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3.8.7 Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all approved foster carers who have been approved. See also Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

This chapter should be read in conjunction with Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual, Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was extensively updated in June 2014 in line with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, which came into force on 1 July 2013. Section 8.2, Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval was added.


Contents

  1. Frequency  
  2. Consultation and Action before the Review 
  3. Formal Review Meeting
  4. Formal Review following an Allegation or Serious Concerns about Practice or Standards of Care
  5. Presentation to the Fostering Panel
  6. Termination of Approval and Changes in the Terms of Approval
  7. After the Fostering Panel
  8. Representations Procedure
  9. Updates on Checks
  10. Retention of Foster Carer Records
  11. Resignation by Foster Carers


1. Frequency

Formal reviews of foster carers will take place at least annually.

Reviews will take place more frequently and may be initiated by the supervising social worker or foster carers in the event of a significant change in circumstances of a foster carer affecting the ability or capacity to foster, for example a change in the composition of the household, a significant health issue or concerns about the care provided by the foster carer, for example as a result of a complaint or allegation. See Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure - Section 14, Changes in the Foster Carer's Circumstances or Household. Also see Allegations against Foster Carers Procedure, or continuing low level concerns arising during the normal supervision of the carer, or/and the annual review process.

The first annual review of foster carers will be presented to the Fostering Panel and must have taken place within one year of approval.

As well as formal reviews, there will be regular dialogue and feedback between the supervising social worker and the foster carers.

See Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure.

National Standards for Foster Carers for foster carers need to be met. Personal development plans must be completed for each carer and this should be linked to their training and their annual review.

Details of the carers’ development and training should be made available to agencies if the carer moves into another local authority area.


2. Consultation and Action before the Review

Prior to the formal review, the supervising social worker will send the foster carers a copy of the Foster Carer Report to enable them to prepare for the review in advance. The Supervising Social Worker should complete the basic details including; Name, Address, name of Supervising Social Worker, Date of Initial Approval, Date of Last Review and Date of last statutory checks. The carer's should be asked to complete and sign the remainder of the form and return it to the Supervising Social Worker.

The foster carers will have the opportunity to communicate their views verbally or in writing to the supervising social worker. Some foster carers may need support to complete this form for example where English is not their first language.

Where there is a health concern, the supervising social worker will ask the foster carers concerned to obtain a medical report from their GP or a suitably qualified medical practitioner. The foster carers will also be asked to consent to the report being made available to the Medical Adviser to the Fostering Panel.

The supervising social worker will also, prior to the formal review, seek the views of all members of the foster carers' household including the children of the foster family (in an age-appropriate way). Older children should be asked to complete Form SS2/190 Fostering Services: Foster Carer Annual Review Part 3: Children who Foster.

The written comments and opinions from all social workers who have used the foster carers for a placement since the last formal review, as recorded on the child's social worker's end of placement report should be requested in writing using form SS2/191. This can include contacting a social worker from outside the authority where appropriate. Social Workers should take care to evidence their views. Any concerns raised by social workers should have been communicated to the foster carer at the time and should always be shared with them prior to the review to allow the carer time to respond.

The supervising social worker will also seek the views of any child placed with the foster carers on Form SS2/190A and his or her parents (where the parents have had contact) in relation to placements made since the last review. These views may be sought via the child's social worker or directly. The supervising social worker can also request the written views of the social workers for any child in placement. It may also be necessary to contact other professionals such as teachers or health visitors in relation to the carers' aptitudes. Comments should be requested in writing. The IRO Service will provide written feedback on Foster Carer performance if required.

The supervising social worker must visit the carer's home as part of the review, and they must see children's bedrooms and review the safety of the accommodation, in addition to at least one unannounced visit since the last review.

Prior to the review meeting but as part of the formal review, the supervising social worker will also carry out a health and safety check, and any issues of concern should be raised and if they are unresolved, discussed at the review meeting.

The supervising social worker will then prepare a report for the review using Form SS2/110a Part 1 specifying current placement and placements since the last review, equipment review and training attended and any further training recommended to enhance the carers existing skills. The Supervising Social Worker should complete the form, evidencing their views. The Supervising Social Worker should complete the summary and recommendation, analysing the information with a clear statement as to whether the carers continue to be suitable to foster and whether the terms of his or her approval continue to be appropriate. The report should be shared with the foster carers prior to the review.


