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5.7.1 Fostering Panel

PURPOSE

The role of the Fostering Panel is to approve and review foster carers in a way that reflects different perspectives and best practice and ensures objectivity.

The Fostering Panel will be organised efficiently and effectively so as to ensure that good quality decisions are made about the approval of foster carers, in line with the overriding objective to promote and safeguard the welfare of children in foster care.

The functions, which the Fostering Panel carries out, contribute towards meeting the statutory requirements of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 and the Care Standards Act 2000.

TERMS OF REFERENCE

The regulations cited in this procedure are the Fostering Services Regulations 2011.

There are also references to the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services.

For the purpose of this procedure the 'Fostering Service Provider' refers to the Local Authority.


Contents

  1. Membership of Fostering Panel
  2. Functions of the Fostering Panel
  3. Operation of the Fostering Panel
  4. Minute Taking
  5. Arrangement for the Payment of Allowances and Fees
  6. Presentation of Reports to Fostering Panel


1. Membership of Fostering Panel

There is no fixed panel membership or maximum number of members or maximum tenure of office.

The membership must be drawn from a Central List of persons with the appropriate qualifications and/or experience, including one or more social workers who have at least three years’ relevant post-qualifying experience.

Independent members should include, where possible, at least one person from each of the following criteria:

  • Someone who is, or within the previous two years has been, a foster carer for a fostering service provider other than for Calderdale MBC;
  • Someone who has at any time been placed with foster carers or whose child has at any time been placed with foster carers;
  • Someone with expertise in child health;
  • Someone with expertise in education.

The Panel must have access to medical advice as required but it is not compulsory for the medical adviser to be a member of the Fostering Panel.

A person shall not be appointed as an independent member of a Fostering Panel if:

  • They are a foster carer approved by the fostering service provider;
  • The fostering service provider employs them;
  • They are concerned in the management of the fostering service provider;
  • In the case of a local authority fostering service the person is an elected member of the local authority.

Where it is considered that someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List, they must be given one months’ notice in writing and reasons for the decision to end their inclusion on the list. The Chair will be appointed by the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel Appointments) and will be a senior manager with responsibility for the fostering service or an independent person. (As from 1st October 2011 an Independent Chair must be appointed).

The Designated Manager must also appoint up to two Vice Chair’s, whose role is to chair the Panel when the Chair is unavailable.

Reasonable expenses relating to attendance can be met, including traveling expenses and childcare; there is an allowance for attending training sessions plus travel expenses.

All Panel members must have been the subjects of a satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks before taking up their appointment. These DBS checks should be kept up to date and recorded, including the date when the checks were made. Personal and work references will also be obtained in writing and must be satisfactory.

Each member must be provided with written information on appointment of their performance objectives, including their participation in induction and other training and safeguarding the confidentiality of records and information submitted to Panel. They will be asked to sign an agreement with the fostering service - "Undertaking for Fostering Panel Members" - in relation to his or her membership, covering the service expectations (including the requirement to report any involvement in criminal proceedings), confidentiality issues and commitment to anti-discriminatory practice.

All Panel members will also be required to attend at least one Panel meeting as an observer before taking up their membership. Panel members should complete induction training within 10 weeks of joining the Central List, have access to appropriate training and skills development and have the opportunity to attend joint training with fostering staff at least annually.

Panel members may request any relevant information or assistance they require, including medical or legal advice, from the fostering agency and, if so requested, this must be provided by the fostering agency.

There must be a process for review of the performance of Panel members (including of the Panel chair by the agency decision maker) and for the performance management of members. Where necessary the termination of the appointment must be considered.

Where there are concerns about a Panel member's behaviour either inside or outside the meetings, and this cannot be dealt with by advice, training and/or information, this will raised by the Chair with the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel Appointments). See Section 3, Operation of the Fostering Panel of this procedure.

The Designated Manager will decide whether someone is unsuitable to be on the Central List and therefore to end the appointment and if so, will advise the member in writing giving one month’s notice and clear reasons for the decision.

Panel members may resign by giving one month's notice to the Designated Manager (Fostering Panel Appointments) - see Section 3, Operation of the Fostering Panel of this procedure.


2. Functions of the Fostering Panel

The Fostering Panel will consider each fostering application for approval and recommend whether or not a person is suitable to act as a foster carer.

Where the Fostering Panel recommends approval of an application it will agree the terms of approval for carers, e.g. age of and number of children, type of placement, whether approval is in relation to a specific child.

The Fostering Panel will consider whether or not a person is suitable to act as a foster carer and whether the terms of their approval remain appropriate:

The Fostering Panel shall also:

  • Advise on the procedures under which reviews are carried out by the fostering service provider and periodically monitor their effectiveness;
  • Oversee the conduct of assessments carried out by the fostering service provider;
  • Give advice and make recommendations on such other matters or cases that the fostering service provider may refer to it.

The Fostering Panel will consider whether to recommend termination of a foster carer's approval and de-register existing foster carers who no longer wish to foster.

All recommendations made by the Fostering Panel are passed to the Agency Decision Maker (Head of Children's Social Care) for his/her decision.


3. Operation of the Fostering Panel

Frequency of meetings

There are two Fostering Panels, which meet on Fridays (Panel A) and Tuesdays (Panel B).

When a date falls on a Bank Holiday, the meeting should take place on the next working Friday/Tuesday. 

Meetings commence at 9.30 a.m. 

