1.Fostering is one of the services which local authorities provide or commission voluntary organisations to provide, under their duties to children looked after by them. The number and range of children who are fostered in Scotland has grown steadily and it now represents one of the most significant means of looking after children.
2.Fostering is subject to the Fostering of Children (Scotland) Regulations 1996. A number of aspects of foster care placements previously regulated by the 1985 Boarding Out and Fostering of Children (Scotland) Regulations are now regulated by the Arrangement to Look After Children (Scotland) Regulations 1996, notably notifications, placements of siblings, monitoring and termination of placements, medical and dental treatment, and arrangements for reviews.
3.The advantages of looking after children within the community are now well established and the Secretary of State sees the role of fostering continuing to develop. Local authorities should aim to ensure a sufficient supply of well-trained and supported carers to meet the demands which arise from the needs of children in different parts of the country. In recognition of the importance of fostering, The Scottish Office has commissioned a major research project from The University of Edinburgh
- to establish the characteristics, motives and social circumstances of those who foster and their experience of the services provided by social workers and social work departments
- to identify the policies, organisation and structures of social work departments concerning fostering.
The outcome of this research will be used to help develop future policy and practice.
4.The term "foster carer" is used in preference to "foster parent" to denote the fact that the majority of children in foster homes are being looked after for a time limited period before returning to their own family and that in most placements the child's parents retain their parental rights and responsibilities.
Recruitment and Approval of Foster Carers
Publicising the need for foster carers
5.The planned development of fostering services should be included in the children's services plan. It should identify the numbers and range of placements likely to be needed and publicity campaigns should target the full range of people who may be able to provide these placements. Particular efforts may be required to recruit foster carers for older children, children of particular religious persuasion, black children, sibling groups or disabled children and there may be a shortfall of foster carers in particular geographical areas.
6.Whilst some prospective foster carers will approach the agency directly to offer their services, publicity will be required to attract others. Particular groups, such as single people, black people, unemployed people or council tenants, may be underrepresented amongst foster carers and this could indicate that they are not aware they are eligible to foster or not aware there may be a need for their services.
7.Publicity should provide a clear picture of the characteristics of children needing foster homes, what the fostering task will entail for the prospective carers, and an indication of the payment, support and training they will receive. Recruitment should be planned and regular. Time limited special campaigns are often successful but recruitment usually declines rapidly unless the campaign is repeated. Publicity can be costly, but there are a number of ways of receiving free, or low cost publicity which should be explored. Local newspapers and radio stations may be willing to publish "human interest" stories about fostering. Existing foster carers' family and friends are frequently a good source of new recruits and foster carers should be actively encouraged to become recruitment "agents". Foster carers are often willing to contribute their time to give out leaflets, staff stalls or answer telephones as part of a recruitment campaign. Prospective foster carers may need more than one publicity stimulus before they respond. Publicity in more than one media is likely to be more effective. Joint publicity campaigns by more than one authority to share costs and media sources should be considered.
8.All inquirers should receive a speedy, informative and welcoming response so that their interest is maintained. Even where the inquirer's preferences do not meet the immediate needs of the service, some may be prepared to consider a different kind of fostering, or adoption, or an alternative to fostering such as befriending schemes, youth clubs or out of school schemes. Making an enquiry to a neighbouring authority or voluntary society should be encouraged if it seems possible that the inquirer's preferences may meet a need of that agency. Discussion should be honest and positive but avoid unrealistic and unfounded expectations. Recruitment processes should enable applicants to withdraw after learning more of what is involved.
9.Open information meetings, held in local venues and at times convenient for inquirers who are working, are a good way of providing additional information about the fostering task, the approval process, and answering inquirers' questions. Existing foster carers can help bring the subject to life as can young people who have previously been looked after. An interpreter should be provided where inquirers whose first language is not English are likely to be present. If a campaign is being targeted at a particular language or cultural group, then an information meeting in their language might be arranged in a venue that is familiar to the community. In remote areas, local authorities may consider other methods of conveying information such as a video or audio tape of foster carers talking about their experiences or a visit from approved foster carers.
10.Agencies should normally aim to complete an assessment within six months of receiving an application. A leaflet outlining the assessment process will be helpful to applicants. This should be translated into other languages if there are applicants whose language of literacy is not English. The application form should be based on Schedule 1 of the Fostering Regulations and applicants should be made fully aware of the range of checks which will be made. Applicants must provide written consent for the Scottish Criminal Records Office to be consulted to check for previous convictions. It is also necessary to check the records of all other members of the household with their permission. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 Exceptions Orders apply to such checks. A record of convictions should be discussed with the applicant and will not necessarily preclude approval but will require careful consideration and consultation with senior staff. Authorities should check their own current and previous records in respect of the applicants and other members of the household. Where the prospective foster carer lives in the area of another authority, the views of that other authority must be sought. Where there has been a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency should be consulted. The applicants should also be informed that they will be required to have a full medical examination.
11.Applicants should be asked to provide the names and addresses of two personal referees at least one of whom is not a relative. If they are to be interviewed, it may be helpful to request that referees are within reasonable travelling distance.
12.Training is an inherent part of the assessment and preparation process. Agencies may wish to form preparation and training groups quite early in the assessment process so that more informed discussions can take place subsequently in the individual's home. In such circumstances an applicant's suitability for assessment should already have been established, for instance, through an initial exploratory interview. The aim of this interview is to establish that the applicant has a basic understanding of the fostering task, is applying to undertake a type of fostering that is in demand by the agency and appears not to have a background which would preclude him or her from fostering.
13.Prospective foster carers should understand the need for visits from social workers, the timescale of assessment and the information required. Some applicants may come from a culture where alternative family arrangements are made in a more informal manner. The information required should not be less for such applicants, but careful explanation should be given as to why it is required and possibly some adaptation made as to how information is obtained.
14.Where the applicant is from an ethnic, religious, or cultural minority, or his or her first language is not English, the social worker undertaking the assessment should, if possible, come from the same background. If this is not possible, then expert advice should be sought and, where applicable, an interpreter used. An interpreter should be well prepared by the worker and familiar with the fostering task. The interpreter should be acceptable to the family being assessed as otherwise they may not be willing to divulge personal information. He or she should not, however, be a member of the applicant's family.
15.Authorities are required to obtain information on and consider the range of factors set out in Schedule 1 of the Fostering Regulations in order to determine whether an applicant can be considered suitable to be a foster carer and whether the household is a suitable one in which to place a child. Where the applicants are a couple, both partners should be assessed and approved. Schedule 1 is not exhaustive. The aim should be to collect all the information necessary to provide a comprehensive picture of the applicant or applicants, their family, their way of life, and their suitability to foster.
