References and Statutory Checks in Respect of Foster Carers, their Households and Networks
RELATED CHAPTERAssessment of Prospective Foster Carers Procedure
1. Checks and References
The administrative staff will arrange for the following checks to be made on all members of the household aged 18 and over: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Probation, Health Trust, Education, Children's Social care (including the List of Children with a Child Protection Plan) and the NSPCC, and whether the applicant/s have a right to work in the UK. Where the applicants live or have lived outside the local authority area, the checks must be made with the local authority and health trust where the applicants live/have lived. These checks should be recorded including the date when the checks were made.
Where the applicant or any member of the household has been known to Children's Social Care, information should be obtained from the relevant social worker.
Where applicants have recently moved to the UK (within the last 10 years), checks may also be made through CFAB Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders (formerly known as International Social Services) and / or the relevant Consulate on all members of the household aged 18 and over. The application process for criminal records checks or 'Certificates of Good Character' for someone from overseas varies from country to country. For further information, see GOV.UK - Criminal records checks for overseas applicants.
In addition, where the applicant has school age children, the relevant school(s) may be contacted, with the permission of the applicant, for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education.
On receipt of the statutory checks, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.
Where the checks reveal that the applicant or a member of the household is a Disqualified Person (Foster Carer), see: Persons Disqualified From Fostering Procedure.
Where the information relates to an offence, which does not automatically disqualify the applicant, for example because the applicant is seeking approval in relation to a specific child only, the manager must consider whether the application should still proceed. Such convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. In a case where the conviction would usually disqualify an applicant, the case should be referred to the Fostering Panel and the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for a preliminary decision - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure. In any other case where there is doubt, an early referral should be made to the Fostering Panel and/or Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).
Information relevant to the application that has been obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service may only be retained on the applicant's file for a limited period and should be destroyed when a decision is made on the application. The manager should note on the file that the Disclosure and Barring Service information has been destroyed and that the information led to a particular view, without citing the information itself.
Where the applicant has been a foster carer within the preceding 12 months and was approved as such by another fostering service provider, a reference must be requested from that other fostering service provider. There is no requirement to also interview personal referees (see below). However, additional verbal and / or written references may be sought from personal referees. If the previous fostering service, for whatever reason, does not provide a reference, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.
Otherwise each applicant will be asked to provide the names of two personal referees, who are adults, have known the applicant for at least five years and are not related to the applicant, and two other referees who may be family members or personal friends. All referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity.
Where there is a joint application, referees should know both applicants, or additional referees will be required.
A written reference must be obtained from each applicant's current employer regardless of the applicant's occupation. This may be one of the four references provided. In addition, where the applicant has frequently changed jobs, written references should also be obtained from past employers.
Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference.
The administrative staff will send requests for written references to each referee.
On receipt of the references, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.
The applicants will be provided with the relevant medical form to fill in with their details and send to their GP with a covering letter requesting that the GP complete the form and send it to the manager. On receipt the manager will pass the information to the Medical Adviser for comment.
Where the medical information suggests that the applicant may not be suitable for health reasons, this should be discussed in detail with the applicant(s) and withdrawal may be advisable at this stage. Additional advice may be sought from the Medical Adviser or the Medical Adviser may raise questions with the GP where this is appropriate. It may be necessary for reports from other health professionals also to be obtained and presented to the Medical Adviser and the Fostering Panel.
2. Other Members of the Household
For all members of the household over the age of 18 years a DBS Check must be obtained. The Fostering Social Worker will obtain proof of identity and consent and this will be kept on the carers' file in the references section.
3. Significant Adults
A significant adult is defined as someone who:
"Visits daily or stays 2 nights or more on a weekly basis or who baby-sits on an occasional basis, or is an adult child of the foster carer who resides in the fostering household".
The following checks should be undertaken:
- Disclosure and Barring Service;
- Safeguarding Children Partnership;
- Children and Young People's Services and Adult's Services;
Significant adults should also sign the form contained in the leaflet "Information for significant adults in fostering households".
4. Support Network Carers
Support Network Carers are defined as:
"A member of the approved foster carer's own kinship or support network who provides regular support in the form of respite for any Child Looked After in a placement within their own household".
This may take the form of overnight stays, weekend or holiday respite.
The checks to be completed are as Significant Adults plus:
- 2 Personal References (these should be interviewed);
- Medical Assessment.
All assessments of Support Network Carers must be approved by the Fostering Panel - see Assessment of Prospective Foster Carers Procedure.
5. Keeping References Up-to-date
NOTE: The following checks will be renewed every 3 years:
- Disclosure and Barring Service;
- Children's Social Care;
- Safeguarding Children Partnership;
- Children's Social Care and Adults' Services (for the area in which they reside).
There is a statutory responsibility to update DBS References every 3 years. All others are at the discretion of the local authority. In Calderdale this will apply as follows:
- Safeguarding Children Partnership - Every 3 years;
- Children and Young People's Services and Adult's Services - Every 3 years;
- Education - Every 3 years.
Health references: the AH2 Update Adult Health Report will be used every three years.
The Fostering Social Worker is responsible for ensuring that the references are undertaken on a 3 yearly basis.
6. Unsatisfactory References
Any references which are unsatisfactory or inconsistent with information the applicant / carer has given must be carefully scrutinised. In particular, establishing proof of an individual's identity is an essential part of the process.
There are specific offences and circumstances which prohibit persons from becoming foster carers (Schedule 1, Sex Offenders Act 1997) - see Disqualified Person (Foster Carer) definition.
If the carer / applicant is disqualified from proceeding by virtue of specified offences and circumstances they must be informed in writing of this decision.
Where offence or circumstance is one where discretion may be applied then discussions will need to take place both with the Fostering Team Manager and the applicant / carer.
A decision will then be made as to whether the application should proceed, or be referred to Fostering Panel or be terminated. This must be clearly recorded on the applicant / carer's file.
In all circumstances where an application / registration is ceased because of unsatisfactory references, the carers / applicants must be informed of this and the reasons in writing.
NOTE: Any such notification must not breach the confidentiality of the Personal Referees. It may be necessary to obtain permission from the referee to share the issue with the applicant.