3. Formal Review Meeting

There will be a formal annual review meeting held at the foster home chaired by the supervising social worker. The foster carer and members of the foster carers' family (if appropriate) will attend.

At the review meeting, the agenda as set out in the Foster Carer Review Form will include an appraisal of the foster carers' training and development needs in line with NMS, an evaluation of the training received since the last review, the foster carers' views of the service and support provided as well as the appropriateness of placements made, the care provided by the foster carers and any under/over use of the foster care resource.

The chairperson will complete a Review Form and any recommendations discussed with the foster carers will be recorded. The foster carers should have the opportunity to put their views on the recommendations in writing to be presented to the Fostering Panel when the Review Form is considered. The recommendations will be agreed by the Agency Decision Maker.


4. Formal Review following an Allegation or Serious Concerns about Practice or Standards of Care

The Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures and the Support for Foster Carers Facing Allegations Procedure should be followed where there are allegations against foster carers' or members of their household or serious concerns about foster carers' standards of care or practice.

A formal Review should follow any allegation against a foster carer or member of their household. The Fostering Team manager will make a decision whether the review should be presented to the next available foster panel. Both allegations and serious concerns may lead to the termination of a carer's approval to foster.

Where there are serious concerns about foster carers practice or standards of care where the Significant Harm threshold is NOT reached and Police investigation is NOT necessary, further assessment of the carer may be required. This decision should be made by the Fostering Team Manager, based upon the information already gathered during any investigation. If sufficient information is available to proceed straight to a formal review the Fostering Team Manager should record this decision on SWIFT and the Review procedure should be followed.

In addition to "one off" information leading to a serious concern about a foster carer's practice, there may be continuing lower level concerns about a carers practice or standard of care that have arisen during the course of normal supervision of the carer and/or the annual review process. Examples of such concerns are:

  • Methods of managing children's behaviour;
  • The quality or nature of diet, clothing or routine care provided for children;
  • Non compliance with contact arrangements.

When taken individually, such concerns may not be serious but over time they accumulate, or worsen to a point where they amount to a serious concern and call into question the suitability of the foster carer. Such concerns must be addressed with the foster carer immediately as they arise. Opportunities such as training must be put in place with clear milestones and intended outcomes. These opportunities should be clearly documented. If the quality of care remains unchanged the fostering manager should be consulted with a view to proceeding to a review of the carer's approval.

If the Fostering Team Manager feels that further assessment is required, the process of such assessment should be proportionate to the circumstances of the case. If the Fostering Team Manager decided that further assessment is required they will need to record the following decisions:

  • Who will inform the foster carer and when;
  • Who will undertake the assessment and how that person will be supervised. (Ideally this should be a suitably qualified social worker who does not know the foster carer);
  • Whether the foster carer should be suspended from taking further placements while the assessment is ongoing;
  • Who will provide independent support for the foster carer.

The process should start within 2 weeks of the decision.

Every effort should be made to take account of the carers needs such as language or disability.

The Fostering Team Manager should meet with the identified worker to brief them and co-ordinate the process.

The foster carer should be informed as soon as possible of the intended assessment, the process, the information detailed below and the concerns raised, if they have not already been made aware (except in exceptional circumstances). In the case of the latter, the Fostering Team Manager should record on SWIFT the reason for such a decision not to inform the foster carer at this stage. The Foster Team manager and/or Supervising Social Worker should be responsible for keeping the foster carer informed about the assessment.

The foster carer should receive written information as follows within 48 hours of being informed of the assessment:

  • The substance of the allegation/concerns;
  • Who will be involved in the assessment;
  • The process and timescales;
  • Who will be informed or interviewed, where information will be gathered from;
  • The foster carer's right to independent support and advice from Fosterline;
  • The financial arrangements for whilst the assessment is ongoing;
  • Decisions about children in placement currently and the reasons for those decisions;
  • Any temporary variation to the foster carer's terms of approval;
  • The next steps.

The foster carer's should also be informed of:

  • The reasons for the removal of any children, if applicable;
  • Whether they are suspended from fostering during the assessment;
  • The progress of the assessment both verbally and in writing, at regular intervals.

The assessing social worker will meet with the foster carers on as many occasions as are needed, interviewing them together and separately. The person providing independent support may attend any meeting or interview with the foster carer.

The assessing social worker will ensure that full information is gathered. The process should include information/views of those involved either through direct interview or information received from other sources. This may include:

  • Record of information already received from children in placement currently or previously;
  • Views of the foster carer(s);
  • Information from end of placement reports;
  • Information from exit interviews;
  • Information on the foster carers file.

Information should be made available to the foster carer unless it is confidential in which case the foster carer should be informed that the assessment will take into account confidential information available.

The assessment should take no longer than 4 weeks to complete from the date of the appointment of the assessing social worker and should result in a report that summarises the information, sets out the findings and makes a clear recommendation.

The Review of approval should:

  • Clarify the nature of the review, ensure that the foster carer understands the process, the role of the fostering panel, the agency decision maker and the provision for appeals;
  • Draw together a clear picture of the foster carer's career and their strengths;
  • A summary of s.47 enquiry findings or the findings of an investigation into the allegations or concerns;
  • Enable the foster carer and the fostering team to explore the future in terms of continuing the carer's approval;
  • Identify what support has been put in place;
  • Identify and clarify any requirements on the foster carer.

Analyse the information in terms of:

  • The foster carer's suitability and competence to foster;
  • Any variations in the terms of approval;
  • any suggested requirements of the foster carer including specific training and development.

This review should be shared with the foster carer at least 7 days before the foster carer's review meeting. The foster carer should be invited to make comments in preparation for the review.

If the foster carer cannot or is unwilling to co-operate, the fostering manager should decide when the point has been reached to proceed and should inform the carer giving 7 days notice that all information generated by the assessment will be placed upon their file and taken forward to a formal Review of Approval.

Upon completion of the independent assessment, the Fostering Team Manager should consider the report and any report the foster carer(s) wish to submit. The Team Manager should ensure that all information has been made available to the assessment and the foster carer has been given the opportunity to give a full response.

The review should be presented to the Foster Panel including the report from the independent assessor with a clear recommendation regarding ongoing approval and any representations from the foster carer.


5. Presentation to the Fostering Panel

A written report must be presented to the Fostering Panel on the foster carer's first annual review and after any Review where a change of approval status or termination of approval is recommended. 

Otherwise, the Manager of the Fostering Service will consider the Review Form and, where no changes are recommended, the supervising social worker will confirm in writing to the foster carers their re-approval. 

Where changes to or termination of the foster carers' approval are recommended or where any circumstances exist which in the opinion of the Manager of the Fostering Service require consideration by the Fostering Panel, a written report will be presented to the Fostering Panel. This may include the situation where an updating Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check reveals a new concern about the foster carer or a member of the household.

Whether presented to the fostering panel or not, the report will be presented to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision as to whether the foster carer remains suitable to foster and whether the terms of approval remain suitable. Where it has been presented to the fostering panel, the Agency Decision Maker will take into account the panel's recommendation.

Where changes to the foster carers' approval status, the Form F should be re-presented including a full assessment of the carers' abilities to meet the needs of children in the revised approval range.

The written report will incorporate the views of the child or children placed and their parents, the written views of the foster carers and any report provided by a social worker particularly where concerns have been expressed about a placement with the foster carers. Any recommendations for change in the foster carers' approval should be highlighted in the report.

Where the report is to be presented to the Fostering Panel, a copy of the foster carers' Form F and any previous relevant Panel minutes should also be attached to the report. 

The foster carers will be given 7 days in which to make any written observations and comments on the content of the review report. Any written comments should be forwarded to the Foster panel Administrator.

The report should be sent to the Panel Administrator four Fridays before the fostering panel meeting which is due to consider the review. The Panel Administrator will send the panel members the relevant reports ten days before the meeting.

Foster carers should be invited to attend Fostering Panel when their review is being considered, and the Panel Administrator should be informed if they intend to do so. 

In cases where the review is following allegations or concerns about the carer's practice, the foster carer should be advised that they may bring the person whom has been providing them with independent support or another person of their choice. The role of any support person is to support the foster carer and they will not be able to make representations to the foster panel on behalf of the foster carer. The Supervising Social worker should attend Fostering Panel.

The foster carer(s) should be informed of panel process and that they will be excluded from part of the panel where information is being requested from the supervising social worker.


6. Termination of Approval and Changes in the Terms of Approval

Where the Review recommends the termination of approval of foster carers, the review should be presented to the earliest possible Fostering Panel. see Section 8.1, Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer's Approval.

Where the Fostering Panel's recommendation is for a different category of approval, see Section 8.2, Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer's Approval.

Where the foster carer has decided to give up fostering and has no children in placement, see Section 11, Resignation by Foster Carers.

If the foster carer decides to move to another fostering service and has children in placement then the Fostering Network Transfer of Carers Protocol must be followed.


7. After the Fostering Panel

The Head of Service will inform the Foster Carer in writing of the outcome of the review.

Where the foster carers lives outside of Lincolnshire, the local authority for the area where he/she resides will also be informed in writing of the outcome of the review.

A copy of the Review Form and a record of the outcome of the review will be retained on the foster carers' case record. 

The administrative staff in the Fostering Service will also record any change in the foster carers' approval on the Register of Foster Carers. Where such a change has been agreed, an amended Foster Care Agreement will be sent to the foster carer for signature and return for retention on the records.

If the Agency Decision Maker endorses a recommendation to terminate the approval of foster carers, the fostering service manager should consult with the Local Authority Designated Officer about referring to the Disclosure and Barring Service This should be referred to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision.

Ofsted should be informed of the outcome of the foster carer's review of approval.


8. Representations Procedure

8.1 Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer's Approval

Where, as a result of a review, the termination of a foster carer's approval is proposed, written notice of the proposal and the reasons must be sent to the foster carer within 7 days of the decision and he or she must be advised that if they wish to challenge the decision, they have the opportunity to make representations to the Agency Decision Maker as set out in Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

If no written representations are received within the period, a final decision to terminate can be made.

Where the termination of the approval of a foster carer is being considered, plans for the termination of any current placement will also be required and made as appropriate.

Independent Review Mechanism

Where the panel recommends that a foster carer should be deregistered, and the Agency Decision Maker is minded to accept that recommendation, the applicants should be advised in writing by the Agency Decision Maker. The applicants must be advised of their right to appeal to the agency or to apply to the Independent Review Mechanism. The applicants must be made aware that they cannot do both and must therefore decide which route to pursue. The foster carer will not have the right to request a review by an Independent Review Panel is if he or she is regarded as disqualified as a result of a conviction or caution for a specified offence - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.

8.2 Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval

8.2.1 Where the Foster Carer is in Approval

Where, as a result of a review, it is proposed to revise the terms of the foster carer's approval, a statement must be sent to the foster carer setting out whether it is considered that the foster carer, or members of their household (including any children placed there), may have additional support needs as a result of the proposed revision and, if so, how those needs will be met, and request the foster carer's agreement in writing to the proposed revision of terms.

Where the foster carer's written agreement is received, the decision to revise the terms of approval may be made immediately.

The Agency Decision Maker's decision in such circumstances is not a Qualifying Determination and the foster carer may not apply for an independent review of the decision by way of the Independent Review Mechanism.

Foster carers must not be pressured to accept changes to their terms of approval.

8.2.2 Where the Foster Carer is not in Agreement

Where the foster carer does not agree in writing to the revision of their terms of approval, then the representations/review procedure as set out in Section 8.1 above will apply.


9. Updates on Checks

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on persons aged 18 and over should be updated every 3 years unless the Disclosure and Barring  Update Service  is used and if necessary, a review of the foster carers' approval should be carried out immediately to take account of any new information.

See Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.

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 carer's health, a review of the foster carer's approval should be carried out immediately.


10. Retention of Foster Carer Records

Foster carers' case records should be retained for a minimum of 10 years after their approval has been terminated.


11. Resignation by Foster Carers

A foster carer may give written notice at any time of their wish to resign from the role. Once written notice has been given, their approval will automatically be terminated 28 days after receipt of the notice. The foster carer cannot withdraw their notice once it has been received, nor can the Agency Decision Maker decline to accept the resignation. Should a foster carer who has resigned subsequently wish to foster again, they will need to be assessed under the procedure for Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers. There is no requirement for the fostering panel to be notified of resignations. However, the panel may find it helpful to be advised, as part of its monitoring role.

End