1.1.8 Safe Care Policy
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This policy relates to children placed in foster care, including those placed with family and friends under Regulation 24. This policy is relevant to foster carers and social workers.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in July 2015 to include a link to the NICE Post Natal Care (February 2015), particularly the section on 'Co-sleeping and Sudden Death Syndrome'.
For children with special needs, use of specialist services should be considered, e.g. interpreter, in order to facilitate and promote safe planning.
Children who are Looked After away from their own homes must be kept safe and their well-being promoted, however the history of a child who is looked after away from home may make them more vulnerable to harm and those people caring for them may be at risk of complaints or allegations.
Safe Care policies are about good practice. The objectives of safe care policies are to minimise the risk of harm to children looked after and ensure the child and the families caring for them are looked after in a safe environment.
The purpose of this policy is to:
- Keep foster children safe from abuse by adults;
- Keep children in the foster home safe from abuse by other children in the household;
- Keep members of the foster family safe from false allegations;
- Ensure that the foster home is a safe environment for children.
This policy covers:
- Providing suitable foster carers, including checks undertaken in new and existing foster carers;
- Appropriate matching of children to carers;
- Health and Safety in the home;
- Protecting children from abuse and Neglect;
- Promoting children's health, development and educational achievement.
2. Essential Safeguards
There are a number of essential safeguards that should be observed in all settings in which children live away from home including foster care.
These safeguards should ensure that:
- Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted;
- There is an openness to the external world and external scrutiny, including contact with families and the wider community;
- Staff and carers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding children;
- Staff and carers are alert to children's vulnerability and risks of harm, and are knowledgeable about how to implement Safeguarding Children procedures;
- Children who live away from home are listened to and their views and concerns responded to;
- Children have ready access to a trusted adult, e.g. a family member, the child's social worker, Independent Visitor, children's advocate;
- Children should be made aware of the help they could receive from independent Advocacy services, external mentors, and Childline;
- Staff recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how individual children communicate by verbal or non-verbal means;
- There are clear procedures for referring safeguarding concerns about a child to the relevant local authority, see LSCP Procedures and Support for Foster Carers Facing Allegations Procedure;
- There are clear and effective allegations and complaints procedures which are readily accessible to staff, children and young people - see LSCP Procedures and Support for Foster Carers Facing Allegations Procedure;
- Bullying is effectively countered and considered within the Foster Carers Safe Care Policy;
- Recruitment and assessment procedures are rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers - see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure;
- There is effective supervision and support, see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure and Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure;
- Any commissioned staff are effectively checked and supervised when on site or in contact with children;
- Clear procedures and support systems are in place for dealing with allegations and expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers - see Lincolnshire LSCP Procedures;
- There is respect for diversity and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality and disability;
- Staff and carers are alert to the risks of harm to children in the external environment from people prepared to exploit the additional vulnerability of children living away from home.
It is important that children in Foster Care have a voice outside the family. Social workers are required to see children in foster care on their own (taking appropriate account of the child's wishes and feelings), and evidence of this should be recorded. Dependent on their circumstances children may have an Independent Visitor who will advocate on their behalf.
3. Assessment and Training of Prospective Foster Carers
As part of the assessment process the supervising social worker will undertake Disclosure and Barring Service Checks on all adults in the home and other adults who are likely to have significant unsupervised contact with the child. Other references will also be sought. See Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
During the assessment and training process of prospective carers the supervising social workers and trainers should give the applicants information on the type of abuse children suffer, the possible consequences for them and the people who care for them. The supervising social worker should encourage the applicants to think about safe care for a child and themselves and with the support of the supervising social worker should start to write a Safe Care Policy for their home.
The applicants will need to have a Safe Care Policy prepared and presented to foster panel along with the Form F and other documents prepared by the Supervising Social Worker. Every foster family must have a Safe Care Policy in place before a child can be placed.
Following approval the carers should be given:
- Foster Carer Agreement with return envelope;
- Foster Carer Handbook (pink - younger/grey-older);
- "Safer Caring" published by Fostering Network;
- Leaflets produced by both CoramBAAF and Fostering Network (Protecting from allegations etc.
The Supervising Social Worker must advise the foster carers of their responsibility to ensure they have read and understood the above publications and additional forms/leaflets given following approval.
All foster carers are expected to undertake safe Care training within the first year following their approval.
Safe caring should be on the agenda for supervising social workers visit to the foster carer and the Safe Care Policy must be reviewed annually at the carer's annual review. See Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure and Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
The national minimum standards state:
"The fostering service makes available foster carers who provide a safe, healthy and nurturing environment."
During the assessment process the supervising Social Worker must complete a health and safety questionnaire with the applicants. If the applicants have dogs or other animals an assessment / questionnaire on them must also be completed. These documents must be presented at foster panel with the Form F.
The Health and Safety questionnaire covers the main issues included in National Minimum Standards and must be completed annually at the foster carers review to ensure ongoing compliance and to identify any risks within the home and plan how to minimise those risks. This should also highlight any equipment that is needed to protect children in the foster home. The dog and pet questionnaire should be updated if and when there are changes to the pet ownership in the home. The health and safety questionnaire also covers vehicles owned by the foster family.
The supervising social worker should advise the foster carers to inform them if any building work is planned to take place in the house or garden to consider the implications for any child in placement or any child likely to be placed.
4. Family Safe Care Policy
It is important for each foster family to consider and draw up a family policy on safe caring in consultation with all family members and the supervising social worker.
Key points that should be included:
- General points:
- The names foster carers use:
- Carers should avoid young children calling them "mummy" or "daddy";
- Encourage children to call them by their first name, or use "aunty or "uncle", or another term they feel comfortable with.
- Showing Affection:
- Carers should be aware that children may view physical affection as a prelude to abuse;
- Carers should always ask permission before kissing or cuddling a child, and ensure that the child knows it is ok to say no;
- Carers should ensure that you they have as much information as possible about the children in placement, particularly where abuse in known or suspected;
- Carers should not avoid all physical contact with children as this can be equally damaging to children.
- Taking photos and videos:
- Carers should ask the child's permission before taking photos and tell them who they are for;
- Carers should be sensitive to children's reaction to having photos taken, and report to the social worker any concerns;
- Carers should never take photographs of children undressed or only in nightwear/ underwear;
- Carers should seek agreement to photographs being taken at school;
- Carers will need to know how to explain the difference between what is and what is not acceptable behaviour;
- No sexual activity ever between children who are members of the same household.
- Education about sex and sexuality:
- All children need to have sex education but it must be responsive to their age and understanding, and for children looked after, geared to their previous experiences;
- An essential message for children is the right to say "no" and to protect themselves from abuse;
- Ideally any discussion should be planned and discussed with the child's social worker before taking place.
- Use of the internet:
- Computers should be used in communal rooms in the house, e.g. living room, dining room, kitchen;
- Ensure that an adult is on hand to check what sites a child is viewing;
- Be clear that no personal information should be given out or personal photos uploaded;
- Set reasonable timescales for being "online" and agree this with the social worker;
- Be clear that there are many positive about the internet as long as certain rules are applied.
- Use of mobile phones:
- If a child has a mobile phone carers must ensure that the social worker is aware;
- If concerned that an unauthorised contact is taking place with family members, carers must inform the social worker;
- Carers should Monitor usage and who the young person is phoning.
The Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Partnership has developed an E-Safety strategy which covers all forms of safety including Mobile phones, Cyber Bullying, Chat Rooms, On-Line Games and Virtual Worlds. Targeted Foster Carer training is also available in line with the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Partnership.
Click e-safety for further information.
- The names foster carers use:
- Children should only share a bedroom where a risk assessment has been undertaken on the children;
- Children over the age of 3 should not share a room with another child unless agreed by the Team Manager Fostering. The decision making process must be recorded in writing in the bedroom risk assessment;
- Bedrooms should only be entered by invitation;
- Bedrooms should not normally be used as play areas for other children. If for example, a computer is sited in the bedroom the door should be kept open.
- All children who are old enough and able to bath and wash themselves should have privacy in the bathroom;
- If a child needs adult help and supervision, the door should be kept unlocked and slightly open.
- Except when playing alone, doors should be left open and carers should be able to easily hear or see what is going on;
- Children who have sexually abused should have close supervision whilst playing and careful consideration given to where they play;
- Do not allow play fighting unless carefully supervised;
- Avoid tickling and wrestling games;
- When using bikes, skateboards etc, appropriate safety equipment should be used. It is acknowledged that this might be problematic for older children and individual circumstances will need to be discussed with the child's social worker.
- Carers should not walk around naked or their underwear or nightwear, it may give the wrong messages to some children and can be open to misinterpretation;
- A child should be dressed in clothing suitable to his/her age and development and taking in to account religious or cultural needs.
- Going out:
- Car Journeys:
- Carers should think carefully about who travels alone in a car with a foster child;
- If there is any concern, and this is unavoidable the child should sit in the back;
- Ensure the car is roadworthy, insured and has age appropriate car seats / seat belts. Certificates should be produced annually as part of the annual review.
- Carers should use adults only, and only people known and agreed by supervising social worker or the child's social worker. Babysitters should be DBS checked;
- If you are going to be out overnight or for a longer periods this must be known and agreed by the child's social worker and arrangements made.
- Fostered Children going out:
- Carers should never agree for a child to stay somewhere without making the checks detailed in Social Visits (Including Overnight Stays) Procedure;
- Ensure older children have skills to keep themselves safe if going out without adult supervision.
- Organised trips or holidays:
- Consent must be given by the Directorate and parent (where appropriate) and details of trip / holiday given;
- Risk assessment should be undertaken and any actions agreed beforehand;
- Reference should be made to the County Council Policy on organised trips.
- Car Journeys:
5. Action when Child is Placed
Foster carers should be provided with full information about the foster child and his/her family, including details of abuse or possible abuse, both in the interests of the child and of the foster family.
Foster Carers should have a Safe Care Policy in place for each child placed.
Foster carers should monitor the whereabouts of their foster children, their patterns of absence and contacts. Foster carers should follow the recognised procedure of their agency whenever a foster child is missing from their home. This will involve notifying the placing authority and where necessary the Police of any unauthorised absence by a child.
The local authority's duty to undertake a Section 47 Enquiry, when there are concerns about Significant Harm to a child, applies on the same basis to children in foster care as it does to children who live with their own families.
The Safe Care policy must be revised for each child placed in consultation with the child's social worker and should take into account
- Risk assessment, taking into account previous abuse suffered or perpetrated. (See Risk Assessments When Placing Children in Foster Care Procedure);
- Whether the child has been the subject of, or the perpetrator of bullying;
- Matching Issues;
- Likelihood of child absconding and what action needs to be taken in the event of absconding;
- Any potential threats from parents or friends of child;
- Information from the child's parents;
- Information from previous foster carers;
- Information from other people who have regular contact with the child, e.g. school staff.
The Safe Care Policy should be updated before the child is placed, or in the event of an emergency, within 3 days of placement. A copy should be given to the child, the child's social worker and a copy retained by the foster carers and supervising social worker.
6. Visits to the Home by Professionals or Child's Family Members
Any visit to the foster home by a social worker, police officer, Children's Guardian, school teacher in relation to the child should be recorded by the foster carer. Any concerns must be raised immediately with the child's social worker and supervising social worker.
Visits by Supervising Social Worker must be undertaken within the timescales set down in Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure. All visits must be recorded and any concerns raised with the Fostering Team Manager.
Visits to a child by their social worker must be undertaken within the timescales set down in Visits to Children Guidance. All visits must be recorded and any concerns should be raised with the Supervising Social Worker.
Supervising Social Workers should refer to Recording with Care Guidance.
They should advise the foster carers the importance of maintaining daily records and recording them in a timely fashion. It is essential that foster carers make a note of any incidents such as inappropriate behaviour or speech, worrying phone calls and anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or in any way concerned. Carers should note others present and keep accurate notes of any conversations of concern.
If a child makes a disclosure the foster carer should record what was said by whom, date, time and sign the record and record if any other person was present. I another adult was present they should also sign the record. For detailed advice refer to Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures.