if they wish to.
9. Assessment – Stage Two
Where the Assessment – Stage One information has been obtained, and no notification has been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable to be a foster carer, the following must be undertaken:
Obtain the following information relating to the applicant and other members of the household, together with any other relevant information:
- Details of personality;
- Religious persuasion, and capacity to care for a child from any particular religious persuasion;
- Racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and capacity to care for a child from any particular racial origin or cultural or linguistic background;
- Past and present employment or occupation, standard of living, leisure activities and interests;
- Previous experience (if any) of caring for their own and other children;
- Skills, competence and potential relevant to their capacity to care effectively for a child placed with them.
- Consider whether the applicant is suitable to be a foster parent and whether the applicant 's household is suitable for any child;
- Prepare a written report on the applicant which includes the following matters:
- The information required to be obtained, as set out above;
- Any other relevant information;
- An assessment of the applicant's suitability to be a foster parent;
- Proposals about any terms of approval.
(There are no specific regulatory requirements about the way in which assessment information must be collected or presented to Panel.)Where, having regard to information obtained during Stage Two, it is decided that the applicant is unlikely to be considered suitable to become a foster parent, notwithstanding that not all the Stage Two information has yet been obtained, a Brief Report may be prepared and submitted to the fostering panel in the same way as for a full assessment report. (There is no prescribed length or format for a brief report.)
At the end of the 10 working days, (or when the applicant's observations are received, whichever is sooner), the report, the applicant's observations on that report, if any, and any other relevant information obtained, must be sent to the fostering panel.
The applicant will be asked to complete the pen picture information within Fostering Application Form.
The assessing social worker will carry out a series of interviews with the applicant(s). Where there is a joint application, applicants should be seen separately at least once. The social worker should allow adequate time to get to know the applicant(s) in their own home.
Information about one applicant should not be given to the other without consent.In addition to visits to and interviews of the applicants, the assessing social worker will interview the three referees (see Section 6, Personal References) and the applicants' children (including those who live away from the family home) and other members of the household. The assessing social worker may also contact (and have a face-to-face meeting where considered appropriate) ex-partners of the applicant(s) (see Section 7, Previous Partners).
The suitability of the accommodation must also be assessed and a health and safety checklist (a Pro Forma Checklist is available) completed including an assessment of risk posed by any pets in the household – see Health and Safety Check for Knowsley Foster Carers. A copy of the completed checklist must be provided to the applicant. Any issues that arise from the health and safety check should be recorded and an agreed plan of action established. Where the applicants have a dog, a Dog Risk Assessment undertaken by an independent dog assessor should be completed. Where the applicants have other pets or animals on the property, a Pet Risk Assessment should be completed. These forms can be located with the Forms tab of the Fostering ICS module.
Consideration of the availability of specialist services in the locality should be given where the applicants may care for a child with special needs.
It is important for the social worker to consider how the family will be matched with a child in terms of age/type of child, level of contact they can cope with and their views on birth parents' lifestyle. This should include reasons why they may/may not be good at dealing with a particular child.
When it is anticipated that the assessment will be completed within the next 8 weeks, the social worker should contact the Panel Administrator to arrange a date when the assessment will be presented to the Fostering Panel.
Once all of the relevant papers have been sent to the Panel Administrator (see Section 10, Presentation to the Fostering Panel) a and checked by the Fostering Manager/Panel Administrator, the Panel Administrator will forward all relevant papers to the relevant Panel members and invitations to the applicants.
In addition, as part of the assessment, a Safer Caring Policy will be drawn up for each prospective foster home and this will be attached to the CoramBAAF Form F.
Applicants may withdraw from the assessment process before it is completed.
When the form has been completed, a visit will be made to the applicants by an experienced practitioner or a Team Manager, who will provide a separate report.
The completed form which should contain the outcome of the assessment and recommendations of the assessing social worker and the report of the 'independent' visit 2nd opinion report, not necessarily a visit should be shared with the applicant (excluding confidential references). One copy will be sent to the Team Manager/Senior Practitioner Lead and one copy will remain on the carer's file. This gives the applicant the opportunity to make any comments for example by expressing disagreement or support for the recommendations.
The applicant must be notified that the case is to be referred to the fostering panel, be given a copy of the report and be invited to send any observations in writing within 10 working days beginning with the date on which the notification is sent.At the end of the 10 working days, (or when the applicant's observations are received, whichever is sooner), the report, the applicant's observations on that report, if any, and any other relevant information obtained, must be sent to the fostering panel.
10. Presentation to the Fostering Panel
See also Fostering Panel Procedure.
The assessing social worker's Team Manager will collate and their admin support will send one copy of all the relevant information (including Panel Submission Form, (typed and signed), second opinion report by Team Manager or experienced practitioner if applicable, health and safety checklist, the Safer Caring Policy, the Dog/Pet Risk Assessment if applicable and a family tree and eco-map to the Panel Administrator.
For Connected Person carers and where a mainstream carer is approved for a named child. Connected Persons will be approved specifically for children, therefore would not need subsequent matching.
All paperwork should be sent to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the date of the Fostering Panel meeting considering the application. DBS offence details and medical reports are not forwarded to the Fostering Panel.
At the Panel meeting, the information will be presented by the social worker responsible for the assessment.
Whether the applicants attend or not, their views and wishes must be presented fairly and accurately to the Panel. If they decide not to attend, this should not be seen as prejudicial to the application.
The Panel will consider the written report together with all the supporting documentation, and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) regarding the outcome of the assessment, including where approval is recommended, the category of fostering recommended.
The recommendation 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 Connected Person) or conditions as to the age range or number of children to be placed in the foster home will also be specified.
Reasons for the recommendations, the category and any conditions will be recorded in the Panel's minutes.The Team Manager/Senior Practitioner Lead will record the Panel outcome on Knowsley's electronic Children's System (ICS).
11. After the Fostering Panel's Recommendation
For timescales relating to this section, see Fostering Panel Procedure.
After the Fostering Panel has considered the report and made a written recommendation, the Panel minutes will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) who will make a decision as to the approval of the foster carers based on the Panel's recommendation.
Where a Brief Report has been submitted to the fostering panel, the Agency Decision Maker will, taking into account the fostering panel's recommendation, make a determination about whether to terminate the assessment or whether the full assessment should be completed.
Where the application is approved, the category and any terms of the approval must be also specified in writing.
The applicant will be informed verbally of the decision within one working day.
Written notice of the decision and the terms of the approval will be sent by the Panel Administrator to the foster carer, signed by the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).
The decision should be recorded by the Team Manager/Senior Practitioner Lead on Knowsley Children's System (ICS). Upon approval, foster carers should be issued with an agreed form of identification to enable their role as a foster carer to be verified.
12. Representations/Independent Review Procedure
See also Fostering Panel Procedure.
If at Stage Two of the assessment process, the Agency Decision Maker gives a Qualifying Determination that he/she proposed not to approve the applicants as foster carers, the applicant will be advised that if he or she wishes to challenge the decision, they have a right to submit representations within 28 days of the date of the written notice of the decision to the Agency Decision Maker. 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 under the Independent Review Mechanism. Any such application must be made in writing within 28 days of the decision and supported by reasons.
The foster carer will not have the right to request a review by an Independent Review Panel 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.
Where it is decided at Stage One of the assessment process that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, there is no right to have the case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism.
If no written representations or notification of a request for a review is received within this period, the Agency Decision Maker will decide whether or not to approve the applicant as a foster carer (following a full assessment) or continue the assessment (following a Brief Report).
If written representations are made within the period, the matter will be referred back to the Fostering Panel for further consideration taking into account the written representations made.
The Panel Administrator will advise the applicant within 7 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.
The Panel will forward its recommendation in the usual way to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision to be made.
The Agency Decision Maker will inform the relevant Fostering Team Manager of the decision. The Panel Administrator will arrange for the applicants to be informed in writing of the decision (signed by the Agency Decision Maker) within 7 working days.
If the applicant decides to refer the matter to an Independent Review, the relevant Panels reports, any new information obtained since the Panel meeting, a record of the decisions 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. (See also: Attending an IRM Panel: Information Sheets, (GOV.UK))
The procedure for the Independent Review is carried out by Coram Children's Legal Centre on behalf of the Department for Education; the applicant and two representatives of the fostering team will be invited to attend the Independent Review.
After considering the representations, 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 7 working days of the receipt of the Independent Review recommendation. The IRM can only make recommendations to the Local Authority to consider.The outcome should be recorded by the Team Manager/Senior Practitioner Lead on Knowsley Children's System (ICS).
13. After the Approval
Where an application is approved, the foster carer will be allocated a supervising social worker - see Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure.
Where the Fostering Service have been involved in the carer's assessment, the social worker will send all information electronically to the Team Manager who will arrange when the first review is due.
The allocated supervising social worker will request the foster carer to sign a Foster Care Agreement between the local authority and the foster carer, which contains the information the foster carer needs to carry out his or her functions as a foster carer effectively.
The foster carer will be given two copies 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 Foster Care Agreement will contain the following information:
- The terms of the foster carer's approval;
- 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 placements of children;
- 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 - see Behaviour Management Policy for Foster Care;
- The procedures for informing the supervising social worker of the child's progress and any significant events relating to the child; i.e. medical issues, education issues, missing from care, bullying incidents;
- The need to give 28 days' notice in writing of they wish to cease fostering;
- The need to allow access to the Regulatory Authority.
A checklist of information and other items to be provided to the carer is available and should be followed by the supervising social worker. All items on the checklist must be provided within one calendar month of approval. Each item must be signed for by the carer with a copy retained by the carer and one copy for the foster carer's file.
The supervising social worker will also provide a standard "Welcome Pack" to the applicants. The supervising social worker must check that all of the relevant information is within the Welcome Pack (a pro-forma is available on the Fostering sharepoint site. The Welcome Pack contains a variety of information which is useful for carers, including a personal copy of the Knowsley Fostering Service Handbook which covers policies, procedures, guidance, legal information and insurance details. A summary Statement of Purpose will also be provided. The full Statement of Purpose can be viewed elsewhere on the Knowsley's Children's Social Care Website. The foster carer will sign receipt of the Welcome Pack and will retain a copy of the receipt with one copy for the foster carer(s) file.
The allocated supervising social worker will continue to provide support and supervision to the foster carer up to, during and after all placements - see Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure.Whenever a placement is made with a foster carers, ICS will be updated to reflect the foster carers current situation regarding children in their care. These records will be updated as and when children are placed and leave the placement.
14. Register of Foster Carers
The Registered Fostering Manager will maintain a register of all approved foster carers 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 who is a relative or friend (but not an approved Family and Friends 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 Team Manager/Senior Practitioner Lead will add the names of the foster carers to the foster carer register.