SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to children who are cared for by people other than their parent or close relative for 28 days or more and who are NOT subject to any order or arrangement that would place them in the care of the local authority.
RELATED REGULATIONS, GUIDANCE AND INFORMATION
AMENDMENTThis chapter was refreshed where required in July 2023.
A private fostering arrangement is one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of a local authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative with the intention that it should last for 28 days or more.
Private foster carers may be from the extended family, such as a cousin or great aunt. However, a person who is a relative under the Children Act 1989 i.e. a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full or half blood or by marriage) or step-parent will not be a private foster carer.
Section 17(11) CA 1989: a child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed.
A child who is residing in any residential home, hospital or school (where they are receiving full-time education) is excluded from the definition.
However, Children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school, become privately fostered children for the purposes of the legislation during that holiday period.
2. Notifications to the Local Authority
Where a child is to be placed with private foster carers, the local authority must be notified in writing at least 6 weeks before an arrangement begins. Where no prior notification of a placement is given, private foster carers must notify the local authority of the placement immediately.
The person making the notification should be asked to provide the following information:
- The name, gender, date and place of birth and address of the child;
- The racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and religion of the child;
- The names and address of the person giving the notice and any previous address within the last five years;
- The name and addresses of the child's parents and any previous addresses within the last 5 years;
- If different, the name and address of the person from whom the child was or is to be received;
- The name and address of the private foster carers and any previous addresses within the last 5 years;
- The name and address of any other person who is involved in making the arrangement;
- The name and address of any siblings of the child who are under 18, and the current arrangements for their care;
- The purpose and likely duration of the arrangement;
- The intended date when the child is to be placed with the private foster carers or the date when the placement began.
In relation to notifications given by the private foster carer or proposed private foster carer, the following information should also be obtained:
- Any offence of which they or any other member of the household has been convicted;
- Any disqualification or prohibition (see Section 13, Disqualification and Prohibition) placed on them or any other member of the household;
- Any actions taken or orders made in relation to the carer or any child who is or was a member of the same household.
Written notification must also be made to the local authority by the carer within 48 hours of any change in circumstances, e.g. a change of address, a change in the household, a criminal conviction/disqualification or prohibition (see Section 13, Disqualification and Prohibition) in relation to any person in the household or any intention to foster another child privately.
Where notification is that the private foster carers have moved to live in the area of another local authority, the social worker must immediately pass to the new authority the name and address of the private foster carer, the name of the child being privately fostered, the name and address of the child's parents.
Where notification is that the placement has ended, the social worker should ascertain the name and address of the person now caring for the child and their relationship with the child.
Parents also have a duty to notify the local authority in writing of the ending of the placement including the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved.
Any agency that becomes aware of a private fostering arrangement must immediately notify the local authority in writing of the arrangement and must inform the parent and private foster carer of their intention to do so.
3. Responding to Un-Notified Private Fostering Arrangements
The local authority is required to deal effectively with situations where a private fostering arrangement has come to their attention but has not been notified in accordance with the regulations and to ensure that an appropriate decision is taken where it appears that an offence has been committed, bearing in mind the best interests of the child. Discussion should take place through supervision and guidance sought from Legal Services as to whether or not an offence should be prosecuted. Ultimately the decision rests with the Area Assistant Director.
A person will be committing an offence if they:
- Foster a child when disqualified from doing so without the written consent of the local authority;
- Foster a child in a household where a disqualified person, who does not have the local authority's consent, lives or works, unless they can prove that they did not know and had no reasonable grounds for believing that such a person lived or worked there;
- Accommodate a privately fostered child in any premises in contravention of a prohibition imposed by a local authority;
- Fail without reasonable excuse to give any notice or information required by the CA 1989 or regulations within the specified time for doing so;
- Make or cause or procure another to make any statement in the notice or information which they know to be false or misleading in a material particular;
- Fail without reasonable cause to comply with a requirement imposed by a local authority;
- Refuse to allow a privately fostered child to be visited by an officer of the local authority;
- Intentionally obstruct an authorised person seeking to inspect a child or premises under the CA 1989;
- Knowingly publish, or cause to be published, an advertisement which does not state the name and address of a person advertised as arranging or undertaking private fostering.
4. Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers
During the initial visit, the social worker should:
- Explain the assessment process to the private foster carers and provide written information to them;
- Obtain the written consent of the private foster carer and all members of the household over 16 to checks being made with the Disclosure and Barring Service;
- Establish the private foster carer's child care experience, access to support and views and intentions regarding behaviour management of the child;
- Establish the plans for contact between the child and their parents;
- Establish the private foster carer's understanding of the child's culture, and give advice in relation to resources and facilities which could assist in meeting the child's racial, cultural, religious and linguistic needs, including the use of an interpreter if necessary;
- Advise the private foster carer of the need for notification to Children's Services in the event of a change in circumstances and preparation of the child before any further move, and for continuity of information being passed to the next carer;
- Check the child's passport to in order to satisfy themselves about the child's immigration status, in particular that the child is lawfully present in the UK
- Ensure that the parents have fully informed the private foster carer of the child's medical history and any current need for ongoing professional monitoring and medication, and has handed the child's personal child health records (red book) to the private foster carer if appropriate;
- Encourage the private foster carers to draw up a written agreement with the child's parents as to their respective expectations and responsibilities in relation to the fostering arrangement including the Contact Arrangements/Family Time;
- Ensure that the child is registered with a GP, dentist and, if necessary, optician local to the foster home;
- Ensure that a school place has been arranged for the child if of school age
- Ensure the parent provides to the private foster carer a written general consent to cover any necessary medical treatment and that a copy of this consent is given to the GP, dentist, optician and retained on the child's file.
Advise the private foster carer in relation to recording the child's development, particularly incorporating the following matters:
- Maintaining the child's medical history;
- Keeping a file of school reports;
- Noting dates of contact with the parents and significant others;
- Maintaining a financial record;
- Noting dates of contact with Children's Services;
- Keeping a photograph album.
In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the private foster carers that they cannot be recommended as suitable and advise the parents of the reason why alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child.
Any action required by the local authority to secure the child's safety should be considered and legal advice sought as necessary.
If the initial visit takes place after the child's placement, the social worker should ensure that the above actions are completed as soon as possible.
5. Agency Checks
Information from several different agencies is necessary to inform the private fostering arrangement assessment. These include:
DBS – checks should be carried out for someone who is privately fostering or proposing to privately foster a child and all members of his household aged over 16 years. The actual or proposed private foster carer and each member of his household aged over 16 should be asked to provide written consent for such a check to be carried out.
The DBS does not support portable DBS checks (i.e.: checks completed by other organisations) so new DBS applications should always be completed when assessing prospective private foster carers. The assessing social workers should contact the DBS team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange to become identification verifiers.
In line with Kent's Fostering Policy, those carers that are caring for children in longer term private fostering arrangements should have new or updating DBS checks every three years.
For further advice please contact the DBS team.
LIBERI CHECK – checks of Liberi are necessary to check whether the proposed or actual private foster carer or any member of his household is/has been known to social services (and liaise with other local authorities if the proposed private foster carer has only been in the present local authority area for a short-time).
It is particularly important that the carers electronic file is checked in order to ascertain whether they have privately fostered children before and whether they have been prohibited from doing so in the past.
OFSTED - information from Ofsted is necessary to ensure the private foster carer has not had a child minding registration refused or cancelled.
PROBATION – information from Probation is necessary to ensure they are not disqualified from being private foster carers due to past activities or offences.
PERSONAL REFERENCES - two personal references should be obtained and should be subject to follow up interviews/conversations
PRIVATE FOSTER CARERS GP – information regarding the health of the proposed private foster carer
LETTER TO PRIVATE FOSTER CARERS CHILD/REN'S EDUCATION/HEALTH PROVISION – information from the private foster carers child/rens education provision and/or health visitor/school nurse is necessary to help the social worker gain a view of the quality of care the birth child of the private foster carer is receiving
In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the private foster carers that as the required assessment cannot be completed, they cannot be recommended as suitable. In these circumstances, the social worker must advise the parents of the need to make alternative arrangements for their child.
The DBS does not support portable DBS checks (i.e.: checks completed by other organisations) so new DBS applications should always be completed when assessing prospective private foster carers. The assessing social workers should contact the DBS team by emailing email@example.com to arrange to become identification verifiers.
In line with Kent's Fostering Policy, those carers that are often caring for children in private fostering arrangements (i.e.: host families) should have new or updating DBS checks every three years.
For further advice please contact the DBS team.
6. Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record
The purpose of this assessment is two-fold – to assess the capacity of the proposed or actual private foster carer to look after the child and to assess whether the child is a child in need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.
The maximum time frame for the Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment Record to conclude, such that it is possible to reach a decision on next steps, should be no longer than 42 working days from the point of notification. If, in discussion with a child and their family and other professionals, an assessment exceeds 42 working days the social worker and professionals involved should record the reasons for exceeding the time limit.
A copy of the assessment should be presented to the district Integrated Family Service Manager (IFSM) or Adolescent Service Manager for a decision to be made as to whether to arrangement is suitable for the child. Written notice of the decision must then be sent to the private foster carer and the parents, including any requirements, exemptions or prohibitions imposed - see Section 10, Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers, Section 12, Limit on Number of Children and Section 13, Disqualification and Prohibition.
In the event of a refusal of any person to cooperate with the making of the necessary checks, the social worker should advise the private foster carers that they cannot be recommended as suitable and advise the parents of the reason why alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child. Any action required by the local authority to secure the child's safety should be considered and legal advice sought as necessary.
If any information comes to light during the course of the private foster carer assessment, for example as a result of the Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which may preclude the person from fostering a child, the social worker should prepare a report to the district IFSM. Immediate consideration should also be given to the arrangements for the child and if necessary child protection procedures should be followed.
In the event that the parents decline to make alternative arrangements or where the parents cannot be found, the social worker should consider whether any action may be required by the local authority to secure the child's safety under Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Partnership Inter Agency Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.
7. Children Subject to a Child in Need Plan or Child Protection Plan
If a child/young person is subject to Child in Need or Child Protection procedures when they enter a Private Fostering arrangement, the district team must allocate a Social Work Assistant (SWA) to work with the Private Foster Carer while the plan remains in place. The SWA will provide support and guidance to the Private Foster Carer whilst the child remains subject to Child in Need or Child Protection.
Visits to the Private Foster Carer should be undertaken at least four weekly and recorded on the Private Foster Carer's Liberi record using the Social Work Assistant's Record of Visit to Private Foster Carers Link Here. A case note should be recorded on the Private Foster Carer's Liberi record and the record of the visit added to documents. The date of the visit to the Private Foster Carer should also be noted in the case notes of the child's file however, this should not include the discussion content (which should be filed on the carer's file only).
Whilst there is no expectation that the Social Work Assistant will spend time alone with the child (this will be completed by their allocated Social Worker), any discussion with the child or observations should be noted on the child's file with the visit not counted as a statutory visit.
The role of the Social Work Assistant will be:
- To offer support and advice to the Private Foster Carer specific to the Private Fostering placement;
- To enable the Private Foster Carer to contribute and understand the plans for the children for whom they are caring;
- To undertake any key pieces of work with the Private Foster Carer, eg. adolescent behaviour management;
- To discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members;
- To assist carers in dealing with other relevant services and promoting the child's health and education;
- To undertake any key pieces of work identified by the Social Worker and in agreement with the Team Manager and/or Social Work Assistant co-ordinator in some districts;
- To liaise with Social Worker regarding any issues which may impact on the child/young person;
- To raise any safeguarding concerns to the Social Worker and Team Manager immediately. Escalate to the Service Manager if necessary.
The Private Foster Carer should be advised that discussions with the Social Work Assistant will be recorded on his/her Liberi record and will not be kept confidential from the allocated Social Worker.
The Social Work Assistant should communicate any concerns to the allocated Social Worker for the child.
When the child is no longer subject to any statutory work under Child in Need (remaining as a Privately Fostered child), the district may want to consider further support by the Social Work Assistant if deemed necessary (but this is not mandatory).
Joint supervision between the Social Work Assistant, Social Worker and Team Manager should be held quarterly to discuss the Private Fostering placement and recorded on the child's Liberi file as per KCC Supervision policy. This is in addition to the child's case supervision.
If the Social Work Assistant identifies any concerns with the care being offered to the child within the Private Fostering arrangement, or the safety of the child in the private fostering arrangement, these MUST be raised with the Social Worker and Team Manager immediately.
N.B. These procedures do not relate to language school students living within a Private Fostering arrangement or any Private Fostering arrangements where a Child in Need/Child Protection Plan is not in place.
8. Unsatisfactory Care
The social worker's knowledge of the individual child and the quality of their relationship over time will enable him or her to identify when an arrangement is failing/unlikely to meet the child's needs. Where the child is of sufficient age and understanding, the child's wishes and feelings should be ascertained and taken into account in deciding whether care is unsatisfactory and whether alternative arrangements for his care need to be made.
If there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm the procedures set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children should be followed.
It is an offence for a private foster carer to refuse to allow a child to be visited or to obstruct an authorised officer, who has reasonable cause to believe that a privately fostered child is being accommodated or is proposed to be accommodated within the authority's area, from any exercise of any duty towards the child. An officer encountering any difficulties should discuss the problem with a senior manager and legal advisors.
If the parents, or those with parental responsibility, are failing to exercise their responsibilities e.g. failing to pay maintenance or to keep in touch, the social worker should try to locate them and find out if there is a problem, give advice and take appropriate action as necessary.
Where they cannot be contacted over a sustained period of time, the local authority should consider the extent to which (if at all) they should exercise any of their functions under the Children Act 1989 with respect to the abandoned child.
9. Advice and Support
Parents of privately fostered children and private foster carers should receive advice and support from the child's social worker to assist them to meet the needs of children who are privately fostered. Privately fostered children should be able to access advice and support when required so that their welfare is safeguarded and promoted.
Parents may need advice and support to make alternative arrangements for the care of their child if the private foster care arrangements are inappropriate or unsuitable. They may need advice on attachment issues between siblings and between children and themselves and children and their private foster carers.
10. Imposing Requirements on Private Foster Carers
The local authority has power to impose requirements on private foster carers.
Requirements may include:
- The number, age and sex of the children who may be privately fostered;
- The standard of accommodation and equipment to be provided for them;
- The arrangements to be made with respect to their health and safety;
- Particular arrangements which must be made with respect to the provision of care.
Requirements can relate to an individual child or a category of children.
A requirement may include a time-scale within which the private foster carer must take the necessary action. If the requirement has not been met within the time scale a decision must be made as to further action required, which may include a prohibition.
Any requirement must be imposed by notice in writing setting out:
- The reason for imposing the requirement;
- The right of appeal;
- The time limit for an appeal.
11. Non-compliance with Requirements
Where requirements which have been imposed are not complied with the nominated social worker/allocated social worker must consider whether support should be provided to ensure compliance and/or consider whether to report further to the Area Assistant Director recommending that the foster carer be prohibited from caring for the child, in which case the procedure for prohibitions as set out below in Section 13, Disqualification and Prohibition must be followed.
12. Limit on Number of Children
The Children Act prescribes a 'usual fostering limit' of three children. This limit applies to private fostering and local authority fostering. This limit does not apply if all the children are siblings. Placements of three children should not be taken as the norm: the welfare of a child needing a placement may sometimes be best served by being the only foster child in the family.
Only in exceptional circumstances will an exemption to the usual fostering limit be considered.
In cases where a person is privately fostering or proposes to foster privately more than three children who are not siblings at any one time, then that person needs an exemption from the local authority.
The decision to grant an exemption will be made by the Area Assistant Director.
13. Disqualification and Prohibition
Certain individuals are automatically disqualified from being private foster carers due to past activities or offences as contained in Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2002.These are anyone who is/has:
- Parent of a child who has at any time been subject to a Care Order;
- Has had a child removed from his care under a Care Order, deemed Care Order or similar statutory order;
- Has been convicted of a specified offence, including any offence involving bodily injury to a child;
- Has been refused registration, or had registration cancelled, for provision of nurseries or day care or child minding;
- Has been refused registration, or had registration cancelled, in respect of a children's home or voluntary home;
- Has been concerned financially or in the management of a children's home or voluntary home where the registration of any person has been cancelled;
- Has been prohibited from fostering at any time.
The Regulations require persons who are privately fostering or who notify of their intention to do so to tell the local authority about any disqualifications.
If any information comes to light during the course of the assessment as a result of which the foster carer is considered unsuitable, for example as a result of the Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which may preclude the person from fostering a child, the social worker should advise the parents of the reason for such a conclusion and that alternative arrangements will have to be made for the child. In order to determine the best outcome for the child, a Child and Family Assessment should be undertaken.
In the event that the parents decline to make alternative arrangements or where the parents cannot be found, the social worker should consider whether any action may be required by the local authority to secure the child's safety under Child Protection Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.
Where the social worker considers that it would be appropriate to approve a private foster carer despite the fact that he or she or a person in the household is disqualified, a written report must be presented to the Area Assistant Director for consideration.
If it appears a person is a Disqualified Person (Private Foster Carer) and should be disqualified, the decision should be made by the Area Assistant Director and reasons should be recorded. The decision and reasons should be discussed with Legal Services.
Lifting of Disqualification
The local authority has discretionary powers to lift the disqualification and thus allow the person to privately foster.
These powers should be used only in exceptional circumstances and any consideration given to lifting disqualifications will be subject to the approval of the Area Assistant Director having regard to any legal advice having been obtained. In order to make this decision, the Area Assistant Director will require the following information:
- The date of the offence or Court Order;
- The type of offence or Court Order;
- The person's activity and involvement with children since the offence or Court Order;
- The background information related to the offence or Court Order.
The Local Authority must be satisfied that the welfare of the child concerned would not be prejudiced by the lifting of the disqualification.
The information required for the decision to be made should be obtained by the allocated social worker and a report covering the above details should be submitted to the Area Assistant Director.
If the Area Assistant Director refuses to lift the disqualification, the person should be informed in writing of the reasons and they should be informed of their right to appeal and the time limits.
The local authority has the power to prohibit individuals from privately fostering children if they are of the opinion that:
- The person is not suitable to privately foster a child;
- Their premises are not suitable for private fostering;
- It would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child for them to be accommodated by that person in those premises.
Local Authorities are encouraged to use the power of prohibition where it is necessary to enforce requirements.
All decisions to issue a Prohibition should be taken by the Area Assistant Director in consultation with Legal Services. Legal advice should always be sought when considering imposing a prohibition.
A prohibition must be sent in writing to the person on whom it is being imposed, specifying reasons and providing information about the right to appeal and the time limit for the appeal. This information should be clearly noted on the proposed/private foster carers electronic file.
The child's parents should be fully informed and advised to remove the child from the private fostering arrangement. In some circumstances the authority may need to consider taking action to safeguard the child's welfare e.g. if the parents are not in the country or are in custody.
Persons on whom a prohibition has been imposed are disqualified from private fostering, from carrying on or being employed in a children's home, voluntary home, day care or child minding. Where it is known a prohibited person is working in one of these settings all reasonable steps should be taken to notify the setting. This may include seeking advice from the Local Authority Designated Officer.
Local authorities may cancel a prohibition if they are satisfied that the prohibition is no longer justified.
Persons on whom a prohibition has been imposed are disqualified from private fostering and from running or being employed in a children's home, voluntary home, day care or childminding.
In those cases when it is not necessary to prohibit the placement but when a placement has been deemed unsuitable, reasons for the findings should be sent in writing to the proposed/private foster carer and the reasons clearly noted on the proposed/private foster carers electronic file.
The child's parents should be fully informed and advised to remove the child from the private fostering arrangement.
Action to be Taken in the Event of a Prohibition being Issued
Where a decision is made to prohibit a foster carer from fostering, the foster carer and the parent must be advised immediately of the decision and the reasons. The social worker must advise the parent to make alternative arrangements for the child. The parent must be offered advice and information on what alternative arrangements can be made for their child and if applicable what support under section 17 of the Children Act can be offered to safeguard the child's welfare. In order to determine the best outcome for the child, a Child and Family Assessment should be undertaken, in accordance with the procedures contained elsewhere in this Manual.
In the event that the parents decline to make alternative arrangements or where the parents cannot be found, the social worker should consider whether any action may be required to secure the child's safety under Child Protection Procedures and legal advice should be sought as necessary.
A prohibition must be sent in writing to the person on whom it is being imposed, specify reasons, and contain information about the right of the person to appeal and the time in which he/she may do so.
Where a decision is made to prohibit a foster carer from caring for a child reasons for the decision must be recorded. Written notice of this decision together with reasons must be sent by hand or recorded delivery post to the foster carer and to the parent by the nominated Social Worker.
Cancellation of Prohibition
A prohibition may be cancelled if it is considered that the prohibition is no longer justified. The decision to cancel must be taken by the Area Assistant Director in consultation with Legal Services.
In order to make this decision the Area Assistant Director will require the following information:
- The date of the prohibition;
- The reason for prohibition;
- The background information related to the prohibition being imposed;
- The reasons for considerations being given to the prohibition being cancelled.
Representations can be made by carers in relation to requirements, prohibitions, refusal to make an exemption, a condition imposed in an exemption or a variation or cancellation of an exemption. Any challenges will be subject to the same challenge process and timescales.
When a decision is made to impose a requirement, prohibit a foster carer from caring for a child, refusal of exemption, imposing conditions or variation/cancellation of exemption, written notice of the decision must be sent by the social worker, to the applicant within 7 working days of the decision being made.
The applicant will be advised in the written notice that if he or she wishes to challenge the decision, representations should be submitted to the Area Assistant Director for Safeguarding in writing via the nominated social worker. The nominated social worker must receive written notification of the carers wish to challenge within 28 days of the date of the written notice of the decision.
If written representations are made within the period, the matter must be referred to the Area Assistant Director for Safeguarding for further consideration. The nominated social worker will advise the private foster carer within 7 days of the date of this consideration either confirming or amending their previous views.
Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the foster carer within 7 working days of the consideration.
Once notice has been given of a final decision to impose a requirement on a foster carer or to prohibit a foster carer from fostering, the person concerned has 14 days in which to appeal to the Magistrates Court. During this period, the requirement or the prohibition has no effect. The parent must be kept fully informed of this process. This does not apply to a prohibition.
As soon as the social worker receives information that an appeal against a decision is to be made, Legal Services should be notified.
Failure to notify the local authority of private fostering arrangements, breaches of requirements, prohibitions and disqualifications and obstruction of powers of entry may be criminal offences.
If it appears an offence has been committed, legal advice should be taken before any referral to the police is made. Concerns of this nature should be discussed with the relevant Area Assistant Director.
15. Visits to the Carers Home - Frequency, Purpose and Records
Visits by a social worker must be made to the child and the private foster carer at the home within 7 working days of the placement, or the date when notification was received if later, and then visits will be made at least every six weeks in the first year by a social worker.
In subsequent years, visits must be at least 12 weekly.
The need to visit more frequently will be decided by the social worker and their manager depending on the circumstances and the need to visit unannounced and/or to choose times when all members of the household are likely to be present should also be considered.
Additional visits should also be arranged at the request of the child or the private foster carer.
The child must be seen alone by the social worker on each visit unless this is not appropriate having regard to the young age of the child or if the child does not wish to see the social worker alone. The child's bedroom should be seen on some visits.
An initial visit to the child must be completed and recorded within 7 days of notification (referral). For those children who are yet to arrive at the proposed private fostering arrangement, an initial visit must be made to the placement within 7 days of the notification and then within 7 days of the child arriving.
The purpose of and matters to be discussed at the first visit after the child's placement are set out in Section 4, Initial Visit to Private Foster Carers.
The overall purpose of all visits is to encourage the maintenance and improvement of child care standards and check that the child's needs are met within the placement and in particular:
- To observe the overall standard of care including visiting the child's bedroom;
- To ensure that the child is developing satisfactorily and that their needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background are being met;
- To speak to and ascertain the wishes of the child;
- To review the purpose and likely duration of the placement and ensure that arrangements with the parents are working;
- To check that any requirements imposed are being met and check whether they need to be changed or cancelled;
- To ensure that the arrangements for the child's education are satisfactory;
- To advise or arrange advice for the private foster carer as necessary, for example in relation to the maintaining of the child's links with their cultural heritage or in relation to appropriate travel arrangements for the child visiting family abroad;
- To check that the financial arrangements for the care of the child are working;
- To ensure that the child remains registered with a GP and dentist and that any necessary health care has been provided to take account of any special health needs;
- To ensure that the child has access to services as required as a result of any disabilities;
- To enquire as to the Contact Arrangements/Family Time for the child with the parents and siblings;
- To encourage the private foster carer to keep a record of the child's development, including accidents, illnesses, immunisations, school reports, achievements and any contact with parents or significant others.
15.3 Reports on Visits
A report on every visit must be made by the social worker and recorded on Liberi. The report must state whether the child was seen and if so, whether the child was seen alone. If the child was not seen, the reasons must be recorded. The record must comment on the child's welfare and how the placement is progressing including any views expressed by the private foster carer and the child. It must also contain a recommendation about the continued suitability of the private fostering arrangement and whether any action should be taken and/or requirements on the private foster carer.
The report must be reviewed by the manager.
16. Review of Private Foster Carers
The suitability of the private foster carer should be reviewed annually by the social worker using the Annual Review of Private Fostering Arrangement Form and inputted on Liberi.
As in all reviews, parents, children and carers should actively be encouraged to participate and contribute to the review and planning process. It is good practice to plan for permanence for all children living away from home.
17. Local Authority Foster Carers who Privately Foster
Where local authority foster carers notify their intention to privately foster a child, the above procedure should be followed.
In these circumstances, a Fostering Social Worker will normally carry out the assessment.
The foster carers should be advised of the differences between their two roles.
Consideration will need to be given to the implications for any Child in Care already placed with the foster carer and contact should be made by the Fostering Social Worker involved with the social workers for such children.
Consideration should also be given to the future placement of any Children in Care particularly having regard to the usual fostering limit of three children.
18. After the Private Fostering Arrangement Ends
Parents have a duty to notify the local authority of the ending of the placement in writing including the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved.
Unless a young person has a disability, private fostering ends at 16. Children's Services will review the young person's circumstances and future plans as they approach 16 and where a young person remains with the private foster carers after the age of 16, but requires continuing support, they should be assisted as a Child In Need. Where the young person moves to independent living, support may be provided to them as they will fall within the definition of Qualifying Young People. (Note that the DfE Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers acknowledges that some 'Qualifying children' will be as vulnerable and have similar support needs as those who are Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant).
19. After Care
Parents have a duty to notify the local authority of the ending of the placement including the name and address of the person into whose care the child has moved.
Unless a young person has a disability, private fostering ends at 16. Children's Services will review the young person's circumstances and future plans as they approach 16. Where a young person remains with the private foster carers after the age of 16, but requires continuing support, he or she should be assisted as a Child In Need. Where the young person moves to independent living, support can be provided to them if he or she fall within the definition of Qualifying Young People. Support may include advice, befriending and discretionary financial assistance where the young person has no other means. It will be provided at the request of the young person on the basis of assessment of need and can continue up to the age of 25 if the young person is in higher education.
Any request by the young person should be made to the local authority in which they are resident or where the education and training is being provided.