Supervision of Foster Carers
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers.RELATED CHAPTERS AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in December 2019 to reflect in more detail the foster carer's role and responsibilities with respect to Fostering National Minimum Standards - Notification of Significant Events (see Section 1, Introduction) and relevant aspects of Schedule 6 The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, (see Section 2, Planned Supervision Visits). This policy was reviewed and refreshed where required in December 2020.
Foster carers benefit from professional and supportive relationships with the Fostering Service, which help them to provide high-quality care.
Foster carers are part of the team around the child, which is mutually supportive. They are actively involved in planning for the child, and their views are valued by the Local Authority to positively influence children’s progress. They work very effectively together with children’s social workers to ensure that placements are appropriate, planned and meet the needs of children. The support provided to foster carers by the Fostering Service is also designed to help them to cope with the additional demands of fostering on their family life.
All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified Supervising Social Worker. The allocated social worker is responsible for supervising and supporting carers, ensuring that they have the necessary guidance, support and direction to maintain a quality service, including safe caring practices. This will include an understanding that they must work within the National Standards and the agencies policies, procedures and guidance. The supervising social worker should provide effective support and challenge through the supervision and review processes to ensure that carers are providing high-quality care. The child's allocated social worker should be contacted for specific advice or support in relation to the child and their Care Plan and Placement Plan.
The supervising social worker must also ensure that the foster carers' training and development needs are identified, and that newly approved carers work towards completing the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers Workbook. They also have the responsibility to ensure foster carers are familiar and made aware of new policies and guidance.
The foster carer(s) should be fully aware of the Notification of Significant Events and the need to immediately report to their supervising social worker or Fostering Agency the following:
- The Death of a Child;
- A Serious illness or serious accident of a child placed with them;
- The outbreak at the foster home of any infectious disease (which in the opinion of a general practitioner attending the home is sufficiently serious to be notified);
- An allegation that a child placed with foster parents has committed a serious offence;
- A child placed with them they have concerns about of being sexually exploited;
- The Police calling to the foster carer's home as a result of a serious incident relating to a child placed there;
- A child placed with the foster carer(s) who has gone missing;
- Any serious concerns about the emotional or mental health of a child, such that a mental health assessment would be requested under the Mental Health Act 1983.
2. Planned Supervision Visits
The supervising social worker should provide effective support and challenge through the supervision and review processes to ensure that carers are providing high-quality care.
A programme of supervision visits should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the Supervising Social Worker from the time of the foster carer's approval, and endorsed by the social worker's supervisor. This can be completed via a template provided to all social workers that should be brought to each supervision with the fostering team manager and should be kept up to date.
Supervision is essentially a supportive and enabling two way process to:
- Ensure the foster carer understands how they contribute to the authorities services for children;
- Enable foster carers to contribute effectively to the plans for the children for whom they are caring to ensure that plans for children remain in children’s best interests;
- Provide appropriate monitoring and feedback on the foster carers' work to ensure national minimum standards and National Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
- Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate;
- Give foster carers an opportunity to raise any problems and make sure they are addressed appropriately;
- Acknowledge the challenges and demands that the fostering tasks make on Foster Families and ensure appropriate support is available, including baby-sitting services;
- Recognise and address any difficulties the foster carers' own children may be experiencing arising from fostering; and
- Assist foster carers to work in an anti-discriminatory way that respects and promotes individual differences;
- Consider the training and development of each individually approved foster carer.
The agenda for each meeting should cover:
- Matters arising from last supervision;
- Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family, changes in the carer's situation and circumstances etc.;
- Child/ren in placement:
- Their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
- Progress and work with respect towards each child's Care Plan;
- Any accidents, injuries and illnesses experienced by each child;
- Any complaints in relation to children placed with them and their outcomes;
- Any issues of control, restraint or discipline in relation to children placed with them;
- Any other significant events (see Section 1, Introduction);
- Any medication, medical treatment or first aid administered;
- The use of my memories and keeping significant records of memories for each child and or young person;
- The child's pocket money allowance.
- Training/development issues for the foster carer and their family;
- Safe caring and health and safety issues;
- Foster carer's recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker and sign the carers diary.
The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma Foster Carer Supervision Record, signed by the foster carer and the social worker, and should include:
- Any concerns expressed;
- Any support needs expressed by the carer and how they will be met;
- Any financial issues.
A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carer's file and one copy given to the foster carer.
The Supervision records will inform the foster carer's review - see Knowsley Foster Carer Review Policy Procedure.
