Supervision, Support and Training of Foster Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all approved foster carers.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed and refreshed locally in January 2023.
All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified fostering social worker. The allocated fostering social worker is responsible for fostering 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;
- 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
A programme of supervision visits should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the fostering social worker from the time of the foster carer's approval
All newly approved foster carers will be allocated to a Senior Practitioner or experienced fostering social worker who is identified within the Support Team as the lead worker for new foster carers. They will remain allocated to the designated lead worker for a period of one year, and they will be responsible for presenting the first Annual Review to the fostering panel.
Fostering social workers will be allocated to a foster carer for a period not exceeding 3 years (36 months). This will ensure the professional relationship between social worker and foster carer, maintains a clear focus on safeguarding children and professional curiosity within the fostering household. The Specialist Fostering team will not follow the same model for allocation but every foster carer for disabled children, will receive an additional unannounced visit from a different member of the team, as a minimum of once per year.
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 carer's work to ensure National Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
- Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training and their annual review;
- 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:
- Goals and plans agreed upon in the previous supervision;
- Foster family wellbeing: e.g. factors impacting on placement, effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family, health, planned holidays, finance;
- Safeguarding and practice Issues, e.g. child sexual exploitation, missing children, positive behaviour and risk management, complaints, allegations, and standards of care, praise and compliments, professional relationships, use of 'signs of safety';
- Care Plan and Contact; e.g. views of child / young person, young person and carers appropriately involved in planning and decision making. Issues of drift to be escalated. Delegated Authority and Permanency and transition planning to adulthood for care leavers;
- Child or young person's progress; e.g. wider needs including health, education, emotional and behaviour development, age appropriate self-care, skill development and boundaries, pocket money and savings;
- Learning and Development for the foster carers and their family.
The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma Foster Carer Supervision Record, agreed by the foster carer and the fostering social worker, and should include:
- Any concerns expressed;
- Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
- What happens next, timescale for completion and by whom.
A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carers electronic file and foster carers provided with a copy for their records. Carers should acknowledge receipt of the record, which will be sent by secure email and any comments/changes should be recorded on the electronic file.
The supervision records will inform the foster carer's review - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
3. Frequency of Supervision
Kent's Fostering Service is responsible for ensuring the quality of placements and foster carers will receive regular supervision by a named member of staff in the Fostering Team. Foster carers can expect to have formal supervision with their fostering social worker on a 4 - 6 weekly basis. Newly approved foster carers may require more frequent visiting as they adjust to the new role. The primary responsibility of the Fostering team in fostering foster carers is to ensure the welfare of the child.
4. Unannounced Visits
Social Workers will also carry out at least one unannounced visit a year as part of their monitoring and quality assurance function and use this opportunity to check the accommodation.
The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to check:
- Who is in the home;
- Who is looking after the child or young person;
- To see the home environment including the foster child or young person's bedroom and any communal spaces available to the child such as bathroom, kitchen, living rooms and outside play area;
- To observe general cleanliness and assure health and safety compliance;
- See where the diary records are stored and date an entry noting that an unannounced visit was made;
- If the carer is not at home, what arrangements have been made for the care of the child or young person.
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.
A record of Unannounced visits should be kept on the foster carers electronic file and foster carers provided with a copy for their records.
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.
5. Support Provided by the Fostering Social Worker
Following approval the Area Fostering Support teams have responsibility to manage, supervise, support, develop, monitor and review its carers.
The primary role of the Fostering Social Worker is to ensure the safety and protection of the children within the fostering household.
Fostering social workers should ensure the following tasks are done:
- Ensure that all new carers complete the induction programme and that their support, development and training needs are assessed and met so that they meet the standards and achieve the National Standards by their first annual review, or soon after if extra support is required;
- Give information to carer in regard to Foster Carer's Handbook;
- Give Foster Care Agreement (Terms and Conditions) to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and uploaded onto the carer's electronic file;
- Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carers' Allowance, Disability Living Allowance etc;
- Take part in discussions about potential placements;
- Placement referral information, matching and risk assessment details should be given to carers at point of placement. A placement arrangement meeting including permissions for delegated authority must be completed within 5 working days;
- Complete risk assessments and Safe Care Plan. Discuss and check equipment (especially in the child's bedroom) and ensure it is appropriate to the age of the child in placement;
- Take part in planning and / or permanency meetings regarding placements;
- Information about the foster carer and their household will be given to the child before they are placed. Whenever possible children should be enabled to visit the foster carer's home before placement begins. In an emergency, at a minimum the foster carer's profile will be emailed by the Total Placement Service or the Fostering Support team to the child's social worker so this can be discussed with the child before they arrive;
- 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;
- Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members;
- Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
- Discuss appropriate training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs;
- 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;
- Discuss financial issues with the carer: allowances, DLA, 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;
- That arrangements are made for the provision of specialist equipment for disabled children;
- Set date of first visit after the placement;
- Liaise with the social worker for a child already in placement when another child is placed;
- Provide carers with training and how to access the policy on behaviour management.
- 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;
- Provide foster carers with breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children;
- Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
- Ensure the fostering social worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child's Child in Care Reviews and Child Protection Conferences, and attend when appropriate;
- Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
- Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and their family and children;
- 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);
- Review the Safe Care Plan and any changes in household circumstances, each child placed is required to have an individual Safe Care Plan;
- 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; all pets within the household require a pet risk assessment. For any household that has more than 2 dogs the pet risk assessment must be approved by the Service Manager for Fostering;
- Make unannounced visits as required;
- Update Disclosure and Barring Service checks on members of the family every 3 years, including young people 16 years of age and above, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are over 16 years excluding young people looked after;
- Update medicals on the carers as necessary, whether to update a medical should be discussed in the carer's annual review and if a medical issues arises;
- Record contact with carers; Attend Stability Core Meetings, Permanency Planning Meetings, and Matching Meetings;
- Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
- Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker;
- Discuss how the carers can support young people's transition into adulthood and completing Pathway Plans, Transition into adulthood checklist. Fostering social workers must discuss with cares the Staying Put Policy within supervision visits. See Staying Put Policy;
- Complete the Review of Prevent KCC Foster Carer Checklist jointly with foster carers within supervision every 6 months and update accordingly. See Appendix 5: Review checklist.
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 if required;
- Attend Disruption Meetings as required;
- Obtain feedback from all involved with the placement.
6. Carer Support Groups
Monthly support groups are held within the local area and facilitated by the fostering support team. It is expected that all carers will attend a minimum of 75%.
Foster carers are encouraged to develop networks of support including the Kent Foster Care Association (KFCA).
Foster carers are required to fund some equipment related to the developmental stage or disability of the child(ren) in their care, such as cots, car seats, etc.
Kent County Council will reimburse foster carers for any essential equipment purchased outside of terms of approval and agreed upon by senior management prior to purchase.
The fostering service will also facilitate provision of specialist equipment required to accommodate any special needs or disability of individual children.
Training is a continual process and all Kent foster carers will be offered new training and training to update their skills on a regular basis following approval. Carers will be required to complete the evidenced based Training Support and Development Standards work book within the first year of approval (first 18 months for connected persons). New partners approved to foster alongside a main carer will also be required to complete the evidence based Training Support and Development Standards work book within the same timescales. The fostering service provides a training pathway, including qualification based training. Carers will also be encouraged to access additional training “online.”
The foster carer's training needs will be identified as part of their Personal Development Plan within the annual review and intended to develop their skills and knowledge and to ensure that they can meet their obligations under the Foster Carer Agreement. Failure to attend training that has been identified as appropriate could place continued registration as a foster carer at risk.
All foster carer training courses can be accessed via CPD online.
Kent foster carers access certificates for the training courses they have attended via CPD online. The Fostering Service will keep a training record for each carer.
Foster carers will be part of the Foster Carer Training Steering Group and involved in the design of training.
Formal qualifications are also available.
Where possible specialist training will be arranged to fit with the carers commitments and if necessary special arrangements will be made to facilitate the carer's attendance.
9. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer
For the detailed procedure, see Allegations and Complaints Against Foster Carers Procedure.
It is recognised that being the subject of a complaint or allegation can be an extremely stressful experience for foster carers, and Kent County Council has commissioned Foster Talk to offer telephone support 24/7, offering practical and legal advice. The fostering service will also offer a trained “peer support” to support the carer. These peer supporters will be experienced foster carers who have been specifically trained. Each area support team will hold a list of peer support carers in their local area.The impact of allegations and complaints on foster carers and their families will vary in relation to the nature of the allegation/complaint, potential consequences, previous experiences, and the extent of additional stress on the foster carer.
Where allegations regarding childcare or Child Protection are made, the fostering social worker should:
- 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 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. All Kent Foster Carers have membership to Foster Talk for independent advice and support.