SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to children who are cared for by people other than their parent or close relative for more than 27 days and who are NOT subject to any order or arrangement that would place them in the care of the local authority.
Local Authorities do not formally approve or register Private Foster Carers. However, it is the duty of Local Authorities to satisfy themselves that the welfare of children who are, or will be, privately fostered within their area is being, or will be, satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.
The Wirral Policy on Private Fostering details the responsibilities of the Council in relation to the measures included in section 44 of the Children Act 2004, the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 (see National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering), which strengthen and enhance the current private fostering notification scheme and how it meets the National Minimum Standards for Private Fostering.
This procedure details how the Policy will be implemented and the responsibilities and duties of staff.
Private fostering is:
Note: If the arrangement is for less than 28 days but is one of a series that all add up to 28 days or more then this may count as a Private Fostering Arrangement. The continuity of an arrangement is not broken by the occasional short break. For example if a child returned home one weekend in four, it would constitute a Private Fostering Arrangement.
A Private Foster Carer may be a friend of the family, the parent of a friend of the child, or someone previously unknown to the child's family who is willing to privately foster a child. If the child is cared for by someone from the extended family, such as a cousin or great Aunt, but not a close relative (see Section 4, A Child is Not Privately Fostered) they are a privately fostered child.
Private Fostering Arrangements can be a positive response from within the community to difficulties experienced by families. Nonetheless, privately fostered children remain a diverse and potentially vulnerable group.
Overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the privately fostered child remains with the parent or other person with Parental Responsibility.
Local Authorities do not formally approve or register Private Foster Carers. However, Section 44 of the Children Act 2004 extends the duty of Local Authorities to satisfy themselves that the welfare of children who are, or will be, privately fostered within their area is being, or will be, satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted.
It is the Local Authority in whose area the privately fostered child resides which has legal duties in respect of that child.
The Safeguarding Unit will be responsible for reporting on the Department's progress and implementation of the Regulations and Standards to Private Fostering.
The appropriate District qualified Social Worker will be responsible for the assessment, visits and review of all cases. The Lead Senior Manager will authorise the assessment.
Following assessment by the Social Worker, a joint visit will be arranged which will include a Children's Services professional from Targeted Preventative Services. The purpose of the joint visit will be to assess the need for targeted support to be offered as appropriate across the continuum of need including Early Help. Although Liquid Logic will generate an alert to Targeted Services, the Social Worker should follow this up with a phone call to arrange a suitable date/time.
The IRO will chair three monthly and then six monthly thereafter Reviews and these will be attended by the Social Worker, IRO, child, carer and parents (if appropriate).
The Social Worker will arrange the reviews and invite attendees and the IRO will chair and record an account of the meeting.
The Safeguarding Unit is responsible for promoting and publishing the requirements of Private Fostering, assisting District social work and maintaining a list of Private Foster Carers and quality assuring against this Policy and the minimum standards.
Wired will review the Private Foster Carer/s before the 3 month review and before each subsequent review. Wired should attend each of the reviews undertaken by the IRO to discuss the outcome. Social Worker will ensure that the review/s of the carer's are undertaken.Note: In the event of a large group of children visiting our area, (for example the Chernobyl Children Life Line Charity who bring children over from Belarus), a meeting will be convened by the Safeguarding Unit to discuss length of stay and if this will trigger an assessment. If an assessment is required, the meeting will discuss how this will be resourced and the requirements for a review.
When anyone becomes aware of an existing or a proposed Private Fostering Arrangement for a child and the child is or will be resident within Wirral, a referral must be made to Integrated Front Door (IFD). The information must include child's name, date of birth, gender, duration of stay, address of arrangement, carer name, parent name (see Appendix 1: Notification of private fostering arrangement to Integrated Front Door (IFD) for further information).
All private fostering notifications received by Integrated Front Door (IFD) will be transferred to the appropriate district social work assessment team and the Safeguarding Unit, Targeted Services and Lead Senior Manager will be notified.
Where the Private Fostering Arrangement has not started the allocated Social Worker will write to the proposed Private Foster Carers and/or the parent informing them of the requirement to notify the appropriate Local Authority of the proposal at least 6 weeks before the date on which the Private Fostering Arrangement is to begin or immediately if the arrangement is to begin within 6 weeks.
When it is an existing Private Fostering Arrangement where no notification has taken place the allocated Social Worker will write to the person within 24 hours informing them of the requirement to notify the Local Authority immediately and when a visit is to take place. (This should be within 7 working days).
Where the notification is about an arrangement that is already in place the Social Worker should visit within 7 days to carry out a Single Assessment.
Where the child is not with the potential Private Foster Carer, the social worker must visit the child within 7 days of notification of the arrangement taking place to speak to the child and establish matters about the welfare of the child.
For all notifications the Social Worker will complete a Single Assessment within 7 days of notification of the arrangement and complete the Private Fostering assessment, and Single Assessment if appropriate, within 35 days of the notification.Completion of the private fostering assessment is required within 35 days to ensure that a decision is made about the suitability of the Private Fostering Arrangement within 42 days of notification. The Lead Senior Manager will authorise the assessment.
The Safeguarding Unit must be informed as soon as the child is identified as being in a potential Private Fostering Arrangement. The allocated Social Worker must undertake a private fostering arrangement assessment (PFAA) on existing open cases.
The assessment will be undertaken using the dimension headings of the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000) as a guide.
In the first place a Single Assessment will identify if it is a Private Fostering arrangement and what level of need.
If a Child in Need is identified through the Single Assessment a Core Assessment must be undertaken in addition to a Private Fostering assessment.
The private fostering assessment form in LiquidLogic is the appropriate record to use.
The person carrying out the assessment will:
The following must be established:
In addition where the arrangement is already in existence the following will be established:
The Social Worker must consult with appropriate agencies (e.g. Health Visitor) who may already be involved with the child, or the proposed or actual private Foster Carer or members of that household. The person who is, or is proposing to, foster the child privately must be made aware that such views will be sought, and provide consent for agencies to be contacted.
The child's needs must be the focus of the assessment. If there are concerns regarding the child being in need of protection the Social Worker must undertake an assessment in line with the Child In Need procedure and/or WSCB Guidance on safeguarding children.
Where a child's developmental needs are not being, or will not be, met, an assessment as to whether the child is in need of services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, must be undertaken. The assessment and commissioning of services will be the responsibility of the District social work teams.
Consideration will be given as to whether support and services need to be provided to increase the capacity of the Private Foster Carer to meet the child's needs. Where a Child In Need Plan is put in place, this must be reviewed at minimum intervals of six months.It is the responsibility of the parent or person with Parental Responsibility to provide financially for Private Fostering Arrangements. Time limited or one off payments can be made available for identified need where there are no funds being provided by the parents, or while benefit entitlements are clarified (Child Benefits and child tax credit). These need to be clearly recorded as required under a Private Fostering Arrangement.
As part of the Single Assessment, consideration must be given to the overall development needs of a disabled child who is privately fostered and the additional support that may be required. This will be done in conjunction with the children with disabilities team and with appropriate services.
Where the Private Fostering assessment indicates that the child will be at risk of Significant Harm, a Strategy Discussion must take place to determine if a Section 47 Enquiry and Single Assessment should be undertaken. If the child is believed to be at immediate risk of Significant Harm, legal advice should be sought without delay and child protection procedures implemented immediately.
The allocated Social Worker will organise all of the following checks for anyone living in the private fostering household who is 18 years or over:
Every Privately Fostered child must be visited by a Local Authority officer every 6 weeks after notification of the arrangement. The frequency of visits can only be reduced after a multi-agency review 12 months after notification and the visits must not be less than every 12 weeks. The visits should initially be joint visits by the allocated Social Worker and a Children's Services professional from Targeted Services. The Social Worker will in addition visit when reasonably requested to do so by the child, Private Foster Carer, a parent of the child or any other person with Parental Responsibility for them.
The purpose of the visit is to assess the welfare of the child in the private fostering arrangement. The child must be seen alone, unless it seen to be inappropriate. The visit must establish the following:
The reviews of the child will be chaired by a Lead IRO and the Social Worker will invite attendees.
