Reviews of foster carers/kinship carers
The Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 [s.25] sets out the timescales for foster carer reviews and also includes the expectation that a local authority will carry out an additional review of a foster carer's approval when appropriate to safeguard the welfare of any child who has been placed with that carer. Regulation 25(8) of the Looked After Children Regulations does not require every review of a foster carer to be carried out by the fostering panel. A review following concerns about the safety and well being of a child placed with foster carers will involve considering the suitability of the carers to continue as carers and it is suggested that a fostering panel should be involved from the start rather than holding a preliminary review which will report to a fostering panel.
Exceptions would be where the complaint has been withdrawn or the investigations have concluded that there are no remaining issues for the foster carer or the child over the concerns. These matters could be reviewed at the next scheduled Foster Carer Review.
Where the carer is approved by a registered fostering provider then the procedures in the agency should reflect the need to review the approval of the carer following any concern being raised.The National Care Standard for Foster Care Services ('NCS'), Standard 11 requires a review of the carers to be held as soon as possible after any significant incident, complaint or allegation of abuse or neglect.
Good practice requires the fostering agency to consider, on an ongoing basis during the planning and process of the investigation, the capacity of the foster or kinship carer to continue to care for looked-after children.
The complexity of matters to be addressed after any concern has been raised will vary and the appropriate level of formality for the reviews will also vary. Where the matters are complex the Fostering Manager might decide to ask for an independent review of all the circumstances relating to the carer and the concerns and to provide options for the way forward. This would then inform the foster care review in terms of Regulations 25 and 26 and NCS 11.10.
In preparing for the foster carer review information should be gathered about whether change is assessed as needed in any aspect of the foster carer's current placements or category of registration. Key findings from the enquiries and any investigation into the concern should be included in a report which will be considered at the foster carers' review.
Whatever the route, the fostering panel which reviews the carers should make clear recommendations to the Agency Decision Maker about the continuing approval of the carers, any variations in approval of the foster carer or the termination of their approval. It is important that the Review can also identify any areas where the carers may require additional support to provide care for looked-after children.
Where a carer decides not to cooperate with any further enquiries after the conclusion of an investigation, they should be advised that the issues will be taken directly to a foster carer review even if they decide not to attend that review. They should be advised that the Review may recommend formal termination of their approval and the process for their seeking a review of that decision.
Reviews of approved kinship carers
Where the carer is an approved kinship carer the procedures for regular reviews should already be agreed in the agency and an Agency Decision Maker identified. Many of the same considerations apply to reviews of approved kinship carers as for foster carers and kinship carers should be given opportunities to discuss the concern, the circumstances that may have contributed to it being raised and the outcome of the child protection investigation if carried out.
As there is no provision in the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 for the review of approved kinship carers, best practice would be to convene a specific meeting to review all the information from the enquiries undertaken following the concern. This meeting should discuss whether care for looked-after child can be continued safely with the kinship carers. It should also look at what supports would assist the carers. Discussions might lead to a recommendation that the child should be moved and thus terminate the approval of the kinship carers.
The review should consider whether the carer should continue to be approved, should have their approval varied or terminated or what additional supports the carer requires to care for the child safely.
The wellbeing, and in particular, the safety of the child must be at the centre of the decisions but all efforts to support the kinship carer arrangements should be discussed to make the placement safe enough for the child. The role of the child's birth family should also be discussed to assess whether they can contribute to the future support and safety of the child placed with kinship carers.
A record of the meeting should clearly state what decisions were made and the reasons for them. It should also clarify what action points were agreed, who is responsible for carrying them out and within what timescales. The minute of the meeting should be held in the kinship carers' file and be fully considered at any subsequent review. The minute should highlight if further support, training or changes to the carers' terms of approval are required.
Reports for review of carers
Reports for the foster/approved kinship carer review should summarise the nature of the concern, circumstances which may have contributed to it being raised and, if applicable, the outcome of the child protection investigation. Any implications for the carers' current suitability to care for a looked-after child, and their training or support needs should be highlighted. Based on this information, the report should analyse what action is needed to ensure that children placed with the carers will be safeguarded and cared for to the standard expected by the fostering agency.
Recommendations may include:
- that the foster/kinship carers receive additional training, support or advice on specific aspects of practice;
- that the appropriateness of individual children's placements be reviewed with the child's social worker and/or lead professional and senior social worker;
- that the agency fostering panel review the number, ages of gender of children the foster carers are approved to care for;
- that the agency fostering panel consider terminating the foster carers' approval as foster carers in line with agency procedures;
- Where the review is of an approved kinship carer then the same areas require to be addressed and a decision made about the continuing approval of the kinship carers in line with agency procedures.
Other issues relating to Reviews
Where there is a decision to recommend to the Agency Fostering Panel that a foster carer's approval should be terminated or their approval to foster amended it is suggested that consideration by the fostering panel should take place within six weeks from the decision to refer having been taken. Maintaining strict timescales should reduce further delays in decisions being reached about the future approval of the foster carer or the placement of a child.
The fostering manager should inform the foster carers, both verbally and in writing, within three working days, if possible, of a decision to refer them to the fostering panel for a review of their approval. They should be informed if the recommendation to the panel is that the carers' approval to foster should be terminated or changed. The information given to foster carers should include information on what will happen next. If applicable, arrangements for the continued provision of independent support and/or payments to the carers should be made until a final decision has been taken by the fostering agency's decision-maker.
In all other respects, local policies and procedures for reviewing and terminating approval of foster carers should be followed. Carers should be informed of the decisions from the meeting, both verbally and in writing, as soon as possible.
A record of the meeting should clearly state what decisions were made and the reasons for them. It should also clarify what action points were agreed, who is responsible for carrying them out and within what timescales. If there is a decision to refer the carers to the agency fostering panel to review or terminate their approval, the fostering manager should inform the fostering agency decision maker.
The same timescales should be used for reviews of approved kinship carers.
The minute of all meetings should be held in the carers' file and be fully considered at their review. The minute should highlight if further support, training or changes to the carers' terms of approval are required.
The relevant senior manager in the local authorities responsible for the children involved should be notified of the outcome of meetings and reviews as soon as possible.
If a foster carer/approved kinship carer gives 28 days notice of their wish not to continue to be an approved foster/ kinship carer, during inquiries or investigation, there will be no means of continuing with internal enquiries beyond the expiration of the notice from the carer intimating their decision not to continue as carers. In this situation, the agency should continue to review all relevant information as fully as possible and take steps to formally terminate the approval of the carers if this is considered to be the appropriate action following a carer review. The senior fostering manager should ensure that all relevant information is included in the record of the foster carer/kinship carer.
Follow up actions
Foster carers and approved kinship carers will be very anxious throughout the enquiries and until decisions about their future have been made. It is essential that whatever the final decision, the carers are clear about their future. It is very important that the carers know when the process is completed and no more enquiries required.
If there has been a Child Protection investigation and hence a Child Protection Case Conference/Child's Plan Meeting, good practice would be for the Chair of the CPCC to write to the carers to thank them for their contributions and to confirm that there are no further child protection concerns.
In any cases where there is evidence of harm then the Chair of the CPCC should write to the carers to explain the next steps for the child and themselves.
It is also important that where no concerns have been substantiated the carers are aware of the records kept by agencies and, following a Child Protection investigation, by the police, as the outcome of enquiries may appear on any subsequent PVG or enhanced disclosure forms.
Email: Heather Brown
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