Statement of Purpose, Policy, Principles. and Aims. Dorset County Council

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1 Statement of Purpose, Policy, Principles and Aims Statement of Purpose, Policy, Principles and Aims 0.0 Principles and Aims 0.1 Dorset County Council's Foster Care Service is a part of a "Family Placement Service", Foster which plays a key Care role in the Children's Services Directorate to: * children who are looked after. * children who are in need of adoption. * children and families in need of support. 0.2 The main aim of Dorset Children's Services Directorate is to promote the wellbeing and development of each child through their childhood by: * ensuring secure care * protecting children from harm * respecting and promoting cultural ties and identity and * promoting life chances. 0.3 The principles of the Children Act 1989, 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 chapter, in Appendix 1. 0 P a g e Dorset County Council April 2015 Updated: July 2014

2 CONTENTS Page number Contents 1 1. Introduction 2 2. Aims and objectives of the Foster Care Service 2 3. Management and staffing of the Foster Care Service 4 4. Placements provided by the Foster Care Service 6 5. Other services provided for children in foster carer 8 6. Recruitment and assessment of foster carers Approval of carers by the agency Training and support The Complaints Procedure 15 1 P a g e

3 1.0 Introduction 1.1. The Statement of Purpose for the Foster Care Service is provided as required by the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, and the Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards The Statement of Purpose must be reviewed annually 1.2 Dorset County Council's Foster Care Service is a part of a "Family Placement Service", which plays a key role in the Children's Services Directorate in relation to: 2 P a g e * children and young people in care * children who are in need of adoption, and * children and families in need of support. 1.3 The principles of the Children Act 1989, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Charter of Human Rights underpin the work of the Family Placement Service. 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 or young person. 1.4 The Children's Services Directorate recognises that alternative family placement is the preferred option for meeting the needs of children and young people who are unable to live with their own families. Family attachments, cultural and ethical identity, and ties to communities through schools, religious groups, leisure activities, and friends are best promoted through family placements wherever possible. 1.5 The service aims to provide safe, secure, high quality care. This will be achieved at least to the standards laid out in the Fostering Services Regulations 2011, as amended by the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, the Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards 2011, and the Training and Development Standards The Office for Standards in Education, Children s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has a role in measuring the performance of the Children s Services Directorate and stipulate that an inspection should take place at least every three years. 2.0 Aims and Objectives of the Foster Care Service 2.1 The aim of Dorset County Council Children's Services Directorate and the Foster Care Service is to promote the wellbeing and development of each child and young person in care throughout his or her childhood. 2.2 The Foster Care Service aims to achieve good outcomes for children by striving to:

4 recruit foster carers from diverse backgrounds to reflect the needs of children and young people who are looked after by Dorset County Council; prospective foster carers will not be excluded from consideration on the basis of race/ethnicity, culture, disability, faith/religion, gender, age, or sexual orientation. recruit foster carers with an ability to keep children and young people safe and the skills to meet a wide range of physical, social and emotional needs in order to promote good outcomes for all children and young people including those from minority groups implement the Children s Workforce Development Council Training and Development Standards for all foster carers promote anti-discriminatory practice throughout the service by means of training and by challenging discrimination from any source, so that children and young people in care can be protected from prejudice provide a range of placements that can meet children and young people s needs and focus on good short term and long term outcomes through: emergency placements; short breaks; short term placements; parent and child placements; permanent placements via adoption, special guardianship, long term foster care; and placement with connected persons who are the friends or extended family members of the child and young person promote children and young people s physical, social, emotional and intellectual development through the provision of good physical and emotional health care, active educational support, and opportunities for leisure and cultural activities ensure that children and young people have access to advocacy, to the complaints procedure, and to the Children in Care Council, and that foster carers support them in this ensure that children and young people are able to actively participate and contribute to their children in care statutory review, the foster carer annual review, other consultation processes, and that their feedback is listened to and acted upon provide sufficient placements to enable children and young people who need foster care to be placed close to their birth family, for siblings to be placed together if appropriate, and to provide choice to facilitate good matching 3 P a g e

