7. The Role of Local Authority Children's Services (See also flowchart at Annex A)
- Upon receipt of a notification of plans for a private fostering arrangement, a children's services worker will be allocated the case and have a role in offering advice and support to the carers and the parents throughout the period of the arrangement being in place.
- They will open and maintain a case record and a Child's Plan. These will be updated following assessments and reviews of the arrangements.
- An initial assessment will be carried out preferably prior to the start of any arrangement, but where a placement is already in place, as soon as possible (and at the latest 2 weeks after notification), to establish the reason behind the need for a private fostering placement and ascertain the suitability of the proposed arrangements ( Reg 4 (3)). Included in the initial assessment:
- Arrangements will be made to meet and interview the child (depending on the age or developmental status of the child), the child's parents (where possible), the proposed private foster carer(s) and any other members of the carer's household within the initial 2 week period following notification. ( Reg 4 (2) (a) and 5 (b)).
- Disclosure checks will be carried out on all adult members of
the carer's household and where there are any concerns about
immigration status checks with the
which is now part of the Home Office) should become part of
Note: A person who acts as a foster carer including privately is doing regulated work with children under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups ( PVG) Act and as such is eligible to join the PVG Scheme and request a PVG Scheme Record. Checks carried out as part of the Scheme will highlight anyone barred from regulated work with children and therefore unsuitable to provide private foster care. Other adults resident in the household can have an enhanced disclosure with a children's suitability check carried out. Disclosure Scotland can only carry out these checks if the child is being privately fostered in Scotland. See Disclosure Scotland Guidance.
- Checks on the health of both child (ren) and carer(s) will be arranged and statements obtained from registered GPs. ( Reg 4 (2) (b) and 5 (a)) UKBA (now part of the Home Office) should be consulted where foreign nationals are involved and asked to confirm immigration status.
- The children's services worker should meet with the child alone, if appropriate to the age of the child, during the assessment as well as all future visits and be satisfied that their needs are being met and they are happy with the arrangements. ( Reg 4 (1) and 2 (c)) Their views and concerns should be taken into consideration prior to any decision to continue with the arrangements.
- Checks will be made to ensure the child's racial, cultural, linguistic, religious, sexual orientation, disability or other identified needs will be met.
- If the arrangement is taking place out-with the child's original home area, enquiries should be made with their home local authority to ascertain whether they know of any reasons why the arrangements should not go ahead. ( Reg 4 (2) (d))
- The local authority should satisfy themselves by a visit on their behalf whether any premises in which the child is to be placed are adequate for the needs of the child and whether it would be detrimental to the welfare of the child to be placed with the foster parent in those premises ( Reg 5(c) and (d)).
- A written report of initial ( Reg 5 (e)) and subsequent visits ( Reg 7 (1) (b)), with findings and actions should be added to the case record including any changes in circumstances reported to them by the parent, carer or child.
- The children's services worker should ensure that the child's needs continue to be met, that their accommodation arrangements are suitable and their health (as well as dietary), social and education needs are being met and should obtain supporting references from the child's school, General Practitioner, UKBA (where there are any concerns about immigration background or status) and anyone else making a significant contribution to the needs of the child.
- A children's services worker should visit the child within one week of their placement and at least every 3 months during the first year of placement and then every 6 months thereafter ( Reg 7 (1) (a) and (b)). It is the duty of the local authority to assess and promote the wellbeing of the child and to check that the arrangements continue to be suitable and that the child has no concerns and wishes to remain with the carer(s) and maintain records accordingly.
- If there are concerns raised at any point in proceedings, these should be addressed in proportion to the nature of the concerns, as quickly as possible, using appropriate child protection measures where necessary and in accordance with the agreement contained in the Child's Plan.
- Should the initial assessment or follow up visits show that arrangements will not be, or are no longer suitable; the local authority is obliged to notify the parent, guardian or relative and the foster parent. A children's services worker should take appropriate action to safeguard and promote the child's wellbeing. ( Reg 6 (1) and (2))
- Actions will range from removing a child to a place of safety if the child is at immediate risk or preventing or stopping private fostering arrangements taking place to setting some limitations on how the specific care needs of children are met.
- Carers can be disqualified from privately fostering a child if they have been convicted of any offence involving a child, have had a child removed from their care by a court or local authority, have been prohibited from privately fostering a child or been disqualified from acting as a foster carer ( Section 7 of the 1984 Act). As fostering is regulated work within the PVG Scheme, a referral must be made to Disclosure Scotland if the relevant criteria are met. The grounds for a referral are explained in Chapters 6 and 7 of the PVG Scheme Guidance mentioned in section 10 below.
- Local authorities can impose requirements on private foster carers including limiting the number of children who can be privately fostered based on the adequacy of their accommodation and also to ensure the wellbeing and needs of the child are being met. ( Section 9 of the 1984 Act)
- Local authorities have the power to prohibit a person from privately fostering where that person is not suitable, where the accommodation is not suitable, where the child's wellbeing would be harmed, where someone has been convicted for offences against children or where the care of the child is or would be unsatisfactory. Notice of any prohibition to be imposed should be made in writing to the proposed private foster carer specifying the reasons and informing them of their right of appeal to the Sheriff within 14 days of receiving the notice. ( Section 10-13 of the 1984 Act)
- Should there be any immediate concerns or risks to the child at any point whilst carrying out checks an Initial Referral or Tri Partite Discussion along with submission of a referral to the children's reporter must be undertaken in line with National Child Protection Guidance.
- The carer and parent (or person with parental responsibility) should be made aware that they need to notify the local authority immediately about any change in circumstances, including if the child changes address, someone living in the household is convicted of an offence, or someone joins or leaves the household.
- Each local children's service plan should refer to activity that has taken place in relation to identifying those who have not notified them and raising awareness of private fostering locally among families, children, local services including schools, police and health care professionals as well as what information is being provided to the public and local services through campaigning and websites. Attention should be given to communication with local ethnic minority and faith groups.
- An annual report on activity undertaken should be prepared for the Chief Social Work Officer and submitted to the local authority Children's services Planning Groups who should use it to ensure public information; joint working and practice are robust enough.
- Information on websites, notification forms and contact information should be kept up to date.
- Should circumstances arise where the responsibility for a private fostering arrangement needs to be transferred to another local authority, the transferring local authority should be responsible for ensuring the new authority has the necessary information to ensure the continued wellbeing of the child and support for the carer.
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