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7.1.6 Supervision and Support of Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all approved foster carers.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION, GUIDANCE AND INFORMATION

Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 4: Fostering Service (2011), Approving and supporting foster carers

Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011, Standard 21

Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers

Transfer of Foster Carers Protocol England (2014) re-issued 2015

AMENDMENT

In August 2017, Section 5, Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker was updated to reflect that the Safer Caring Plan, any changes in household circumstances along with any health and safety issues including the addition of any new pets and the environment in which they are kept should be reviewed as required.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Planned Supervision Visits
  3. Frequency of Supervision
  4. Unannounced Visits
  5. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker
  6. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer

    Appendix 1: Carer Support

    Appendix 2: “Kids United” - Support for Sons and Daughters of Fostering Families

    Appendix 3: Foster Carers Supervision Record Form

    Appendix 4: Foster Carer Training


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 and the agency's policies, procedures and guidance.

However, it is the social worker of the child or children in the foster placement who holds responsibility for specific advice or support in relation to the child and his or her Care Plan and Placement Plan.

The supervising social worker must also ensure that the foster carers' training and development needs are identified, and that newly approved carers work towards meeting the National Standards for Foster Carers and gaining the Certificate of successful completion. They also have the responsibility to ensure foster carers are familiar and made aware of new policies and guidance.


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 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;
  • 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;
  2. Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer’s own family;
  3. Child(ren) in placement - their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs - and any support needs;
  4. Training/development issues for the foster carers and family;
  5. Safe caring and health and safety issues;
  6. Foster carer’s recording which is to be reviewed by the supervising social worker who should sign the foster carers' diary.

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

  • Any concerns expressed;
  • Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
  • Any financial issues.

A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carers' file and one copy given to the foster carers. See Appendix 3: Foster Carers Supervision Record Form.

The supervision records will inform the Foster Carer’s review - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.


3. Frequency of Supervision

Supervisory visits will take place at least once every six weeks, unless otherwise agreed with the supervising social worker’s line 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 four 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:

  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.

If the foster carers are not at home, the supervising social worker should leave a note for the foster carers to say that (s)he has 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.

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 complete the induction programme and that their support, development and training needs are assessed and met so that they meet the standards and achieve the Induction Standards for the Children's Workforce certificate of completion by their first annual review, or soon after if extra support is required;
  2. Give Foster Carers’ Handbook to new carer;
  3. Give Foster Carer Agreement to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer’s file;
  4. Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carers' Allowance, Disabled Living Allowance etc.

Pre-Placement

  1. 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;
  2. Take part in discussions about potential placements;
  3. Take part in planning meetings regarding placements;
  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 and cultural needs;
  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 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;
  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 placed;
  16. Provide carers with training and written policy on behaviour management.

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. Provide foster carers with breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children;
  3. Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
  4. 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;
  5. Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
  6. Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and carers’ family and children;
  7. 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);
  8. Review the Safer Caring Plan and any changes in household circumstances;
  9. 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;
  10. Make unannounced visits as required;
  11. Update Disclosure and Barring Service checks on members of the family every three years, including those reaching eighteen years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are eighteen plus;
  12. Update medicals on the carers every 2 years or as necessary;
  13. Record contact with carers;
  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.

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.


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

For the detailed procedure, see Managing Concerns, Complaints and Allegations against Foster Carers, including Historical Allegations Procedure

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

  1. Support the family;
  2. Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, as agreed at the Strategy Meeting;
  3. Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
  4. 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.


Appendix 1: Carer Support

Introduction

We are proud of the wide-ranging support services provided for and with local carers to enable carers to carry out the crucial task of fostering. This helps ensure that not only do carers continuing on fostering, but are able to develop in their roles. The following sections outline support services for carers.

Financial Support

The weekly basic allowance is designed to cover the costs of caring for a particular child or young person and the extra costs related to fostering, plus a payment in recognition of the skills, experience and time involved in caring for a particular child or young person. The weekly allowances ensure our carers are rewarded sufficiently for the complex task of fostering. We promote the professionalism of the fostering service by the Payment for Skills Scheme which concentrates on carers’ skill levels by evidencing learning and formal qualification. Our Skills-based payment scheme allows for four ’fee’ levels, ranging from Approved Carer at point of approval (attracting no fee) and progressing on to Core Carer usually after 9 months, then to Qualified Carer (on application, after 2 years experience and subject to qualifications), and on to Advanced Carer  after three years experience (again on application, and subject to qualifications).

Social Work Support and Supervision

All foster carers have their own Supervising Social Worker who will offer advice, support and supervision. This worker is separate from the child’s social worker and is an experienced specialist in family placement social work. Carers have told us that they value the close, supportive working relationships with supervising social workers. The child’s social worker and their team is also there to advise and support carers about the specific needs of the child.

“Kids United” - Support for Sons and Daughters of Fostering Families

(Please see Appendix 2: “Kids United” - Support for Sons and Daughters of Fostering Families)

Expectations of the sons and daughters of foster carers are extremely high and while most report that they are happy being part of a fostering family, they also point out that there are many challenges that can be negative or difficult to handle. It is imperative therefore, that sons and daughters are well supported by their fostering service and that they feel that their role in the foster family is recognised and celebrated. Studies have shown that foster carers are more likely to give up fostering if they found that it was a difficult experience for their own children.