5 continue to develop the breakaway short break scheme to enable children and young people who are disabled to access short breaks when they need them, in order that they can be supported to grow up successfully within their birth family provide young people in foster placement with the option of staying put to enable them to remain in their foster placement beyond their 18 th birthday, so they continue to be supported in their transition to adulthood work in partnership with children and young people, parents and other family members, foster carers and fostering social workers, and other involved professionals from Children s Services and other agencies, to ensure a common and consistent focus on successful outcomes for children and young people in care and care leavers ensure children and young people are able to keep in contact with their birth family, and are able to maintain their family, religious, and cultural ties, provided this is safe maximise stability of placements through effective permanence planning, and the provision of support to children and young people and to their carers minimise delay in achieving long term placement outcomes for children and young people through proactive permanence planning. 3.0 Management and staffing of the Foster Care Service 3.1 Decision making, and the arrangements for management of the service, including the appointment of the Fostering Service Manager, under Regulation 10, and approval of foster carers under Regulation 27 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011, are delegated through the Director for Children's Services to the Head of Family Support. 3.2 The Fostering Service Manager is Ms Penny Lodwick, and the Senior Manager responsible for the Adoption and Kinship Service is Mr Stuart Riddle. 3.3 The Team Managers within the Fostering Service are Ms Kendra Bell, manager of the Fostering Team and Ms Jenny Warr, manager of the Adoption and Permanence Team. Posts listed below are either full time or full time equivalent, except where stated. All staff have a social work qualification, except for the social work assistants. 4 P a g e

6 3.4 Team Structures The Fostering Team consists of: Fostering Team Manager Practice Manager Mainstream: West Fostering & Duty Practice Manager Recruitment & Assessment and Private Fostering Practice Manager Children and Young people who are Disabled Fostering Practice Manager Mainstream: East Fostering & Duty Practice Manager Teenage Fostering Social Workers Mainstream Support 7.6 FTE Social Workers Assessment 3.2 FTE Social Workers Children who are Disabled 2 Social Workers Specialist Schemes 1 FTE Social Work Assistants 1 Reviewing Officers 1.4 FTE Specialist Fostering Support Worker 1 The Adoption & Permanence Team consists of: Adoption Team Manager Practice Managers 2 Social Workers 14 Social Work Assistants 1 5 P a g e

7 4.0 Placements provided by the Foster Care Service 4.1 Breakaway fostering. 6 P a g e A series of planned short term care episodes. These placements are used mainly to provide short breaks for children and young people who are disabled. 4.2 Breakaway plus fostering This is similar to the Breakaway scheme, but carers undertake to provide an agreed minimum number of nights care per year. Carers receive a set fee per month irrespective of fluctuations in the number of nights care provided each month. This scheme is provided for children and young people who are disabled and require more intensive or specialist skilled care. Children and young people who are disabled and need full time care may access any of the other schemes listed below. 4.3 Short Term fostering Mainstream short tern foster placements are provided for children and young people who may be returning to their own families or who are moving to alternative permanent placement options including adoption. Short term care provides the opportunity to assess the needs of the child/young person and prepare them for their return home or for their move to permanent placement. The duration can vary according to the needs of the child/young person and each child and young person s journey in achieving permanence will be different 4.4 Long Term/Permanent Fostering For children and young people who cannot return to their own families and where adoption or special guardianship are not being considered, a mainstream long term care arrangement can be achieved through long term fostering. The role of the carer is to offer a nurturing environment with the potential for the young person to remain with their foster family beyond their 18 th birthday. 4.5 Teenage Fostering Project Fostering is a service provided for older children and young people who have particular complex and challenging behaviours. The work is task centred, requiring regular reviews and a high input from the professionals together with the young person and their family. It is a service that may provide an alternative to a residential setting. 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 fostering fee,

8 7 P a g e receive additional training and have the capacity to provide therapeutic care. 4.6 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 contribute towards the assessment undertaken by the Horizon service, 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. 4.7 Full time Foster Placements for Children and Young People who are disabled. This is refers to the provision of full time placements for children and young people who are disabled. This may be on a short or long term basis dependant upon the child and young persons care plan. There are 3 levels of placement type within this scheme which reflect both the needs of the child/young person and the level of care required form the foster carer. Specialist training of foster carers will be expected to meet the needs of the children and young people within these placements for example feeding, medication, moving and handling and use of equipment suitable to the child and young person s needs. Level 1 is an enhanced mainstream foster placement and will often relate to those children and young people who needs are above those of similar aged children and young people. It is expected that children and young people within these placements have a higher need for mobility assistance, personal care, communication, supervision and health/medical needs. These placements can be offered within the mainstream fostering and also Children who are Disabled placement schemes dependant on the needs of the child and young person and level of care and skills required by the foster carer. Level 2 are foster placements specifically provided for children and young people with specific and higher levels of needs in respect of health/medical needs, personal care, education, social, mobility, communication and supervision. Equipment and specific training for foster carers in medical and health procedures will be essential together with communication and in areas such as moving and handling Level 3 are foster placements specifically provided for those children and young people who have the highest level of needs in respect of their health/medical needs, personal care, education, social, mobility, communication and supervision. These children and young people require the highest level of skills and level of care by the foster carer and often present with complex needs requiring specialised health and care training.

9 4.8 Independent Fostering Agency placements 8 P a g e The Children's Services Directorate also commissions placements from independent fostering agencies to ensure positive and good matches are made for children and young people with foster carers. 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. 5.0 Other Services provided for children and young people in foster care 5.1 Social Work Support Every child in care has an allocated social worker. The social worker has the overall responsibility for the child s wellbeing whilst in foster care including the child s care plan or pathway plan, permanence plan, visiting the child and young person in placement at the required statutory frequency and maintaining links with the family of the child. The social worker when visiting the child and young person in placement will see the child and young person alone and with the carers. 5.2 Fostering Social Workers Every foster carer is allocated a fostering social worker who will offer support and guidance to the carer. It is the role of the fostering social worker to ensure that the standard of foster care provided contributes positively in achieving successful outcomes for the child or young person. The fostering social worker role acts as a link between the child s social workers and the foster carers, supervises the care provided by the foster family and encourages foster carers to reflect on the care they provide in meeting the child s needs. Foster carers are supported by the fostering social worker in contributing to the child's statutory child in care reviews and will liaise with the placing social worker. Fostering social workers also provide training and support group activities for carers. Two part-time Fostering social workers have specific responsibility for completing most annual reviews of foster carers. 5.3 Independent Conference and Reviewing Managers All children and young people in the care of Dorset County Council will have a review of their care held at least every 6 months and more frequently at the beginning of a care episode or when the plan changes. All reviews are chaired by Independent Conference and Reviewing Managers, who are experienced and qualified social workers and who are independent of the case management structure. The purpose is to review the care plan for the child, to ensure that plans are child centred and take account of the wishes and feelings of the child, parents, other key relatives and professionals, and to ensure plans are progressed and

10 implemented. The review also focuses on the quality of care provided to each child, and considers the question of whether there is a continuing need for the child to be looked after. 5.4 Leaving Care Support The 16+ Looked After/Leaving Care Team become involved with the young person at the review prior to the young person's 16th birthday, for young people who are likely to remain looked after beyond 16 years. At this point the Pathway Plan, which details how the young person will be supported towards independence and adulthood, is written and a package of support is agreed. The team then become responsible for the young person following their 16 th birthday through to age 21 and beyond that to age 25 in certain circumstances. Some young people may stay on in their foster placement beyond the age of 18 if that is in their interests. 5.5 Specialist Prevention Services This in house service includes the substance use team, the adolescent support team, and the community resources team, and is available for all children and young people living in foster care. 5.6 Out of Hours Service This service is shared by three local authorities, Dorset, Poole and Bournemouth. It provides a team of social workers who are available outside office hours to offer emergency social work support to all client groups and foster carers. The service can offer telephone advice, and has access to placement information and emergency placements with foster carers and residential units. 5.7 Health Care All initial health assessments are undertaken by one of Dorset s specialist paediatricians for children and young people in care, who also complete and maintain health care plans for all children and young people in care, and ensure referral to specialist services where required. Subsequent health reviews are undertaken by the health visitor for children under 5 and by the Specialist Nurses for children in care for older children and young people. The Specialist Nurses support the whole process, and are co-located with the Fostering Team. 5.8 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service This service offers therapeutic support through a range of professional services to all children and young people in care with emotional and behavioural difficulties. This includes social work, psychology, and other therapeutic specialists. Psychiatric input is available for where there are more severe mental health difficulties. Specialist advice, consultation, and support is also offered direct to foster carers and Fostering Social 9 P a g e

11 Workers. 5.9 Education A Personal Education Plan (PEP) is drawn up for each child in care. Foster carers are expected to act as an advocate and good parent in supporting children and young people in placement achieve at least good school attendance, assisting with homework, and together with parents, participating in Parent-Teacher events at the school, especially where young people are moving from one Key Stage to another; transferring from primary to secondary school; deciding on GCSE options and making other important decisions such as sixth form and college applications. Dorset has a specialist team of workers who operate a virtual school for children and young people in care, to ensure that their particular needs are prioritised through Personal Education Plans, and their readiness for learning assessed, progress monitored, but also supported where there is a need for accelerated progress to be made. There is a Designated Teacher in every Dorset school with responsibilities for liaison, educational monitoring and pastoral care for children and young people in care who draws up the Personal Education Plan in partnership with the Social Worker, Virtual School team member and young person and foster carers. The short and longer term objectives in the PEP can be financially supported by both Pupil Premium funding and the Higher Needs budget, both funding streams managed by the Virtual School Children s Rights Service Action for Children, Dorset Children s Rights Service and Advocacy Service assist children and young people to have a voice in the services that are provided for them. The Service will provide support for children and young people in care, assist them at their statutory reviews, provide training for young people to run Total Respect courses for Children s Services staff, foster carers, and elected members, provide training for young people to join interview panels for staff appointments, and assist young people s representation on the Corporate Parenting Board. Action for Children are commissioned to facilitate a Children in Care Council ( Dorset Kidz ) to further improve the influence that children and young people can have on the development of services. 6.0 Recruitment and assessment of Foster Carers 6.1 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 a particular child. 10 P a g e

12 6.2 Persons expressing an interest in fostering are offered a telephone consultation with a Fostering Social Worker, followed if appropriate by an initial assessment visit. If both parties are in agreement, stage 1 of the assessment process is undertaken, during which basic information is gathered and shared, and statutory checks and references are carried out. At the end of stage 1, a decision is made about whether applicants appear potentially suitable to become foster carers, and if the outcome is positive, stage 2 of the assessment proceeds, in which a detailed and through assessment is undertaken. The two stages can be run concurrently if the potential applicants are in agreement which avoids delay and enables the carers to attend training. The whole process from initial application to an agency decision whether to approve should be concluded within 8 months. 6.3 The assessment process for foster carers follows the requirements of: the Fostering Services Regulations 2011, as amended by the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013; the Children Act Guidance Volume 4: Fostering Services, Chapter 5; requirements concerning the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS); and the Fostering National Minimum Standards The full assessment across stage 1 and 2 will include: * DBS checks on all members of the household aged 16 or over * checks of Social Care and local agency records * full medical assessments with their GP, with a review by the agency medical advisor * at least two personal references in writing, with follow up personal interviews * a third employers reference if the applicant is or has been employed in working with children and young people * the completion of a full employment record, and personal history * extensive interviews, both individual, and together where a couple is applying * interviews with children of applicants, where appropriate * contact with former partners where appropriate * training based on the Fostering Network course, and * completion of assessment forms 11 P a g e

13 7.0 Approval of Carers by the Agency 7.1 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 Family and Friends Carers ( connected persons ), and makes recommendations to the Agency Decision Maker. 7.2 The completed assessment form is presented to the Fostering Assessment Panel by the assessing social worker. Applicants are invited to and are expected to attend the Panel meeting. 7.3 The Panel is chaired by a person independent of the Children's Services Directorate. The Panel central list includes two elected members of the County Council, and usually meets at fortnightly intervals. 7.4 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 * 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 and young people locally * advise on the overall management of the service and any other matters referred by the Head of Family Support. 12 P a g e

14 7.5 In arriving at recommendations about individual applications the Panel is guided 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. 7.6 Panel recommendations are made to the Agency Decision Maker, who makes the decision on behalf of the Agency about approval, and terms and conditions. 7.7 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 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. 7.8 As of 30 April 2014 there were 285 foster carers (158 Households) approved by Dorset County Council not including 54 carers (39 households) approved to specifically look after family members or friends and 22 Carers ( 15 households) specifically caring for children and young people who are disabled on a short breaks. There were 173 children and young people placed with DCC foster carers and 51 children placed with friends and family. There were 25 children and young people placed with foster carers provided by independent fostering agencies. 7.9 Central List of Panel members: Frances Thompson Independent Chairperson Marina Braney - Team Manager, Dorset Children s Services Stella Gillies Social Worker, Dorset Children s Services Julian Baker Social Worker, Dorset Children s Services Susan Jeffries - Elected Member, Dorset County Council Michael Bevan - Elected Member, Dorset County Council Stephanie Taylor - Independent Member Jacki Fiander - Independent Member and Vice Chairperson Bob Tait - Independent Member 13 P a g e

15 8.0 Training and Support 14 P a g e Angela Ironside Independent Member Saharow Ferguson Independent Member Heidi Osborne Independent Member Agency Adviser (not a member of the Panel): Jim Chamberlain, Policy Manager, Dorset Children s Services Medical Advisers (not members of the Panel): Dr Phyl Wylie and Dr Rachel Lachlan, Paediatricians. Legal Adviser (not a member of the Panel): Dan Menaldino, Principal Solicitor, Dorset County Council. Panel Administrator: Richard Baker, Administrative Assistant (Policy), Dorset Children s Services 8.1 Assessment and recruitment fostering Social Workers are trained to deliver Fostering Network training. There is a requirement that all carers attend the Fostering Network Skills to Foster preparation and training programme as part of their assessment and approval as carers. Dorset has separate training to meet the specific needs of connected carers in family and friends foster care arrangements. In the case of applicants who are couples, both partners are required to attend. Additionally a raising awareness session is offered to children of carers who are of an age to benefit from it. 8.2 All foster carers will have access to the Foster Carer Handbook which details local policy, information about fostering terms and conditions, guidance about requirements concerning care and control of children and young people, 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 Carer Agreement upon approval, in line with Schedule 5 of the Fostering Services Regulations 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, child (if age appropriate), parent(s), the Family Placement Officer, and the child s social worker. 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. 8.4 Once carers are approved they are offered support visits every four weeks initially, and regular telephone contact. There is an expectation that carers attend additional training in specific issues and

16 15 P a g e developments. Details of the support visits will be recorded and placed upon the foster carer s file. All foster carers can expect one unannounced visit a year. 8.5 All foster carers will be offered support to achieve the Workforce Development Council Training and Development Standards within 12 months of their approval. 8.6 The fostering social worker support and supervision visits 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 and young people placed. 8.7 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 with other carers. The Directorate can also offer the assistance of sessional workers where there is a particular need for additional direct support to the placement. 8.8 Every carer will have a Foster Carer annual review. Cares are to which expected to contribute and reflect on their experiences of fostering as a family and the care they have provided.. The review will address matters relating to training, development, conditions of approval, compliments and difficulties will be covered in the review. 8.9 The County Council funds membership of the Fostering Network for all Dorset County Council carers, including connected person s 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 All carers are invited to the Fostering Forum and to monthly support group meetings which are used as consultation and feedback opportunities in relation to service development issues The Children s Services Directorate will ensure prompt payments of allowances and fees to foster carers and the weekly amounts payable are reviewed annually. 9.0 The Complaints Procedure 9.1 There is a Children and Young People's Services Directorate Complaints and Representations Procedure that complies with the requirements of the Children Act All foster carers and all children and young people who are looked after receive a copy of the Complaints and Representations Procedures, and the leaflets are also readily available upon request from social work staff. The Children s Services 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.

17 9.2 During , there were no formal complaints by children and young people in respect of their foster placement. There were eleven occasions in which concerns were raised regarding foster care and these were managed under the managing allegations and concerns policy for DCC. None of these concerns resulted in the de-registration of carers. In the same period, one complaint was received by a foster carer regarding the lack of recognition they received as foster carers, this was acknowledged and upheld. Sara Tough Director for Children s Services April P a g e

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