3. Frequency of Supervision
Supervision meetings will take place at least four times a year. It is noted that other visits and contacts will occur throughout this time and will be recorded on ICS as per the council policy. Supervising social workers should consult the 'role of the supervising social worker'.
Additional visits may be made for the purposes of support (to the foster carer or any member of the foster family) with telephone contact at least every four weeks.
Whereby home visits are taken place with foster carers who have respite children or school age children there is an expectation that the fostering supervising social worker visits and observes the child in placement. This may require visits to be undertaken at weekends and or evenings.
4. Unannounced Visits
There should also be two unannounced visits at least each year - these should take place between 7a.m. and 7 p.m. The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.
The unannounced visits will be undertaken by the foster carer's social worker who will need to check:
- Who is in the home;
- Who is looking after the child;
- If the carer is not at home, what arrangements have been made for the care of the foster child.
If the carer is not at home, the supervising social worker should leave a note for the foster carer to say that they have visited. If the foster child is being looked after by someone other than the carer, the social worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit.
Unannounced visits should take place at least once where the children are in placement.
Unannounced visits should be recorded.
There should not ordinarily be a regular programme of unannounced visits without particular reason - for example if a foster carer is being closely monitored. In such an event the reason for such will be explained to the foster carer. Foster carers will never be informed when an unannounced visit will take place.
5. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker
Social workers should ensure the following tasks are completed:
- The supervising social worker has the responsibility, within 6 weeks of approval, to create with new carers their individual personal development plan. To ensure that all new carers complete the induction programme, in line with meeting the National Standards for Foster Carers. The supervising social worker will assess the support, development and training needs of their carers, and ensure they work through the standards and achieve the National Standards for Foster Carers certificate of completion by their first annual review, or soon after if extra support is required. NB Work is in progress to develop a standard format and Social Workers will be briefed when this is available;
- Give Foster Carers' Handbook to new carer;
- Give Foster Carer Agreement to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer's file;
- To support Carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. Support in completing the Carers Allowance, Disability Living Allowance.
- Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing, mixing with other children in home, etc. Discuss and check equipment (especially in the child's bedroom) and ensure it is appropriate to the age of the child in placement. Revise carer's Safer Caring Policy if necessary;
- Take part in discussions about potential placements;
- Take part in planning meetings regarding placements;
- Ensure that the child's social worker give the foster family required full information about children about to be placed, including any abuse or neglect and the reason for the placement, the child's educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic and cultural needs;
- Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
- Discuss financial issues with the carer: allowances, pocket money, leisure activities, toiletries and travelling etc. and the importance of complying with the terms of the Council's insurance policy for carers;
- Enquire about holiday plans the carers have made, and if the child is able to join them? If not the carer must inform the child's social worker so alternative arrangements can be made;
- Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family, including out of hours support;
- Organise equipment as required. Be aware of the process for Occupational Therapy referrals for adaptations and items of support for disabled children, and liaise with the child's social worker to ensure these services are acquired;
- Set date of first visit after the placement;
- Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed.
- Where necessary, check and follow up on all issues raised during the placement. Discuss any areas of concern with foster carers and ensure appropriate support/advice is in place;
- Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
- Ensure the supervising social worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child's Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences, and attend when appropriate;
- Prepare for and attend Review Meetings (See Knowsley Foster Carer Review Policy Procedure);
- Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and their family and children;
- Visit regularly;
- Make unannounced visits as required;
- Update Disclosure and Barring Service Disclosure on members of the family every 3 years, including those reaching 18 years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are over 18 years;
- Whilst there is no statutory time interval, as good practice medical information should also be updated at least every 3 years by writing to the foster carer's GP. In the event of any serious concerns about the foster carer's health, a review of the foster carer's approval should be carried out immediately;
- Record contact with carers;
- Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
- Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker;
- It is noted that a Regulation 24 Connected Person is an approved foster carer (albeit on an interim basis) and therefore should be provided with the same amount of supervision and home visits as other approved foster carers.
At End of Placement
- Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time;
- Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to any unplanned end of a placement and identify any learning/training opportunities;
- Assist the foster carer to complete their end of placement report when the child has remained in the care for a minimum period of 4 weeks;
- Attend Disruption Meetings as required.
6. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer
For the detailed procedure, see Knowsley Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure.
Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the Social Worker should:
- Ensure the safety of the child, carer and any other household member;
- Support the family;
- Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, as agreed at the Strategy Meeting;
- Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
- Make the carer's aware of the Social Workers possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice, for example from the Fostering Network or other independent sources;
- Make an immediate LADO referral to the relevant local authority and follow Knowsley procedures.
(See also Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure).