Supervision and Support of Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all approved foster carers.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Transfer of Foster Carers Protocol England

Foster Carer and Supervising Social Worker Supervision Contract (Local Resources)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in July 2020 to reflect in more detail the foster carer’s role and responsibilities with respect to Fostering National Minimum Standards – Notification of Significant Events (see Section 1, Introduction) and relevant aspects of Schedule 6 The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, (see Section 2, Planned Supervision Visits).

1. Introduction

All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified supervising social worker. The allocated supervising social worker is responsible for supervising and supporting carers, ensuring that they have the necessary guidance, support and direction to maintain a quality service, including safe caring practices. This will include an understanding that they must work within the National Minimum Standards for Fostering. The Fostering Regulations 2011 and the agency's policies, procedures and guidance.

The supervising social worker must also ensure that the foster carers' training and development needs are identified, and that newly approved carers work towards completing the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers Workbook. They also have the responsibility to ensure foster carers are familiar and made aware of new policies and guidance.

The foster carer(s) should be fully aware of the Notification of Significant Events and the need to immediately report to their supervising social worker or Fostering Agency the following:

  • The death of a child;
  • A serious illness or serious accident of a child placed with them;
  • The outbreak at the foster home of any infectious disease (which in the opinion of a general practitioner attending the home is sufficiently serious to be notified);
  • An allegation that a child placed with them has committed a serious offence;
  • Any concerns that child placed with them has been sexually exploited;
  • The Police being called to the foster carer’s home as a result of a serious incident relating to a child placed there;
  • A child placed them who has gone missing;
  • Any serious concerns about the emotional or mental health of a child, such that a mental health assessment would be requested under the Mental Health Act 1983.

See also Notifications of Significant Events Procedure.

All foster carers will be provided with information each year about the training which they will be required to complete if they wish to increase their skills level under the Foster Carer Payment for Skills Scheme. The child’s allocated social worker should be contacted for specific advice or support in relation to the child and their Care Plan, Placement Plan and Delegated Authority

2. Planned Supervision Visits

A supervision agreement should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the supervising social worker from the time of the foster carer's approval or at the point there is there a new supervising social worker allocated.

Supervision is essentially a supportive and enabling two way process to:

  • Ensure the foster carers understand how they contribute to the local authority's services for children;
  • Enable foster carers to contribute effectively to the Permanence Plans for the children for whom they are caring;
  • Provide appropriate monitoring and feedback on the foster carer's work to ensure Training Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
  • Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training and their annual review;
  • Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate;
  • Give foster carers an opportunity to raise any problems and make sure they are addressed appropriately;
  • Acknowledge the challenges and demands that the fostering tasks make on foster families and ensure appropriate support is available;
  • Recognise and address any difficulties the foster carers' own children may be experiencing arising from fostering; and
  • Assist foster carers to work in an anti discriminatory way that respects and promotes individual differences.

The agenda for each meeting should cover:

  1. Matters arising from the last supervision and review of actions from the previous supervisory visit;
  2. Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family, changes in the carer’s situation and circumstances etc;
  3. Child/ren in placement:
    1. Their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs – and any support needs;
    2. Progress and work with respect towards each child’s Care Plan;
    3. Any accidents, injuries and illnesses experienced by each child;
    4. Any complaints in relation to children placed with them and their outcomes;
    5. Any concerns around behaviour management in relation to children they are caring for;
    6. Any other significant events (see Section 1, Introduction);
    7. Any medication, medical treatment or first aid administered.
  4. Training/development issues for the foster carers and family;
  5. Working with other professionals;
  6. Safe caring and health and safety issues;
  7. Foster carer's recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker who should sign each recording;
  8. Any concerns expressed including reaching permanence for the child;
  9. Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
  10. Any financial issues.

The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma Foster Carer Supervision Record, signed by the foster carer and the supervising social worker.

A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carers' electronic CASS file and one copy given to the foster carers within 10 working days of the visit.

The supervision records will provide an ongoing assessment of the foster carers and will inform the foster carer’s review – see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

3. Frequency of Supervision

Supervision meetings will take place at least 4 times every year.

Support should take place at a minimum of once per month. The purpose of the monthly support is to address any support needs identified within the supervisory visit or any issues raised outside of the supervisory visit including from the foster carer, the child/ren or other professionals working with the child and family. 

4. Unannounced Visits

There should also be unannounced visit at least twice a year. The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.

The unannounced visits will be undertaken by the foster carer's supervising social worker who will need to check:

  1. Who is in the home;
  2. Who is looking after the child;
  3. If the carer is not at home, what arrangements have been made for the care of the child;
  4. The conditions of the home.

If the foster carers are not at home, the supervising social worker should leave a note for the foster carers to say that they have visited.

If the foster carers are not at home but the child is present and being looked after by someone else, the supervising social worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit.

Unannounced visits must be recorded.

There should not ordinarily be a regular programme of unannounced visits without particular reason – for example if a foster carer is being closely monitored. In such an event the reason for such will be explained to the foster carer.

5. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker

Supervising social workers should ensure the following tasks are done: 

Post Approval

  1. Ensure that all new carers are provided with an induction including sharing information about the support services available through the fostering team; for example support group meetings for carers, support group for sons and daughters, buddying with an experienced carer and the foster carer forum;

  2. Give Foster Carers' Handbook to new carer;
  3. Ensure the carers have received and returned their signed copy of the Foster Carer Agreement to the fostering team admin who will place this on the carer's file;
  4. Review the foster carer's assessment and recommendations from the Fostering Panel and ADM;
  5. Complete a Personal Development Plan with the carer/s which should ensure they meet the Training Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers within 12 months of approval.

Pre-Placement

  1. Take part in discussions about potential placements;
  2. When considering potential matches ensure any risk assessments are completed which are relevant. This can include a bedroom sharing risk assessment where a child over 3 doesn’t have their own room or whereby siblings are sharing;
  3. Take part in planning meetings regarding placements including Permanence Planning meetings;
  4. Ensure that the child's social worker give the foster family full information about children about to be placed, including a history of abuse or suspected abuse and the reason for the placement, the child's educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic, cultural needs and the permanence plan for the child;
  5. Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members;
  6. Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
  7. Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
  8. Discuss appropriate training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs;
  9. Assist carer with training needs for appropriate safer care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children;
  10. Discuss Foster Carer Payment for Skills Policy; allowances, pocket money, leisure activities, toiletries and travelling etc. and the importance of complying with the terms of the Council's insurance policy for carers;
  11. Enquire about holiday plans the carers have made, and if the child is able to join them? If not the carer must inform the child's social worker so alternative arrangements can be made;
  12. Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family, including out of hours support;
  13. That arrangements are made for the provision of specialist equipment for disabled children;
  14. Set date of first visit after the placement;
  15. Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is being matched;
  16. Provide carers with training and written policy on behaviour management;
  17. Ensure that Delegated Authority is completed with the foster carer and child's social worker;
  18. Arrange the Placement Planning meeting;
  19. Confirm they have responsibility for returning SDQ's when requested.

During Placement

  1. Where necessary, check and follow up on all issues raised during the placement. Discuss any areas of concern with foster carers and ensure appropriate support/advice is addressed and in place at the time rather than waiting for reviews;
  2. Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
  3. Ensure the supervising social worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child's Looked After Reviews, and attend when appropriate;
  4. Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
  5. Ensure training programme is received and accessed by carers;
  6. Visit regularly in accordance with the Foster Carer's needs, the child's Care Plan and as otherwise required, (See also Section 3, Frequency of Supervision and Section 4, Unannounced Visits;
  7. Review the Safer Caring Plan following any changes in household circumstances;
  8. Assess and review any health and safety issues within the fostering household including the addition of any new pets and the environment in which the pets are kept;
  9. Make unannounced visits as required;
  10. Ensure that foster carers are working to advance the child's Care plan;
  11. Update Disclosure and Barring Service checks on members of the family every 3 years, including those reaching 18 years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are 18 plus;
  12. Whilst there is no statutory time interval, as good practice medical information should also be updated at least every 3 years by writing to the foster carer’s GP. In the event of any serious concerns about the foster carers health, a review of the foster carers approval should be carried out immediately;
  13. Record contact with carers on CASS system;
  14. Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
  15. Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker;
  16. Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood;
  17. Ensure involvement and feedback is provided to foster carers in respect of Permanence Planning Meetings;
  18. Work closely with the fostering household and professionals involved with the child to support Placement stability. Where there are identified issues around the placement stability discuss with your line manager and arrange a placement support meeting at the earliest opportunity.

At End of Placement

  1. Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time;
  2. Discuss fully with the carer and their family all the issues that have led to any unplanned end of a placement and identify any learning/training opportunities;
  3. Assist the foster carer to complete their end of placement report if required;
  4. Attend Disruption Meetings as required;
  5. Provide positive support to children during transition onto permanence including reunification with birth parents;
  6. Discuss with the child's social worker and the foster carer any arrangements for the carer to have contact with the child or young person post placement.

6. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer

For the detailed procedure, see Allegations and Complaints Against Foster Carers Procedure.

Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the supervising social worker should:

  1. Support the family;
  2. Inform their line manager;
  3. Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, as agreed at the Strategy Meeting;
  4. Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
  5. Make the carer's aware of their own possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice from the Fostering Network or other independent sources;
  6. Record details of standards of care concerns or allegations on CASS including on the carer's chronology.