16.Regulations specify the categories of people with whom a child can be fostered. These are
- a man and woman living and acting jointly together, or
- a man or a woman living and acting alone.
Where the household also contains other people, a person can still be approved as a foster carer provided those people are relatives of that person. If a foster carer dies or ceases to live in the household and the result is a household which could not normally be approved under the Regulations, it is not necessary to remove the foster child or children provided the local authority satisfy themselves that the child should be fostered with another member or members of the same household.
17.Within the constraints of the Regulations, a wide range of prospective foster carers should be sought for the wide range of children requiring fostering. However, no one has the right to foster and not all applicants will be able to provide a suitable environment for the care and nurture of a child. The decision to approve someone as a foster carer must centre on his or her ability to promote the welfare of a child or children. Where an applicant's attributes or lifestyle could lead him or her, and a child placed, to experience prejudice from the wider society, the social worker should seriously consider the effect such prejudice might have on the child.
18.Medical reports will be the most satisfactory source of information about the health of applicants. Primary health care professionals, such as health visitors, who are familiar with the family may be able to provide additional information. Agencies should ensure that a medical adviser is appointed in order to enable health information to be interpreted and to advise on the extent to which the health of the applicant may affect his or her capacity to act as a foster carer. Health professionals should be advised of the type of fostering the applicant hopes to undertake and what that will entail.
19.The social worker should ask to see birth certificates, marriage certificates and any other important documents which relate to the applicant's history, such as naturalisation documents. Marital status may be significant should adoption ever become a consideration.
20.Social workers should visit applicants on a number of occasions seeing applicants both singly and, where applicable, together and visit on more than one occasion at a time when they can meet the entire household and observe and discuss the relationships of all the members. They should assess the extent to which other members of the household may participate in the care and daily life of a foster child, and the demands which are made on applicants by other members of the household, such as elderly relatives requiring care.
21.The length, strength and nature of the relationships in the household should be explored. Where an applicant is single and living alone, the possibility that he or she may establish an intimate relationship in future and the effect this might have on foster children should be explored with him or her. The applicant should be informed that if another adult subsequently joins the household, their approval would have to be reviewed.
22.The social worker should assess the suitability of the accommodation as well as access to schools, public transport and other amenities. If the child to be fostered has special needs particular consideration will need to be given to the suitability of the accommodation, its capacity for adaptation, the availability of medical support, and the ability of local schools to provide for the child's special needs.
23.Foster carers' own children often have a significant impact on the success of placements. The social worker should involve them in the preparation process and meet with them on their own to learn their feelings about a foster child or children moving into the family. The impact of fostering on family and social life should also be discussed and considered with the applicant. Written information about fostering could be given to the applicant's children and they could be involved in the training process.
24.Where the applicant has children who are not living in the household, the extent of contact with them and their views on their parent fostering should be considered. When the degree of contact and involvement in the household is significant the guidance in paragraph 10 above will be relevant.
25.Where the applicant has children, the health visitor may be able to contribute to the assessment of the applicant's parenting capacity. The applicant should agree to the health visitor being asked to provide information on the health and development of his or her children and whether there are any difficulties which could affect their ability to foster.
26.The social worker should establish the applicant's attitudes and expectations in relation to contact between children who may be placed with them and their parents, visits by parents and relatives to the applicant's home, attitudes towards different parental lifestyles, the reasons that children may be looked after including physical or sexual abuse, and working with parents to achieve the plan for the child. Applicants need to know that contact may disrupt their family routines and that they will need to be adaptable. The social worker should assess the extent to which attitudes and opinions about the parents of children who are looked after are fixed, or are amenable to change through information and training. Applicants should be aware of the day to day implications of working with parents and prepared to use training and support to achieve the required collaboration with parents.
27.Information is required about the applicant's religion, degree of religious observance, and their capacity to care for a child of a different religion, or from a more, or less, religious background than themselves. The social worker should seek to understand the extent to which religion influences the foster carer's family life, their familiarity and sympathy with other denominations and faiths, and their expectations of a foster child's participation in the religious life of the family.
28.Applicants should be informed of the agency's expectations of how children's needs arising from their racial origins and cultural and linguistic backgrounds can be met. Information should be sought about the applicant's racial origin and cultural and linguistic background and any special experience and knowledge he or she has that indicates that he or she can provide appropriate care for a child of a particular racial origin, or for a child of mixed parentage, or from a particular cultural or linguistic background.
29.The lifestyle and standard of living of the family will need to be assessed including how employment or unemployment affect family life. Where the principal carer or carers are employed outside the home, what arrangements are available or proposed to ensure proper care for a foster child after school and during sickness and holidays? What childminding or babysitting arrangements do, or will, the family make? What opportunities will be available to the child to associate with other families with children in the community, and to take part with his or her peers in activities appropriate to his or her age and interests?
30.The applicant should be prepared to provide educational support to a foster child who will often have complex educational needs and to encourage the development of special talents and interests, including those which call for additional or out of school arrangements. How could the applicant cope with a child who is excluded from school? Could he or she support a child with special educational needs?
31.The applicant's views on discipline should be assessed. What is his or her approach to dealing with difficult behaviour? If this is outwith the Regulations or inappropriate for children who are looked after can he or she adopt alternative methods? Corporal punishment is inappropriate for children in foster placements and applicants must undertake not to use such a form of punishment. The term "corporal punishment" covers any intentional application of force as punishment including slapping, pinching, squeezing, shaking, throwing objects and rough handling. It would also include punching or pushing in the heat of the moment in response to violence from young people. It does not prevent a person using necessary minimal physical action, where any other course of action would be likely to fail, to avert an immediate danger of personal injury to him or herself, the child, or another person, or to avoid immediate danger to property.
32.Meal times are important social occasions in the life of a child and it is inappropriate for a child to be refused meals as a punishment. Restriction of contact with family and friends should not be used as a punishment. Any punishments in which the child is humiliated are not acceptable.
33.Once the applicant and his or her family have been interviewed, have attended training and preparation groups, the views of referees have been sought and other checks and reports have been received, the local authority must form an overall view of
- the applicant's experience, attitudes, expectations, understanding, and perception of fostering
- the applicant's capacity to work in partnership with a child's family
- the applicant's capacity to provide a foster child with protection, nurture, and opportunities for development
- the applicant's ability to work with the agency
- the applicant's preferences and suitability as a foster carer for any particular group of children or for any particular fostering tasks.
