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3.8.10 Support for Foster Carers Facing Allegations

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies in the following circumstances:

Where allegations are made, or suspicions are raised that approved foster carers have:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children;
  • Or where there are serious concerns about foster carer's standards of care or practice.

Both allegations and serious concerns may lead to the termination of a carer's approval to foster.

This procedure refers to managing allegations and serious concerns about foster carers in broader terms and specifically the support that should be given to foster carer's. This procedure should be read in conjunction with the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure which should be followed when dealing with investigating allegations against foster carers.

OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTER

Whistleblowing - Foster Carers Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter has been updated in June 2018 to reflect current practice and should be re-read in its entirety.


Contents

1. Policy
2. Introduction
3. Procedure
3.1 Initial Action
3.2 Support and Action during the Investigation
3.3 Concluding the Investigation


1. Policy

All children are entitled to the same level and standard of protection from harm including those receiving services from statutory or other agencies. For this reason, enquiries and investigations relating to children in receipt of such services must be dealt with under the principles, policies and procedures laid down by the Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children.

Allegations or suspicions that a foster carer has caused Harm to a child will be investigated thoroughly, speedily and sensitively under those procedures and will involve open and honest communication with and support to all those affected. 

Clear timescales will be integral to the procedure and those involved must avoid delay unless there is good reason. There will be clarity regarding access to reports and documents relating to the investigation.

It is important to note that, although there may be insufficient evidence to support a Police prosecution, this does not mean that action cannot be taken to protect a child nor that the termination of a foster carer's approval cannot be considered.

It should also be noted that it may be necessary to consider during an investigation what action, if any, should be taken with regard to other children with whom foster carers against whom allegations are made have contact, including their own children.


2. Introduction

The expectation is that:

  1. At the time of a child's placement, foster carers will be provided with detailed information as to the child's background and in particular the context of any abusive experiences of and/or previous allegations made by the child;
  2. All foster carers will receive preparation, training and guidance to help them provide a safe environment for the child and all members of the foster family;
  3. All foster carers should have a risk assessment undertaken for each new placement and following any new information which indicates additional risks may be present;
  4. All foster carers will be assisted in producing a Safe Care policy during the assessment process which will be shared with any child placed, and reviewed annually;
  5. All foster carers will have received information about this procedure in the foster carers handbook and the Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures;
  6. All foster carers will be familiar with and adopt the procedures for recording on a daily basis the progress of children placed with them, including any Incidents or complaints, and understand that these procedures have been made to protect all those involved in the child's placement, particularly at times of high stress, and will provide important evidence if an allegation is made. For this reason it is essential that they keep a diary records up-to-date.

In addition, in relation to the Fostering Service, it is an expectation of the Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011 that:

  • A senior manager within the Fostering Service is identified to be the Designated Person who liaises with the LADO in all cases to which this procedure applies and manages the allegations process;
  • All staff within the Fostering Service are aware of the requirements of this procedure, including the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).


3. Procedure

3.1 Initial Action 
3.2 Support and Action during the Investigation
3.3 Concluding the Investigation


3.1 Initial Action

Any person who receives information or suspects that a child has suffered or is suffering harm in a foster placement must immediately inform the child's social worker.

On receipt of any such information, the child's social worker must immediately:

  • Refer the matter to the social work team for the area where the foster carer resides;
  • Inform his or her Team Manager;
  • Inform the supervising social worker linked to the foster carer and his or her manager;
  • Inform the supervising social worker linked to the foster carer and his or her manager.

The supervising social worker will:

  • Inform the Team Manager within the Fostering Service;
  • Inform the social workers for any other child in the placement;
  • Inform any other local authority with an interest in the foster placement;
  • Provide support to the foster carer once they have been made aware of the allegation;
  • Ensure that the foster carer has immediate access to information and advice from an independent source;
  • Give consideration to support for the foster carer's own children, whether or not the allegation has been made against them;
  • Continue to have responsibility for being the link between the fostering service and the foster carer, even when the foster carer has independent support.

The process must follow the Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures into allegations against a member of staff. See Lincolnshire Safeguarding Board Procedures, Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure.

The designated manager (responsible for the child's case work) should report the allegation to the LADO and discuss the decision in relation to the agreed threshold criteria (see LSCB Allegations Against Persons who work with Children Procedure), within one working day. Referrals should not be delayed in order to gather information and a failure to report an allegation or concern in accordance with procedures is a potential disciplinary matter.

If an allegation requires immediate attention, but is received outside normal office hours, a referral should be made to the Children's Social Care emergency duty team or local police and inform the LADO as soon as possible.

There are up to four possible outcomes to an allegation and three possible related but independent strands in the consideration of an allegation:

  • A police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
  • Children’s Social Care enquiries and/or assessment about whether a child is in need of protection or services; (Refer to the appropriate Social Care team);
  • Where there is no police investigation, the fostering service may need to undertake their own investigation into the concerns raised;
  • The operation of the fostering services procedures which includes the review of a carer's suitability to foster and the recommendation of the fostering panel and the decision of the agency decision maker. Where foster carers are employed in work with children or have their own birth children both will be considered as part of any investigation;
  • No further action.

The LADO is responsible for managing the allegation process. They manage the allegation process by providing advice and guidance to determine whether the allegation sits within the scope of the procedures as laid out in statutory guidance. The LADO coordinates information sharing to ensure that the allegation is investigated in a timely fashion with regard to the welfare of all parties.

If the allegation is not demonstrably false and there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, the LADO should refer to Children's Social Care and to undertake an immediate S47 Strategy Meeting:

3.2 Support and Action during Investigation

Those supporting the foster carers must contact them as soon as practicable after they are made aware of the allegation and explain their role to them. They must make clear that whilst they are there to provide support to the carer, they have a responsibility to report to the local authority, the Police and in some circumstances to the Court, if any information relevant to the investigation comes to their attention.

They must inform the foster carers of any implications for the foster carer's financial allowances particularly where placements have been suspended.

They must provide to the foster carers:

  1. A copy of this procedure and the relevant part of the Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures;
  2. The address and contact telephone number of the Fostering Network;
  3. The foster carers should be given a copy of the Lincolnshire allegation information for foster carers leaflet;
  4. Advice about consulting a solicitor via the Fostering network;
  5. Advice about insurance arrangements for their legal expenses;
  6. Information about making a complaint.

The social worker undertaking the investigation will prepare a report on the investigation and a copy will be provided to the foster carers and their representatives.

The Supervising Social Worker should normally have continuing responsibility for the link between the fostering service and the foster carer, even when the carer has independent support. The Supervising social worker must inform the foster carers on how they will be supported and paid whilst they are under investigation. The foster carer's views should be taken into account and another representative from the fostering service should fulfil this task if it is not to be the usual supervising social worker.

3.3 Concluding the Investigation

The Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures should be followed. This will include holding a Strategy Meeting which will be reconvened within 15 days of the first meeting. The same people will be invited and the same person will chair the meeting.

The purpose of the reconvened Strategy Meeting is to agree on the outcome of the investigation and responsibilities for any further action including reporting on the matter to the Fostering Panel and/or considering whether it may be appropriate to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for inclusion of the foster carers on the Children’s Barred List.

The response of the foster carers to the social worker's report should be reported to the meeting.

The Fostering Team Manager will notify the foster carers, the Chair of the Strategy Meeting will inform the child, the parents, other relevant agencies and the Regulatory Authority (if not in attendance) of the decisions made at the meeting.

Where the concern is substantiated and requires a decision regarding continuing as Foster Carers. A report should be presented to the next available Fostering Panel. The Review of the Foster Carer's procedure should be followed.

All relevant documents in relation to the investigation, whatever the outcome, must be retained on the child's file and the foster carer's file, loaded onto the electronic database and onto the contact file. A copy should be given to the carer.

If the allegation is substantiated consideration must be given to a referral to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

The carers should be given written notice if it is proposed that the carer's approval should be terminated, together with the reasons, and inviting any representations within 28 days. The letter should also confirm that payments will cease and the date. The matter should be referred to the Fostering Panel with full details of the allegation, enquiry and the recommendation. Care must be taken not to disclose any confidential information to the carer's that is part of any ongoing police investigation.

Evaluation Meeting

Following a Section 47 enquiry or an investigation by the fostering service foster carers should be offered a formal opportunity of having an evaluation meeting during which they are enabled to express the impact of the proceedings on them and their family and any needs they may have as a result. This should be offered within 14 days of the conclusion of the enquiry or investigation.

The meeting should be chaired by the fostering service manager and attended by the foster carer, their supervising social worker and any adult family members who were subject of an allegation, or substantially affected by it. Care should be taken to ensure that such a meeting is not a repeat of an investigation. Consideration should also be given to whether a separate process is needed for any children and young people, including the carer's children. A record of the meeting should be recorded and sent to all present within 3 working days.

The meeting should consider:

  • The impact of the allegation and investigation on the carers/family member who was subject of the allegation/others in family;
  • The impact of the decision to remove any children in placement;
  • The needs of everyone in the foster carers family;
  • The perspective of the fostering team;
  • Clarification of the carer's current approval status and the need for any review of the carer's approval;
  • The foster family's comments on the way in which the fostering service undertook their roles and responsibilities;
  • How any needs raised by the foster carer's or identified by the fostering service will be met.

End