The first will take place 3 months after the agreed suitability of the arrangement and every 6 months thereafter. Where the child is about to reach 16 years a final review will take place to address any concerns regarding end of the arrangement and future plans.
There will be opportunity for a representative from Targeted Services to attend at the end of the meeting to introduce themselves and the services they offer.
A copy of the review will be provided to the carer and parent.
The review must be recorded on Liquid Logic by the IRO.
Wired will attend the child's review meeting to provide feedback on the review of the Private Foster Carer review.
DBS checks will be undertaken every 3 years.
The Social Worker will encourage the parents or person(s) with Parental Responsibility to complete the written agreement with the carer(s). This written agreement should address issues of medical consent, clear expectation of the Private Foster Carer's role, the parent's role, the role of the Local Authority, contact arrangements and any payments by the parents for maintenance of the child. Throughout the arrangement the parent continues to have Parental Responsibility and execute this accordingly.
The agreement must be recorded on LiquidLogic by the Social Worker.
The Case must be recorded as Private Fostering on Liquid Logic and all communications with the child, parents, carer etc must be recorded clearly and in accordance with the policies and practices of the Department (see Recording Policy and Guidelines Procedure).
The social worker must record all visits in the Private Fostering module and the completed assessment must be accessible in the pathway.
The IRO must ensure that review minutes are recorded in the Private Fostering module.
Case file records for children that have been privately fostered will be retained for 25 years from date of birth, unless they have been subject to a child protection investigation or been Looked After, when the retention period for these categories will be applied.
The records in relation to the assessment of Private Foster Carers will be retained for 20 years after they have ceased to foster or 3 years if their suitability was not approved or withdrawn, or 75 years if there have been any allegations made against the Private Foster Carer.
The lead IRO will be responsible for the quality assurance of Private Fostering to ensure the following:
Young disabled people who have been privately fostered may qualify for advice and assistance under Section 24 of the Children Act 1989 where they are under 21 and were (but are no longer) privately fostered at any time after their sixteenth birthday. Advice, assistance and befriending will be provided to such a young person if they ask for help and their previous Private Foster Carers do not have the necessary facilities to advise or befriend him. Signposting to other services may be appropriate.
Assistance may be in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash which may also be conditional on repayment, except where a person is in receipt of certain benefits.
The Social Worker will encourage parents as much as possible to be involved in decision making in relation to their child, the Private Fostering Arrangement, and to maintain regular contact.
Social Workers will provide advice and support to parents to enable them to make alternative arrangements for the care of their child, where the Local Authority considers that it is not appropriate for the child to be privately fostered, and where a Private Fostering Arrangement is prohibited, and no other is contemplated.
Parents may need to be advised on the desirability of keeping siblings together if possible - unless a child has particular needs which preclude being with siblings. They may need advice on attachment issues, and the implications of a child living away from home with someone else to whom they may become attached if parental involvement is not maintained. They may also need advice on what to do if they are concerned about their child's care.
In each case, consideration will be given to whether the provision of support to the parents (or person with Parental Responsibility) or referral to another agency, would remove the necessity for the child to be privately fostered. Where it is feasible to do so, and it is in the child's best interests and with the parents' consent, then that support should be provided. In such cases a referral will be made to Integrated Front Door (IFD).
If the parents, or those with Parental Responsibility, are failing to exercise their responsibilities e.g. failing to pay maintenance or to keep in touch, the Social Worker will try to locate them and find out if there is a problem, give advice and take appropriate action as necessary. Where they cannot be contacted over a sustained period of time, the Social Worker will consider the extent to which (if at all) they should exercise any of their functions under the Children Act 1989 and Children Act 2004 with respect to the child.
The Social Worker will provide information on the advice and support that is available from other agencies, including health services, education, housing services; youth support services, voluntary organisations and community groups.
Private Foster Carers must be given contact details of the person responsible for their assessment and the regular visits.The Private Foster Carer will be offered a place on any in-house training courses relevant to their situation.
The Social Worker will provide advice to Private Foster Carers on topics such as:
Private Foster Carers will be advised that they should keep information to share with parents and where appropriate the Local Authority. This could include:
All children and young people being privately fostered must be given information in formats appropriate to their age and level of understanding, about:
Private Fostering Documentation can be obtained from the Children and Young People's Department Intranet Forms and Liquid Logic.
The Social Worker should check a privately fostered child's passport to clarify the child's immigration status and that the child is lawfully present in the UK.
Where there is in any doubt about a child's immigration or nationality status the UK Visas and Immigration must be consulted.
In these circumstances, consideration should be given to tracing the child's parents and arranging for the child to be returned to them. Assistance can be obtained from the authorities in the country of origin or the International Social Service (ISS). The ISS is usually able to provide for the exchange of medical and educational histories of a child, as well as to ascertain whether there would be any reasonable grounds not to return the child to his parents and whether Parental Responsibility has been terminated or circumscribed by any overseas authority, or to make arrangements for the reunification of the child with his parents overseas.
Requirements can be imposed on Private Foster Carers as to:
Requirements can relate to an individual child or a category of children, e.g. those over a certain age.
The imposition of a requirement must be notified in writing with the reasons for the requirement and the notification must inform the person of his right to appeal and the time limit for doing so.
Any imposition of requirements must be recorded in LiquidLogic by the Social Worker.
A prohibition can be imposed on persons who propose to foster privately, as well as to persons who are actually fostering a child privately.
A decision to impose a prohibition will be made by the Senior Manager, Safeguarding following a recommendation by the Private Fostering Panel. The Senior Manager, Safeguarding will notify the DfE of any prohibitions.
The prohibition can be applied if it is the opinion of the Local Authority that:
A prohibition can be applied to:
A prohibition must be sent in writing to the person on whom it is being imposed, specify reasons, and contain information about the right of the person to appeal and the time in which s/he may do so.
In circumstances where a prohibition is imposed on a Private Foster Carer who already has a child living with them under a Private Fostering Arrangement, the department will exercise its duty under section 67(5) of the Children Act 1989 to consider securing care and accommodation of the child with one of the following (unless it is not in the child's best interest):
Where a prohibition is being considered and the Private Foster Carer has their own or other children living with them, consideration may need to be given to assessing their needs and whether they are risk of Significant Harm.
Persons on whom a prohibition has been imposed under Section 69 are disqualified from private fostering and from carrying on or being employed in a children's home, voluntary home, day care or childminding.
Private Foster Carers may appeal to the Family Proceedings Court within 14 days of notification of a decision to impose a requirement or prohibition, refuse to cancel a prohibition, refuse to exempt a person from the fostering limit of 3 under Schedule 7 (or impose a condition on an exemption or a variation or cancellation of such an exemption) or refuse to consent to allow a person who is disqualified to privately foster a child. Legal Services must be involved in all appeals.
If the Private Foster Carer moves to another Local Authority, or a Local Authority in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, the Social Worker must pass on to the Local Authority and the Clinical Commissioning Group (if they have special health needs) information relating to:
This information should be passed over as soon as possible, but no more than 5 working days after the Local Authority has been notified that the child has moved.
The responsibility for monitoring the Private Fostering Arrangement remains with the Social Worker until written confirmation is received from the Local Authority accepting responsibility for monitoring.
If a parent informs the Local Authority that a child is going to stay with someone who would come under Private Fostering Arrangements, the Local Authority will inform the appropriate Local Authority.
If a child dies whilst in private foster care, the Department should ensure that the parent is notified immediately.
If appropriate, an investigation will commence under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989, this will be conducted jointly with Locality Assessment team staff, and decision making in respect of this will be undertaken by the Team Manager in consultation with the District Manager.
If a child dies in private foster care and there are concerns about abuse/ neglect/ suspicious death, investigations will take place within existing Safeguarding Procedures with the procedure for Serious Case Reviews followed, if appropriate. (See Death or Serious Injury to a Child (Looked After and Child in Need) Procedure).
Assistance to the Private Foster Carer with the formalities will be considered.
The outcome of the investigation if appropriate will be presented to the Child Death Overview Panel.
There is a requirement to notify the Local Authority about any private fostering arrangement from any of the following:
When a notification is made to Integrated Front Door (IFD) about a Private Fostering Arrangement as much of the following information should be obtained: