Use of Photography or Videos with Children Looked After


This chapter provides guidance on the use and parameters of photographs and video recording of Children Looked After. Whilst this is a normal part of childhood, for children looked after they can be an important part of helping them to make sense of their child hood experience. Nevertheless, children should not be forced to have their picture taken and great care should be taken in storing and exhibiting them. Professional staff should ensure that photographs of Children Looked After are not taken or stored on their personal photographic or electronic equipment.


This chapter was updated July 2017 to emphasise the need to ensure photographs and video-images are not made on personal devices and should not be sent electronically, unless they can be sent securely and there is parental consent to do so.

1. Introduction

It is important for you to be aware of the protocol on the use of photography or videos with Children Looked After that social workers are expected to follow. The next section provides you with this guidance then is followed by guidance to foster carers on the use of photos or videos with children in placement.

2. Guidance for Social Work Staff

The purpose of having a protocol is to protect children/young people from the use of photography in such a way that is, or has the potential to be, abusive or exploitative. It is also important for staff to have clear guidelines in order to protect them from allegations that they are using photography of children/young people in an inappropriate way. Workers should also be sensitive to what photography might mean for a child/young person in that it may have been used abusively with some children/young people.

It is recognised that taking photos or videos of children/young people is a legitimate, and indeed an essential part of working with them, such as the recording of activities, at the request of the child or young person themselves, or for life story work. In all such situations staff should alert their line manager to the fact that photos or videos are being used and this should be recorded clearly in the case notes.

3. Protocol to be Followed by Children's Social Care Staff when Photographing or Taking Videos of Children/Young People

  • The use of photography or reproduction of photographic images or the use of videos must always have a clear and child-centred purpose;
  • Prior to the taking of any photo or video the purpose of this should be explained to the child or young person according to their age, development and understanding and to the parent/carer unless there are specific reasons not to do so in which case the child's/young person's social worker must give permission. A child or young person should not be photographed if they do not wish to be or if their parent/carer/worker does not wish them to be;
  • In relation to one-to-one work by staff with children, written consent must be gained from the child's social worker or parent/carer and placed on the child's file unless the young person is clearly of an age and understanding to give informed consent on their own behalf. Key workers must then check that consent is on the child's file before taking images. For the purpose of group activities when photography is frequently used, carers/social workers should be notified and written consent gained;
  • Children/young people must be clothed and their torsos covered when being photographed or videoed. Cultural and religious traditions of clothing must be observed where needed;
  • When uploading photos, staff must use council equipment in the office. Staff must not upload photographic images or videos of children/young people in their own home or on their personal computer equipment;
  • Staff must not use personal mobile phones to take pictures of children and young people;
  • Staff must not take any photographic images of children/young people to their own home or keep them in their private possession;
  • Photographic images of children/young people should not be displayed in places to which members of the public have access. It is acknowledged that often children and young people enjoy having their photos displayed but displays of images should be confined to areas solely used by staff;
  • If photos or videos are to be used for public display e.g. for publicity purposes, specific permission must be sought from anyone with Parental Responsibility, parents/carers/Head of Service and from the child/young person if appropriate. A separate consent form will be used for this particular purpose and children must always be dressed in the images. The name of the child/young person in the image must never be used;
  • Photographic images of children/young people must never be sent via the Internet unless this is done securely and unless there is parental consent to do so. If this is agreed, for example in the context of a potential adoptive placement, software to do so must be accessed on work computers;
  • Any images of children whether stored as hard copies or on disk must be stored securely;
  • Images of children looked after must not be posted on Facebook or any other social networking internet pages, unless this is done by the young person themselves once they are old enough for their own Facebook account and under the supervision of their carer.

4. Guidance to Foster Carers

Whilst you need to be aware of the protocol guiding social workers, we acknowledge you are in a different situation. Children Looked After need to have a record of their time in foster care with photos being of particularly importance in recording key events and activities. They may have big gaps and few photos from other times in their lives. You have a key responsibility in helping a young person to develop pride in themselves which can be aided by having a photographic record.

The use of photography should be discussed at care planning meetings and Children Looked After Review meetings. The child's social worker should ensure you are aware of any issues there may be for a child in relation to photography, for example the possibility of it triggering memories of previous abuse.

Even if there are not specific issues of concern in relation to use of photography in a child's past, you need to be sensitive to the feelings of the young person about being photographed or videoed. Obviously photos should only be taken if a young person is happy for you to do so, and you must not take photos of a young person unclothed.

You should obtain a photo album for the child placed, or establish a folder on your computer, for their photos that could be downloaded on to a memory stick, CDROM or DVD, or printed off as required for them if they move on.

The virtual memory box will be an important resource for all children looked after and you should upload photographs so that children will be able to access them as they grow up and leave care.

(N.B. Further guidance on the use of the virtual memory box will be issued.)

Older children should be encouraged and supported to take photos of key events such as holidays, birthdays, days out and pictures of important people in their lives.

If you have any queries about this subject please feel free to raise with your supervising social worker who will give further guidance as necessary.

Photographs of Children Looked After must not be posted by carers on Facebook, other social network, or other internet sites by foster carers and children looked after should be supervised if they wish to post photographs to their own social media accounts to ensure they are not putting themselves at risk of exploitation or abuse, or jeopardising the security of their placement.