34.A comprehensive home study report prepared by the social worker, such as BAAF Form F, should be the basis of the decision to approve or not. Terms of approval should include the particular type of foster placement, the recommended number of children, and whether approval is for children of a particular age group. The number of children for whom a foster carer may be approved is not regulated. However, the aim should be to provide children with individual care and attention rather than an institutionalised experience. Specification of numbers, ages and types of fostering will arise both from the assessment and from the choice of the prospective foster carer. Applicants may be asked to write parts of the home study themselves. However, the social worker remains responsible for the contents of the home study and should provide an overall assessment plus additional material if issues have been missed, need exploration in greater depth, or the applicant's perceptions and the social worker's perceptions differ. The home study, with the exception of any material provided in confidence, should normally be shared with the applicants.
Assessment of relatives and family friends as foster carers
35.Many children live temporarily, or sometimes permanently, with their relatives or family friends without any intervention by the local authority. For other children, because they are already known to the social work department or because a parent or child approaches the social work department for help, the social work department may play a role, by agreement with the parents, in facilitating or supporting a child to live with his or her relatives or friends either by helping to negotiate the arrangements or providing some financial support or both. The child is not looked after by the local authority in either of the above situations and the carers do not need to be approved as foster carers.
36.Where, however, a child is looked after by a local authority, and is placed with a friend or relative, the friend or relative must be approved as a foster carer except
Regulations 3 & 7
37.It will be unusual for local authorities to provide accommodation with relatives and friends under section 25. A parent is only likely to require such accommodation from the local authority for his or her child because there is no one in his or her family or friendship network able to provide a home for the child. However, such placements may occasionally be necessary and appropriate and if they extend beyond six weeks, the carers will need to be fully approved as foster carers.
38.Where the local authority has full and sole responsibility for the welfare of a child under a parental responsibilities order, any carers with whom the child is placed should be approved foster carers. For some children, who are subject to a parental responsibilities order, the most appropriate placement for them will be to remain with or move to relatives or friends. Where a child who is made subject to a parental responsibilities order, is not already in a permanent placement, the local authority should explore the possibility of placement with relatives or friends.
39.The process for approving relatives or friends as foster carers is similar to that for approving any other foster carers. However, different approval criteria may apply. The local authority needs to be satisfied of the prospective foster carer's ability to provide appropriate care for a child or children who are already known to him or her and approval will only be for that child or children. It may not be appropriate or necessary for relatives or friends to attend preparation and training groups although there are likely to be issues covered in the groups which need to be discussed with relatives or friends before their approval. Recommendations for approval of relatives and friends as foster carers must be made by the fostering panel.
40.Assessment of relatives or friends as foster carers must include consideration of the extent to which the placement will affect the child's other family relationships, including contact with either or both parents. Where such contact has been terminated or restricted, the local authority department will need to consider with the prospective foster carers any particular difficulties they may encounter in maintaining any conditions or restrictions on contact. Similarly, relatives or friends may feel their loyalty strained where they are given confidential information not available to other family members, just as they may be reluctant to disclose to the social work department information they already possess. The social work department should be ready to provide appropriate support where difficulties arise.
41.Each local authority or voluntary organisation must appoint a fostering panel, or panels, which consider whether to recommend approval of foster carers. Where the Panel recommends approval, they must also recommend whether approval is for any child, for certain categories of children, for instance in a particular age range or those needing emergency care, or for a particular child or children, for instance, a child already known to the prospective carers or one who has been featured in an advertisement. It is unlikely that foster carers will be given completely open approval for any child for any duration. Most prospective carers will be assessed as having strengths and an interest in a particular age range or a particular type of fostering. The fostering panel recommendations are made to the agency which must make the decision. This responsibility is normally delegated to a senior manager with child care experience. He or she will not usually be chairperson of the Panel.
Regulations 4 & 6
42.The numbers, qualifications and experience of individual members of the fostering panel must be such that the Panel can effectively discharge its functions. The local authority should decide the number of people to be appointed, of which one will be a medical adviser. It will be good practice for there to be at least one man and one woman and for three people to represent a quorum. Whilst the medical adviser's written contribution will be important in all cases considered by the Panel, it is unlikely to be essential that he or she is present at the Panel except in the fairly small number of cases where medical issues are central to the decision as to whether or not to recommend approval.
43.The chairperson should have considerable child care knowledge and be experienced and skilled in chairing meetings. Members with parenting and foster parenting experience will be valuable. The Panel should, where possible, reflect the backgrounds and heritage of the children who are likely to need placement and the foster carers likely to seek approval.
44.Some agencies choose to have some or all of the membership of their adoption and fostering panels in common. This is acceptable, provided that their role and function are distinguished and that the meetings are minuted separately.
45.Whilst recruitment to the fostering panel is normally achieved either through the prospective member holding a particular position or through recommendation by an existing panel member, this may not achieve a wide enough balance of panel members. Limited advertising to voluntary and community groups, followed by an interview and induction process can bring forward effective panel members who were not previously known to existing panel members and will reduce the possibility of the Panel becoming unrepresentative.
46.The terms of appointment should be provided in writing to panel members, including the duty of confidentiality to which they should sign their agreement. Time-limited appointment, for say two or three years, can be helpful although the option of renewing the appointment of panel members should be retained. Not all panel members should rotate off the Panel at once - there is a need for consistency and continuity of expertise. The agency should decide by whom the panel members are formally recruited, appointed and re-appointed. Fostering panel members should have briefing and in-service training.
47.The role of a Panel may be extended to include consideration, advice and recommendations in relation to decisions by the agency other than approval of foster carers, such as linking and placement, consideration of possible applications by foster carers for residence orders, and decisions in connection with reviews of foster carers. Foster care frequently calls for weighing of complex issues to ensure that the child's interests are best served and the Panel will have the required expertise to consider these decisions. Fostering decisions must always be made with care but they must often, in the interests of the child, be made speedily. Therefore, whilst all foster carer approvals must be recommended by the Panel, it will not be appropriate for all recommendations concerning foster placements to be made by the Panel. Agencies will need to develop a range of decision-making procedures for these different circumstances, with guidelines to ensure professional accountability and managerial responsibility as well as the maintenance of standards.
48.In reaching a decision as to whether or not to recommend approval of foster carers, the fostering panel must consider the home study report. It will be good practice routinely to invite prospective foster carers to meet with the Panel. The Panel's recommendation will be reported to the designated decision-maker who will decide whether or not the prospective foster carer is a suitable person with whom to place children and the terms of the approval. A summary of the discussion of the Panel should be recorded as well as a record of decisions made. This will guide the decision-maker where he or she is not a member of the Panel, may provide useful supplementary material about the foster carer when a link with a child is being considered, and will be essential if a prospective foster carer wishes to complain about, or request reconsideration of, a decision of the Panel.
