Foster Carers Record Keeping and Retention Policy
Within their role, foster carers have access to a wide range of information and records.
This policy and guidance aims to:
- Identify the types of information and records that foster carers hold;
- Recognise to whom the records belong;
- How the records should be stored;
- What should be recorded;
- How it should be recorded.
It must be stressed that foster carers have to keep separate records for individual children. It is not sufficient to keep collective records when fostering 2 or more children.
Once a child's placement has ended, foster carers must ensure that any information relating to that child is returned to their supervising social worker.
2. Types of Information Held by Foster Carers
The information that foster carers may have can be broadly categorised into three main areas:
- Information about fostering in general;
- Information about themselves;
- Information about children placed in their care.
The table below lists the sorts of records and information that a foster carer may have:
|General Fostering Information||Records about themselves||Child based records|
For the duration of their registration, foster carers will keep the following information:
- The general fostering information is not confidential but foster carers need to have access to the information to assist with the task of fostering;
- The information about themselves should also be stored as confidential, within the storage box provided.
For the duration of each placement, foster carers will keep the following information:
- The information about any child placed with them and their families is to be kept confidential. The Fostering Service will provide a lockable filing box in which to store this information. The box is portable and foster carers should give some thought to its safe keeping. The supervising social worker will check the contents of the box as part of their supervisory role - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure.
3. Retaining/Returning the Information
On ceasing to be a foster carer the following arrangements apply:
- Any information that falls into the category of general fostering may be kept. However, care should be taken not to share information about other foster carers that may be contained in newsletters (e.g. addresses of carers running local support groups);
- Foster carers may keep any information that they have been given about themselves, except for their identity 'badge';
- The child's first name and SU number only should be used;
- Any child based information held by foster carers, whether it has been provided for them or if they have made the record, must be returned to the agency once the placement has ended or if the foster carers cease to foster. The only exceptions are if the foster carers secure the child's placement with a Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order or Adoption Order or with the young person's permission (for example, the child may reach 18 but remain with the family informally and wish for the information to be available 'at home').
Data Protection Legislation specifies who can store personal information about another person and the principles that apply to information storage.
Agencies that hold records have to notify the 'Information Commissioner' that they process personal data and are therefore a 'Data Controller'.
Data Controllers must ensure that:
- Information is accurate;
- Kept up to date;
- Not kept longer than necessary;
- Is available for the subject of the recording, to see what has been written.
Foster carers have no right to be data controllers themselves. The information belongs to the fostering agency and, at the end of a placement, should be returned.
However, foster carers may have access, at a later stage, to anything that they have written, should they wish. As such, on returning any information, foster carers may and should keep a record of:
- The name of the child in placement (first name and S/U number only);
- Placement dates;
- Where the information will be stored;
- What was included in the information (list of documents).
Foster carers should obtain a receipt for them, dating when and to whom the information was given.
Foster carer files are kept for a minimum of 10 years after they cease to be foster carers. Information kept on Children's Looked After files are kept for 75 years after their 18th birthday.
4. Computer Use
Although many benefits of recording and storing information on computers are recognised, at this stage we would not wish foster carers to use this method. This is because of the complications of cleaning the computer of sensitive information.
Where photographs are taken for a Life Story Book using a digital camera, they should be stored on a portable device and handed to the child's social worker. The foster carer must not store these photographs on their own computer.
In addition, where a child in the placement does school work using the foster carer's own computer, this must be stored on a portable device.
5. Foster Carer's Case Recording
See Local Resources for individual forms and templates.
Increasingly foster carers are being asked to keep records about children placed with them. Foster carers may be asked to provide:
- Written contribution to children's Looked After Reviews;
- Written contribution to Child Protection Conferences;
- Daily records;
- Medication records;
- Contact records.
The reasons these records are required are:
- To accurately recall behaviour or incidents and provide a balanced picture of events;
- To assist in looking at the progress of a placement over time and developing a picture of the child's pattern of behaviour;
- To inform decision-making at reviews, planning meetings and conferences;
- To help the foster carer to review and develop practice;
- To provide information needed for court proceedings;
- To support an application for additional help e.g. therapy;
- To reduce the risk to foster carers and their families while the child is placed, and, in some cases, after the child has moved on.
Additionally the foster carer may keep a diary for appointments but this is not to be used for general recordings.
Foster carers may use specific forms or templates for some of their recording. See Local Resources for individual forms:
- Retrieval of Records Form;
- Daily record template- separate sheets or books are to be used for each child;
- Medication template.
These record templates will be provided by the supervising social worker. All carers will receive a loose leaf folder with dividers, to record information about children. The dividers are so that separate recordings are made about individual children.
At the Placement Planning Meeting, there should be a decision as to:
- What recording is required;
- Who the information shall be shared with;
- By what means the information will be shared;
- How frequently the information will be distributed.
In terms of writing records, foster carers should follow some basic guidelines:
- The language should be simple and jargon free;
- The record should not be overly long, enough information to be able to recall the event. A daily record would be ideal but weekly summaries are better than no records;
- Whilst the records are in part designed to record events that may affect the well-being of the foster carer's family, they should also be used to provide a picture of family life for the child to help them recall interesting, amusing and even sad family events;
- Record facts;
- If opinion is recorded then say this is your view and why you think it;
- The record should be made contemporaneously, signed and dated. If any information is changed or added later this should be clear from the record;
- Remember that the record may be shared with the child and/or birth family. They should be aware that you are keeping records about them. It may be possible for them to contribute to the record or at least read it regularly. Where there is disagreement it is helpful to make a record of it.
The sorts of things that should be recorded are:
- Dates and brief details of meetings/visits by social workers and other professionals;
- Dates of reviews or any other meeting concerning the child, list the participants and the key decisions;
- Dates of any school or education meetings, list the participants and key decisions. Keep a record of achievements, schools attended;
- Dates of any health appointments, list the participants and key decisions. Keep a record of any treatment, immunisations and illnesses;
- Details of any contact visits or telephone calls, letters etc. Name the person who has contacted the child. Note any reaction the child may have to the contact. Keep a record of where the child's family is living;
- Details when the child is away from home, visiting family or friends, or if they are missing;
- Details of times, when alternative care is given - please note: your supervising social worker requires all details of any proposed babysitters prior to the babysitter looking after a child);
- Details of any specific incidents or complaints or disagreements;
- Details of any behaviour or comments from the child that give rise to concern. Make a note of your actions. This may help to identify what triggers such behaviour and what stops it;
- Details of any accidents or injuries. Describe what, when, where and how the accident happened and what follow up action was taken. Record when the incident was reported to which social worker;
- Detail any theft or wilful damage caused by the foster child. This will be required for any claims;
- Detail any involvement with the police, noting the date, which officer was involved and the reason for the involvement;
- Detail any request made to the agency for support or resources and any difficulties reported, note the date of the request, the response and when it was received;
- Specific events/occurrences for example an incident or disclosure should be recorded on a separate sheet and reference should be made to this in the chronology of the foster carers daily log events. For example a log entry may read, See incident report form with regards to /see record of discussion with regards to (subject matter and date) This still forms part of the child based information.
6. Medical Records
Foster carers will follow the procedures set out in Guidelines for Recording - Fostering Files on Electronic Records.
7. Foster Carer's Understanding of this Policy
During the preparation and assessment of foster carers and within each supervision session, it is important that they understand the need for record keeping and the implications for data protection, particularly with regard to understanding that the record belongs to the fostering agency.
It must be stressed to foster carers that they need to keep separate records for individual children. It is not sufficient to keep a collective diary when fostering 2 or more children. Once a child's placement has ended, foster carers must ensure that any information relating to that child is returned to their supervising social worker.
Additionally foster carers should be familiarised with the record formats that may be used. This is both for the records that they receive and which they complete.
Foster carers should be aware of what needs to be recorded, how and with whom it will be shared - see Section 5, Foster Carers Case Recording.
Foster carers should be willing and able to make the required records. This may be taped if literacy is an issue for carers or if disability precludes writing the records.
This aspect of the fostering task will be discussed at their Reviews - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
7.2 Placements of Children Looked After
At the start of any placement there must be a Placement Planning Meeting. This meeting is the forum to discuss the child's care arrangements but should also include an agreement about what records the foster carer should make, with whom they will be shared, how frequently and by what method.
As a minimum the foster carer should provide information:
- To the child's Looked After Review;
- If applicable, to a child's Child Protection Conference;
- In relation to any medication administered;
- In relation to incidents and accidents.
Additionally they may provide records of:
- Contact sessions;
- Daily record sheets; and
- Behavioural charts;
- Assessment and progress records (age appropriate).
The foster carer should expect to receive a copy of the following documents:
- Referral and Information Record;
- Child and Family Single Assessment;
- Care Plan;
- Placement Plan;
- Health Action Plan;
- Health record (red book) if relevant;
- Any other relevant information.
7.3 End of Placement/Cessation of Fostering
At the end of any placement, the supervising social worker is responsible for retrieving any care documentation relating to that child. The supervising social worker should check the lockable box in which this documentation is stored to ensure that all the information is retrieved.
The social worker should ask the foster carer to sign the retrieval form, which should list all the documentation returned - see Local Resources.
The supervising social worker should pass the information retrieved from the foster carer to the child's social worker who should file the information on the child, on the child's file. Duplicate information should be destroyed.
The foster carer should know how to ask to see the documentation if they require to do so, in the future.
The foster carer's supervising social worker should retrieve the foster carer's identity badge/letter at the cessation of the fostering registration.