Supervision and Support of Foster Carers
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in December 2019 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).
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 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 called my First Year of Fostering. 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 foster parents has committed a serious offence;
- Any concerns that a child placed with them is being sexually exploited;
- The Police calling to the foster carer's home as a result of a serious incident relating to a child placed there;
- A child placed with 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.
The child's allocated social worker should be contacted for specific advice or support in relation to the child and their Care Plan and Placement Plan.
2. Planned Supervision Visits
A programme of supervision visits should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the supervising social worker from the time of the foster carer's approval, and endorsed by the supervising social worker's line manager.
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 plans for the children for whom they are caring;
- Provide appropriate monitoring and feedback on the foster carers' work to ensure National Minimum Standards and Training, Support and Development standards are fully met;
- Complete personal development plans for each carer, which are linked to their training and development, their annual review and their banding;
- Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate including mentors;
- 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:
- Matters arising from the last supervision;
- Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer's own family, changes in the carer's situation and circumstances etc.
- Child/ren in placement:
- Their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
- Progress and work with respect towards each child's Care Plan;
- Any accidents, injuries and illnesses experienced by each child;
- Any complaints in relation to children placed with them and their outcomes;
- Concerns around behaviour management in relation to children they are caring for;
- Any other significant events (see Section 1, Introduction);
- Any medication, medical treatment or first aid administered.
- Training/development issues for the foster carers and their family;
- Safe caring and health and safety issues;
- Foster carer's recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker who should sign the foster carers' records.
The supervision visits should be recorded on a proforma Foster Carer Supervision Record. This will be printed out and signed by the foster carer and the supervising social worker at the next visit, and should include:
- Any concerns expressed;
- Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
- Any financial issues;
- An analysis of what is working well, what we are worried about and what needs to happen/any actions required.
A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carer's file and one copy given to the foster carers. The relevant Mosaic workflow step should be completed.
The supervision records 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 once every 2 months unless explicit variation in this is agreed and recorded by Fostering team manager.
Additional visits may be made for the purposes of support (to the foster carer or any member of the foster family) with telephone contact at least every 4 weeks.
4. Unannounced Visits
There should also be unannounced visits at least once 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 carers' supervising social worker who will need to check:
- Who is in the home;
- Who is looking after the child;
- If the carer is not at home, what arrangements have been made for the care of the child.
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 social worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit.
Unannounced visits should be recorded on the relevant template in documents and on the Mosaic workflow step.
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 unless safeguarding considerations prevent that.
5. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker (During Placement)
Supervising social workers should ensure the following tasks are done:
- Ensure that all new carers complete the induction programme and that their support, development and training needs are assessed and met so that they meet the standards and complete the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers (My First Year of Fostering) within 12 months of approval;
- Give Foster Carers' Handbook to new carer;
- Give Foster Carer Agreement to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer's file;
- Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carers' Allowance, Disability Living Allowance etc.
Pre-Placement – some of these will include the child's social worker
- Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing (each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the placing authority), mixing with other children in home, etc. Discuss and check equipment (especially in the child's bedroom) and ensure it is appropriate to the age of the child in placement;
- Take part in discussions about potential placements;
- Take part in planning meetings regarding placements;
- Ensure that the child's social worker give the foster family full information about children about to be placed, including any abuse or neglect and the reason for the placement, the child's educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic and cultural needs;
- Discuss issues relevant to contact/family time with birth parents and other family members;
- Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
- Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
- Discuss appropriate training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs;
- 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;
- Discuss financial issues with the carer: 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;
- 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. Ensure the foster carer is aware that children may not be taken out of school for holidays;
- Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family, including out of hours support;
- That arrangements are made for the provision of specialist equipment for disabled children;
- Set date of first visit after the placement;
- Consult the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed and record matching considerations;
- Provide carers with training and written policy on behaviour management.
Together with the child's social worker
- Discuss and agree delegated responsibilities;
- Discuss and sign the Foster Care Charter.
- 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;
- Provide foster carers with breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children;
- Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
- Ensure the supervising social worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child's Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences, and attend when appropriate;
- Support the Foster carer to prepare report for child's Looked after review;
- Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
- Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and carers' family and children;
- Visit regularly in accordance with the foster carer's needs, the child's Care Plan and as required, (see also Section 3, Frequency of Supervision and Section 4, Unannounced Visits);
- Review the Safer Care Policy and any changes in household circumstances;
- Assess and review any health and safety issues within the fostering household including the addition of any new pets and the environment in which they are kept;
- Make unannounced visits as required;
- 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 over 18 years;
- 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;
- Record contact with carers;
- Provide reports for local and central Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
- Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child's social worker;
- Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood including use of the Independence Toolkit.
At End of Placement
- Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time including the foster carer's birth children where appropriate;
- 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;
- Assist the foster carer to complete their end of placement report if required;
- Attend Disruption Meetings as required.