We are very proud of the sons and daughters who foster, and have an active support group for them here in Swindon called “Kids United”.

Membership of the Fostering Network

Click here to view The Fostering Network website.

Once approved we will pay a carers membership of the Fostering Network. This national charity works throughout the UK to promote and improve the service provided for children in foster care and to be the voice of foster carers. Benefits of membership include:

  • Legal insurance - carers can get up to £100,000 legal expenses to cover criminal cases caused by a carer’s fostering duties;
  • Regular information on fostering, including Foster Care magazine;
  • Specialist publications and training;
  • Access to independent advice and representation.

Support Groups/Activities

The fostering family Placement Team holds Lunchtime support groups every fortnight, with a variety of topics and guest speakers. In addition, there are separate Support Groups for Home and Away Carers and Supported Lodgings Carers. The Swindon Foster Care Association also hold regular coffee mornings that all carers are welcome to attend. At least twice per year we have an Activity Day for Foster Carers. These activities are very well attended by carers and the children they look after.

Peer Support from Experienced Carers

More experienced foster carers, who are willing to provide advice and support, are linked to newly approved and less experienced carers. These mentors not only are there as a listening ear at a time of crisis or difficulty in a placement for new carers but proactively will contact less experienced carers on a regular basis in order to help prevent possible problems getting out of hand.

Out of Hours Service

The fostering and permanence teams offer an out of hours ‘on call’ telephone advice and support service to all carers. So in the evenings, at night and at weekends carers are not left alone to struggle with problems.

Respite Care

Carers can have access to respite care when the need arises, if carers or their Supervising Social Worker considers a break from caring for a particular child(ren) is required or a situation has arisen which means Carers cannot care for a child placed with them for a period. We also recognise that the demanding nature of contemporary fostering requires carers have holidays and periodic breaks from caring in order to avoid ‘burn out’ and on occasions devote time to their own families.

Placement Support

In addition to therapeutic support for individual children and young people, we have an agreement with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service CAMHS to provide therapeutic support specifically to carers if they are dealing with a particularly difficult placement. Carers have found this support beneficial.

Training

See Appendix 4: Foster Carer Training.

We provide a comprehensive annual training programme to help carers develop skills and knowledge and become more confident. Under the new payment scheme the skills payment is linked to an expectation that carers attend mandatory training on approval and further training once they have been approved.

As well as attending required and discretionary training courses/events, carers can raise particular training needs as there are other ways of meeting this. Training is another occasion for foster carers to meet other carers.

Communications with Carers

We produce an internal newsletter three times a year. In addition, we have regular mail shots that keep carers updated on training and other information. The Swindon Foster Care Association also sends out a regular newsletter.

The Swindon Foster Care Association

The Swindon Foster Care Association (SFCA) represents the interests of local foster carers. This is warmly welcomed by Children and Families, especially as an active association enables us to involve carers more fully in future service developments. Though we are proud of the support services we provide for and with carers, we are aware that there remain areas that need to be developed further in consultation with SFCA, and that services have to change to reflect changing needs of carers and children.

Foster Carer Forum

The Forum provides opportunity for representative foster carers from Swindon’s community of foster carers to meet every 8 weeks with the relevant managers of the Council. It is one of the ways that carers can raise issues, ideas and concerns direct with the services management. A chance to share thoughts, ideas and plans about how foster care can provide better outcomes for our children and young people.

The Forum will help the Council provide better strategic and operational direction for service improvement, giving careful attention to feedback from foster carers about the services and support offered, promoting a culture of continuous improvement.


Appendix 2: “Kids United” - Support for Sons and Daughters of Fostering Families

Expectations of the sons and daughters of foster carers are extremely high and while most report that they are happy being part of a fostering family, they also point out that there are many challenges that can be negative or difficult to handle. It is imperative therefore, that sons and daughters are well supported by their fostering service and that they feel that their role in the foster family is recognised and celebrated. Studies have shown that foster carers are more likely to give up fostering if they found that it was a difficult experience for their own children.

We are very proud of the sons and daughters who foster, and have an active support group  for them here in Swindon called “Kids United”. It is now in its 5th year and the group has continued to develop their own information folder which will be distributed to new Foster Carers with birth children. The group, which meets approximately once a month, alternate between a support session and an activity evening.

The group caters for the children of foster carers, with the ages ranging from 7 to 17 years. We have 20 children and young people that attend regularly and great interest and enthusiasm has been shown by the group. In addition to discussion, there are on-going activities such as meals out, bowling, football, making pizzas and playing games. Most sons and daughters state that they are happy fostering and recognise the benefits of the experience. There is evidence that a proportion of sons and daughters go on to become foster carers themselves or enter the caring professions and many feel that fostering enhances their social understanding, empathy and skills.

“Kids United” have recently worked with a national TV company to produce a professional DVD  to promote fostering amongst their peer group.

One example of a discussion topic is “How do I cope when a foster child moves on?”

It is part of fostering that children will eventually move on.  In many cases, this will be a happy event as the child will be going back to their own family, or moving on to a permanent foster home. If you have become friends with them, or just got used to having them around, you will naturally be sad to see them go:

  1. Speak to your parents about being given information about the plan before and during placements and that you are advised about plans for a child who is leaving;
  2. Make sure you’re able to say “goodbye” properly, and you are able to share your feelings about the child who is leaving with your parents;
  3. If you would like to, ask about staying in contact if it is possible. This could be by email/phone. It may also be possible for you to meet up;
  4. Keep a scrapbook with photos and information about children who have been to stay. This is a nice way to remember people, and it can also be good to show new people who come to stay, to tell them a bit more about your family;
  5. Sometimes you may feel happy that a child has moved on, this is natural if the child has caused problems for you.


Appendix 3: Foster Carers Supervision Record Form

Click here to view the Foster Carers Supervision Record Form


Appendix 4: Foster Carer Training

Training

We provide a comprehensive annual training programme to help carers develop skills and knowledge and become more confident. Under the new payment scheme the skills payment is linked to an expectation that carers attend mandatory training on approval and further training once they have been approved.

Preparation for Fostering - Pre-Approval Training

The Skills to Foster --series of six three-hour sessions;

  1. What do Foster Carers do?
  2. Identity and Life Chances;
  3. Working With Others;
  4. Understanding Children in Foster Care;
  5. Safer Caring;
  6. Transitions.

On-going Training

  • Alcohol and Cannabis;
  • Attachment Module 1 - Core Concepts in Attachment Theory CORE;
  • Attachment Module 2 - Being Available, Building Trust;
  • Attachment Module 3 -Managing Feelings and Behaviour;
  • Attachment Module 4 - Accepting the Child. Building Self-Esteem;
  • Awareness of Child Abuse and Neglect CORE;
  • Caring for the Sexually Abused Child CORE;
  • Child Protection - Foundation Plus CORE;
  • Child Protection Advanced;
  • Delegating Authority to Foster Carers;
  • Disabled Children - Safeguarding;
  • Domestic Violence;
  • Emotional and Mental Health Introduction;
  • Facebook and E-safety;
  • Family First Aid CORE;
  • First Aid - Paediatric Care of Children CORE;
  • Health, Education and the Looked After Child: Impacts on Development;
  • Home and Away Skills to Care for a Disabled Child;
  • Managing Behaviours CORE;
  • Neglect;
  • Safe Handling - Team Teach CORE;
  • Safer Caring and Recording CORE;
  • Safer Teen Relationships;
  • Sexual Exploitation;
  • Sexual Health Introduction;
  • Sexually Harmful Behaviour;
  • Supported Lodgings Training;
  • Understanding Teens;
  • Valuing Diversity.

Online Training Options

Artemis - Online Learning

Below is a list of courses carers are now able to access through our E-learning service. Carers will receive a license which will allow them to access these courses. These are the courses currently available. We will keep carers updated as new courses become available.

  • Children's Workforce Induction Programme;
  • Information Sharing;
  • Integrated Working;
  • Working with Disabled Children;
  • Working with Parents;
  • Understanding Child Attachment;
  • Child Protection Level 1. 

Training, Support and Development (TSD) Standards

All Foster Carers approved after April 2008 are expected to complete TSD standards, initially adapted from the Induction Standards for Children's Workforce (ISCW) and gain the Certificate of Successful Completion within the first year after approval at Panel. All existing Foster Carers, who were approved prior to April 2008, were expected to complete the standards by April 2011. More information is available on-line at Training Support and Development (TSD standards for Foster Care).

There are seven standards and 112 outcomes. The purpose of the standards is to ensure that all people working with children, young people and their families have the best possible training, qualifications, support and advice. The standards have been designed to support you as a Foster Carer and can be used as a measure of evidencing the good work a Foster Carer has achieved.

We hold regular workshops to help assist carers in completing the standards.

QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework)

Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce

Social Care Pathway. Foster Care. 65 credits

For carers wishing to advance to Qualified Status with the Payment for Skills Scheme*

We have contracted with a company called R and P Training Solutions Ltd. regarding this diploma. This diploma has much more flexibility and individually tailored learning pathways to meet the needs of carers availability and experience. Carers will be able to use some of the work already undertaken, for example, applicable ISCW standards and training may just need to be enhanced. There will be the option of carers completing a paper portfolio or an E-portfolio.

Once forms are received carers will be contacted to set up an information/induction session where the programme and expectations will be explained. Those who are unable to attend a group session will be met with individually. Once a carer has had an induction meeting and wants to proceed, the required paperwork will be filled out. The programme will start in September. The goal is for carers to complete this in one year or at the most, 18 months. Once we have this cohort started we will look at how we will work with other carers who wish to undertake the QCF in the future.

These qualifications cannot be achieved as a course of study alone, as carers will also be required to demonstrate competence skills to the required standard. They need to be able to show that they can meet the required Learning Outcomes and be able to demonstrate that they can apply the assessment criteria in practice. There are the basic building blocks of your Diploma. Within some units they may also be required to provide written evidence/work products in order to meet the additional guidance identified.

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