South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

6.1.3 Recruitment, Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Fostering Agency Transfers Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was extensively updated in April 2014 in line with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, which came into force on 1 July 2013, and revised Statutory Guidance. A new two-stage assessment process was introduced. For temporary approval as foster carers of approved prospective adopters, see Section 8, Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters of the Placements in Foster Care Procedure. The chapter should be re-read throughout.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Statutory Guidance
  3. Initial Enquiries
  4. Initial Visit and Assessment Stage One
  5. Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer Assessments
  6. Checks and References
  7. 'Skills to Foster' Training
  8. Home Study - Assessment Stage Two
  9. Prospective Foster Carers Report
  10. The Fostering Panel Recommendation
  11. Agency Decisions
  12. Representations Procedure


1. Introduction

The Local Authority's Fostering Service intends to only recruit Foster Carers who are able to meet the needs of children and young people in care.

This procedure is in place to ensure that the Fostering Service carries out a robust and thorough assessment on applicants who wish to become Foster Carers in order to secure the best possible outcomes for children and young people who are to live in their care.

This procedure also outlines the training provided by the Fostering Service for applicants who wish to become Foster Carers. This training focuses on the skills required to provide high quality care to meet the needs of each child/ young person placed in their care.


2. Statutory Guidance

Sets out how all Local Authorities should provide services and support for children, young people and families, including Children in Care.

Working Together sets out how organisations and individuals should work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people in accordance with the Children Act 1989 and Children Act 2004.

These standards and regulations replace the Foster Placement (Children) Regulations 1991 and the Fostering Service National Minimum Standards and The Fostering Services Regulations 2002. They are applicable to Local Authority Fostering Services, Independent Fostering Agencies and voluntary organisations providing fostering services under s59 of the Children Act 1989. In relation to this procedure regulations 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 have particular relevance.

Standard 13 of the National Minimum Standard:

Click here to view Standard 13: Recruiting and Assessing Foster Carers who can meet the Needs of Looked After Children

The Fostering Service recruits, assesses and supports a range of Foster Carers to meet the needs of children they provide care for and is proactive in assessing current and future needs of children.

Standard 14 of the National Minimum Standard:

Click here to view Standard 14: Fostering Panels and the Fostering Service's Decision-Maker

The Fostering Panel and Agency Decision Maker make timely, quality and appropriate recommendations / decisions in line with the overriding objective to promote the welfare of children in Foster Care.

Schedule 3

Click here to view The Fostering Services Regulations 2011, Schedule 3, as amended by the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013.

Schedule 3 provides a list of information to be obtained by the Fostering Service through the assessment of applicants to be Foster Carers and other members of their household and family.


3. Initial Enquiries

On receipt of a written or telephone enquiry, the Fostering Service Administrator is to undertake an initial check against the eligibility criteria, see Foster for Plymouth (Plymouth Council website). If the criteria are met the Fostering Service Administrator is to complete an 'Initial Contact Questionnaire', held within CareFirst, and send out an Information Pack within five working days.

As part of recording the initial enquiry and in accordance with Regulation 26 (1)(d) (which states consult and take into account the views of the local authority in whose area the applicant lives), a check is to be made on CareFirst by the Fostering Recruitment Coordinator to ascertain if the enquirer and their family are known to Children's Social Care. By 'known' we mean the enquirer has an open or closed case on CareFirst.

The Fostering Service Administrator is to make a follow up call within ten working days of the Information Pack being sent out to ascertain if the enquirer will be attending the information evening.

At the information evening all enquirers who wish to proceed with their enquiry are to complete a 'Take the Next Step' form.

An Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to be allocated to each enquirer.

The Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to arrange an initial visit to the enquirer's home within ten working days.

If the enquirer is a Foster Carer from another Independent Fostering Agency or Fostering Service please follow the supplementary procedures relating to Fostering Agency Transfers Procedure.


4. Initial Visit and Assessment Stage One

Stage One of the assessment process is intended to provide the decision- maker with basic information about the applicant to enable clearly unsuitable applicants to be sifted out without unnecessary bureaucracy or expenditure of time and resource by the fostering service or the applicant. More detailed information is collected in Section 8, Home Study - Assessment Stage Two.

The aim of the initial visit is to raise awareness of the nature of fostering and the effect it may have on family life. The enquirers attitudes to becoming a Foster Carer are to also be explored as part of the assessment process.

At the initial visit the Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to:

  • Obtain as much as possible of the information required by Part 1 of Schedule 3 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 (as amended) (see below);
  • Inform the enquirer about the information the Fostering Service is required to obtain about them, the confidential nature of such information and how the information will be recorded, used and stored;
  • Assess the suitability of the accommodation in the home;

    (Please see Section 4, Child Online Safety of Personal Care and Relationships Procedures);
  • Complete an Initial Visit Report.

Where a person applies to become a foster carer and it is decided to assess their suitability to become a foster carer, the following information must be obtained as soon as reasonably practicable relating to the applicant and other members of their household and family, as specified in Part 1 of Schedule 3 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 (as amended):

  • Full name, address and date of birth;
  • Details of health (supported by a medical report);
  • Particulars of any other adult members of the household;
  • Particulars of the children in the family, whether or not members of the household, and any other children in the household;
  • Particulars of their accommodation;
  • The outcome of any request or application made by them or any other member of their household to foster or adopt children, or for registration as an early years provider or later years provider under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006, including particulars of any previous approval or refusal of approval relating to them or to any other member of the household;
  • If the applicant has, in the preceding twelve months, been a foster parent approved by another fostering service provider, the name and address of that fostering service provider;
  • Names and addresses of two persons who will provide personal references;
  • In relation to the applicant and any other member of the applicant ’s household who is aged 18 or over, an enhanced criminal record certificate;
  • Details of current, and any previous, marriage, civil partnership or similar relationship;
  • The views of, the local authority in whose area the applicant lives, if different;
  • Where the applicant has previous been, or is currently, approved as a foster carer by another fostering service provider, or as a prospective adopter by an adoption agency, and consents, access may be requested to the relevant records compiled by that other fostering service provider/ adoption agency in relation to the applicant. That service/agency must provide access within 15 working days of a request being received.

Records compiled by another fostering service, or an adoption agency, can be used to inform the new assessment of the applicant’s suitability to foster. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.

Following the initial visit, the Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to complete an Initial Visit Report which is to include recommendations, which will form part of the Assessment Stage One information required by Part 1 of Schedule 3. These recommendations are to be based on the analysis of the information gathered, and are to include:

  • What issues are present which may make either the enquirer or the Fostering Service decide not to proceed; or
  • Issues which need clarification before proceeding.

Where, having regard to any information obtained, it is decided (by the Agency Decision Maker) that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, the applicant must be notified in writing with reasons. This notification may be given whether or not all of this information has been obtained. Such a notification may not be given more than 10 working days after all the information has been obtained. The applicant has no right to make representations about the decision or to have their case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism. However, the applicant must be informed that they can complain via the fostering service’s complaints process if they are unhappy with the way in which their case has been handled. The complaints process should address whether or not the applicant’s case has been handled in a reasonable way, rather than the question of the applicant’s suitability to foster.

The outcome will be recorded and the referral will be closed.

Where all the specified information has been obtained and notification has not been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable, then the application must proceed to Section 8, Home Study - Assessment Stage Two.

The Fostering Panel must make a recommendation on approval within eight months of the application to be assessed.

Note that Stages One and Two of the assessment process can be carried out concurrently, but the Stage One information must be sought as soon as possible, and the decision about whether an applicant has successfully completed Stage One must be made within 10 working days of all the information required in that Stage being received.


5. Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer Assessments

5.1 Information-sharing

Sharing information about a person that is held in their existing foster carer or adopter records is permitted for the purposes of informing a new assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.

Information that should be shared, upon request, in order to inform a new assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt includes:

  • The report of the original assessment of the person’s suitability to foster or adopt (if it is considered by the body requesting the information to be recent enough to be relevant);
  • A copy of the report of the last review of the individual’s continuing suitability to foster or adopt and any other review report considered useful to understanding the person’s current suitability to foster or adopt;
  • Details of any concerns about standards of practice and what if anything is being done/has been done to address them;
  • Details of allegations made against the foster carer/adopter or their household members; and
  • Any other information considered to be relevant to the assessment of the person’s suitability to foster/adopt.

5.2 Consent

Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with Parental Responsibility would need to be obtained). This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.

If consent is refused, the current fostering service or adoption agency should consider whether there is any information in the records that is a cause for concern. Any information about an applicant’s conduct or suitability to foster/adopt that has caused concern should be shared even if the individual has refused consent. If there are no such concerns, and the individual has refused consent, information should not be shared. This may require documents to be redacted to remove information relating to individuals who have refused consent.

Requests for access to information should be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant to the sharing of their information.

5.3 Timescales

The receiving service should acknowledged the request within two working days, seek consent from all others referred to in the information within five working days and the information, redacted where necessary, should be provided within 15 working days.


6. Checks and References

The checks and references form part of the Assessment Stage One.

6.1 Checks

The following checks are to be undertaken on all members of the household aged over 16 years:

  • Enhanced Vetting and Barring Scheme child and Adult Bared list checks (certificates are to be sought);
  • Contact with Probation, NSPCC, Health Trust and Children's Services and Vulnerable Adults Service to establish any involvement with each household member aged 16 years or over.

An application is to no longer continue if the applicant has been:

  • Convicted of a specified offence which was committed at the age of 18 or over; or
  • Cautioned by a constable in respect of any such offence which was admitted, when the caution was given.

In accordance with Regulation 26 (6) a 'specified offence' means:

  • An offence against a child;
  • An offence specified in Part 1 of Schedule 4 of The Fostering Service Regulations 2011;
  • An offence contrary to section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 in relation to importing pornography and indecent images of children under the age of 16 years;
  • Any offence involving bodily injury to a child or young person.

In the case of disclosures received from the Enhanced Vetting and Barring Service Child and Adult Barred List checks, the Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to notify the Fostering Team Manager and, upon instruction, undertake an interview with the applicant and complete a report. The Fostering Team Manager is to comment on this report prior to it being sent to the Service Manager for Permanency and Placements. (See Process for Permanency Decision Procedure). The Service Manager for Permanency and Placements is to consider this report and decide whether the application is to continue. The Service Manager for Permanency and Placements may consult the Agency Decision Maker if necessary.

Where applicants live outside the Plymouth area, checks must be made within the relevant Local Authority and Health Trust.

If the applicants have lived outside the UK as an adult, checks are to also be made through CFAB (previously International Social Services) and/or the relevant Consulate, on all members of the household aged over 16 years. Where possible the applicant is to provide a 'certificate of good conduct'. If this is not possible there is to be a discussion with the Service Manager for Permanency and Placements, who is to decide whether to continue with the BAAF form F assessment.

Where applicants have recently moved to the UK, (within the last 10 years), checks will also be made through Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders (CFAB) (formerly known as International Social Services) and/or the relevant Consulate on all members of the household aged 10 and over.

If there appear to be issues of concern in relation to applicant's health, the Medical Adviser is to be consulted for advice. Where advised, the prospective applicant is to be requested to obtain a medical report from their GP.

All adult children who do not live with the applicant may be contacted as part of the assessment process. This is to ascertain their views on the applicants wish to become a Foster Carer.

Where, having regard to any information obtained, it is decided (by the Agency Decision Maker) that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, the applicant must be notified in writing with reasons - see Section 4, Initial Visit and Assessment Stage One.

6.2 References

If you have been referred to this section from the Assessment and Approval of Connected persons procedures it is the Form C that is used rather than the Form F. Some of the Form F information may not be required for the Form C Assessment.

NOTE: Where the applicant has been a foster carer within the preceding 12 months and was approved as such by another fostering service provider, a reference must be requested from that other fostering service provider. There is no requirement to also interview personal referees (see below). However, additional verbal and/or written references may be sought from personal referees. If the previous fostering service, for whatever reason, does not provide a reference, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.

Written References

The Fostering Service Administrator is to obtaining written references that meet the following criteria:

  • Single applicants must nominate three referees;
  • Joint applicants must nominate three referees who know them as a couple or two referees who know them as a couple and a further referee specific to each applicant;
  • Referees are to have known the applicant(s) for a minimum of three years and only one reference may be received from a relative.

During the Initial Visit the Assessing Supervision Social Worker is to obtain information relating to full employment history. A written reference must also be obtained from applicants' employers both current and previous from the last five years.

If any applicants have worked in a childcare capacity, references from all relevant employers must be gathered about their care of children.

Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference.

All referees are to comment on the following:

  • The length of time the referee has known the applicant, in what circumstances, how they met and how regularly they are in contact;
  • Where there is a joint application, the couple's relationship including its stability and quality, the couple's strengths and ways of coping with stress and how mutually supportive the couple is;
  • The applicant's general physical and emotional well being;
  • How the applicant relates to children, with examples, and what experience the applicant has of caring for children;
  • If the applicant has children of their own, how the referee thinks a foster child will impact on the other children in the family;
  • Any reservations the referee has and whether the referee wholeheartedly supports the application.

Interviewing Referees

In accordance with Regulation 26 (1)(c) the Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to interview two personal referees as part of the assessment process and prepare written reports.

At the start of the interview, the referee is to be informed that the written report of the interview will not be shared with the applicant but that any issues arising during the interview may be discussed.

The interview is to include discussions on the following:

  • The applicant's personality;
  • The stability of the applicants' relationship (if applicable);
  • The referee's impression of the applicant's general physical and emotional well being;
  • The referee's opinion on the applicant's ability to relate to children, and the basis of the opinion;
  • An opinion about whether fostering is appropriate for the applicant;
  • Any reservations the referee may have about any aspect of the application;
  • Whether the referee wholeheartedly supports the application;
  • What support the referee is able to offer the prospective Foster Carers;
  • Whether the referee has any reason to believe the applicant would harm the children in their care.

The Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to contact and interview all the applicant's previous and recent partners. This includes relationships where;

  • Any children were parented together, even if they are not the applicant's biological children; and
  • There are adult children who are living away from home.

Where the applicant has school age children, the relevant nursery, school or education provider is to be contacted for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education.

6.3 Health

The applicants will be provided with the relevant medical form to fill in with their details and send to their GP with a covering letter requesting that the GP complete the Form and send it to the manager. On receipt the manager will pass the information to the Medical Adviser for comment.

Where the medical information suggests that the applicant may not be suitable for health reasons, this should be discussed in detail with the applicant(s) and withdrawal may be advisable at this stage. Additional advice may be sought from the Medical Adviser or the Medical Adviser may raise questions with the GP where this is appropriate. It may be necessary for reports from other health professionals also to be obtained and presented to the Medical Adviser and the Fostering Panel.


7. 'Skills to Foster' Training

If you have been referred to this section from the Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons procedures, it is the Form C that is used rather than the Form F. Some of the Form F information may not be required for the Form C Assessment.

'Skills to Foster' is preparatory training which the Fostering Service provides to ensure that Foster Carers are trained in the skills required to provide high quality care and meet the needs of each child/young person placed in their care.

Each applicant, including both parties to a joint application, must attend at least 80% of the 'Skills to Foster' training.

Applicants are to be informed that written observations will be undertaken by the group leaders and passed to the Assessing Supervising Social Worker. These observations will form part of the assessment process and be incorporated into the assessment report.

If the group leaders have concerns that an applicant should not continue with the assessment, they are to discuss this sensitively with the applicant first, outside the group. If these concerns remain, the group leader is to discuss these issues with the Assessing Supervising Social Worker who is to inform the Fostering Team Manager if these concerns remain unresolved.

Where, having regard to any information obtained, it is decided (by the Agency Decision Maker) that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, the applicant must be notified in writing with reasons - see Section 4, Initial Visit and Assessment Stage One.


8. Home Study and Assessment Stage Two

If you have been referred to this section from the Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons procedures it is the Form C that is used rather than the Form F. Some of the Form F information may not be required for the Form C Assessment.

The home study part of the BAAF form F assessment is to be carried out by a qualified Social Worker with suitable experience.

Where the Assessment - Stage One information has been obtained, and no notification has been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable to be a foster carer, the Assessment Stage Two information (as specified in Part 2 of Schedule 3 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 (as amended) must be obtained, as set out below.

At the start of the home study an 'Adult Attachment Style' interview may be completed with both applicants. This will be decided by the Team Manager Fostering. The remainder of the BAAF form F assessment is to comprise of a series of interviews, the majority of which are to take place in the applicant's home.

Applicants are to be interviewed together but are to be interviewed at least once alone.

Other members of the household are also to be interviewed; including children who are to be interviewed individually unless it is not appropriate to do so.

The following must be undertaken as part of the Assessment Stage Two:

  • Obtain the following information relating to the applicant and other members of the household, together with any other relevant information:
    • Details of personality;
    • Religious persuasion, and capacity to care for a child from any particular religious persuasion;
    • Racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and capacity to care for a child from any particular racial origin or cultural or linguistic background;
    • Past and present employment or occupation (full education and employment history), standard of living, leisure activities and interests;
    • Information about the home, the local community and the neighbourhood;
    • Income and expenditure;
    • Details of past and present relationships;
    • Motivation to Foster;
    • Previous experience (if any) of caring for their own and other children;
    • Skills, competence and potential relevant to their capacity to care effectively for a child placed with them;
    • Support network, including wider family network;
    • Expectations of the placement, including understanding of issues from the 'skills to foster' training;
    • Attitudes to birth families;
    • A family tree and chronology of key events in the applicant's life must be compiled, showing his or her educational, employment, marital/relationship history and addresses for the previous ten years; any gaps and/or unusual patterns are to be explored;
    • Where an applicant has been divorced or separated, factors contributing to the breakdown of the relationship must be verified (this applies equally to significant relationships between couples who are not married).
  • Consider whether the applicant is suitable to be a foster parent and whether the applicant ’s household is suitable for any child;
  • Prepare a written report on the applicant which includes the following matters:
    • The information required to be obtained, as set out above;
    • Any other relevant information;
    • An assessment of the applicant’s suitability to be a foster parent;
    • Proposals about any terms of approval.

All information provided by the applicant must be independently verified where possible.

Involving children in the BAAF form F assessment

Children living at home are to be involved in the BAAF form F assessment process as fully as possible, having regard to their age and understanding.

Children are to be seen at least once on their own to ascertain their wishes and feelings about their parents' application and to assess how well prepared they are for becoming a member of a fostering household.

All children of the applicants, who do not reside in the household, are to be contacted and interviewed unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The time taken to complete the BAAF form F assessment, after a formal application has been received, is to be no more than four months unless the need for additional work with the applicant is identified or recommended by the Fostering Panel.

Where, having regard to information obtained during Stage Two, it is decided that the applicant is unlikely to be considered suitable to become a foster parent, notwithstanding that not all the Stage Two information has yet been obtained, a Brief Report may be prepared and submitted to the fostering panel in the same way as for a full assessment report. (There is no prescribed length or format for a brief report).


9. Prospective Foster Carers Report

The information gathered during the assessment process, including the 'Skills to Foster' course and the checks and references), are to form the basis of the Foster Carers Assessment Report (BAAF form F report).

The BAAF form F report is to also address diversity issues. It is to contain a summary of the assessed strengths and vulnerabilities of the applicant, together with an opinion of the type of placement likely to be provided in order to ensure the most successful match.

The BAAF form F report is to contain all the information set out in Schedule 3 of The Fostering Service (England) Regulations 2011 (as amended).

When the BAAF form F report is completed, it is to be passed to the Fostering Panel Advisor for scrutiny and then to the Fostering Team Manager for approval.

When the BAAF form F report is approved, it is to be shown to the applicant for signature and their comments.

Applicants are not to be shown any comments made by referees or any other third party information.

The applicants must be notified that the case is to be referred to the fostering panel, and invited to send any observations in writing within 10 working days.

Brief Report Regulation 26(3) provides that if, before the assessment is complete, information comes to light indicating that the applicant is unlikely to be suitable to foster, a Brief Report can be compiled setting out details of the assessment done and the reasons for considering the applicant unsuitable. The applicant must be:

  • Notified that the Brief Report is to be sent to the panel;
  • Provided with a copy of the Brief Report; and given 10 working days from the date of the notification to send their observations to the fostering service.

The Brief Report should then be presented to the fostering panel for consideration, along with any observations submitted by the applicant and any other relevant information. The decision maker’s determination about whether to terminate the assessment following a Brief Report must take account of the recommendations of the fostering panel.

Once a stage two assessment has been started it must be completed, unless:

  • The assessment is terminated following a Brief Report; to panel;
  • The applicant withdraws from the process; or
  • The applicant is deemed unsuitable as a result of stage one of the assessment (where stages one and two have been carried out in parallel); or
  • It becomes apparent that the applicant or an adult member of their household has been convicted of, or cautioned for, a specified offence (defined in regulation 26(6)).

When an assessment is successfully completed the Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to send the BAAF form F report, together with any written comments, to the Fostering Panel Administrator at least ten working days before the Fostering Panel meeting.

The date of the Fostering Panel meeting is to be communicated to the applicant as soon as possible, together with an invitation to attend. The applicants are to be provided with a leaflet containing written information about their right to attend the Fostering Panel meeting, the Fostering Panel process, its membership and their respective roles. If an applicant knows a particular Fostering Panel member, they may request that the Fostering Panel member stands down (Fostering Panel members are in any event expected to declare an interest in these circumstances (see Section 4, Panel Meetings of Fostering Panel Procedure).


10. The Fostering Panel Recommendation

If you have been referred to this section from the Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons procedures it is the Form C that is used rather than the Form F. Some of the Form F information may not be required for the Form C Assessment.

The BAAF form F report is to be presented to the Fostering Panel by the Assessing Supervising Social Worker.

The Fostering Panel is to consider the BAAF form F report together with the applicant's written comments, all the supporting documentation and any additional information presented verbally

The Fostering Panel is to then make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker regarding the suitability of the applicant to foster children.

The recommendation is to be recorded in writing and, where approval is recommended, advice given about the number of children the prospective Foster Carer may be suitable to foster, the age range, sex, likely needs and background.

Reasons for the recommendations and any advice as set out above are to also be recorded in the Fostering Panel minutes.

The Assessing Supervising Social Worker undertaking the assessment is to advise the applicant of the Fostering Panel recommendation within 24 hours of the Fostering Panel meeting. This can be verbally, by telephone or by a home visit.


11. Agency Decisions

The Fostering Panel Advisor is to meet with the Agency Decision Maker to discuss the draft minutes from the Fostering Panel's discussion and the reports submitted to the Fostering Panel to consider the case within three working days of the Fostering Panel meeting.

The Agency Decision Maker is to consider all the available information in deciding whether the Applicants are to be approved. The Agency Decision Maker is to make their decision within seven working days of the Fostering Panels recommendations being made.

Where a Brief Report has been submitted to the fostering panel, the Agency Decision Maker will, taking into account the fostering panel’s recommendation, make a determination about whether to terminate the assessment or whether the full assessment should be completed.

The Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to arrange for the applicant to be verbally informed of the decision within two working days. The Fostering Panel Administrator is to send written notice of the decision, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within five working days of the decision.

If the applicant has been approved, the Fostering Service Administrator is to send the approved applicant a letter outlining the terms of any approval; for example, whether it is in respect of a particular named child, the number and age range of children, placements of any kind or particular circumstances.

The approved applicant is to also be sent an Induction Pack and two copies of the Foster Carers agreement for signature. The Foster Carer agreement is to include the matters and obligations outlined in Schedule 5 of The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011. The Assessing Supervising Social Worker is to collect one copy of the agreement for the case records.

Upon approval, foster carers should be issued with an agreed form of identification to enable their role as a foster carer to be verified.

The applicants are to then be assigned a 'Supervising Social Worker' who will manage, support, provide supervision and training.

Where the Agency Decision Maker does not intend to accept the Fostering Panel's recommendation, they may wish to discuss this with another senior person in the Fostering Agency (who is not a Fostering Panel member). The outcome of the discussion is to be recorded on the appropriate case record by the Assessing Supervising Social Worker.

If after consideration of the Fostering Panel's recommendations, the Agency Decision Maker does not approve an application, the applicants must be notified in writing within five working days of receipt of the Fostering Panel minutes. This is referred to as the 'Qualifying Determination'.

The letter is to include an explanation of the reasons, a copy of the recommendations of the Fostering Panel, including its reasons if different, and must explain the options open to them within 28 days of receiving the letter. Information and a leaflet about the Independent Reviewing Mechanism must also be included.

If no written representations or notification of a request for a review are received within the 28-day period, the Agency Decision Maker will decide whether or not to approve the applicant as a foster carer (following a full assessment) or continue the assessment (following a Brief Report).


12. Representations Procedure

Prospective or approved Foster Carers have three options if the Fostering Agency is proposing, at the end of the Stage Two Assessment, not to approve them as carers. They can:

  1. Accept the proposal;
  2. Appeal to the Agency Decision Maker or the Fostering Panel;
  3. Request for the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) to review the Fostering Panel's recommendation. Prospective or approved Foster Carers can request the IRM, in writing and with reasons, to review all the papers considered by the Plymouth Fostering Panel with whose recommendation the Foster Carers disagree.

Where it is decided at Stage One of the assessment process that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, there is no right to have the case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism.

Appealing to the Agency Decision Maker or the Fostering Panel

The applicant can write to the Agency Decision Maker within 28 days and make representations as to why they disagree with the decision. Any new information is to be referred back by the Agency Decision Maker to the Fostering Panel where the recommendation is to be reviewed.

The Panel Administrator must receive notification of the applicants wish to attend or make written representations to the Fostering Panel within 28 working days of the date of the written notice of the decision.

If written representations or a request to attend the Fostering Panel are made within the period, the matter must be referred to the Fostering Panel for further consideration. The Fostering Panel Administrator is to advise the applicant within seven working days of the date of the Fostering Panel meeting when they can attend or when their written representations will be considered.

In these circumstances, applicants who wish to attend the Fostering Panel meeting can arrange for a friend or supporter to accompany them.

After considering the representations, the Fostering Panel is to make further recommendations either confirming or amending their previous views. The Agency Decision Maker is to consider the Fostering Panel's recommendation before a final decision is to be made.

Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant within seven working days of the Fostering Panel meeting.

A copy of the Form F report to the Fostering Panel, the Fostering Panel's recommendation and the decision must be retained on the applicant's case record.

Independent Reviewing Mechanism

Since 2009, the Independent Reviewing Mechanism (IRM) provides Foster Caring applicants in England with the option of applying to an independent body to review the Fostering Agency's determination not to approve them as Foster Carers (or to withdraw or vary the terms of an existing Foster Carer's approval). The IRM is operated by British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) on behalf of the Department for Education (Formerly Department for Children, Schools and Families).

Its purpose is to sit as an Independent Fostering Panel and to make a recommendation to the Fostering Agency about whether or not a person is suitable to act as a Foster Carer, whether they are to have their approval terminated or their terms of approval varied.

The IRM is not an appeal process; its function is to review anew all the documents and information that have been presented to the Fostering Panel and which have resulted in a 'Qualifying Determination' (a proposal with which the carers disagree).

The IRM is to review the qualifying determinations made by the Fostering Service and make a new recommendation having considered all the relevant information afresh. In accordance with Regulation 29 the Fostering Service must, within 10 days, of notification of referral to the IRM, supply the IRM with the documentation submitted to the Fostering Panel and any relevant information received subsequently along with copies of the notices of determination.

The IRM is to then make an independent recommendation back to the Agency Decision Maker. The IRM recommendation is to be considered together with the original recommendation and the Agency Decision Maker is to make a new decision.

This recommendation must be taken into account by the Agency Decision Maker when making their final decision. However, the final decision about approval rests with the Agency Decision Maker.

The IRM is not available to Foster Carers where they or a family member are turned down because they have been convicted of a specified offence, or been cautioned for such an offence where the offence was admitted to at the time, and they were over 18 at the time of the offence being committed (please see Section 6, Checks and References, for details on specified offences).

The IRM is not available retrospectively.

End