49.Agencies should give notice in writing of the decision on approval. The letter should usually be followed up by a visit from a social worker to ensure that its contents have been understood. The notice of approval should state the terms of approval. Except where breach of confidence would occur, the reasons for refusal should be explained. Information concerning the agency's complaints and reconsideration procedures should be included with the written notice. The outcome should also be notified to any professionals who have contributed to the assessment.
Review and termination of approval
50.Agencies are required to review the approval of foster carers at least once a year. Annual review will be appropriate in most cases, although changes of circumstance such as change of address, death of a member of the family or a significant change in health will often call for an additional review. A review of approval may be needed after an investigation of allegations against a foster carer made by a child, or parent, or other person. The agency review procedure should be set out in the foster care agreement. (See paragraphs 59-60 below.)
51.Reviews should focus on the foster carer and his or her progress over the previous year rather than solely on the current placement and should, if possible, be carried out by a worker with responsibility for the fostering service not the social worker of a child in placement. Consultation with the social workers of all children placed during the previous year will be necessary to establish how the current and any previous placements made during the year have worked out and to discover the views of the children and their parents. A visit to the foster home should provide the opportunity for airing and discussion of a foster carer's view of the service offered by the authority and any difficulties experienced. Reviews will not normally necessitate the checks outlined in paragraph 10 being taken up again unless a particular issue of concern has arisen during the year. For instance, a foster carer who has experienced serious or chronic ill health could be asked to have a medical update. The terms of approval and the training and support needed by the foster carer should be reviewed. Non-use or underuse of a foster home are also factors to investigate at the review as the process should contribute to an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the fostering service as a whole.
52.Existing placements of a child in a household approved under the 1985 Regulations come within the scope of the new Regulations. During the first twelve months of the new Regulations the agency must make arrangements to review the approval of their foster carers in order to ensure that they are aware of, and can implement, the Regulations and this guidance. Foster carers may need additional information, support, or training to do this.
53.The extent to which reviews should include a comprehensive reassessment of a foster carer will depend on individual circumstances. An agency may decide that an extensive reassessment is needed where it is agreed that a foster carer will seek approval for a different kind of placement or to increase his or her approved numbers of children, or where it is the first review and it is a long time since he or she was initially approved.
54.Any other agency which has a child in placement in the foster home or which has used the foster home within the last year should be invited to give their views which should be taken into account. Reviews can be important means of maintaining a good understanding between agencies and identifying and resolving any difficulties that may arise.
55.The recommendations of reviews do not need to be considered by fostering panels. However, agencies may well decide that it is good practice for their fostering panel to consider any recommended termination or major change of terms of approval. Consideration should be given to providing the panel with an annual report on the outcome of reviews so that members of the fostering panel are kept abreast of developments in the foster homes they have previously approved and in the fostering service as a whole.
56.Notices of re-approval, revision of approval, or withdrawal of approval must be sent to the foster carer and to any other authority using the foster home. As a matter of good practice, the outcome of the review should normally be discussed with the other authorities before a final decision is reached. If the outcome is that a recommendation for termination of approval is to be made, plans for ending the placement of any children placed in the foster home will need to be agreed at a child care review and where relevant, the children's hearing. This will not apply if the child has to be removed immediately to safeguard and protect his or her welfare. In such a situation, a child care review should be held and, where applicable, a report made to the Principal Reporter as soon as possible thereafter. The foster carer's right to complain about or ask for reconsideration of any decisions resulting from a review must be explained to him or her. If a foster carer decides to make a complaint or ask for reconsideration, the child may be allowed to remain in the placement until the complaint is investigated, or the decision reconsidered, provided this will not be detrimental to his or her welfare.
57.Where a foster carer notifies the local authority that he or she no longer wishes to foster or the local authority becomes aware that this is the case, they should terminate the approval from a date specified in the written notification to the foster carer.
58.The procedure to follow where a foster carer is approved by more than one local authority and an authority intends to vary or terminate approval is described in paragraphs 114 and 115.
The foster care agreement
59.The approving agency is required to enter into a written agreement with a foster carer at the time of approval. This provides written information about the terms and conditions of the partnership between the agency and the foster carer. It also provides foster carers with written confirmation of matters which should have been discussed and agreed during assessment.
60.The matters and obligations to be covered in the foster care agreement are set out in Schedule 2. These are minimum requirements. Agencies should not restrict themselves to these matters but should ensure that foster carers have a full understanding of what is expected on behalf of both foster carer and agency when a child is placed, in relation to the requirements of Regulations, this guidance and the agency's policies and procedures. A foster carer handbook, issued and regularly updated by the agency, can be very helpful in this regard. The agency and the foster carer will also enter into a specific foster placement agreement when an individual child is placed.
Regulation 8 Schedule 2
Training and support of foster carers
61.Training enables the foster carer to learn more about foster care and what is required of a foster carer. The trainers should inform participants how nonattendance will affect their approval and whether their contributions in the training are being assessed. Where applicants live in remote areas and attendance at a training group proves difficult, methods of conveying the training programme, such as distance learning packs, should be devised. After approval, the social worker and foster carer should agree on what further preparation and training is needed, before a child is placed and continuing beyond placement. The early months as a foster carer can have particular importance as a period when skills and confidence can develop rapidly or, on the other hand, may be undermined. Opportunities for training and support should, if possible, be provided at three levels
- support, discussion and evaluation in the home
- participation in foster carer groups
- participation in formal training events with other foster carers and social workers.
62.Social workers themselves may need training in training methods and they will need access to appropriate training resources to meet the needs of foster carers. National Foster Care Association training packages have proved valuable in training programmes. The help of health and education professionals as well as experienced foster carers should be sought in local training schemes. Reading matter should also be available for foster carers.
63.Preparation and training programmes are likely to contain some common themes, such as
- providing safe and appropriate care for children who may well have been abused or neglected
- responding to hitherto undisclosed abuse
- working with parents and facilitating contact arrangements
- health issues in fostering and minimising health risks for both the child and the foster family
- ethnic, religious and cultural aspects of fostering
- confidentiality and safekeeping of documents
- working in partnership with the agency.
Additionally, more specialised training and preparation may be needed for foster carers undertaking particular tasks or participating in special schemes, for example, caring for young offenders or children with disabilities or particular health problems.
64.Opportunities for continuing training should be available for all foster carers. Many foster carers, as they become more experienced, will welcome the opportunity to undertake more complex placements, others will want to change the type of fostering that they do or the age range that they foster, and others will find that as their foster children grow and develop the problems they face change. Foster carers will often need training in order to give evidence in court, take part in a children's hearing or participate fully in a review. Foster carers should be encouraged to take part in the agency's staff training programme, but courses specifically for foster carers, at times that are convenient for them, should also be organised. Some experienced foster carers may welcome the opportunity to undertake a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ).
65.Foster carers need support and help with difficulties that arise from the special demands of the fostering role, in addition to help that may be needed in connection with the care of a particular child. Fostering makes demands on the whole family and can be the cause of stress in family relationships. Agencies should ensure that appropriate support, advice and assistance are provided to the foster carer and foster family. A foster carer may need help in learning to deal with ambivalent attitudes from neighbours or an occasional lack of understanding and co-operation on the part of other agencies and services. Authorities can help by demonstrating their own confidence in foster carers and by making sure that professionals in other services know of a placement and of the foster carer's responsibilities.
66.The role of the child's social worker includes support, advice and assistance to the foster carer, in relation to the particular child. In addition, foster carers value and benefit from having their own social worker to whom they may turn for general advice and support. This worker should see that foster carers have access to support which is available from other sources. Within the fostering service foster carer groups can be a positive source of support, especially to less experienced foster carers. Foster carers should be advised of other services which are available to all parents in the community.
Investigation of allegations about foster carers
67.Procedures to investigate allegations about foster carers must first and foremost protect the child's welfare. Where the allegation is of abuse or neglect, the investigation must be conducted within the local authority's child protection procedures. Such an investigation has special features when an allegation concerns a foster carer. The investigation must be approached in a measured and thoughtful way but should be as thorough as if the alleged event had happened in the child's own home. Welfare and safety considerations and the views of the child, should dictate whether it is in the child's best interests, and the best interests of other children in the household, for the child to remain in the foster home while an investigation takes place. If the child, or other children, remain in the household, both they and the foster carers will need additional supervision and support.
68.Foster carers, like other families, find investigations stressful and they should receive appropriate information and support. The child's social worker will need to give priority to the child's welfare and protection. It will be difficult for him or her to also provide support to the foster carers. The foster carer's social worker should advise and support the foster carer but his or her paramount interest must also be the child's welfare and the foster carer needs to know that the worker's support will not be unconditional. Consequently, foster carers may also need separate advice, support and advocacy. This may be available from the National Foster Care Association or from a local foster care group.
69.Even if the outcome of the investigation exonerates the foster carers, it may take a considerable period for them to rebuild their confidence in themselves and the agency. They are likely to need additional support during this period. In other cases the allegation will be proven and, except where the allegation is very minor, it will normally be necessary to terminate approval. Often, however, the outcome will not be clear - it may be one person's word against another with no forensic evidence available, or the foster carers may accept that an allegation has some substance but will consider it is exaggerated. In these circumstances, the agency will need to assess the risk and reach a balanced judgement as to whether the foster carers can care satisfactorily for children. In so doing they will need to take account of
- the seriousness of the allegation
- the plausibility of its refutation
- whether the person making the allegation may have a reason for making a mistaken, false, or exaggerated allegation
- the previous fostering history of the foster carers
- the strengths and weaknesses of the foster carers
- whether there were any particular stresses in the placement which could have led them to act inappropriately (for example a lack of support or over use of the foster carers by the agency).
70.Where it proves necessary to review the foster carer's approval and this leads to a recommendation for alteration or termination of approval, the reasons and the conclusions the local authority have reached should be explained carefully to them. They should be told of their right to complain or ask for reconsideration if they are unhappy with the outcome.
Complaints, representations and reconsideration
71.Under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and the Social Work (Representa-tions Procedure) (Scotland) Directions 1996, foster carers have the right to make representations, including complaints, concerning the authority's discharge, or failure to discharge any of their legal functions in relation to a child. Foster carers do not explicitly have the right to make representations about decisions made about their own approval, review, or termination of approval.
72.Given the magnitude of the decisions that they can make concerning foster carers, including in some cases the possibility of terminating their paid occupation, it will be good practice for agencies to establish a formal procedure whereby decisions concerning the approval, alteration, or termination of approval of foster carers or prospective foster carers can be reconsidered.
Payment of foster carers
73.Regulations enable local authorities to pay foster carers an allowance for fostering a child. The regulations differentiate between
- a fixed allowance applicable in the case of all children for whom the local authority has responsibility under Fostering Regulations
- a rate applicable to certain categories or circumstances of case
- amounts relevant to the individual needs of a particular child.
The local authority may take into account the needs and circumstances of the foster carer with whom the child is placed in determining what allowance to pay.
74.The Regulations allow considerable flexibility for local authorities to decide their own types and scales of payment depending on local child care needs and circumstances. The following considerations should inform these decisions
- Maintenance allowances should reflect the true costs of caring for a child of a particular age including recognition of the costs of holidays, birthdays and Christmas (or other significant religious occasions for children who do not come from Christian backgrounds). The additional costs of fostering such as phone calls to, or meals provided for, relatives and social workers, and transport to meetings and contact visits should also be recognised. Where relatives or friends are approved foster carers for a child it is unlikely that the cost of caring for a foster child will differ markedly from that of other foster carers.
- Some children, because of particular attributes or aspects of their behaviour, are more expensive than the average child to keep. For instance, an abused child may be more destructive of their clothing or belongings, a disabled child may need to be transported to many medical appointments, a child with sickle-cell anaemia may need additional heating, or a child who is very insecure may be eneuretic and create additional laundry costs. Talented or gifted children may also require additional payments. For instance, a musical instrument, music lessons, and regular transport to an orchestra or band for a musical child.
- Fostering is often a difficult, demanding and time-consuming task. Local authorities are empowered to financially recognise the work of foster carers by either paying them a fee, a salary, or an enhancement which has a reward element within it. The complexity and time consuming nature of foster care means that, in the majority of foster homes, it is necessary for one carer to be at home full-time. Payment of a reward element can both attract foster carers, particularly for children and young people who in the past were seen as unfosterable, and can assist in retaining their services. It means that there is less economic necessity for the foster carer to seek outside work, that he or she feels rewarded at times when there is little positive feedback from the child, and that he or she feels more recognised and valued by social work and other agencies.
- Where an enhancement consists of, or contains, a reward element, careful consideration needs to be given to schemes where, if the foster carer is successful in reducing the child's problems he or she loses the reward element. This can be both a disincentive to achieving or being honest about progress and can create financial difficulties for the foster carer.
- Whilst there will be some local variations, the costs of fostering will not differ markedly across Scotland. It will aid recruitment and retention, be more comprehensible and fair to foster carers, and prevent competition emerging between local authorities if current COSLA-led national agreements on rates of payment are continued and, if possible, extended.
- Local authorities may take into account the needs and circumstances of the foster carers with whom the child is placed. This should not occur routinely, for instance by applying some form of means testing before an additional allowance is paid. It should, however, give local authorities sufficient flexibility, in the diverse family and financial circumstances they will encounter in foster care, to ensure that the best interests of children are met.
75.Foster carers are often immediately reliant on the payments they receive to care for the child. Local authorities should have systems which ensure prompt and accurate payments. Foster carers should receive information about fee, salary, and/or allowance rates and information concerning eligibility, and the process for, receiving an enhancement or single additional payment. A fees and allowances leaflet should be issued annually to foster carers and social workers at the time that payments are uprated. Where foster carers are likely to attract tax or National Insurance liabilities, because they are being paid a reward element, they should be given written guidance as to the likely nature of their responsibilities and how best to approach them.
76.In addition to maintenance and fee payments, the local authority should consider with the foster carer whether any equipment such as bedroom furniture, prams, cots and initial clothing is needed to facilitate the placement. Authorities should be realistic and sensitive in responding fully and promptly to a need for equipment, bearing in mind that the responsibility for providing for the child lies with the authority, not the foster carer. Sibling groups and children with special needs will often need a good deal of equipment.
77.Foster children often cause accidental, or sometimes wilful, damage to the foster carer's house, furniture or belongings. They may also steal from the foster carer. The local authority should check that foster carers are adequately insured at the time of approval, if necessary recompensing them for higher premiums. Where, however, their insurance company will not cover a particular loss, they should be recompensed by the local authority.
78.Where a local authority places a child with a foster carer who is approved and supported by a voluntary agency, the voluntary agency will need to follow the above guidance for the aspects of payment for which it takes direct responsibility and then recharge the local authority. Where an aspect of payment remains with the local authority, for instance payment of an initial clothing grant, the local authority and voluntary agency will need to reach agreement as to their mutual expectations.
Placing a Child with Foster Carers
The decision to place a child in a foster placement
79.The chapter on children who are looked after provides the overall framework in which decisions are made concerning the type of placement which would best meet a child's needs. Once a decision has been reached that a foster placement is the most appropriate placement, then consideration needs to be given as to the factors and attributes in a particular placement which are necessary to promote the child's welfare.
80.Reasonable proximity to the child's birth family, or at least convenient public transport services, are desirable in placement where contact with the child's family is part of the care plan. The foster carers should be able to accommodate contact at the frequency the child needs, make birth family members welcome and help them to feel relaxed with their child. Foster carers can often model child care skills to parents and help them to cope with behaviour they have previously found difficult. Where a foster home is not within easy travelling distance, the social worker may need to organise transport so that contact is not reduced by factors outside the birth family's control.
81.Placements with siblings are addressed in the chapter on children who are looked after. The advisability of placement with other, unrelated, children also needs to be considered. Would it be helpful or at least not detrimental for the child to have other children in placement, and, if so, of what age, or would it cause difficulties for the child or for the other children? Would there be any impact on the safety and well-being of the foster carer's own children and other children in placement?
82.In order to minimise disruption for the child and keep him or her linked in to his or her local community and peer group, continuity should be maintained in schooling, religious observance, and out of school activities. Special transport arrangements may need to be made. Where, however, a foster home is intended to be permanent, integration into his or her new neighbourhood by, for instance, a move to the local school will often be important and appropriate for the child. The child's views should be sought and taken into account before these decisions are taken.
83.A child's needs are most likely to be fully met in a family that matches his or her racial, religious, cultural and linguistic background. Children should be placed in foster homes which can address their identified needs and which provide a familiar way of life, behaviour, attitudes, expectations, religious practices, language, food and cultural activities. Feelings of being the odd person out are then likely to be minimised, and therefore the child can feel more at home. Where it proves impossible to match all the aspects of a child's heritage in the foster placement, then it is essential that the foster carers and social worker have, or are willing to obtain, knowledge and understanding of the child's heritage and that they are prepared to help the child maintain his or her heritage. Ways of doing this could be taking them to language classes and/or supplementary school, taking them to a familiar place of worship, recruiting a befriender from the child's community, adapting the family's diet to include dishes with which the child will be familiar, and having regard to the considerations outlined in paragraph 82. Ethnic minority children may encounter prejudice. This is not necessarily reduced by placing an ethnic minority child in an ethnic minority foster home, but it does mean that his or her carers will have experience and understanding of what is happening, and may be more likely to know how to deal effectively with racism. White foster carers may need help to recognise the impact of racial prejudice and the damaging effect it has on the child and to develop, and help the child develop, effective ways to handle it.
84.Except where the child is looked after in an emergency, an assessment of the child's health needs should be available for the foster carer. This is covered fully in the chapter on children who are looked after. If the child has been placed in an emergency, then it is essential that the medical assessment is undertaken as soon as possible after placement. Birth parents will also be an important source of health information. It is important that the foster carer is aware of the child's health needs and has the ability, or can be supported, to meet them. This will be particularly important where a child has a disability, a chronic or terminal illness, or previously undiagnosed or unmet health care needs. Some foster homes may be hazardous to particular children. For instance, children may be severely allergic to pets in the household or to some other allergen and foster carers who smoke are often not considered suitable for very young children or children with respiratory conditions such as asthma. Social workers should check that foster carers always have medicines and other hazardous materials stored safely. Information about medical consent is contained in the chapter on children who are looked after.
85.Where the child needing placement has a disability, the placement should be suitable to meet the child's particular needs, should minimise the effects of his or her disability and should help him or her lead as normal a life as possible. For physically disabled children, access from outside the home and within it will be important and aids and adaptations may need to be provided. This may also be an issue if a child has a disabled parent visiting. Where a child cannot, or has difficulty in, communicating verbally, carers will need to be found who know, or are willing to learn, the appropriate sign or symbol language. Children with learning difficulties will need to be matched with carers who understand their needs and are able to help them achieve their potential.
86.Children who have, or are likely to develop, a chronic or terminal illness such as HIV/AIDS, muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis can be both very stressful and very rewarding for foster carers to look after. It is important that the carers are knowledgeable about the likely progress of the illness, and any hygiene or treatment issues. They need to know that practical advice and emotional support will be readily available to themselves and their children throughout the course of the placement and, where applicable, after the child's death. Foster carers should be informed of the financial benefits they are able to claim in respect of themselves and the child when they are caring for a disabled child.
87.Placement of a disabled child or a child with a chronic or terminal illness, should, wherever possible, mean minimal changes to the child's special educational provision, therapy services and specialist medical care. Unless a placement has to be made in an emergency, education and health advice should be obtained before a placement is made.
