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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:
The contact process
The contact process script
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