Dorset County Council

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1 Dorset County Council FOSTER CARERS HANDBOOK 2011 Edition - 1 -

2 Dorset County Council Children s Service Directorate Foster Carers Handbook 2011 Edition Dear Carer Thank you for your commitment to supporting Dorset s children. We are proud of the work that takes place across the county and value the family care that you provide to children and young people who are unable to live within their own families. Through you, our Foster Carers and your families, we can achieve and provide the very best standards of family care and ensure that Children in Care have the opportunities they need to develop and reach their t potential in every way possible. In this handbook you will find guidance on all the key issues and procedures for foster carers. If you need clarification on any aspect of the handbook or have any suggestions for improvements in the next edition, please speak to your fostering social worker or Dorset Fostering Service. We hope you will find this guide will be useful. It will be regularly updated by the fostering team. If you have suggestions for improving the contents then please let us know as we want it to meet your needs. Thank you again for your commitment to Children and Young People in Dorset. With Best Wishes The Fostering Team and Children s Services Directo torate - 2 -

3 SECTION 1 INTRODUCTION Welcome to the Dorset Foster Carer Handbook. We hope that you will find this book an invaluable source of information on matters relating to Fostering. Dorset County Council s Foster Care Service plays a key role in the Children s Services Directorate for: Children in care Children who are in need of adoption and Children and families in need of support. Our aim is for every child and young person, whatever their need and circumstance, to have the support they require to achieve their potential in every aspect of their development. The developmental areas in which children achieve their potential are often referred to as outcomes which were first summarised in the Green Paper Every Child Matters: Change for Children 2003; Be Healthy Stay Safe Enjoy and Achieve Make a Positive Contribution Achieve Economic Well-being - 3 -

4 The Government White Paper Care Matters: Time for Change 2007, outlined the importance of children in care receiving the highest possible quality of care. There is the ongoing need to improve the gap between the quality of lives of children in the care and those of other children. Improving outcomes for children and young people in care underpins all of the development work of our fostering service. The outcomes are mutually reinforcing. For example, children and young people learn and thrive when they are healthy, safe and engaged. We have a commitment to ensure that the fostering arrangements made for children in care enable them to receive the security; support and schooling they need to reach their full potential and lead a happy and fulfilled life. We are strongly committed to this vision and ethos and echo our commitment through our mission statement: Mission Statement; Dorset Children s Services Directorate: To improve the lives of all children and young people and narrow the gap so that the experience of the majority is the experience for all - 4 -

5 SECTION 2 STATEMENT OF PURPOSE, POLICY, PRINCIPLES AND AIMS Dorset County Council Children s Service Directorate, though the Children s Trust Board has a vision of how they would like it to be for all children in the county: that children and young people in Dorset will be happy and safe and will have the opportunities to reach their goals as responsible members of their community. We will make Dorset a better place for all children and young people. We will ensure that young people are at the heart of all we do. We especially want children and young people in care and those who have left care to have the same or better experiences as other children and young people. We want them to feel they have the world at their feet - 5 -

6 Dorset has made a pledge to all children and young people in care and those who have left care that covers important areas including professionals working, keeping children safe, keeping promises, listening, allowing young people to live their life and helping young people move on into adulthood. A copy of The Pledge can be found on the fostering page of the Dorset for You website. Dorset Children s Services Directorate recognise that a substitute family placement is the preferred option for meeting the needs of children who are unable to live with their own families. Family attachments, cultural and ethnic identity, ties to communities through schools, religious groups, leisure activities, and friends are best promoted through local substitute family placements wherever possible. Dorset Foster Care Service is committed to promoting diversity and antidiscriminatory practice. The service aims to develop a diverse range and choice of placements for each child's assessed needs, in terms of their gender, religion, ethnic origin, language, culture, disability and sexuality. The Foster Care Service aims to meet the assessed needs of children by providing: Regular short break foster care to support families and to assist in preventing family breakdown Short term foster care to support families through crisis or in an emergency to protect a child from harm Long Term foster carer for those children and young people who are unable return home to their birth families Connected Persons placements also known as kinship or friends and family foster care for those children and young people who may be able to live with extended family members of friends - 6 -

7 Permanent care by way of special guardianship and adoption for those children who cannot return to their birth family Our Fostering Statement of Purpose which is published annually has an overview of the fostering service, placements and team. We also produce a Fostering Guide which is similar. Both of these are helpful reading for foster carers and can be found on our website. THE FOSTERING SERVICES STANDARDS Our service aims to provide safe, secure, high quality care in family settings for children who need to be looked after away from home. This will be achieved to the standards laid out in the Fostering Services Regulations 2011, the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011, and Volume 4 of The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations. These standards will apply equally to Connected Persons placements as well those placements provided through the fostering service. WELFARE PRINCIPLES As part of the Children s Services Directorate the Dorset Foster Care Service will, when determining any aspect of care for a child or a young person, give paramount consideration to the long term welfare of the child and young person. PARTNERSHIP A key aim for Children s Services Directorate is to work in partnership with: All children and young people in care, including those placed in foster care The parents and families of these children Foster Carers and their families Dorset Children s Services Directorate staff Education Professionals Health Professionals And all other professionals who support children and young people in care - 7 -

8 The principles of the Children Act 1989 and 2004, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Charter of Human Rights which underpin the work of the Family Placement Service are detailed at the end of this handbook

9 SECTION 3 DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY Dorset Fostering Services is committed to openness and equality, treating all children and families with dignity and respect. No child, family, foster carer or foster family will be discriminated against because of their disability, colour ethnic or national origins, race, gender, sexual orientation and political and religious beliefs. This policy has been written to comply with requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Disability Discrimination Act Children and Young People: refers to all children and young people regardless of race, ethnicity, and cultural heritage. No child or young person will be discriminated against because of gender; ethnicity or disability Foster Carer: In order to become an approved foster carer for Dorset applicants must demonstrate their commitment to equality of opportunity throughout the assessment process and their fostering career. Training and information about training: is available to all foster carers. We provide a Fostering Training programme in addition to the Learning and Development Training Programme for all Dorset Children s Services staff which is open to Foster Carers. We aim to provide training at venues suitable for all. Our training leaflet is sent to all Foster Carers. If you do not receive one then please contact your Fostering social worker. There are core training courses you will need to attend as well as ones which are provided for specific fostering schemes. Support: is provided consistently to all approved foster carers regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, heritage and religion

10 Placements: The Fostering Team match children and young people with foster carers based on the assessed needs of the child or young person and the foster carers ability to promote their needs, particularly in relation to race and ethnicity. Health: relates to every child and young person s right to have their health care needs met, taking into account their individual age, gender, race, culture, heritage, ability and or disability. Health incorporates emotional well being as well as physical. Education: all children and young people have the right to fair access to educational opportunity irrespective of race, culture, heritage, ability and or disability, sexual disorientation

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12 SECTION 4 NOW YOU ARE A FOSTER CARER This handbook for foster carers both new and established is designed to give helpful guidance and information on fostering procedures and practice. It is a useful reference book. Our aim is to have a common framework across all foster carers for the promotion of good practice. We have tried to cover the practice of fostering, the legal framework and the emotional implications. Not every situation you will encounter will have been covered and this guide is not a substitute for a good working partnership with your social worker. Each child is an individual with a unique personality and needs and you will need to respond accordingly

13 FOSTER CARE CHARTER Children and young people who are fostered deserve the highest standards of care, and it is the responsibility of all those involved to provide a high quality service. In Dorset all our foster carers are automatically members of the Fostering Network. The network is a very useful forum for publications, resources and support. In 2011 The Foster Carers Charter was announced by the Government and we are committed to working towards the publication of the Dorset Foster Care Charter. The Charter will be devised to value and recognise the contribution of foster carers to the lives of children in Dorset and is a pledge of commitment from both Children s Services and from you as Foster Carers. Below is the Governments Foster Carers Charter on which we will base and develop our own local charter together. Foster Carer Charter Children come first Children in foster care deserve to experience as full a family life as possible as part of a loving foster family with carers who can make everyday decisions as they would their own child and without the child feeling that they stand out as a looked after child. Children must be given every support to develop their own identities and aspirations, fulfil their potential, and take advantage of all opportunities to promote their talents and skills. Above all, they should be listened to. Local authorities and fostering services must Recognise in practice the importance of the child s relationship with his or her foster family as one that can make the biggest difference in the child s life and which can endure into adulthood. Listen to, involve foster carers and their foster children in decision-making and planning, and provide foster carers and their foster children with full information about each other. In making placements be clear about the continuing care or support there will be (including for the child into adulthood), be sensitive to the needs of the

14 foster carer and the child in making and ending placements and have contingency plans should the placement not work. Treat foster carers with openness, fairness and respect as a core member of the team around the child and support them in making reasonable and appropriate decisions on behalf of their foster child. Ensure that foster carers have the support services and development opportunities they need in order to provide their foster child with the best possible care. That includes liaising with local foster carers groups and seeking to respond to problems and disseminate best practice. Make sure foster carers are recompensed on time and are given clear information about any support, allowances, fees, and holidays they will receive including in cases of dispute with the service or during gaps in placements. Foster carers must Provide positive adult role models, treat the foster child as they would their own child, and be a pushy parent in advocating for all aspects of the child s development, including educational attainment and physical and emotional health and wellbeing and co-operate fully as part of a team with other key professionals in the child s life. Support their foster child and do all they can to make the placement work. Take part in learning and development, use skills and approaches that make a positive impact and enable the child to reach his or her potential. Support their foster child to help them to counter possible bullying and discrimination as a result of their care status. WHAT IS FOSTERING? Children who are in foster care are unique because they are not living with their own families. They come with a history of experiences that we are not always fully aware of. The role for us as foster carers and social workers is to make life as positive as possible for the child, bearing in mind that he or she may have many needs to meet. Fostering involves welcoming and caring for a child, usually not known to you or your family previously, in your home. What you have to offer the child is individual to you and your family. You will effectively share the child s care alongside parents and us

15 We all share the same aim for children in care, in that we strive to whenever possible: Maintain children within their families where appropriate. Help to re-unite the child and their family before their feeling of belonging to them disappears. Offer a child who cannot go home the greatest chance of a stable, safe happy future. As a Foster Carer you become part of a professional network all working together to meet the child s needs. It is a unique role that allows you flexibility and room to develop your own skills and it can become a way of life, rewarding, enjoyable and challenging. WHAT FOSTER CARERS CAN EXPECT FROM DORSET CHILDREN S SERVICES DIRECTORATE The right to expect that relevant regulations and practice instructions are followed by the staff in the Directorate. Acceptance of you as a valuable and important member of a professional team carrying difficult responsibilities in meeting the needs of children. To be treated without discrimination and respected as a colleague. Regular supervision from a fostering social worker. Access to the complaints procedure. Training and opportunities to develop yourself as a foster carer To be informed of the nature and detail of a concern being made against you at the earliest time that is consistent with the welfare of the child involved

16 Information about policies and procedures. Foster Care Support groups. A right to be paid expenses promptly and accurately. Regular visits to the child placed with you by the child s social worker. To be provided with specialist equipment to meet the needs of an individual child. Information about children placed with you. WHAT DORSET CHILDREN SERVICES EXPECTS FROM FOSTER CARERS Your commitment to the role of fostering and the ethos of caring for a child within your family as a parent Attendance at Children in Care meetings and any other relevant meeting appertaining to the child To promote and facilitate contact and communication with the agencies involved with the child such as school and churches etc. A willingness to work with birth parents and families Informing your fostering social worker of changes to your household and problems that arise for you An interest in developing your skills Completion of the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers (Children s Workforce Development) To attend relevant and core training

17 To respect confidentiality at all times To adhere to the Children s Services Directorate policies and procedures relating to Fostering To respect a child s religious, linguistic and cultural heritage To agree to the terms of the foster carer agreement To afford the same level of protection and care to a child as you would your own child To use the fostering allowance provided for the care of the child and only for that purpose STAFFING OF THE FOSTERING SERVICES The nominated manager of the fostering service is Mr Stuart Riddle, who is the Service Manager, Resources. The Team Managers within the Fostering Service are; Mrs Andrea Orchard, Manager of the Adoption & Permanence Team and,mrs Kendra Bell Manager of the Fostering Team. The Fostering Team consists of 1 Team Manager 1 Assistant Team Manager Mainstream Fostering 1 Assistant Team Manager Specialist Schemes (Project and Parent and Child) 1 Assistant Team Manager Children who are Disabled Fostering (full time and Breakaway short breaks) 1 Assistant Team Manager Quality Assurance and Private Fostering (part time) 4 Fostering Social Workers (mainstream support) 2 Fostering Social Workers (assessment) 2 Fostering Social Workers(children who are disabled)

18 1.5 Social Work Assistants 1 Fostering Reviewing Officer The Specialist Intensive Treatment Foster Care Scheme is part of the Fostering Team and consists of: 1 Assistant Team Manager 0.5 Family Support Officer 1 Skills Trainer 1 Specialist Teacher (part-time) The Adoption & Permanence Team consists of: 1 Team Manager 1 Assistant Team Manager 6.5 Adoption and Fostering social workers 2 Post Adoption Workers The key tasks of the Fostering Team are to recruit, support, develop and equip a diverse group of local families who can provide safe and secure family care to children and young people in care The Children's Services Directorate will also commission placements from specialist independent fostering agencies that can provide for special and particular needs, but only where these cannot be met from within our own resources. In these instances the Directorate will ensure that those agencies are registered and appropriately approved by the Office for Standards in Education, Children and Skills (Ofsted). The most recent Inspection Report provided by Ofsted will be carefully checked before using a placement. TYPES OF FAMILY BASED FOSTER PLACEMENTS PROVIDED BY THE FOSTER CARE SERVICE Breakaway fostering A series of planned short term care episodes.these placements are used mainly to provide short breaks for children who are disabled and their families

19 Breakaway Plus fostering This is similar to the Breakaway scheme, but carers undertake to provide an agreed minimum number of nights care per year, and are then paid their fee as a regular monthly income irrespective of fluctuations in the number of nights care provided each month. This scheme provides for children who are disabled and require more intensive or more skilled care. Children who are disabled and need full time care may also access any of the other schemes listed. Short Term fostering These services are directed towards children and young people who may be returning to their own families or who are moving on to more permanent looked after settings or adoption. Short term care provides the opportunity to assess the needs of the child/young person and prepare them for the next and more permanent move. The duration can vary according to the needs of the child/young person and the availability of alternative placements. Long Term/Permanent Fostering For those children and young people who cannot return to their own families and where adoption or special guardianship are not being considered, a long term care arrangement can be achieved through long term fostering. The role of the carers is to offer a nurturing environment, which may go beyond the time the child/young person leaves care at 18. Project Fostering This is a service provided for older children who have particular complex and challenging behaviours. The work is task centred, requiring regular reviews and a high input from all participants. It is a service that may provide an alternative to a residential setting

20 Project Plus Fostering Project Plus is an extension to the Project scheme and the Plus recognises that the young person placed in this scheme can often present extremes in challenging behaviour. It will usually be a singleton placement. Carers in this scheme are rewarded with an enhanced Project fee and will often be considered as an alternative to specialised out of county resources. Parent and Child Fostering Parent and child placements offer the opportunity for parents to continue to be the primary carer for their child in a foster placement. The carer will undertake an assessment jointly with the Horizon family support centre, and/or provide parenting support, as well as providing direct care to the child in the event that the parent is unable to do so. Specialist Intensive Treatment Fostering The Intensive Treatment Team provides short term placements for young people who require intensive and very structured care. Many of the requirements and features for the carers are the same as mainstream fostering, including going through the Dorset Fostering Assessment Panel. However the foster carers are given specific training in addition to the foster carers preparation. They are also paid a premium for this very demanding task. SOCIAL WORK SUPPORT Every child who is looked after has an allocated field Social Worker. The Social Worker has the overall responsibility for the child's welfare, care plan, reviewing the plan at required frequencies, regular statutory visits to the child in placement, and maintaining links with the family of the child

21 Where the child or young person is fostered, the child should be seen alone and with the carers, during the statutory visits. The child's Social Worker is responsible for ensuring that Action and Assessment Records are completed with the child or young person. This task may be delegated to a carer or trusted adult. The child's Social Worker is responsible for ensuring the child's family and other significant adults are appropriately involved, informed and in contact with the child. The worker has a duty to support carers within their primary duty to the child although there may be circumstances involving a conflict of interest, in which case the Social Worker's duty to the child will become overriding. FOSTERING SOCIAL WORKERS Every Foster Carer is allocated a social worker (a Fostering Social Worker) who will offer them support and guidance. The Fostering Social Worker acts as a link between Childcare Social Workers and the Foster Carers, assisting Foster Carers to contribute to the child's statutory reviews, and liaising with the Childcare Social Worker. Fostering Social Workers also provide training and support group activities for Carers. Dorset County Council has appointed a Fostering Social Worker with the specific responsibility of completing the annual reviews in collaboration with the Foster Carers and the Childcare Social Workers for children placed. 16+ Looked After/Leaving Care Team Preparation for Leaving Care The local authority has a duty under The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 to improve the life chances of young people in care and leaving care. The main aims are: To delay young people s discharge from care until they are prepared and ready to leave. To improve the assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care

22 To provide better personal support for young people after leaving care. To improve the financial arrangements for care leavers. Dorset County Council arrangements In Dorset, young people are referred to the 16+ Looked After/Leaving Care Team, by their child care social worker, around the young person s 16 th birthday. Part of the referral process is the completion of a Needs Assessment. This document details what advice, assistance and support the young person needs to achieve the necessary skills to make a successful transition to adulthood. Your contribution to this assessment is important and the social worker will seek your views. The child care social worker and the 16+ social worker will then arrange to meet the young person. They will try to avoid this first meeting taking place at the young person s Looked After Review but sometimes, due to timing, this can t be avoided. The social worker from the 16+ team will take over lead responsibility from the child care social worker soon after the initial introduction meeting unless there is an agreed reason for a delay, such as waiting until the young person has finished exams. The 16+ social worker will then work with the young person to prepare a Pathway Plan. You will be part of this process as your support is vital. The Pathway Plan will map out the young person s goals and aspirations for the future, look at how the young person can be supported to achieve these and who is going to help them. The Pathway Plan must be reviewed at least every 6 months, and more frequently than this if there are significant changes to the young person s plans for their future. The 16+ social worker will be in regular contact with the young person. The frequency will be written in the Pathway Plan. We would encourage you as the child s foster carer(s) to contact the 16+ social worker if you feel the young person needs additional contact or there is anything you want to discuss about their current or future plans

23 RECRUITMENT, APPROVAL, TRAINING, SUPPORT AND REVIEW OF FOSTER CARERS Recruitment of Carers includes advertising in and beyond the county of Dorset.Adjoining areas, such as Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire will receive publications featuring general invitations to apply to be Foster Carers, as well as individual specific requests for Foster Carers for featured children. The first step is an initial telephone call. This is a screening call and ensures that the essential information is acquired as soon as possible. Following these potential applicants will be offered an initial assessment visit. The assessment process for Foster Carers follow requirements of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 Volume 4 and the requirements concerning the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), and the National Minimum Standards for Fostering. The full assessment will take around six months, and will include: CRB checks on all members of the household aged 16 or over CRB checks on regular visitors to the household, if they may be involved in the care of the child on a regular basis Checks of Social Services and local agency records Full medical assessments with their GP, with a review by the agency medical advisor A minimum of two personal references in writing, with follow up personal interviews Third employers reference if the applicant is or has been employed in working with children The completion of a full employment record, and personal history

24 Fostering social work interviews, both individual, and together where a couple is applying Interviews with children of applicants, where appropriate Contact with former partners where appropriate Pre- approval training based on the Skills to Foster, Fostering Network Foster Care training programme Completion of assessment forms Following Approval, a Foster Carer Induction Programme will be in place which will hep support you in the first months of being a foster carer. Fostering Panel A Fostering Assessment Panel has been established in accordance with Regulation 25 of the Fostering Services Regulations The Panel considers all applications to become Foster Carers, including Friends and Family Carers ( connected persons ), and makes recommendations to the Agency Decision Maker. The completed assessment form is presented to the Fostering Assessment Panel by the assessing social worker. Applicants are invited to attend the Panel meeting if they wish. The Panel is chaired by a person independent of the Children's Services Directorate. The Panel includes two elected members of the County Council, and usually meets at fortnightly intervals. (Please see Appendix 2 for details). The role of the Fostering Assessment Panel is to: * consider all applications for approval of foster carers * make recommendations to the Agency in respect of applicants suitability for approval * consider and recommend any terms and conditions that should apply when applicants are approved

25 * receive the first review of newly approved carers, to consider and recommend whether the applicants are suitable to continue to act as carers * receive subsequent reviews where there is a request for a significant change of status of the carer, or where there have been concerns about the standards of care, to consider and recommend whether the applicants are suitable to continue to act as foster carers * monitor those foster carers where an exemption has been agreed for more than the usual maximum of 3 placements * consider written and verbal representations by applicants or existing carers who have been notified that the Agency is minded not to approve them as foster carers * provide quality assurance feedback on the quality of assessment and review reports. * monitor the range and type of carers available in relation to the needs of children locally * advise on the overall management of the service and any other matters referred by the Head of Children and Families Services. In arriving at recommendations about individual applications the Panel is guide by the Chair who is responsible for ensuring that recommendations are consistent with statutory requirements, national standards, research evidence, and Dorset County Council policy. Reasons for recommendations and any dissentions will be recorded in the minutes. Panel recommendations are made to the Agency Decision Maker, the Head of Children and Families Services, who makes the decision on behalf of The Agency regarding approval, terms and conditions. If the Agency Decision Maker is minded to refuse an application to foster, the Applicants will be informed, and invited to make written and/or personal representations, which will be further considered by the Panel. Alternatively applicants can ask the Independent Review Mechanism to review their application. The Independent Review Mechanism is an independent body operated by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, which makes

26 recommendations to Fostering Agencies in such circumstances. The recommendations of the Panel or the Independent Review Mechanism will be considered by the Director for Children's Services, who will make a final decision. The Panel sees and makes recommendations on first annual reviews of all carers. After the first annual review, the review process does not routinely involve the Panel, although the Panel will look at reviews referred by the Head of Children's Services where there have been significant issues e.g. a serious allegation against a carer, or when the review is indicating de-registration of the carer. In these cases the Carer is invited to make a written submission, or a personal submission, or both, which the Panel will consider. TRAINING AND SUPPORT Fostering Social Workers are trained to deliver Fostering Network training. There is a requirement that all carers, including Connected Persons Foster Care, attend Fostering Network training and preparation as part of their assessment and approval as carers. In the case of applicants who are couples, both partners are required to attend. Additionally an awareness raising session is offered to children of carers who are of an age to benefit from it. All Foster Carers will receive a Foster Care Handbook which details: local policy, information about fostering terms and conditions, guidance about requirements concerning all aspects of care, contacting the Out of Hours Service, record keeping, the complaints procedure, and child protection procedures. Every Foster Carer, including Connected Persons Carers, will be expected to sign a Foster Care agreement upon approval, in line with the Fostering Service Regulations 2011 Upon placement of a child, a placement meeting will be held to discuss the expectations, conditions and terms of the placement. This meeting will include the Foster Carers, (including Connected Persons Foster Carers), child (if age appropriate), parent(s), the Fostering Social Worker, and the child s Social Worker

27 A Placement Agreement will be drawn up, and all parties invited to sign. This Agreement will include details for contact, dietary requirements, schooling, transport (if appropriate), hobbies and leisure activities, bed times, use of the mobile phone and other such living arrangements. Once Carers are approved they are offered supervision visits every three months and regular visits or telephone contact, at least monthly. There is an expectation that Carers attend additional training in specific issues and developments. Details of the support visits will be recorded and placed upon the Foster Carer s file. All Foster Carers can expect at least one unannounced visit a year. The support visits will continue whether or not there is a child in placement, and will provide information and advice to enable the Carer to develop a consistent and quality approach to the task of caring for the children placed. Wider support will also be available to the Carers, such as loan of some equipment (i.e. cots, beds, bedding, baby equipment and fireguards), as well as occasional social events and an annual summer celebration. The Directorate can also offer the assistance of Sessional Workers who can provide direct support to the placement in required. Every Carer will have a Fostering Annual Review, to which they will be expected to contribute. Issues of training, development, conditions of approval, compliments and difficulties will be covered in the review. Changes to Approval Status are undertaken and this may involve a return to Fostering Panel, The County Council funds membership of the Fostering Network for all Dorset County Council Foster Carers. This helps to ensure that all Carers are kept informed of national developments and have access to information and support which is independent of the County Council. Foster Carers are invited to monthly support group meetings which are used as consultation and feedback opportunities in relation to service development issues in addition to providing training and general support. The Children s Services Directorate will ensure prompt payments to the foster carers, and the weekly amounts payable are reviewed annually

28 COMPLAINTS There is a Directorate complaints and Representations procedure that complies with the Children Act 1989 requirements. All Foster Carers have access to the complaints procedure. Leaflets are readily available upon request from social work staff. The Directorate is committed to approaching the investigation of complaints with a genuine wish to resolve matters and a belief that there will always be something that can be learnt when things do not go according to plan

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30 SECTION 5 CHILDREN COMING INTO FOSTER CARE PLACEMENTS BEFORE A PLACEMENT IS MADE When a social worker from the Fostering Service contacts you about a child you should be given enough information to help you decide whether you are able to accept the placement. You are not under any obligation to accept a placement. However, several refusals of children you are approved to accept will mean that a review of your availability to foster may be necessary. When making up your mind think about your own circumstances abilities, space, effect on the family relationships etc. The fostering duty worker will also be thinking about these things and hopefully a match can be made

31 When planning or making a placement, the way in which the particular skills and expertise of foster carers can meet the child s needs will be taken into account. There are two routes to placement: 1. Emergency 2. Planned Whichever way a child comes to you during the day it will be through the Fostering Service. When a social worker requires a placement for a child they complete a fostering referral form and pass it to the fostering duty worker. This form gives details of the child s needs and placement requirements. They fostering duty worker matches the child s identified needs to a foster carer who has both the skills and availability. Due to the demand for placements, we have very few vacancies and carers may be asked to take children either out of their age range or to increase their numbers temporarily. We will always identify where there are gaps in matching and ensure action is taken to meet identified needs, In an emergency there is often little time to plan or match children s needs to particular carers. Cares with a vacancy will be considered. You should never have a child placed with you without a placement agreement, information and health consent. When the emergency occurs out of office hours, the same procedure applies and the Out of Hours Emergency Duty Team will manage the placement of the child with you. Our aim, whenever possible, is to plan the introductions for the child that will be placed with you. This may take place over a period of time before the placement begins and can involve tea visits, weekend stays or other activities. It is important that during the introductions carers receive information that sets out the Childcare social work involvement, the reasons why the child is coming into care, the work that has been undertaken to prevent the child needing local authority care, the future plan for the child, the short and long term needs for the child and the type of placement chosen for the child. The first Children in Care Review will be held after 28 days and it is helpful for dates to be suggested early on in the placement

32 Every child should have a Care Plan which should be agreed before a child comes into foster care, but in the case of an emergency placement it must be completed as soon as possible afterwards. The Care Plan will be supplemented by an Education Single Learning Plan and a Health Care Plan. Significant changes to the Care Plan can only be made at formal Children in Care Reviews. PLACEMENT DOCUMENTS FOSTER CARE AGREEMENT Once approved, Foster Carers are required annually to sign their fostering agreement. No child can be placed with a foster carer without this agreement being signed. The Foster Care Agreement specifies the terms of the carer s approval and the expectations of the fostering service. This is a general agreement, renewed each year following the Annual Foster Carer Review. Other documents that a foster carer needs to become familiar with are about the particular child or young person that the foster carer is asked to look after. When a child is placed and during placement a number of meetings are held and documents completed which are as follows: CHILDREN IN CARE COMPUTER GENERATED FORMS ON RAISE (Electronic database and file system) :- PLACEMENT INFORMATION RECORD Part 1 covers the immediate needs of the child in relation to language, health needs, education, emotional and behavioural development, identity, family and social relationships and social presentation. Further details that might be helpful to the carers are medical and educational history, legal situation, placement history and professional contacts. Wherever possible this should be completed before a young child/young person is placed, unless information is unavailable for example in the case of an emergency. It should be reviewed and updated at every review. Part II of the Placement Agreement should be completed whenever possible before a child is looked after, and must be completed within 14 days. When there is time to

33 plan, we try to find the most suitable placement to meet the child s needs. The child s needs will have been carefully assessed and a Care Plan completed. Usually we try to place children near to their homes and their families and with their siblings, if appropriate. We also have to satisfy the legal requirement that the child s racial, origin, cultural and linguistic backgrounds are met so far, as is practicable. A child s religion, likes and dislikes should be taken into account. In all placements a child s wishes and feelings subject to their understanding are listened to. PLACEMENT INFORMATION RECORD Part 2 follows on and gives signed agreement for the child or young person to be accommodated or in care. This is signed by parent, and when appropriate the child/ young person. It is essential that this consent to medical treatment is completed. PLACEMENT INFORMATION RECORD Placement routines sets out the day to day arrangements for the child, noting their usual routine, their medical, educational, identity and emotional and behavioural needs, contact arrangements and the social and leisure activities they enjoy. There is also a section on communication including details of how the child or young person makes their wishes and feelings known. It is an opportunity for discussion to be recorded as to how these needs and activities will be managed in placement. PLACEMENT AGREEMENT MEETING As well as the formal documents listed above The Placement Agreement Form and the Safer Caring Policy are Fostering Forms, designed and implemented to promote safe and positive placements. In the case of an emergency it should be completed as soon as possible thereafter. The Placement Agreement Meeting should take place within 72 hours of a child being placed with you. The Placement Agreement Form will be completed in conjunction with the carers, both the fostering and child s social worker as well as the child or young person and ideally a parent. It covers many of the issues covered in the Children in Care paperwork but considers how the routines and needs of the child can be met within your home and family. This is also the opportunity to agree which tasks and responsibilities can be delegated to the Foster Carer such as hair cuts and/or consents for local school trips etc

34 SAFER CARING POLICY The Fostering Social Worker and the Child s Social Worker will encourage the child or young person to consider their expectations about the placement. A safer caring policy (Day to day living in your foster home) has been developed to help prompt young people to ask more detailed questions about their care arrangements, and for carers to make it clear what routines and expectations they might have. This might include discussing how the family have meals, what sort of unspoken rules there might be about where to put dirty washing etc. It can be very baffling for a young person adjusting to being away from home, and getting used to another household. TYPES OF MEETINGS FOR CHILDREN IN CARE CHILDREN IN CARE REVIEW MEETINGS (CIC REVIEWS) Children in Care Reviews are a statutory requirement under the Children Act and the purpose of the review is to ensure that the day to day arrangements meet the child s needs and that the overall care plan is appropriate. As a minimum, the first Review for a child or young person in Care is to be completed within 4 weeks of a placement starting, and then within 3 months of the first review, and subsequently at intervals of no more than 6 months. The child, according to age and understanding, and birth parent/s, as appropriate, will have input into all the plans and reviews. Their wishes and feelings should always be recorded. An advocacy worker for the child or young person may also represent the child s views at the Review. Independent Reviewing and Conference Manager (IRCM) chair the review independently. Before the review takes place all participants are invited to contribute in writing in booklets provided. The people usually at the review will be the child or young person, the foster carer/s, the birth parent/s, the Child Care Social Worker, Fostering Social Worker and the reviewing officer (ICRM). There may also be other people who are particularly significant to the child and who all agree should attend. Young people are consulted about where they would like their review to be held and also which people they would prefer to have present. It must always be remembered

35 that the review is for the child and about them. The review must be undertaken with their wishes and feelings considered first. Reviews are frequently held in the child s foster home, which can be the most appropriate setting to help the child and adults feel at ease. In some cases there may be practical reasons, or safety issues which mean that it is best to hold the review in a venue away from the foster home. Children should be prepared for their reviews so that they understand the nature and purpose and are not intimidated by the process. The child s social worker or an advocacy worker will help with preparing the child. PERMANENCY PLANNING MEETING The objective of permanence planning is to ensure that wherever possible children grow up within a family which offers secure, stable and loving relationships with parents or carers which will meet the children s needs, support them through childhood and beyond, and enable them to achieve their full potential. Achieving permanence for a child will be the key consideration in working with children in need and their families and in working with any child who becomes looked after by Dorset. Permanence can be achieved by: Remaining with or returning to birth parents, Legal permanence with extended family or non family though a range of court orders such as residency or special guardianship Adoption Long Term Fostering Decision-making must be made within the child s timescales in order to prevent drift. Delay is damaging to a child s opportunities and life chances and delay must be kept to the minimum. Key objectives in planning for children are: To meet the child s long-term needs as soon as possible. To ensure the best possible outcomes for the child by providing an environment which encourages the child to reach his/her potential

36 To enable the child to form healthy and lasting attachments. To ensure the child feels valued as a member of a family and society. To ensure the child develops a sense of belonging and feels secure. Decision-making regarding permanence will be commenced no later than the second Children in Care review (4 months) A Permanence Planning meeting will be held to draw up a plan. Carers may be invited to this meeting or as a minimum their views will be included. Each child s permanency plan will be reviewed at least at the child s statutory reviews to ensure it continues to meet the child s needs. CORE ASSESSMENT This is a holistic assessment undertaken by the social worker in conjunction with all of those who know the child or young person in order to look at each area of their lives and comment on needs identified in order to plan to meet them. It will have been completed in preparation for a planned placement or it may be completed following a child or young person coming into care. HEALTH CARE PLAN The Children in Care s Health Care Co-ordinator will take lead responsibility for ensuring that any child in care has an holistic health assessment and from this a plan to meet their health needs. This plan is reviewed and further assessments carried out with the child at regular intervals. Unless the placement is made in an emergency, the social worker will arrange for the child to have a health assessment. The regulations state that this should be before placement, but is not reasonably practicable, then as soon after placement as possible. SINGLE LEARNING EDUCATION PLAN Every child in Care will have a Single Learning Plan, setting out their needs in relation to education. This is reviewed on a regular basis, with the Child s Social Worker taking responsibility for ensuring it is completed

37 CHILDREN FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES & RELIGIONS The law requires us to take a child s racial, religious and cultural needs into account both when determining a care plan and when deciding on a placement. Our aim is to match a child s needs with an appropriate family, but this is not always possible. Whilst trans-cultural placements will be a reality for some time to come, it is important to acknowledge that these placements require special thought and consideration. Foster carers are committed to helping children settle into their homes. They work to help the child fit into their family and community and do not wish to dwell on the differences between their family and the child. However, the reality is that they are different because they are from a different background which may involve special diets, religious observances and family custom. A child s cultural background is fundamental to their identity and as such, needs to be maintained and encouraged and you, as foster carers, can help in this and reduce potential confusion. You will need to be committed to the notion that this is a special task requiring careful consideration. PRACTICAL IDEAS ABOUT HOW FOSTER CARERS MIGHT HELP ENCOURAGE CULTURAL IDENTITY The practical ideas that follow have four important aims:- To promote the child s cultural identity; To give the child positive images of their identity; To prepare the child for the society in which they will be growing up; To learn about and share in the child s culture. The following is a list of some of the ways in which you can actively involve yourself in your foster child s culture. The list is by no means definitive but does include some important ideas: Find out about special dietary rules. Find out about essential cultural customs, like hair and skin care. Make sure you have a stock of appropriate toys, books, etc. Find out about the rules of religious observance. Involve yourselves and the child with other families that reflect the child s heritage

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