Extraordinary meetings may be set following a decision of the Panel Chair and agreement of a quorum of Panel members.

Quorum

The quorum is 5 provided that the following are present:

  1. Either the Chair or one of the Vice Chairs (in the absence of the chair). If the meeting is conducted by the vice chair who is not independent, there must be at least one other member of the panel who is independent;
  2. One of the social worker representatives with at least three years post qualifying experience;
  3. Three (or in the case of a joint panel, four) other members.

Declarations of Interest

Members of the Panel are required to make declarations of interest if they feel a personal relationship or prior involvement with prospective and existing foster carers may prejudice their objectivity.

If it is felt by members of the Panel to be significant, the Panel Chair should either ask the member to stand down for that agenda item or decide to defer the item if the meeting would be inquorate.

Declarations of interest must be minuted.

Agenda Management

Social workers must contact the Administrative Assistant (Fostering) to place items on the agenda.

The Administrative Assistant (Fostering) will set the agenda in consultation with the Fostering Team Manager and circulate to all Panel members five working days before the meeting.

The Panel Chair will decide which items are to be deferred if there is insufficient time to include all items or whether to hold an extraordinary meeting.

Applicants can attend with a supporter and ‘be heard’ at fostering panel meetings that consider their approval.

Dissent within the Panel

If a Panel member registers dissent over any matter, their dissension must be recorded clearly within the Panel minutes.


4. Minute Taking

The Fostering Administrator will complete minutes of the meeting.

The minutes will be a full and accurate record of the discussion and recommendations of each item.

Minutes will be formatted in such a way that each item stands alone and confidentiality is not compromised when minutes are reproduced onto individual files.

The Fostering Administrator will complete the minutes within four working days of the relevant Fostering Panel meeting. They are then sent to the Panel Chair.

The Panel Chair checks that they are an accurate record of the Panel meeting and returns them to Fostering Admin within two working days.

The Fostering Administrator will complete any amendments and forward the minutes and one complete set of papers to the Agency Decision Maker (Head of Children's Social Care).

Panel recommendations are ratified and/or commented upon in writing and must be returned to the Administrative Assistant (Fostering) within four working days by the Agency Decision Maker.

The Fostering Administrator will send a full set of minutes, together with the papers for the subsequent Panel, to all Panel members.

The Fostering Team Manager will send the relevant notifications within five working days of receipt of ratified minutes.

The Fostering Administrator will distribute:

  • One relevant minute to the social worker/Fostering Team worker;
  • One copy of the summary of discussion, recommendations and Agency Decision Maker's comments to the Foster Carer.

The Fostering Team Manager is responsible for ensuring that the following people are notified following the approval of a foster carer:

  1. The foster carer;
  2. File copy to the Fostering Social Worker;
  3. Fostering Carers Support Organisation;
  4. Calderdale Foster Care Association;
  5. Medical Adviser for Fostering Panel.

The Fostering Team Manager is responsible for ensuring that the following people are notified following any change in the terms of approval of a foster carer:

  1. Foster Carer;
  2. File copy to Fostering Social Worker;
  3. Medical Adviser for Fostering Panel.

The Fostering Team Manager is responsible for ensuring that the following people are notified following the de-registration or termination in the approval of a foster carer:

  1. Foster carer;
  2. File copy to Fostering Social Worker;
  3. Fostering Carers Support Organisation;
  4. Calderdale Foster Care Association;
  5. Medical Adviser for Fostering Panel.

Non Standard Letters

In any situation for which the standard notifications are inappropriate, the Fostering Team Manager will draft an appropriate letter.

Practice Issues

After the minutes are ratified, practice issues will be copied and held on the "Practice Issues File", there is one file for each Panel. The Fostering Team Manager holds the files.

The Fostering Team Manager will consider each issue and deal with them in the following ways:

  1. If immediate action is required the relevant team manager will be sent a copy of the issue raised and asked to respond within 10 working days, stating clearly the action they have taken to address the issue. A copy of their response and actions taken will be held on file also;
  2. Training issues and issues that have recurring themes will be held on file and presented quarterly by the Principal Officer (Placements) at the extended management meeting for discussion and action planning;
  3. All procedural issues arising will be referred by the Fostering Team Manager to the Service Manager (Placements).

The Panel Chair on a quarterly basis will monitor the Practice Issues File and responses.


5. Arrangement for the Payment of Allowances and Fees

The Fostering Team Manager must ensure that the 'Instructions to Accounts' Form is completed on receipt of the ratified minutes. This should be photocopied and the original sent by the Administrative Assistant (Fostering) to CYPS Finance Team. The Fostering Team Manager retains the photocopy.

The CYPS Finance Team will arrange for payments to be made as per instructions.


6. Presentation of Reports to Fostering Panel

All reports must have a standard front sheet attached.

All relevant parties including the worker's Team Manager must sign all reports.

The report must include:

  • Copies of all personal references;
  • Details of checks undertaken;
  • Profile of the family;
  • If the assessment is for the purposes of placing children known to the applicants, a description of the children to be placed;
  • An ecogram;
  • The A10 Assessment document.

The portfolio should include all evidence relevant to the competencies (testimonials, qualifications, etc.). The family genogram should be contained in the portfolio.

All reports must be received by the Fostering Administrator 10 working days before the Panel meeting, together with confirmation of who will be attending (including applicants)

The report's author must attend Panel for their agenda item. Applicants should also be invited to attend Panel by their assessing worker.

End