88.Often, there may not be a choice of foster homes available, or the speed with which a placement is needed may not allow a careful matching process to take place. In these situations, differentiating essential attributes of the placement from desirable attributes of the placement will help to make the decision as to whether a placement is acceptable. When making the foster placement agreement and at the first review, any drawbacks in the suitability of the placement should be discussed and where possible plans made to overcome them. If it is not feasible to overcome them, and the placement is considered unlikely to meet the child's needs, then a planned move to a more suitable placement should be made.
89.Local authorities are required, when providing services, to take account of the child's views subject to his or her age and understanding and this applies to his or her views on foster care. The more mature the child, the more fully the child will be able to enter into discussion about plans and proposals. Children need information and explanation so that they are in a position to develop views and make choices. Some authorities provide preparation and information groups for children as part of preparation for long term foster care. With young children the social worker should communicate with the child and assess the child's feelings. Providing children with reassurance and helping them with their anxieties about foster care or a particular placement is essential to the choice and success of a placement. However, responsibility for making decisions lies with the authority and children should not be allowed to feel overburdened with responsibility.
The foster placement agreement
90.A local authority is required to enter into a written placement agreement with the foster carer. Where a local authority places a child with a foster carer approved by another authority or by a voluntary organisation, the other agency should also be a party to the agreement. The matters to be covered in the foster placement agreement are set out in Schedule 3 of the Regulations. While the foster care agreement covers general matters relating to the foster carer and to all placements, the foster placement agreement will set out the agreed arrangements for the care of the individual child placed. It also serves as confirmation of what is expected from the foster carer and the authority and what has been agreed with the parent. Different requirements apply when a child is placed in an emergency or in an immediate placement (see paragraphs 96-100 below).
91.The foster placement agreement must include a statement of the information which the authority considers necessary to enable the foster carer to care for the child. This includes
- the reason the child is to be looked after, the authority's plans for the child and the objectives of the placement
- the legal basis on which the child is placed
- the role of the child's parents, the arrangements to enable them to continue their role in the child's life including contact, and who has parental responsibilities for the child
- the child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin
- the child's state of health, need for health care and surveillance, and arrangements for medical consent
- the child's educational needs.
The statement should be provided at the time of the signing of the agreement or, where this is not possible (because the information is not yet available) as soon as is practicable.
92.The foster placement agreement must also include
- the financial arrangements for the placement
- the arrangements for medical consent
- arrangements for other activities for which consent needs to be obtained, for instance, school outings
- the circumstances where it is necessary to obtain advance approval from the local authority either for the child to stay away from the foster home or for someone else, other than the foster carer, to care for the child
- the arrangements for and frequency of social work visits and child care reviews
- the expectation that the foster carer will comply with the terms of the foster carer agreement as they apply to the foster placement agreement, and of their co-operation with any arrangements made by the local authority.
93.This requirement acknowledges the need for communication of essential information if there is to be an effective partnership between parents, agencies and foster carers. Foster carers need to have the fullest possible knowledge and understanding of the background and history of children on whose behalf they are undertaking an exacting and responsible role and who need their skilled help to cope with living away from home. The collection of the information for the statement, where the information is not already available, is a high priority. The social worker should discuss with the parents and any other previous carers, and with the child according to his or her understanding, the information which is to be given to a foster carer and why. Where, exceptionally, there is a special reason for withholding significant information, the reason should be recorded on the child's case record.
94.The purpose of providing information is to enable the foster carer to both maintain a child's daily routine and care appropriately for the child throughout the placement, though in a very short-term placement, less information about the child's history may be needed. There is no requirement for written information to be issued when a child is placed under the emergency or immediate placement provisions but authorities should make sure that the emergency or immediate carer has sufficient information to care for and help the child. If the child remains in placement, full written information should be supplied as soon as is practicable.
Regulations 13 & 14
95.Foster carers are required to undertake to treat as confidential any information about a child or his or her family given in connection with a placement. Foster carers' training should include advice on the maintenance of confidentiality, dealing with questions from family and friends and safekeeping of documentation connected with the child and the placement, which should be returned to the authority when the placement ends.
96.Where a child needs to be placed in a foster home urgently, for example if a child protection order is obtained on a child who has not previously been known to the local authority or a placement has broken down suddenly at a weekend, the emergency placement provisions apply. Information may well be limited and speed will be of the essence in making the placement. The written agreement made with the foster carer for the first seventy-two hours of placement need, therefore, specify only that the foster carer will
care for the child as if he or she were a member of the carer's family and in a safe and appropriate manner
permit anyone authorised by the local authority to visit the child at any reasonable time
allow the foster child to be removed at any time by the local authority if the local authority considers the placement is no longer in his or her interests
ensure that any information concerning the child or his or her family which is given in confidence remains confidential
allow regular contact between the child and anyone with parental responsibilities where this is agreed by the local authority.
A full foster placement agreement must be made with the foster carer within seventy-two hours. An emergency placement can only be made with an approved foster carer.
Immediate placements with persons not approved as foster carers
97.Immediate placements may be made with a relative or friend of a child, provided the local authority is satisfied that the placement will be in the child's best interests and there are good reasons why it would not be appropriate for the child to wait in another placement while the foster home is approved. The risk that issues will emerge in the assessment of carers which mean the child may subsequently have to be removed, needs to be taken into account.
98.Prior to placing the child in an immediate placement, the social worker must
- interview the proposed carer
- confirm that the person is a friend or relative
- inspect the accommodation
- obtain information about any other persons living in the household
- reach a written agreement with the proposed carer. This is the same written agreement as for an emergency placement (see paragraph 96 above).
Whilst not explicit within the regulations, it would be good practice to seek police checks on all members of the household, and a health reference on the prospective carers. Unless they subsequently go through the full approval process, such carers do not need to be approved by the fostering panel. Social work departments will, therefore, need to establish, or confirm, current management procedures for approving such placements.
99.Except where a child is placed with friends or relatives by a children's hearing (see paragraphs 116-117 below), an immediate placement may last no longer than six weeks and it may only continue beyond six weeks if during that period the relative or friend is approved as a foster carer. If difficulty is experienced in obtaining checks or references within the six week period then senior managers in the local authority must resolve the problem with their counterparts in the relevant agencies.
100.For children who are placed with persons who are not approved foster carers the frequency and purpose of visits by the social worker should be determined according to the needs of the particular child concerned. It should not be assumed that they require less frequent visits than they would if placed with foster carers approved under regulation 7.
Preparation and introduction of the child and carers
101.All children need preparation for placement whether the move is planned over a number of weeks, or takes place the same day in an emergency. Even in emergency placements children need an explanation of why they are moving placement and some details of the placement to which they are moving. It is helpful if pen pictures and photographs of all foster carers are available so that these can be used, even in an emergency move, to prepare the child.
