Knowsley Foster Carer Review Policy

AMENDMENT

In June 2021, this chapter was revised throughout and replaces the previous version.

1. Legislation/Guidance

Regulation 28 of the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 requires fostering services to review the approval of foster carers within a year of approval, and thereafter whenever necessary but at intervals of not more than a year. A written report of the review must set out whether the foster carer and their household continue to be suitable to foster and, if so, whether the terms of their approval continue to be appropriate. The first review must be referred to the fostering panel to make a recommendation.

Regulation 28 also gives foster carers the right to make representations to the fostering service or to refer to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) within 28 days of any qualifying determination issued by the fostering service.

National Minimum Standard (NMS) 20.6 sets out that reviews should include an appraisal of a carer's performance, consideration of training and development needs and a review of the carer's personal development plan. Standard 13.9 emphasises that areas of concern or need for additional support that are identified between reviews should be addressed at that time and should not wait until a planned review.

Assessment and approval of foster carers: Amendments to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 4 (July 2013) provides statutory guidance regarding reviews and terminations of approval.

2. Introduction

The foster carer review is a statutory process in which all foster carers must participate. The purpose is to review the foster carer's approval to determine whether the foster carer and their household continue to be suitable to foster and, if so, whether the foster carer's terms of approval continue to be appropriate.

It must be a robust process which allows the fostering service to be satisfied that the foster carers continue to be suitable to care for looked after children. The review considers the work of the foster carer over the past year and is evidenced by reports from all those involved in the care of the children.

The review process also allows the foster carers to reflect on the successes and challenges they have encountered, including the impact on their family and the quality of the support and training they have received. They should be invited to make suggestions with regard to improvements which could be made the fostering service.

3. Frequency of Reviews

A foster carer review must take place not more than one year after approval and thereafter whenever the fostering service feels it is necessary, but at intervals of not more than a year.

A review will usually be regarded as necessary in the following circumstances:

  • Following an allegation or serious complaint;
  • A change in the composition of the household;
  • Any Standards of Care Issues.

Foster carers have a responsibility to notify the fostering service of any change in the composition of the household or any change in circumstances which has an impact on fostering.

4. Role of Fostering Panel

The report of the review meeting must be submitted to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision, whether or not it is first presented to the foster panel for its recommendation.

Reviews which must be considered by the Fostering Panel for a recommendation to the agency decision maker include:

  • The first review following approval;
  • A review following an investigation into an allegation or serious complaint, whether proven or unsubstantiated;
  • Where there is a recommendation for a significant change of approval;
  • Where there have been significant changes in the foster carer's circumstances.

5. Content of Review

The review should be provided with the following paperwork:

  • The supervising social worker report;
  • Current health and safety check of the foster home;
  • Details of all statutory checks and evidence of a risk assessment in place if these are not up to date;
  • The carer's personal development plan and an appraisal of training and development over the past year;
  • The Fostering household's safer caring plan;
  • Contribution forms/Views from the following:
    • The foster carer;
    • The carers' sons and daughters or any child subject to SGO;
    • Any children in placement and those who have left the placement during the last year;
    • The birth parent/s, if appropriate;
    • The child's independent reviewing officer;
    • Social workers for all children in placement at any time during the review period;
    • Any additional report such as health or education.

It is the responsibility of the supervising social worker or the child's social worker to assist the children to complete forms, if necessary, or obtain verbal feedback from those who are younger. Foster carers should not assist children with feedback as this might impede children's willingness to express their genuine views about the placement.

Reports from parents may not always be appropriate, for instance if there are ongoing care proceedings. Any report received from a parent must take into account the context of the parent's relationship with the department.

6. Before the Review Meeting

The completed supervising social worker report should be quality assured and authorised by the team manager before being shared with the foster carer. The foster carer must see a copy of the full report and professional contributions ten days prior to the review meeting.

The IRO should receive the review documentation at least seven days prior to the meeting allowing time to read the report and for a discussion with the supervising social worker to clarify any issues if required

7. Review Meeting

The review should be a comprehensive assessment of the carer's fostering over the past year and also of the quality of the support they have received from the fostering service. It should include:

  • A discussion of the contents of the report, with particular attention to any areas of difficulty or where there has been good practice;
  • A discussion of the placements the carer has had and their appropriateness in terms of their approval, skills and capacity;
  • An evaluation of the training attended by the foster carer and discussion of training and development needs over the coming year (see training section below for further details);
  • The foster carer's assessment of the quality of support, received from the fostering service and suggestions for any improvements;
  • A discussion of any recommendations that the IRO intends to make and an appropriate plan of action and who will carry it out if necessary.

8. Training

It is a regulatory requirement that all approved foster carers undertake required mandatory training and any other training identified in their Personal Development Plan which should be completed in consultation with their supervising social workers. All mandatory training has to be refreshed every three years.

If the carers have any outstanding mandatory training an action plan will identify the appropriate support required to ensure that this is completed. The Training, Support and Development Standards for foster care (TSDS standards) need to be completed within the first year of approval for mainstream carers and within eighteen months for family and friends' carers.

At the review the carers' approval status will be considered taking into account their commitment to and completion of identified training. On-going training is important to ensure that skills continue to be developed and reflect current practice. If concerns are expressed about a carers lack of compliance with training in line with their current skills levels and what is expected of then an action plan of agreed training / tasks will be put in place for monitoring and management oversight. If no progress is made or the plan is not adhered to then an earlier review can be convened to consider their skills status. (See Skills Policy).

9. Following the Review

The IRO will write a report following the meeting including their observations about the standard of care provided by the foster carers and the adequacy of the support from the department and ending with their recommendations and suggested plan of action. This will be provided to the foster carer within twenty working days.

10. Consideration by panel and Agency Decision Maker

If, for the reasons previously detailed and in accordance with procedures, the report has to be considered by the fostering panel, then all paperwork must be submitted to the panel administrator fourteen days prior to the scheduled panel date. Foster carers will receive a letter inviting them to attend.,

The Panel will make a recommendation, based on the written report and the discussions at panel. If the Agency Decision Maker (ADM), taking into account the panel's views, decides that the carer continues to be suitable and that the terms of approval continue to be appropriate, a letter will be sent to them confirming their continuing approval.

For review reports being presented direct to the ADM, the same process should be followed.

A copy of the review documents, the agency decision sheet and the panel minute, where applicable should be kept on the carer's electronic file.

11. Termination/Revision of Approval

If the Review of the foster carer's approval concludes the foster carer or the household are no longer suitable to foster, or if there is a recommendation for a change in the terms of approval, the Review must be referred to the Fostering Panel. This includes the matching of children and carers and change in status of the foster carer, i.e., short term and long term.

The Panel will consider the Review recommendations and make its own recommendations to the Agency Decision Maker.

Following the Agency Decision Maker's decision, a letter is sent out advising the carer of the following:

  • The Fostering Service proposal to terminate their approval or to revise the terms of their approval giving the reasons for this.
  • The foster carer has 28 days from the date of the notice to make written representation to the Fostering Service ADM or alternatively they can appeal direct to IRM (Independent Review Mechanism). Foster carers cannot appeal to both.

If no representation is received within 28 days, the Panel Administrator will ask the Agency Decision Maker to send a written notice to the foster carer stating:

  • Their approval is terminated from a specified date and the reasons for this termination;
    Or
  • The revised terms of their approval and the reasons for the revision.

If written representation is received within 28 days, the Fostering Panel should reconsider the case and make recommendations to the Agency Decision Maker. The final decision will be made by the Agency Decision Maker and written notification must then be sent stating:

  • The foster carer and household continue to be suitable and the terms of approval remain appropriate;
    Or
  • Their approval is terminated from a specified date and the reasons for this termination;
    Or
  • The revised terms of their approval and the reasons for the revision.

If the carer disagrees with the decision, they have the option to go through the Independent Review Mechanism or provide further information to the panel for reconsideration. If the Independent Review Mechanism is chosen matters cannot be referred back to panel. The IRM can only make recommendations to the ADM/Fostering service to consider after their review. See also Prepare for a review panel: adopters and foster carers.

12. Withdrawing from Fostering

A foster carer may give notice in writing at any time that they wish to withdraw from Fostering, in which case their approval is automatically terminated 28 days after receipt of the written notice by the fostering service - regulation 28(13).

Fostering Panel will be notified of the carer's resignation to inform its monitoring role.

It should be noted that no carer should be allowed to give a notice period on a child to move and remain a carer. Disruption meetings and pre-disruption meetings should take fostering households and children into account when care plans require a change due to levels of risk and care.