Supervision and Support of Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all approved foster carers.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Transfer of Foster Carers Protocol England

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in April 2021 with further information added to Section 3, Frequency of Supervision and Section 6, Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer.

1. Introduction

All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified supervising social worker. The allocated supervising 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 Minimum Standards for Fostering and the agency's policies, procedures and guidance.

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, or any other household member;
  • 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;
  • Any incident whereby the child has been restrained;
  • Any violent nature involving the child in care or any household member;
  • When the child in care is required to attend hospital in an emergency.

See also: Notifications of Significant Events Procedure.

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.

2. Planned Supervision Visits

A Supervision Agreement should be completed with the foster carers and the Supervising Social Worker which agrees the programme of supervision visits between the foster carer and the supervising social worker from the time of the foster carer's approval, and endorsed by the Supervising Social Worker's line manager.

Supervision is essentially a supportive and enabling two way process to:

  • Ensure the foster carers understand how they contribute to the local authority's services for children;
  • Enable foster carers to contribute effectively to the plans for the children for whom they are caring;
  • Provide appropriate monitoring and feedback on the foster carers' work to ensure the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
  • Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training and their annual review;
  • Provide an opportunity to reflect and understand how any training undertaken will make a difference to the care they provide and how they can implement changes;
  • 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;
  • 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.

The agenda for each meeting should cover:

  1. Matters arising from the last supervision;
  2. Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family, changes in the carer's situation and circumstances etc.
  3. Child/ren in placement:
    1. Their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
    2. The child's health appointments and any issues in completing these;
    3. Progress and work with respect towards each child's Care Plan;
    4. Any accidents, injuries and illnesses experienced by each child;
    5. Any complaints in relation to children placed with them and their outcomes;
    6. Communication for the child, does the child have access to MOMO and are they encouraged to use it;
    7. Any concerns around behaviour management in relation to children they are caring for, including where a consultation with CAMHS may be useful;
    8. Any other significant events (see Section 1, Introduction);
    9. Any medication, medical treatment or first aid administered;
    10. Update on the savings for the child either through a bank account or ISA;
    11. Where appropriate, use of the DLA/PIP funding.
  4. Training/development issues for the foster carers and their family, including birth children;
  5. Safe caring and health and safety issues;
  6. Foster carer's recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker who should attach these to the foster carer's file and share them with the relevant child social worker.

Where the foster carers are currently inactive the following items should be considered within supervision:

  1. Consider the barrier to them actively taking placements;
  2. What support needs to be provided for them to take placements;
  3. Have they been doing training and support groups during their break? If not why not?
  4. Are they going to be able to take placements in the near future?
  5. Does their approval need to be reviewed?
  6. What training do they need in order to confidently foster again?
  7. Are they ok, do they need any general support from us or other professionals?

The supervision visits should be recorded on the Foster Carer Supervision Record within Liquid Logic, signed by the foster carer and the supervising social worker, and should include:

  • Any concerns expressed;
  • Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
  • Any financial issues.

A record of all meetings should be kept recorded and finalised on Liquid Logic within five working days of the meeting taking place and a copy provided to the foster carers.

The supervision records will inform the foster carer's review – see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

3. Frequency of Supervision

Foster carers should receive monthly supervision unless it has been agreed by the foster carer, Supervising Social Worker and Team Manager that this can be less frequent. This decision needs to be based on the needs of the children, the amount of care the foster carer is providing and the stability of the placement. All decisions need to be recorded on the foster carers file. However, all foster carers should have supervision within an eight week period, even if they have no children currently placed with them.

Supervision expectations should be agreed in the supervision agreement and the decision to have less than monthly supervision needs to be reviewed at regular intervals and a manager decision placed on the foster carers file.

The frequency of meetings for short break or respite foster carers should be proportionate to the amount of care provided.

See also: 16-003 Foster Carer Supervision - Frequency Guidelines. In Section 16 or the Resource Library.

4. Unannounced Visits

There should also be unannounced visits at least once a year. 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 a supervising social worker who is not the allocated social worker to the foster carers. during the visit the social worker will need to check:

  1. Who is in the home;
  2. Who is looking after the child;
  3. If the carer is not at home, what arrangements have been made for the care of the child;
  4. The cleanliness and provisions within the home;
  5. Health and safety aspects of the home including sleeping arrangements.

If the foster carers are not at home, the supervising social worker should leave a note for the foster carers to say that they have visited.

If the foster carers are not at home but the child is present and being looked after by someone else, the social worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit.

Unannounced visits should be recorded on the foster carers file within five working days of the visit taking place.

Additional unannounced visits to a foster carer's home should only take place when there is sufficient evidence and reason to do so. In the event that this is required, it must be explained to the foster carer that additional visits may take place and the rationale for this period.

5. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker

Supervising social workers should ensure the following tasks are done: 

Post Approval

  1. Ensure that all new carers complete the Foster Carer Training, Support and Development Standards by their first annual review, connected carers must complete this within 18 months;
  2. Provide Foster Carers' Handbook to new carer. The signed Handbook receipt should be collected and uploaded to the foster carers electronic file;
  3. Provide Foster Carer Agreement to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer's file;
  4. In partnership with the children's social worker, support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carer's Allowance, Disability Living Allowance etc.

Pre-Placement

  1. Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing (each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the placing authority), 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;
  2. Ensure the foster carers are provided with a delegation of Authority form and a copy is added to the foster carers electronic file;
  3. Take part in discussions about potential placements;
  4. Take part in planning meetings regarding placements;
  5. Ensure that the child's social worker give the foster family 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;
  6. Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members;
  7. Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
  8. Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
  9. Discuss appropriate training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs;
  10. Assist carer with training needs for appropriate safer care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children;
  11. 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. Foster carers should be provided with a copy of the Core Cost document;
  12. Enquire about holiday plans the carers have made, and if the child is able to join them? If not the carer must inform both the child's social worker and Supervising Social Worker so alternative arrangements can be made;
  13. Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the fostering family, including out of hours support;
  14. That arrangements are made for the provision of specialist equipment for disabled children;
  15. Set date of first visit after the placement, including joint visits with the child social worker;
  16. Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed;
  17. Provide carers with training and written policy on behaviour management.

During Placement

  1. 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 addressed and in place at the time rather than waiting for reviews;
  2. Provide foster carers with breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children;
  3. Take part in any strategy meetings and section 47 enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
  4. 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;
  5. Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
  6. Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and their family and children. Ensure any training completed is reflected upon and recorded on the foster carers electronic file and their PDP;
  7. Visit regularly in accordance with the foster carer's needs, the child's Care Plan and as required (see also Section 3, Frequency of Supervision and Section 4, Unannounced Visits;
  8. Review the Safer Caring Plan and any changes in household circumstances, at the point of annual review or following any change in circumstances including new children joining the home;
  9. Assess and review any health and safety issues within the fostering household including the addition of any new pets and the environment in which they are kept as a minimum at the point of the annual review;
  10. Make unannounced visits as required;
  11. Review the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks 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. All adults within the home should be registered with the DBS update service which can be checked on an annual basis;
  12. 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 carers health, a review of the foster carers approval should be carried out immediately;
  13. Record contact with carers;
  14. Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
  15. Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker;
  16. Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood;

At End of Placement

  1. Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time;
  2. 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;
  3. Assist the foster carer to complete their end of placement report if required;
  4. Attend Disruption Meetings as required.

6. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer

For the detailed procedure, see Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure.

Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the supervising social worker should:

  1. Support the family;
  2. Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, as agreed at the Strategy Meeting;
  3. Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
  4. Make the carer's aware of their own possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice from the Fostering Network or other independent sources.