102.In non-emergency placements, the child should be prepared using methods suited to his or her age and development. The younger the child the less likely it will be that explanation alone will suffice. Artwork, games, role plays and video work will often help and can also benefit older children and teenagers. These methods, either used individually or in groups, often provide a less threatening process and can allow children to talk more openly about their thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears. This preparation may still be needed where placement is with a friend or relative, particularly if there have been considerable changes in the family since the child last lived there or was in regular contact.
103.The ability to introduce the child to a placement and the length and intensity of the introduction, will depend on the urgency, purpose and intended length of the placement, and the age and maturity of the child. In all introductions the aim should be to familiarise the child and carers, help them decide whether they are sufficiently compatible to live together for the intended period, help the carer and social worker decide whether the carer can meet the child's needs and reduce the child's anxiety at separating from his or her home or current placement. Depending on the child's age and understanding, the child should be encouraged to express his or her views about the appropriateness of the placement and these should be taken into account.
104.The introduction of a sibling group to carers, particularly if the siblings cover a wide age span, requires particular care. It may not be appropriate for each sibling to have the same introductory plan, although the feelings this may evoke, such as jealousy, need to be taken into account.
105.Wherever possible, the parents and/or the current carers should be included in the introductions. It will reassure the child if a parent or carer visits the home first and/or is present on the first visit, particularly if the child can see a co-operative relationship being established with the new carer.
Arrangements between local authorities and voluntary organisations
106.The Regulations set out the circumstances in which a local authority may make arrangements with a voluntary organisation for a child, for whom the local authority is responsible, to be placed by the organisation. Under such arrangements a voluntary organisation may undertake all the duties in respect of the placement on behalf of the local authority except those relating to the drawing up and retention of case records. The local authority should be satisfied as to the capacity of the organisation to discharge these duties and that such an arrangement is the most suitable way of discharging these duties. The local authority and the voluntary organisation should enter into a written agreement about the arrangements, which must include provision for consultation and for exchange of information and reports. The local authority continue to carry primary responsibility for the child's care and welfare and for decisions affecting the child's welfare.
107.Where a voluntary organisation recruits and approves foster carers who live within more than one local authority area it will be possible for one local authority to act on behalf of a group of local authorities. That local authority could, for instance, with the agreement of the other authorities, enter into a written agreement concerning the establishment, and remit, of a fostering panel by the voluntary agency, its arrangements for review and termination of approvals and the placement criteria which it would include in foster care agreements. The individual local authority placing a child, would, however, remain responsible for the foster placement agreement, for notification of the placement, and for any other matters directly affecting the child.
108.The local authority responsible for the child must visit the child in a voluntary organisation placement where the voluntary organisation makes representations that there are circumstances which require a visit. This visit should be made within fourteen days of the representations being made. They must also visit if they are informed from any source that the welfare of the child may not be safeguarded or promoted. This visit should be made as soon as reasonably practicable, but in any event within seven days of being informed.
Placements through private fostering agencies
109.There is no provision for a local authority to arrange for a placement to be made by a private or "independent" fostering agency. Such agencies have not so far been a part of fostering provision in Scotland but they exist in England and Wales. Some of them, which are established as non-profit making agencies, will meet the definition in the Act of a voluntary agency and will, therefore, be covered by the Regulations. Fostering agencies which are profit making on the other hand cannot approve, review or terminate the approval of foster carers. Only a local authority, or voluntary agency acting on their behalf, can do this under the Regulations.
Inter-agency arrangements between local authorities
110.Where a local authority arranges for another local authority in Scotland to supervise a placement on their behalf, because the child is placed within the area of the other local authority, there should be an agreement made covering exchange of information, reports, consultation and decision-making. The supervising authority should treat the supervision and support of the placement with the same amount of priority as they would a child they themselves have placed.
111.Particular care is needed where a child is placed outside the area of the local authority. This applies whether arrangements are made with another local authority or with a voluntary organisation, or whether the authority decide themselves to undertake the supervisory duties. Placements at a distance should only be made on the understanding that supervision and support can be provided to the level required by the placement and the child's welfare (including preparation for independent living and aftercare).
112.Where a child is placed with foster carers outside Scotland, the local authority must ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the Fostering Regulations are followed.
113.The Regulations do not prohibit foster carers from being approved by more than one local authority although this is likely to be rare. It is not necessary for the second local authority to undertake a re-assessment of the foster carers if they intend to approve them for the same categories of children for whom they are already approved. This is known as derivative approval. Approval by more than one local authority may cause conflict between local authorities and disadvantages for the children placed unless careful negotiation and co-operation takes place. The alternative of approval by only one local authority and placements being provided to the other authorities through a service agreement might therefore be preferable in practice.
114.Where a local authority wishes to approve a foster carer on a different basis to that already made by another local authority, the new authority cannot give derivative approval and must undertake the full approval process in respect of that foster carer. In such circumstances it is important that the second authority has regard to the approval already given by the first authority, and it would be good practice to consider
- the effect further approval will have on any current approval by another local authority
- the effect further approval will have on any child already placed with that person
- whether such further approval might over-burden the foster carer.
In considering these matters it would be good practice for the local authority to liaise closely with any other authority currently approving that person. If a decision is reached by a second authority to approve the foster carer, they must notify the current approving authority of their decision in writing. Following approval, the local authorities should so far as possible agree procedures for consulting and notifying each other on proposed placements, the carrying out of reviews and for any important events which occur within placements. Following a review, each authority is under an obligation to send a copy of any notice given in writing to the foster carer and to any other approving authority.
115.Where the approval of a foster carer is a derivative approval, and the first authority revises or terminates the approval, they must similarly alert the second authority who are also bound by this decision. The second authority must notify the foster carer of the revision or termination of their approval. The date of the revision or termination should be as near as possible to the date specified by the first authority.
Arrangements to place children as a result of action by a children's hearing
116.Where a local authority recommends to a children's hearing that a child should be placed with a person who is not a relevant person (i.e. the person does not have parental responsibilities for the child and is not the person with whom he or she normally lives) that person must be either an approved foster carer or a relative or family friend of the child. In the latter situation, the same checks, visits, and agreements as are made for an immediate placement must be made, but the placement will last as long as the children's hearing determine rather than for a maximum of six weeks.
117.Care will need to be taken that confusion does not arise between situations where relatives or friends need to be approved as foster carers because the child is fostered with them while being provided with accommodation under section 25 or because he or she is subject to a parental responsibilities order, and where relatives or friends have been found to be suitable to care for a child who is subject to a supervision requirement but who are not approved foster carers. This distinction is likely to be clarified by describing the latter group of carers by a term other than foster carers, for example link or family carers.