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Hertfordshire County Council

Last updated 15/12/20

This handbook is in the process of being developed and ongoing updates will be made during 2021.


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INTRODUCTION


What is our Foster Carer Handbook?

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) values its carers and wants to make sure that they feel well supported during their time as a foster carer. This online handbook provides guidance on key issues and procedures for foster carers. It will support your learning and development, and is a tool to refer to, as a vital part of your journey as a carer.

This handbook will direct you to lots of great resources for carers and help you navigate the Social Work Procedures Manual. It contains all our policies and processes for Children Looked After in Hertfordshire and is a valuable source of information.

HCC, in line with The Fostering Regulations 2011 and the National Minimum Standards 2011, also has a clear Statement of Purpose and a Foster Carers Charter. These documents show our commitment to you as foster carers and will be reviewed regularly to ensure they continue to be up to date and reflect our values.  

Throughout the handbook you will find links to 3 main sources:
•    The Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011
•    The Social Work Procedures Manual 
•    The Fostering Network website

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SECTION 1: HERTFORDSHIRE CHILDREN SERVICES

The County Council’s Children’s Services department supports children, parents and carers with a child’s education, development and welfare through a wide range of services. We are here to offer help, guidance and support at every stage and place the interests of children firmly at the centre of everything we do. Professionals from a range of disciplines work together using their experience and knowledge to help children in need throughout the county. Our staff work closely with all partners as ‘One Team’ to ensure best outcomes for all children looked after (i.e. education, health services, the police, district councils and the private sector).

Our Outcome Bees template explains how we work together to meet the individual needs of the children and young people we care for.

Our Hertfordshire’s Plan for Children and Young People presents more detail about the priorities for children, young people and their families.

The Children’s Pledge is a commitment to all children and young people that we look after, to meet their needs by explaining, listening, keeping them safe and settled and encourage their health and ambition.

Who’s Who in Children’s Services?

Children’s Services is divided into areas of the county. The North and East areas are based at Farnham House, Stevenage, whilst the South and West areas are based at Apsley, Hemel Hempstead. Staff may also work at other sites across the county or remotely.

Farnham House
Six Hills Way Stevenage
SG1 2FQ

Apsley Campus
Brindley Way
Hemel Hempstead
HP3 9BF

Children’s Services main switch board: 0300 123 4040

As a Foster Carer, you are likely to work with the following teams:

Fostering Teams
There are four fostering teams for the North, South, East and West areas of the county, as well as a specialist team for Supporting Lodgings Carers. Our fostering teams are composed of Supervising Social Workers and children’s practitioners working with foster carers.

Children Looked After Teams (CLA)
There are six CLA teams who are responsible for working with children and young people who are in the care of the local authority. As a foster carer, a child or young person in placement with you may be allocated a Children’s Social Worker from this team, that you will need to liaise with.

Family Safeguarding Teams
The Family Safeguarding Teams are responsible for longer-term interventions for children subject to a Child Protection Plan, Children in Need, and children involved in care proceedings. As a foster carer you may need to liaise with a Children’s Social Worker from Family Safeguarding if a child or young person in placement with you has only recently come into care.

ARC Fostering Support (Extension of our ARC Service)
HCC uses the Attachment Regulation Competency framework as a basis for working with children who have experienced trauma. The ARC fostering support service supports foster carers to understand their child’s developmental trauma and how this may impact on their behaviour.  We have senior practitioners working closely with foster carers, Supervising Social Workers, children’s practitioners and children’s social workers to support the use of the ARC framework for children placed in foster care. The support includes ARC training, ARC workshops for foster carers, refresher ARC training and ARC seminars/training for fostering staff. The workers also support the teams to complete ARC consultations and support plans for children and their carers.

Adoption and Fostering Recruitment Team
The Recruitment team works with our enquirers and prospective carers/adopters. We have a group of foster carers who act as Recruitment Ambassadors to support local recruitment of carers and we are always looking to get more carers involved. The team also manages the overall recruitment strategy and all recruitment events for the year. Foster carers are encouraged to attend these events where possible as they are a great opportunity to talk to members of the public about fostering. Your Supervising Social Worker will be able to let you know about planned recruitment opportunities. Alternatively, if you know about any events or opportunities for promoting fostering, please email: fostering.recruitment@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Family and Friends Team
The Family and Friends Team are responsible for assessing and supporting members of a child/young person’s family, friends or connected others who offer to care for them. This type of care is also known as Family and Friends Foster Care. The workers are based within the fostering teams.

Mockingbird Family Model
The Mockingbird Family Model is an innovative method of delivering foster care based on the idea of creating an extended family. It uses the concept of a ‘constellation’ where six to ten ‘satellite’ fostering, or kinship carer families, live near a dedicated hub home of specially recruited and trained foster carers. The hub carers provide peer support, social activities, training and sleepovers to the families in their constellation.

The Mockingbird Model can have significant benefits for children and young people, providing them with the opportunity to meet and build lifelong relationships with other children/young people and foster carers, attend fun activities and experience a sense of belonging to a wider family network. For carers, the model offers practical and informal emotional support and the opportunity to build close relationships with a small number of families, who understand the challenges associated with fostering.

In Hertfordshire we have introduced some hubs across the service, and we are working towards growing the model and developing further hubs in the future. Both nationally and in Hertfordshire the Mockingbird Model has received very positive reviews and has improved placement stability and carer retention.

If you would like to find out more information about the Mockingbird Model in Hertfordshire please speak to your Supervising Social Worker. Visit the website for further information on the Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme.

You may also work with some of the following teams, depending on your child’s needs:

Families First Teams (Early Help)
Families First is the term used in Hertfordshire for services that work together to support families needing extra help. These are also known as early help services. These services:

•    provide early help to families overcoming problems before they get worse
•    contribute actively to finding solutions to the issues they face
•    give families choices to find the right kind of support for their needs in the local area
•    recognise and build on the strengths of the family to improve their situation with our support

Assessment Team
This team provide parenting assessments for court purposes. The Assessment Teams are staffed by social workers and Family Safeguarding workers. As a foster carer you may be asked to liaise with a worker from the Assessment Team in your area if the child or young person that you are caring for is receiving a service from them.

0-25 Together Service
Each area has a 0-25 Together Team which covers all aspects of support for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). As a foster carer you may need to liaise with a social worker from a 0-25 Team if a child or young person in placement with you has SEND.

This 0-25 Teams are responsible for working with children and young adults with SEND, and their families, in respect to:
•    Assessments
•    Direct Payments
•    Nursing input
•    Preparing for Adulthood
•    Short Breaks
•    Signposting to services

Policy Guidance: The 0-25 Together Service.

The Specialist Adolescent Service Hertfordshire (SASH)
SASH deliver flexible and responsive support packages to young people and families. They work with:

•    Young people aged 11 to 17 in families at risk of breakdown or on the edge of care.
•    Young people who go missing from home or those that are involved in child exploitation, including gangs, county lines and child sexual exploitation.
•    Young people in the Youth Justice system to prevent offending and re-offending; and to support victims of youth crime and their communities.

Family Centre Service.
These are locally provided centres which focus on support services for children aged 0-5 years and their families. They can offer a wide range of advice and support for carers and their children, including baby clinics, toy libraries and learning opportunities. To find your nearest centre contact the Family Centre Service on 0300 123 7572 or access the website for family centres.

Supported Lodgings Team
A supported lodgings placement provides a 'stepping stone' transition from care to living independently. This team provides these placements with Supported Lodgings carers across the county; placements are offered for looked after children and care leavers aged 16-21 years.

The Shared Care Team
Shared Care is family based short term breaks for disabled children - for example a weekend stay once a month, an overnight stay once a week or day care hours at a weekend. Shared Care takes place in the homes of carers who are approved specifically as Shared Carers. The Shared Care Team is based with the fostering teams.

Brokerage Accommodation Team
The Brokerage Service finds and monitors the best care packages for children needing them in Hertfordshire. The service will look for the best options for care to match with a child’s need. This service will also monitor and report on the packages financially.

Adoption Service
There are two adoption assessment teams, one for the west and south of the county (West Adoption Team) is based in Rainbow House St Albans, the other for the north and east (East Adoption Team) is based in Farnham House. The Adoption Team is responsible for recruiting, assessing, training and supporting adopters. They also provide support on adoption issues to parents, children and other professionals.

Adoption Support Team
The Adoption Support Service provides a service to all those affected by adoption, birth families, adult adoptees, adoptive families and adopted children. The Adoption Support team is based at Rainbow House St Albans. The service manages letterbox and direct contact for birth families, counselling and support, birth families’ support groups, help with access to records for tracing birth families, help with searching and intermediary work towards reunion.

Services for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children and Young People
When placing an unaccompanied minor, very little may be known of the young person’s family history and background, and it can be difficult to get an exact date of birth in many cases. The case worker will give what details are known, provide information regarding the young person’s country of origin if needed, and language materials such as phrase books where possible.


Carers wishing to work with unaccompanied minors need to be sensitive to a variety of cultural issues, recognising that there can be variations between cultures which can affect the young person’s development and expectations in respect of family life. The young person may not be familiar with everyday things and routines, and the role of religious practices needs to be acknowledged and supported. There is a small resource library which holds information on countries of origin, traditions and customs, and other books of interest for young people and their carers, and there is a support group run specifically for carers who look after unaccompanied asylum seekers.

Fostering Network: Looking After Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.

The Refugee Council is also a useful source of information.

YC Hertfordshire
YCH is the integrated youth support service for young people in Hertfordshire. It provides information, advice, guidance and support service to all 13-19-year olds as well as access to a wide range of positive activities, including:

•    Practical help on courses, education, and careers
•    Activities, such as sport, arts, music and volunteering opportunities
•    Advice and support on drugs, sexual health and homelessness

YCH staff work in a variety of settings with young people such as youth clubs, youth projects, One Stop Shops, YC Herts Centres, training provisions, schools and colleges, as well as detached locations. For young people who require individual support there are personal advisers who will work with them on a one to one basis from various locations such as schools, colleges, drop-in and community centres. If you feel the young person you are caring for could benefit from this support, suggest this to their social worker. Find out more about how YC Herts may assist you or the young person in placement.

Appropriate Adult
When a young person is arrested by the police it is necessary for him/her to be interviewed by the police in the presence of an appropriate adult. In order to act as an appropriate adult, you must have completed appropriate adult training. If you are not trained, it is preferable to suggest the young person’s parents, youth justice worker or a solicitor.

National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) – Complaints against Children’s Services
Hertfordshire County Council commissions the National Youth Advocacy Service to provide an advocacy service for all young people who are looked after, in need or have a disability. Any child or young person can contact this service if they feel they are not being listened to or are unhappy about the plans that are being made for them. A carer can also do this, on behalf of a young person with their consent.

An advocate from NYAS may attend a meeting or review with, or on behalf of a young person. NYAS can support a young person through the complaint’s procedure.
NYAS can be contacted by phone on 0808 808 1001 or send an email to help@nyas.net or by visiting the NYAS website.

Policy Guidance – The Voice of the Child and Family.

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SECTION 2: NOW YOU ARE A FOSTER CARER

What is the Foster Care Agreement?

The Foster Care Agreement sets out what responsibilities we have as a local authority and your responsibilities as a carer. The original copy will be kept in your carers’ file with your fostering team and you should make sure you keep one too.  

What is the Safer Caring Plan/Safer Caring Policy?

At the beginning of any placement it is important for you and/or your family to think about your Safer Caring Plan. This plan is about understanding and managing risk and covers different aspects of your day to day life. Your assessing social worker may have helped you with this already. This needs to be kept up to date regularly and will be discussed with you in supervision and annually at your review.

Policy Guidance: Safer Caring Policy.

When will I meet my Supervising Social Worker?

You will have a Supervising Social Worker (SSW) from the Fostering Team assigned to you as soon as you have been approved. They will advise, assist and support you and your family in your fostering role, as well as ensuring children in your care are safeguarded. You should meet with them as soon as possible.

You will have already completed a Carers Profile before going to the Fostering Panel, with details on your family and approval. This document is used to help make the best placement matches.

Each carer will receive regular supervision as well as contacts from their Supervising Social Worker by phone, email, WhatsApp or in person to discuss how things are going and any additional help you may need. It might be helpful to discuss with your social worker how you prefer to contact each other and whether you need them to check in more regularly.

Your SSW will assist you in forming a Personal Development Plan and meeting the requirements of the Training Support and Development (TSD) standards (see more in the Training section). They will be required to review your fostering approval at least yearly. Your first review and any review requiring a change in your terms of approval will be presented to the Fostering Panel, to which you will be invited.

Your Supervising Social Worker is required to make at least two unannounced visits to your home each year. There is a pro forma for unannounced visits which should be completed by your Supervising Social Worker and signed by yourself.

Other things to do as a new carer

•    All email communication between HCC and foster carers has to take place using the secure email system ‘Hertsfostering.org’. You will be given a hertsfostering.org email address and guidance to ensure you can use this system. For technical help or to request a guidance document on using the secure email system, please contact: HertsFostering@hertfordshire.gov.uk

•    Each adult carer will be accessed to supply a passport-sized photograph so that we can issue you with an ID card as an approved carer.

•    DBS checks must be undertaken on any new adults joining your family and on any of your own children or staying put children when they reach the age of 18 years.

•    Training programmes and available courses can be accessed and booked via your iLearn account. Please make sure that you can access iLearn, as this will always have the most up to date information on what is available. Training will be personalised throughout your journey as a carer, and we encourage you to think about areas you may want to develop and courses you can enrol on.

•    For support available to you as a new carer, please see our Foster Carer Support Offer.

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SECTION 3: MAKING PLACEMENTS, MEETINGS AND YOUR SOCIAL WORKERS

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SECTION 3.1 BEGINNING FOSTER PLACEMENTS

Supervising Social Workers and Children’s Social Workers.

You will have a Supervising Social Worker from the Fostering Team, whose role will be to advise, assist and support you and your family in your fostering role, as well as making sure children in your care are safeguarded:

•    It is important to develop a good working relationship with your Supervising Social Worker and you can discuss how you would like to communicate once your social worker has been allocated.

•    You will be given the direct number for your social worker and if they are unavailable, a duty social worker from the team can be contacted in working hours to deal with an emergency, provide advice or ensure that the team are updated on a situation.

Your child will also have a social worker, the Child’s Social Worker. This worker will hold case responsibility for the child. They have a statutory responsibility for visiting the child regularly and making sure all their needs are met.

•    They will act as co-ordinator for work being done with the child. They will also work with the child’s family to ensure that everything runs smoothly, and everybody is kept informed of what is going on.

•    The Child’s Social Worker will also have a relationship of trust with the child, so that they have somebody to talk to outside the foster home.

Social Workers’ Visits

It is important that the Child’s Social Worker can see the child or young person on their own. The views and wishes of the child or young person in respect of their care should always be sought and visits allow social workers to do this.

There will be a visit during the first week, and then visits more regularly during the first year of a foster placement.

Policy Guidance: Statutory Visits for Children Looked After.

How do we make placements and what happens during the matching process?

Under the National Minimum Standards Standard 11, we must make sure each child or young person placed in our care is carefully matched with a carer who can meet their needs. The Brokerage Accommodation Team will receive a referral for a child or young person needing a foster placement, and then work with the local fostering teams to find the best matched placement for that child/young person.

When a referral is received from the Child’s Social Worker for a placement, they will be asked to provide detailed information on a Placement Referral Form (PRF). This will include the child’s racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic needs, education, health, any behavioural or emotional difficulties, contact requirements, and details of any actual or suspected abuse they may have suffered.

The PRF should also cover the child’s routine, likes and dislikes, personality etc – anything that might be helpful in identifying the right carer, and help you to offer the best care. The PRF is available to you and we encourage you to ask questions where you feel you may be needing more information.

If you are available to take a placement you may be contacted by the Brokerage Accommodation Team or by your local Fostering Team, who will provide you with the information available regarding the child/young person needing placement. You should not take a placement if you feel you do not have the necessary information or it would be detrimental to your family, or you feel you could not meet the needs of the child.

In an emergency, we may know very little about the child’s needs. Details will depend on the circumstances in which a placement has been required.

What if I need additional support with a new placement?

Part of the matching process will consider any ‘gaps’ in the match, and what additional help the fostering service will offer you as a carer to enable you to meet those needs. This could be through additional support, training or providing further information. This will be done at the time the placement is made and, in more detail, in consultation with you when creating the Placement Plan.

It is important that children from differing ethnic or cultural backgrounds have any specific needs met. Consideration may be needed in respect of health, diet and religious practices. It is also important for a child with differing ethnic or cultural backgrounds to have positive role models and to be supported when any discrimination occurs within their lives. Please see the Identity section of the handbook for more guidance on this, and also ask your Supervising Social Worker if you feel unsure or need additional help.

How should I prepare for a placement?

Standard 11 of the NMS2011 - Preparation for Placement, discusses introducing a child to a foster placement. Ideally, any child or young person should meet you and your family before moving in, although this tends to happen more for a longer-term placement. The child, if old enough, can then express their view about living with you, get to know you and your family, any other children you care for, your home and neighbourhood, and any pets you might have. This will depend on the age of the child involved and the circumstances.  

Children should be given information about the fostering family before placement. If you have not done already, you and your family should put together a Child Friendly Profile to give a child information about you. This could include photographs of people living in the home, the house, garden, the child’s bedroom, pets, and anything which might offer a child or young person some reassurance about where they are going to live.

How do we make sure needs are met throughout placement?

Carers are involved in many different types of meetings/reviews as we look to make sure a child/young person’s needs are met during placement. Your Supervising Social Worker will usually be able to attend these meetings with you. If you require any assistance to attend a meeting, you can also discuss this with your Supervising Social Worker.

Placement Planning Meetings and Support Plans

Every child will have a Care Plan, which includes a Placement Plan. This details the information and agreements which must be completed before a child is placed. If this is not possible the plan should be drawn up within 5 working days of the placement being made. You must attend with the Child’s Social Worker and your Supervising Social Worker; the child’s parents may attend and, depending on age and understanding, the child should also attend. A copy of this plan should be signed by everybody in attendance. This will make sure everyone is clear about the foster carer’s role as part of the team around the child, and how day to day tasks will be shared between you and the local authority.

The Placement Plan provides the key information needed to care for a child:

•    How day-to-day needs will be met

•    Arrangements for health and education

•    Arrangements for social workers to visit

•    Contact arrangements, including any decisions to refuse contact

•    Arrangements for delegated authority to the foster carer

•    Including parental agreements to period of accommodation under s20 and specified medical treatments

•    Name of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)

This form must be completed by the Child’s Social Worker. The Supervising Social Worker will be part of the placement planning meeting and so any agreements about what the carers will and won't be able to do will be agreed by them.

You should also receive a Placement Support Plan, which is developed by your Supervising Social Worker can be used to anticipate and/or identify any areas you may need additional support. Others such as health professionals may also need to be consulted in the development of this plan.

The Care Plan ensures that all Children Looked After (CLA) have clear objectives set out for their care and a strategy for achieving them. The Care Plan should be completed by the social worker in consultation with some or all of the following:

•    Team manager/Consultant social worker

•    Child (depending on age/understanding)

•    Birth parents and/or other holders of parental responsibility

•    Foster Carer

•    Supervising Social Worker (for foster placements)

The Care Plan should be confirmed at the child’s first CLA review and can only be changed by future reviews.

Policy Guidance: Planning Placements.

Placement Support Meetings

Placement Support Meetings can be held at any time during the child or young persons’ placement. The meeting is chaired by the Fostering Team Manager/Consultant Social Worker and is used to identify support needs of the child or young person, foster carer and families in placement.

How do I support family contact arrangements?

Each child or young person in foster care must be encouraged to maintain and develop family contact and friendships as agreed in their Care Plan and Placement Plan. Sustaining links with all those in the child’s network, not just their immediate family, is an important part of your work as a carer.

Contact arrangements need to be agreed, monitored and reviewed, discussing with the child or young person throughout. Carers will need to take children to any arrangements and have a clear plan - visits can be arranged for foster carers to go to contact centres so they prepare children. It is helpful to give children time to adjust or talk about their feelings.

You should record the outcome of contact arrangements and the impact on the child in your diary sheet, so this can be fed back to the Child’s Social Worker.

You may need support to deal with your feelings regarding contact and your Supervising Social Worker/support groups can help you with this.

Please see the documents below for a chart and guide about the contact process:

Policy Guidance:
The contact process
The contact process script
Contact Policy
Supervised Contact Policy
NMS, Standard 9  

Children’s Looked After Reviews

The first review is held within 28 days of the placement starting. The second must be held within a further three months and then every six months. This will also happen if a child moves to you from another placement. Reviews will be chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). They can be a large meeting involving the child/young person (if they wish to attend), parents, school and others who are working with the child. Your Supervising Social Worker will also attend.

The review will consider the past period of care, make sure plans are being followed, and agree objectives for the next period of care. You should complete a Review Report before the meeting where you can record your comments. The child/young person will also have the opportunity to express their views. The IRO will contact you to arrange to meet with your foster child prior to the review. The Child’s Social Worker is responsible for writing the pre-meeting report which should be shared with the child, the parents and their carers before the review.

The IRO is responsible for completing the review outcomes and minutes and you should receive a copy.

‘Momo’ is a useful website that may help your child record their thoughts and feelings.

Policy Guidance: Children’s Looked After Reviews.

Permanency Planning Meeting

These are held for any child/young person in a short-term foster placement to look at where they will be placed permanently. The meeting is usually chaired by a manager and may be held at a local team office or at the adoption team offices. Its purpose is to list the long-term needs of the child and consider the type of family which may best meet them. Your contribution is important, and your support worker is likely to attend the meeting with you.

Policy Guidance: Permanence and Permanency Planning.

Life Story Work

Life story work is a way of giving children a chance to learn about their background and lives before living with you. The information is put together sensitively in an album called a life story book. Your role is to make sure important information on the child is not lost and you will be asked to keep significant information relating to the child while they are placed with you. This may include photographs and any significant events, for example when they had their first tooth or what their first words were. For children who are brought up in adoptive families, it is easy for this important information to get lost – you can help to ensure that it doesn’t.

The needs of the child should always be the main focus. The Child’s Social Worker will need to tell him/her about the plans for adoption. This will depend on the age of the child. The wishes and feelings of children must be taken into consideration when appropriate. Life story work is important because it gives children a chance to learn about their past and what happened in their lives.

This can also be a time when the foster family and child may require additional support. Your Supervising Social Worker will help you with this process, and training courses are also available about this work.

For more information:

Direct Work and Life Story Work with Children and Young People.

Life Story Books

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SECTION 3.2 SUPPORTING A CHILD WITH AN ADOPTION PLAN

Preparing for Adoption - Permanency Planning

Permanency planning meetings are important in preparing a child for the transition into an adoptive family. The process is co-ordinated by the Child’s Social Worker. Your role in supporting the child is vital so your Supervising Social Worker will advise you about the need to keep the child’s memories safe through life story work, memory boxes and photograph albums.

There are statutory meetings, which you will be informed of or will be invited to.

Policy Guidance: Permanency Planning

Selection Meeting

This is a meeting held to select a possible family for a child needing permanency. It usually involves the Child’s Social Worker and staff from the fostering and adoption Teams. Details of possible families are matched against the needs of the child, and a selected family will later be put forward to an adoption matching panel. Foster carers do not attend the selection meeting.

Information on the child will have been presented to the adoption Agency Decision Maker (ADM) for them to consider if adoption is in the child’s best interests.

Introduction Meetings

If you are caring for a child with an adoption plan, this meeting will be held following the adoption matching panel. Its purpose is to plan introductions and the move of the child to the adoptive family. You may be included in a pre-introduction meeting to draw up a draft plan that will be agreed at the introduction meeting. It involves both the carers and adopters with their Supervising Social Workers and workers from the adoption team.

Once introductions have been agreed, it is usual for everyone involved to meet during the introductions to review progress and make amendments to the plan if needed. During the introduction process, you may be contacted daily by the adoption team for an update on how you feel the introductions are going but this will be agreed at the first meeting.

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SECTION 3.3 LONG TERM PLANS, ENDING PLACEMENTS AND PREPARING FOR INDEPENDENCE

Parallel Planning

The Children Act 1989 centres on the idea that children are best cared for within their own families. However, it is not always possible for all children to return to their birth family and therefore plans need to be in place to ensure permanency is achieved. This can be done in various ways such as:

•    Adoption

•    Foster to adopt

•    Return to other family/friends via Special Guardian Order or Friends and Family fostering

•    Long term fostering

•    Child Arrangement Orders

These plans need to be in place as soon as possible so that they can be explored and be available with minimal delay, if the preferred permanent outcome proves unachievable.

Where children’s case are before the court in care proceedings, the court requires Parallel Planning to be reflected in the Care Plan (Public Law Outline, Public and Private Law Proceedings 2014).

Returning Home

If returning home has been agreed as the outcome of the child’s Care Plan, then you will be asked to contribute and support the transition plan. This will include working in partnership with the child’s birth family and other professionals around the child. The plan will agree how often visits take place, how long for and any other information such as who will drop off the child at each visit. The visits and lengths of stays should steadily increase and may extend to some overnight or weekend stays. The transition plan may be reviewed towards the end and will be with the agreement of the Child’s Social Worker that any changes are made.

Long term fostering

If it is not felt appropriate for a child or young person to be adopted or they are unable to return to their own family, the preferred option may be long term fostering. The decision should still be made at a Child Looked After review and may be seen as a positive option for a number of reasons. For instance, an older child may have strong attachments to their own family and so would be unable to fully commit themselves to a ‘new’ family. It should be made clear at the Permanency Planning Meeting why the decision is long term fostering, based on the needs of the child.

If a decision is made that a child should be placed in long term foster care, it is very important that you do not feel you must offer that child a long-term placement. In some instances, it may seem to be the ideal solution but the whole team needs to be sure that the placement will meet the young person’s needs in the long term. It is important that, if such a situation arises, you discuss it in detail with your Supervising Social Worker and any reservations are shared. If it’s not felt to be appropriate for the child or young person to remain with you, you will still have a vital role to play in supporting the child or young person in moving on to a long-term placement.

Policy Guidance: Long Term Fostering Procedure.

Disruption Meeting

Following an unplanned ending of a long term fostering or adoption placement, a disruption meeting will be held. It is chaired by an independent chairperson. Your Supervising Social Worker will support you through the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to understand why a placement has come to an end. We try to learn how best to help the child in future. The fostering team learns about its own practice and carers usually find it helpful in developing their skills as well.

Policy Guidance: Disruption Meeting

Preparing Young People for Independence

Once a child in foster care reaches the age of 15 it is very important that plans are being looked at for when that young person moves on from the foster family. Young people leave foster care at different times depending on their individual circumstances, and other teams may be involved to ensure the right support is in place. Many young people return to their own families, some young people move on to more independent accommodation when they are sixteen, others at eighteen and a few older young people stay in care beyond that point under a Staying Put Arrangement.

A Pathway Plan is used to produce a written document that records the young person’s needs, identifies actions to be taken, and resources that need to be put in place to support young people during their transition to adulthood. Having a copy of the plan provides clarity and reassurance for the young person in relation to how their future needs will be met and who will provide support for them in relation to the different areas of their lives.  The Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations (2010) requires the local authority to take stock of the young person’s preparedness for the time when (s)he will no longer be looked after.

Policy Guidance: Staying Put

For carers working with a young person, as they approach adulthood, there needs to be a clear focus on helping them develop the necessary life skills needed to live independently and measuring the outcomes. This can be an emotional time for both carers and the young person, in taking risks and letting go.

Guidance:

HCC Leaving Care Procedures

Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers

Preparation for Independence and Pathway checklist

When this move takes place, the young person needs to be as well-equipped as possible to live independently. As foster carers you will be involved in the planning and reviewing process for this move to independence.

From an early age, children are developing their independence skills. For example, very young children learn to feed and dress themselves, so independence training is a natural part of growing up.

When young people move on to live independently there are more specific things that they must do, such as cooking, using a washing machine and managing money. For carers who look after young people who are 16+ it is expected that as part of this preparation you will be involved in identifying, with the young person, what they need to work on to move onto independence. You can help in a number of ways, encouraging them to cook themselves a meal (and do the washing up!), let them do their own washing and teach them the value of money by giving them responsibility for their own clothing allowance. You will be able to think of more together.

There is an expectation that young people who are 16+ will be allowed to manage a budget for two weeks i.e. the carer will supply the young person with money at an agreed rate with the social workers and they will support themselves for two weeks. The more this is a natural process for the young person, the easier it will be for them to manage themselves. They will also need your emotional support and encouragement as they consider their future.

Many young people, once they have moved on, maintain a positive relationship with their carers and contact is continued. Not all placements end in a positive way, and it is important you discuss your feelings with your Supervising Social Worker and seek additional support if you feel you need it.

National Insurance Numbers

This should be applied for by a young person’s social worker, once the young person has reached 15 years of age, which the social worker will request from the DWP Contributions Agency.

Ending a Placement

Carers should ensure that children who move on have all of their personal possessions, clothing and any items bought for them. Carers are expected to purchase suitcases for these and to make sure the child is prepared at the end of placement.

 

All paperwork/records you hold in respect of a child must be returned to your Supervising Social Worker or Child’s Social Worker to ensure confidentiality. Supervising Social Worker’s will make sure the necessary paperwork is completed and that payments aren’t continued once a child leaves your care.  

National Minimum Standards 2011 Standard 11.5 states:

Where children are leaving the foster family, they are helped to understand the reasons why they are leaving. Children are supported during the transition to their new placement, to independent living or to their parental home.

National Minimum Standards 2011 Standard 11.6 states:

Foster carers are supported to maintain links with children moving on, consistent with their care plan.

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SECTION 4: LOOKING AFTER CHILDREN

Who can make decisions?

Many foster carers and children who are looked after face obstacles in everyday activities, like going for haircuts, school trips and sleepovers. These difficulties can make children’s lives more frustrating.

It is expected that foster carers will be given appropriate flexibility to take decisions relating to children in their care taking account of the placement plan. Foster carers must be given delegated authority to make day to day decisions regarding things such as health, education and leisure unless there are particular reasons against this.

As far as possible foster carers must be able to make the same sort of everyday decisions that other parents make so that the child can experience as normal a family life as possible. It is also important to remember that children and young people’s views should be sought in the same way that one would do with one’s own child, and the weight given to their views must take into account their ages and vulnerability.

Delegated authority is the term used when the responsibility for making day-to-day decisions about a child or young person is passed to you as a foster carer. If you are not sure about anything, please do ask your supervising or Child’s Social Worker and they will be able to guide you.

Haircuts

Please check with the child’s parents or social worker and gain their permission for this to happen. If you are in doubt, please consult the Child’s Social Worker before proceeding with any action.

Policy Guidance: Delegated Authority.

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SECTION 4.1 RECORD KEEPING, PAPERWORK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Handling Confidentiality and Sensitive Information.

As a carer you will receive a lot of confidential and personal information regarding the child you are to look after, and possibly on their family. This information should not be shared with others unless there is a need for them to know, and when in doubt please seek advice from your Supervising Social Worker. It is natural for friends and neighbours to be curious, but polite, tactful and firm refusal to discuss the child’s history usually prevents further questions.

Electronic Forms and Paperwork

HCC expects all foster carers to keep secure electronic records for all of our children and young people as these are easier to understand and store on children’s files. Please send records only via the secure email system.

Any paper-based information you produce or receive should also be securely stored, such as in a locked or safe cabinet. When a child moves on you should pass all paperwork to the Child’s Worker or your Supervising Social Worker.

HCC has a legal responsibility to ensure that all data it obtains is accurate, relevant, up to date, and that it is securely stored for no longer than it is necessary, or in accordance with record retention policies. HCC will notify the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) if there is a data breach.

Foster Carer Recording and Diary Sheets

Record keeping is a vital part of being a foster carer. It helps to give a picture of the child you are looking after. It can provide useful for understanding what triggers particular behaviour, how children respond to contact or whether a particular way of working with the child is better for developing the right support. It gives us all a chance to reflect on a child’s progress.

•    Diary sheets (DS1’s) will be sent electronically to you by your Supervising Social Worker and should be used for all daily/ weekly records.

•    Separate DS1’s should be used for individual children. Siblings must have their own DS1 record and must not be grouped together onto one record.

•    If foster carers are not keeping electronic notes of children, they must hand write recordings on individual DS1 diary sheets.

Foster carer records are a significant part of the child/children’s history and will be used to inform care planning. During court proceedings, carers may be asked to comment on how children are in placement. A training course on record keeping is available and some guidance is also below.

Why is it important for Foster Carers to keep a record?

•    Maintain history for the child or young person

•    Protect foster carer from allegations

•    Opportunity to reflect on placement and learn from mistakes and good ideas

•    Highlight training and development needs

•    Highlight issues for the child or young person

•    Provide continuity for the child or young person

•    Look at patterns of behaviour

•    Court proceedings

What should I be recording?

•    Day to day record (brief)

•    Improvements and achievements of the child

•    Any changes or concerns in behaviour or mood – including details of actual behaviour observed, what was happening before it started and your or anyone’s response to it

•    Dates or times child is away from foster home – friends, missing, away with family

•    Specific incidents, events or changes in circumstances of family members

•    Disagreements or complaints concerning any family members and how you dealt with it

•    Disclosures or allegations from child about abuse or neglect

•    Accidents or injuries (even if slight), any incidents of violence, distress or dangerous occurrences  

•    Dates of meetings, attendance and decisions (sometimes these will be part of minutes sent out to you)

•    Any medical appointments and treatment/decisions from these

•    Contacts with school, social worker, family  

•    Contact visits, child’s responses or moods before and after

•    Requests for help or assistance, advice or guidance given

•    Occasions when alternative carers have been used, e.g. babysitters, with details of who they were and what they did

•    Details of any damage or theft by the foster child

•    Involvement with police – reasons and outcomes

What should I do with the records once they have been completed?

•    Foster carers should send their records via secure email to their Supervising Social Worker, no less than once a month.

•    Foster carers should use the secure email to send their recording to their Supervising Social Workers this should be documented during monthly supervision.

•    Any accidents or violent incidents should be recorded on individual recording sheets and sent electronically (or given by hand) to Supervising Social Worker.   Foster carers must notify social workers of accidents and violent incidents as soon as possible.

Policy Guidance: Foster Carer Recording Policy.

Access to Records Policy

Young people have a right to see records that are written about them, so it’s good practice to share everything you write with the young person as you go along. This can also be a useful way to discuss difficult matters and build up trust between you.

Policy Guidance: Access to records.

As a carer, you are also entitled to view records or information we hold on you. You can discuss this with your social worker.

Leaflet: Your access to your records.

Disclosures from Children

A child may want to tell you something if you promise not to tell anyone else. You must never agree to this as the information they give may be a child protection issue or may be relevant during care proceedings. Support the child and show that you are willing to listen to them whilst letting them know that you may have to let their social worker know what they have said. If a child does disclose abuse, listen to what they say but do not press them for further information. Let the Child’s Social Worker know as soon as possible. Make sure you record what the child has said and share with your social worker at the earliest opportunity.

The Child’s Story     

You may need to discuss with your foster child how they can explain to new friends, your children and relatives the reasons why they are living with you, instead of their own family.

Photographs

During a child or young person’s stay with you it is important to take photos of the important events and occasions in the child’s life. These photos often form part of agreed life history work. Your child living with you may want photos of yourself, members of your family and pets, as well as such events as birthdays, holidays, school events and Christmas.

Keep in mind safeguarding principles when taking photographs and ensure the child or young person’s permission has been sought. Please remember:

1.    Do not take any photographs where any child is not appropriately dressed.

2.    We would also ask that you do not post any photos of your child on social media.

3.    You cannot give consent for a child’s photograph to be published and if their school or anyone should approach you for this purpose, please contact the Child’s Social Worker.

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SECTION 4.2: WORKING WITH CHILDREN FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS

Identity and working with children from different backgrounds.

In order to understand other people’s identity, it helps to understand our own. This can help us think about the differences between us and the children that we care for and their families. You might need to think about meeting additional needs. You and your family should try and spend some time thinking about your own identity before you start caring.

A person’s identity is made up of many things, including some of the below:

•    How we look, including our skin colour

•    How we dress

•    How we sound and the language that we speak

•    Our views

•    Our family values and traditions

•    Our religious beliefs

•    Our family history and background

•    Our relationships, including our gender and sexual orientation

It's important for you to develop and promote a child or young person’s identity, particularly when they are not living with their own family. This is a right for all children, and is reflected in the Children’s Act 1989, which includes the following key principle:

The child’s needs arising from race, culture, religion and language must be taken account of.

We all need to think about how we promote or protect our identity and that of the children we look after. It is important to be able to respond to individual religious /faith needs and take part in different festivals, we may do this by celebrating Christmas, Eid and other cultural festivals.

At the beginning of any placement the PRF (child’s referral form), and their care plan should set out the child’s culture and heritage needs. Consideration to these should be discussed and recorded at the Placement Planning meeting. We must ensure that child’s background and cultural identity, is considered and how any of these additional needs will be met in placement.

Where children are placed with you from different backgrounds or cultures, we will provide additional training and support and information. This will make sure that the child or young person receives the best possible care to develop a positive understanding of their background and heritage. Your Supervising Social Worker will also talk about this during your supervisions.

Culture

Culture is part of all children/young people’s identity and heritage. All foster carers will respect and value a child’s cultural heritage.

Culture describes the way we live their lives. It's based on many different factors, such as memories, common experience, background, language, racial identity, class, religion and family attitudes.

Sometimes conflicts can arise in foster homes between the way you are used to living and the ways that the child or young person is used to. You may worry about what is the right thing to do.

Examples can be as simple as eating at the table, or religious observance. You should talk to the child and their family (where appropriate) to try and understand what their views are and find a way forward. Your Supervising Social Worker and/or the Child’s Social Worker can also provide help.

Language

A child whose first language is not English may be placed with you. Language is an important part of a child’s identity and culture. Every effort should be made to preserve a child’s linguistic and communication skills.

Black children will have particular practical needs in relation to their identity. Their hair and skin care may be different, toys and educational material such as books and DVDs and birthday cards should reflect black people. These will promote their sense of black identity.

You should look for ways in which you can promote the child’s identity. Discuss this with your Supervising Social Worker and the Child’s Social Worker. This information will be important should the child return home or move to another carer.

Religion

All birth parents have the right to determine their child’s religion. As a carer it is your job to support the child’s religion and any religious practices.

Some parents may express strong preferences, if they do then we will do our best to support this which may be reflected in the choice of a foster family for the child.

Disability

A child or young person’s disability is a part of who they are and the arrangements that are made to meet their needs are a part of respecting their identity.

Policy Guidance: Equality and Diversity.

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SECTION 4.3 OVERNIGHT STAYS AND TRIPS

Passports for Children – Trips Abroad

If a child may be looking to travel abroad, either for a school trip or holiday, it is important for carers to engage in early discussion with a child or young person’s social worker to make sure a current passport is available. Applications for a passport for a child looked after can sometimes be complicated depending on the legal status of the child and parents will need to be consulted and the necessary consents gained. Your Child’s Social Worker will be able to guide and advise you through the process, so please let them know as soon as possible.

Childcare/Sleepovers/Overnight Stays

It is paramount that arrangements for sleepovers, overnight stays and childcare are made in such a way that safeguard a child’s best interests and welfare.

Foster carers must ensure that the person who cares for the child is trustworthy and suitable to look after the child in their care. All regular arrangements for babysitting or childcare should be discussed with the Supervising Social Worker and written into the placement agreement at the outset of the placement. For regular arrangements, a DBS may be carried out although this is not likely to be required where a child is having a sleep over with friends.

Policy Guidance: Overnight Stays Policy. This guidance covers details about sleepovers, one-night stays and prolonged stays.

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SECTION 4.4: BEHAVIOUR, BULLYING AND MISSING

Promoting positive behaviour and the use of safe holding/restraint.

It is important for you to complete The Safer Caring Family Policy prior to approval and update this regularly with your Supervising Social Worker and as a minimum at each Annual Carers Review and/or for new placements. This will guide you throughout the placement to think about staying safe and potential needs.

You should be recording in your diary sheet, especially any matters of concern regarding behaviour that challenges. Make sure the Child’s Social Worker is aware of these matters.

Meeting with other carers in support groups can be an excellent source of support if you have difficulties. View our Foster Carer Support Offer. Do not be afraid to ask your social worker for practical and emotional support. You are entitled to it and we want to support you as much as possible.

Restraint should only be undertaken if it is necessary to prevent serious physical injury to the child, other people or to property. Restraint is not a behavioural management technique and, if required, you should complete an incident form and discuss the matter with your Supervising Social Worker/Child’s Social Worker as soon as possible. If an incident happens out of hours, please notify the Safeguarding out of hours teams immediately on 0300 123 4043.

If it is essential to restrain a child, it should be done using the minimum force necessary and for the shortest time possible. If it has been identified that a child may need to be restrained, then you should undertake training so that any restraint is carried out safely. Your Supervising Social Worker will assist you in accessing this training through the Learning and Development team.

Policy Guidance: Keeping Safe, Promoting Positive Behaviour and Relationships in Foster Care

Preventing/ Responding to Bullying

Follow the link below to identify what you need to do if you become aware that a child in your care is being bullied. The guidance we have produced also covers topics such as online bullying, carers who may be bullying others and working with young people who may bully. We would encourage you to read thus guidance if any of the above is a concern for you, and to discuss any actions with your social worker.

Policy Guidance: Responding to and preventing bullying.

Missing Children

During normal office hours you should inform the Child’s Social Worker or duty worker and seek their advice. Out of office hours, carers should contact the Children’s Services Out of Hours Service to alert them to the child being missing on - 0300 123 4043.

You will also need to contact the police: Emergency line, 999. Non-emergency line, 101.

Policy Guidance: Missing Protocol from the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Partnership

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SECTION 4.5: ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FOSTER CARERS

What happens if an allegation is made against me?

All of our carers will receive the training and support to help provide a safe environment for both the child and foster family. Occasionally, allegations can be made against carers or those in the family. This can create a difficult and sometimes distressing situation for the family; however, it is important we thoroughly investigate for both the child and you. We will support you throughout the investigation process. You are entitled to independent support, to provide you with additional support during an allegation or quality of care concern. It is recommended that you read the policy guidance regarding Allegations against foster carers, details below,

How can I reduce the risk of a false allegation being made?

Whilst this is not always possible, there are some things you can do to, to manage any risk of an allegation being made.

•    Consider who in your household could be vulnerable to allegations

•    Keeping an up-to-date and completed diary sheet

•    Clarity on the behaviour expected between both you and the child

•    Developing your safer caring plan and updating it regularly

•    Getting additional training and support where you feel you may need extra guidance (for example, behaviour that challenges, safeguarding and child protection)

•    Working through any concerns with your Supervising Social Worker

•    Reporting any incidences of concern as soon as possible to your Supervising Social Worker/Child’s Social Worker/out of hours

What will happen during an investigation?

If an allegation is made to you about another person acting inappropriately toward a child, you must inform your Supervising Social Worker or Child’s Social Worker as soon as possible.

If an allegation is made against you, please note it will not be possible for your Supervising Social Worker to discuss the investigation with you until the initial investigation is completed and agreement from LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) has been given.

A referral may also be made to the Assessment Team and a social worker will come out to visit you to complete an assessment, this may include talking to your own children and foster children. The outcome of this assessment will be fed back to LADO and used as part of the decision making in the outcome of the allegation.

Foster carers will be informed in writing of the outcome of the investigation by LADO. The outcomes will be:

•    Substantiated

•    Unsubstantiated

•    False

•    Malicious

•    Unfounded

The plan for further action will include an Independent Review via an IRO (Independent Reviewing Officer). The Supervising Social Worker will also undertake a review with the foster carer and this will include the investigation into the allegation and outcome. This report will be placed on the foster carer’s record and foster carer’s will be given the opportunity to read and comment on both the IRO review and Fostering review.

Following this it will then be presented to the Foster Panel as soon as possible. Carer’s will be able to attend the panel alongside any independent advocates. The foster panel will recommend what action needs to be taken. This may include:

•    No further action

•    Additional training support

•    Change of approval

•    Decision that you can no longer foster

If a foster carer is found to have committed abuse against a child/have an allegation substantiated, a decision may be made to notify the Disclosure and Barring Service. The Fostering Service will inform you if this is going to happen in writing.

Who is the Local Authority Designated Officer?

The local authority keeps a summary of all allegations, the actions taken, and decisions made. This record is kept by the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and a copy is kept on the carer’s file, with a copy provided to the person concerned. This is to enable accurate information to be given in response to any future request for a reference and provide clarification in respect of ongoing DBS disclosures. It will also prevent unnecessary re-investigation should the allegation resurface again.

Policy Guidance: Allegations against Carers.

What support is available for me?

An allegation can be a very stressful time, and we will support you throughout the process.

•    All carers are subscribed to Fostering Network and they can help with advice and guidance at any time.

•    We can provide an independent advocate from Foster Talk, who can give advice and attend any meetings with you.

•    We can also refer you to a counselling service, Safe Space.

•    Your Supervising Social Worker will remain in contact and continue with supervision visits.

•    You are also able to access our Employee Assistance Programme, which provides counselling and general support. This is a telephone support service which you can access via 0800 1116 387 (24 hours).

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SECTION 5: SUPPORT AND TRAINING FOR CARERS AND THEIR FAMILIES

Please see the Foster Carer Support Offer and the Learning and Development Offer for the full range of support and training available.

Where can I access my training?

All of our course information and a wide range of e-Learning is available through our iLearn portal. As an approved foster carer, you should have already received an iLearn account and login details. Please logon to iLearn to view our full offer and resources for training.

What mandatory training do I have to complete?

All foster carers are required to complete training as part of their ongoing approval as foster carers (Fostering Regulations and National Minimum Standards, Standard 20, Learning & Development of Foster Carers).

Hertfordshire Fostering Service have identified a number of training courses which are essential training for all carers to complete every three years.  Completion of these courses is a minimum requirement.

The mandatory courses identified are listed below:        

•    First Aid

•    Safer Caring

•    Safeguarding

•    Record Keeping*

•    Prevent*

•    Delegated Authority*

    *Recommended for both carers, however not mandatory for the second carer

These courses have been identified as mandatory as they provide essential knowledge to foster carers to ensure they are confident and skilled in their understanding of key areas of the fostering role.  Having specific knowledge in the areas above means you will be confident in your skills and abilities in relation to a wide range of situations.  The knowledge and understanding gained will help you know how to act, signpost you to further resources to develop your understanding and ensure you are able to provide the highest quality care and support to our children and young people in care.

Even if you have previously attended courses in the past, it is vital that you attend the mandatory courses every 3 years to ensure you are kept up to date with any changes or new developments.

As part of the initial assessment to become a foster carer, all carers have to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to their own ongoing learning and development; and all approved mainstream carers are subsequently paid a Skills Payment to reflect the expectation that they keep their skills and training up-to-date. If you do not complete the mandatory training as expected, you will therefore be required to return to Panel for your approval as a foster carer to be considered.

We also hope you will find the courses useful and interesting, and a way of investing in your own development as a foster carer. We want to invest in developing your skills and knowledge to best meet the needs of the children you care for.

If you have any questions about mandatory training, please discuss with your Supervising Social Worker.

What are the TSD Standards?

The TSD Standards build on the Induction Standards for staff who work in children’s social care and have been adapted to meet the needs of foster carers, and to reflect their unique position of looking after children in their own homes. The TSD Standards provide a national minimum benchmark that set out what all foster carers should know, understand and be able to do within the first 12 months of approval (18 months for Family and Friends and Short Break Foster Carers)

They are designed to:

•    Ensure that all foster carers receive relevant induction, training and support, and continuing professional development.

•    Assist managers/supervisors in assessing the skills, knowledge and experience of foster carers and in identifying their training and development needs.

As a new carer, your Supervising Social Worker will assist you in forming a Personal Development Plan and meeting the requirements of the TSD standards.

What is the Fostering Network?

As a foster carer for HCC you will automatically become a member of The Fostering Network. The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity and membership organisation, bringing together everyone who is involved in the lives of fostered children to make foster care the very best it can be. The information you receive from them will advise you what services they offer and how you to access them.

They do have a helpline which is available to members, 0207 401 9582, or you can e-mail them on info@fostering.net

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SECTION 6: HEALTH CARE

Health Assessments/Plans

Every child who enters care will have an Initial Health Assessment (IHA) undertaken by a doctor. Review Health Assessments (RHA) will be carried out by the appropriate health professional, for example your health visitor, school nurse or Children Looked After nurse.

These are due:

For Children 0-5 years – every 6 months

For Children 5-16 years – every 12 months

You are a very important part of maintaining the child’s health and medical history.

For children under age 5 you should have their ‘red book’, record of health needs, immunisations. For children over 5 please ensure you obtain a ‘A child’s care journey” from your Supervising Social Worker. This book stays with the child/young person if they need to move between carers. Just like the red book, it records illnesses, accidents and health needs.

It is policy that you have a first aid kit in the home and at least, one of the registered foster carers in the home holds an up to date First Aid Certificate. We could look at this in a visit.

Medication

If a child who is placed with you has particular health or developmental needs, the Child’s Social Worker should be able to provide information on any medications/treatment needed and give advice on any specialist advisory or support groups. They will discuss your role in this with you.

Safe storage of medication is essential. Such as a locked cabinet, kept below 25C, out of sight and reach of children. This is monitored in supervision and unannounced visits.

Training on health issues is included in your mandatory training which covers basic health and hygiene issues, first aid, health promotion and communicable diseases.

At the time a child placed with you, you will be given; written permission from a person with parental responsibility to administer first aid and non-prescription medication, and to consent to any other form of medical or preventive treatment s may be agreed within a scheme of delegated authority. This should be recorded clearly in the Placement Plan.

After the correct training, when administering medication:

•    Check the medication is prescribed for the child you are caring for and it is within the expiry date;

•    Ensure that the child’s name, the name of the medication, and the dosage instructions are correct.

•    Check how the medication is to be administered;

•    Record each administration of the medicine including the date, time, dosage, balance, the carer’s name and signature;

•    Record the refusal or non-administration of medicine including the reason why;

•    The person administering the medication should sign the record made.

Health Professional Support Services

Any child in your care could need support from multiple health support services. It is important that you manage appointment commitments and always make sure that any appointment letters or documents are passed on to any subsequent foster carers or the Child’s Social Worker.

General Practitioner (GP), Dentist and Optician Registrations

We try and keep things consistent for the child during a placement move, so it is important to try and keep children registered with their own GP if possible. Where this can’t happen, usually due to children moving to a new area, you must register children placed with you with your own, or any convenient GP after the Initial Health Assessment has been completed.

We would also ask the same for registering your child with a convenient dentist, if a move is needed and to book a dental appointment at the start of a placement.

Carers are also expected to arrange optician appointments every 2 years, unless needed more frequently.

Policy Guidance: Health Care Assessments, Health Checks and Health Care Plans.

Healthcare Professionals

•    Practice Nurse. The practice nurse is attached to your GP surgery. You can make an appointment to see the nurse for a variety of services such as; immunisations, wound dressing, blood pressure checks.

•    School Nurses. All schools in Hertfordshire have an allocated school nurse or school health adviser. This is a visiting community nurse employed by the health trust who visits the schools on a regular basis. School nurses will be able to give advice on a variety of issues; immunisations, healthy eating, bed-wetting, behaviour, asthma, etc. To contact the School Nurse, ask the school for a telephone number. They are usually based in a local clinic. Some special schools (for children with SEND) will have their own qualified school nurse or team on site. The School Nurse may undertake Review Health Assessments annually either in school or in your home.

•    Health Visitors. Health visitors are available for support for children under five years, they also work closely with school nurses and both can offer guidance to the whole family. If you do not know who your health visitor is, contact your GP, who will be able to tell you. The health visitor may also undertake Review Health Assessments.

•    Specialist Paediatric Nurses. These nurses may visit you if you have a disabled child or a child with a particular condition, such as diabetes. Some areas also have a respiratory care nurse who can sometimes visit to discuss problems around asthma care, or she may be available for telephone advice.

For additional healthcare questions/advice, you can use the following services:

•    Pharmacist - Your local pharmacist is fully qualified to advise you on many health-related issues as well as medication queries; for example, supporting a young person to stop smoking.

•    NHS Direct - Helpline manned by trained staff to offer telephone advice 111. 

•    NHS Website - www.nhs.uk

•    Spectrum Family and Young People’s Service  -– confidential service offering specialist help for young people (under the age of 18 years). Please contact them to discuss any concerns you may have around substance misuse. They will be able to provide helpful information and support.

•    Young MindsYoung minds. Website providing resources for mental health and emotional support.

Sexual Health/Pregnancy

Exploration, puberty and adolescence, the forming of emotional and sexual relationships is a natural part of growing up but can also be a difficult time. For young people within the care system, past experiences especially of abuse can make it more challenging.

Young people should be encouraged to maintain good sexual health, be able to make informed choices, avoid unwanted pregnancy, infections and emotional damage.

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/

https://www.sexualhealthhertfordshire.clch.nhs.uk/

Emotional Health (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire)

Local authorities are required to collect information on the emotional and behavioural health of children and young people in their care. This is as some children in care may have greater mental health or emotional needs. This is done using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for each child or young person.

As a carer you will also need to complete an SDQ for yourself, which will help us understand your experience of the child/young person in your care. Both SDQs will be sent to the Independent Review Team with a covering letter and should be completed in consultation with your Supervising Social Worker and involving the child/young person.

Policy Guidance: Emotional Health & The SDQ.

Smoking and e-cigarettes

Carers are discouraged from smoking and are expected to discourage foster children and young people in the same way.

Current guidance from the Fostering Network is that although there are no known contraindications to using e-cigarettes, it should be avoided by foster carers and adopters around children due to its negative role modelling of smoking (2017). It is not however a reason not to apply or become a carer or adopter.

Policy Guidance:  Smoking Policy.

Fostering Network: Statement on Smoking.

Alcohol

It is important for carers to understand the impact of alcohol on their functioning and also the effects on children they are looking after. If children have lived in a household with a parent who has suffered with alcohol problems, they may have worries about seeing their carer consume alcohol. Foster carers are role models for children in their care and should be aware of this when drinking at home. Carers must also be aware that they may need to have somebody available to care for or transport children in an emergency.

Policy Guidance: Alcohol Consumption.

Bloodborne Diseases - HIV/AIDS

Carer’s will be informed if the child they are caring for has HIV. In some cases, it may be that we are not aware of it. We advise carers to use protective measures around children to ensure that any such viruses are not spread.

Confidentiality is extremely important if your child has been diagnosed with HIV. Telling someone about the HIV status of a child should only be done with the child’s consent unless there is significant risk to others.

HCC has a policy on protective measures to stop the spread of blood-borne viruses (Hepatitis A, B and C, HIV), confidentiality for children with a virus diagnosis and testing.

Policy Guidance: Blood Borne Viruses – Protecting Children Looked After.

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SECTION 7: HEALTH & SAFETY

The fostering service has a duty to ensure foster carers are able to provide a safe, healthy and nurturing environment for children and young people looked after.

To ensure this requirement is met, your home will be inspected at the time of your assessment as foster carers, and thereafter annually, unless it is decided by the manager of the fostering team, in consultation with your Supervising Social Worker, that an inspection should take place sooner. A health and safety checklist is completed during each inspection.

The health and safety checklist provides a comprehensive list of requirements to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in your care. Your Supervising Social Worker will need to ensure that:

•    Your home can comfortably accommodate all who live there.
•    Your home is warm, adequately furnished and decorated, and is maintained to a good standard of cleanliness and hygiene.
•    Each person or young person placed with you has their own bed, and the accommodation arrangements reflect the child or young person’s need for privacy and space or for any specific need resulting from their particular circumstances, for instance a disability.
•    Any safer caring issues about abuse suffered by a child or young person are taken into consideration when a placement is made.
•    Your home and immediate environment are free of avoidable hazards that might expose a child to risk of injury or harm. You must use suitable equipment, for instance, stair gates and fireguards, appropriate to the child’s age, development and level of ability.
•    Your transport is safe and appropriate to the child or young person’s needs. This includes having correct seatbelts, an up to date MOT, and appropriate insurance.

Your Supervising Social Worker should be able to answer any specific queries you may have, or if not, will be able to suggest the appropriate person to offer the correct advice.

Your local fire service will freely advise on fire safety in the home and ensure that you have an escape plan in the event of a fire, and that smoke alarms are fitted correctly.

Request a free Safe and Well Visit.

Computer/E Safety and Social Media

Policy Guidance: Children Looked After and Social Media.
Social media and the internet are a way of life for children now from an early age. The internet can be a valuable source of information and helping people to keep in touch. However, it can also pose a risk to children and certain websites will be age specific (Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and more).

Technology and social media can also be used to coerce, control and track the movements of young people, and can be central in the organisation of county lines, criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation. Understanding if the internet may have been a factor for abuse in your child’s background, may mean you need to put additional safeguards in place.

Your child’s social media usage and any safeguarding measures needed will be agreed during your Family Safer Caring Plan. Your Child’s Social Worker will be able to advise on how best to keep your child/young person safe online.

It is still important for carers to:

•    Always encourage responsible and safe use of mobiles and the internet. Ensure usage is supervised where possible and that appropriate parental blocks are in place.

•    If you're concerned that a child or young person is being bullied over the internet or phone, you should talk to them about it, record what is happening in your diary sheets and speak to their social worker as soon as possible.

•    Talk to children about how to use the internet safely, this will be covered in our CEOP and internet safety training.

Policy Guidance: Responding to and Preventing Bullying.
Useful Websites:
•    NSPCC – Online Safety
•    CEOP
•    ChildNet
•    Fostering Network – Safer Caring in a digital world.

Car Safety Tips

•    Never carry a child in a rear facing child seat in the front of a car that has a passenger air bag.
•    Make sure the seat is correctly installed by following the fitting instructions precisely. Children under 3 years must use a car seat. All children under 12 and under 135cm (approx. 4’5”) must use an appropriate car seat.
•    The number of people carried in the rear of your car must not exceed the number of seats available fitted with seat belts or car seat.
•    For a correct fit, adjust the harness each time the child uses the seat, taking into account what the child is wearing. There should only be enough room to slip two fingers between the webbing and the child.
•    Metal fittings can become hot in sunny weather, so cover the seat if the car is left in direct sunshine.
•    Do not purchase a second-hand seat unless you know its history and ensure that the correct fitting instructions are with it.
•    Check the seat regularly. If there is any sign of fraying or cuts in the webbing, replace the seat.

Please note the changes to child booster seat law from late February 2017.
Visit Child Care Seats for more information.


The car

You must make sure your car is safe and appropriate to the child or young person’s needs. This includes having correct seatbelts/car seats, an up to date MOT, and appropriate insurance (including business insurance). We would expect the car to be well-maintained and regularly serviced.

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SECTION 8: EDUCATION

As Foster carers you play an essential role in promoting the importance of education for children and young people in your care working with their school. The Virtual School is aspirational for all of our young people and we see a growing number entering University and higher education.

The Virtual school provides a link between social care, foster carers and the school.  An Education Adviser (EA) is allocated to each school and they provide direct support and advice to school.  They also regularly monitor the academic progress of the children and provide challenge to the school, so that the child’s needs are met.  The EA will also be able to help liaise with other agencies, such as Special needs and Health. You can contact the Education Adviser for your child’s school and details are available on the Virtual school website.

There is a Designated Teacher for children Looked After at each school who is your main point of contact with the school. You will be invited to attend and contribute to a termly, (3 times a year), Personal Education Plan (PEP) meeting with the school.  It will be an important opportunity for you to share your observations about how your child is in placement and their views about school.  It will also give you an insight on what aspects of their learning are being worked on in school, and how you will be able to support their learning at home.

You can find out more about Hertfordshire Virtual school, where you will also be able to find a wide range of resources such as: Information leaflets, Frequently asked questions and Guidance documents.  You will also be able to book on to education courses and conferences run by the Virtual School.

You can also contact the Virtual School via their email:

virtualschool@hertfordshire.gov.uk  or phone 01992 556 915

You can find out current information about national curriculum, testing in schools and which stage your child /young person is in the school system according to their age.

Find out more about support for special needs in Hertfordshire.

Try using these key words to further support in your search to find out how you can support your child/young person along their education journey.

Age 0-5 (Early Years/EYFS/2-year-old funding/ 3-4-year-old funding/early years setting/Designated Practitioner/Designated Teacher/Nursery/Reception/PEP)

Age 5-7 and 7-11 (Primary schools/Infant/Junior, KS1/KS2/Designated Teacher/PEP)

 Age 11-16 (Secondary schools/KS3/KS4/ Designated Teacher/PEP)

Age 16-19 (Post 16/KS5/Further Education/Colleges/Sixth Form)

If your child attends a special school to support them with their special educational needs(Special school/EHCP/Special needs/Local offer)

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SECTION 9: CHILDCARE LAW AND CARE PROCEEDINGS

Children Act 1989 and Children Act 2004

The law which states the roles and responsibilities that a local authority has in protecting children and young people is the Children Act 1989. The Children Act 1989 brought together the law relating to the care, protection and upbringing of children by private individuals and the responsibilities of the local authorities. The most important principle of the Children Act 1989 is the child’s welfare. The key principles are as follows:

•    The welfare of the child is the most important consideration.

•    The welfare of the child should be promoted by a partnership between the family and the local authority.

•    The best place for children to be looked after is within their own family.

•    Parents should be involved in planning their child’s future.

•    Children should not be removed from their families unless it is absolutely necessary to do so for their well-being. When this does happen, it should only be through a court order.

•    Legal proceedings should be a last resort.

•    The child’s needs arising from race, culture, religion and language must be taken account of.

A care order is given by a court. It allows a council to take a child into care. Under the Children Act, a council can apply for a care order if it believes a child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm. The court decides if the child can be taken into care.

Care orders last until:

•    the child’s 18th birthday

•    an order is made giving parental responsibility to another person - e.g. through adoption or special guardianship

•    the court lifts the order (this is called ‘discharging’ the order)

Policy Guidance: Legal Framework for Child Protection.

Accommodated Children – Section 20

A child may also be placed in foster care without a legal order. A child can be accommodated by Children’s Services in a placement with foster carers under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. This is ‘voluntary accommodation’. Under this section, any child or young person could be placed with foster carers with consent by their parents – there is no need for a care order.

An accommodated child can also be referred to as a ‘child in public care’ or a ‘child looked after’. Children who are accommodated under section 20 will have the same reviews and follow the same procedures as children who are subject to interim or final care orders. However, the parents fully retain their parental responsibility, and decisions are made by the parent about what is in their child’s best interest in consultation with the social worker, their child and the foster carer.

What is a Children’s Guardian?

In care proceedings, a Children’s Guardian from CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services) represents the rights and interests of the child. They spend time getting to know the child and their family before the hearing.

The Children’s Guardian:

•    appoints a solicitor for the child

•    advises the court about what needs to be done before a decision is made

•    tells the court what they think would be best for the child – including the child’s wishes and feelings

The Children’s Guardian will usually spend time with the child and their family. They’ll tell the court if they haven’t seen the child before they write their report. They may also talk to other people who know the family, like teachers, social workers and health visitors.

They may:

•    go to meetings about the child

•    check records and read the council’s case file

•    recommend to the court that other independent professionals help the court with advice, e.g. a doctor or psychologist

CAFCASS workers are independent – they don’t work for the council or the court.

Foster carers need to understand that as children’s guardians are involved in care proceedings in the interests of foster children, they must be for the guardian to visit the child in the foster home.

For further information please see: CAFCASS’s Role in Care Proceedings.

Legal Advice and Going to Court

The local authority has a legal department called the Childcare Litigation Unit (CLU), who can provide advice and to explain the time scales and procedures in care proceedings.

Foster carers are sometimes asked to make statements for care proceedings, and you may be asked to give some evidence in court. If this is needed, you may be called by a solicitor from CLU. They will make an appointment to interview you, so that a statement can be written about your work with the child. You may have to go to court to give evidence.

Whilst going to court can be stressful, your Supervising Social Worker will be on hand to guide you through the process. We can provide training and support to prepare you for going to court.

(Please note that the Fostering Network has prepared some helpful leaflets which can be obtained from your Supervising Social Worker).

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SECTION 11: GLOSSARY

A glossary of terminology is available for our social work procedures manual.

A glossary of national contacts maintained by Tri.X is also available.

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