Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers
Formal reviews of Foster Carers will take place at least annually, and the first annual review will be reported to the Fostering Panel within 12 months of the Foster Carer's approval – see Section 4, Presentation to the Fostering Panel.
Dates and the venue for review meetings will be agreed by the Supervising Social Worker in consultation with the Foster Carer.
Reviews can also take place more frequently - and may be initiated by the Supervising Social Worker or Foster Carer/s. Examples of such circumstances may be:
- A significant change in circumstances of a Foster Carer affecting the ability or capacity to foster, a change in the composition of the household;
- A serious complaint or allegation made about the Foster Carer;
- A death in the foster home;
- A significant health issue;
- Concerns about the standards of care provided by the Foster Carer;
- Persistent use of inappropriate discipline;
- Serious and/or persistent breaches of the Foster Care Agreement;
- Concerns as a result of information from updated Disclosure and Barring Service checks or a request/recommendation for a change of approval;
Where an allegation or concern is raised in relation to a foster carer, see Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure.
As well as formal reviews, there will be regular supervision, dialogue and feedback between the Supervising Social Worker and the Foster Carer – see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure.
2. Consultation and Action Before the Review
Prior to the formal review, the Supervising Social Worker will collate all information relevant to the Foster Carers' suitability to foster, including: the number and type of placements in the last year; information from the Child Looked After Reviews of children placed; any variations or exemptions that have been agreed in the previous year; supervision records; post placement reports and records of any complaints; or allegations made against the foster carers or members of their household, and will write a review report.
The fostering social worker will also, as part of the formal review, seek the views of all members of the foster carer's household as well as the written comments and opinions as to the foster carer from all social workers who have used the foster carer for a placement since the last formal review as recorded on the social worker's end of placement report. This will include contacting a social worker from outside the authority where appropriate.
The fostering social worker will also seek and take into account the views of any child placed with the foster carer since the last review via the child's social worker.
The fostering social worker will send to the foster carer a copy of the review report to enable them to prepare for the review in advance. The foster carer will have the opportunity to communicate his or her views verbally or in writing to the fostering worker.
3. Formal Review Meeting
The review will be informed by a meeting held between the fostering worker and the foster carer at the foster home. This meeting will be chaired by a fostering independent reviewing officer, a team manager or an advanced practitioner. At the review meeting, the agenda will be as set out in the Foster Carer Review Form. As well as considering the information collated in advance, the review will also consider the Foster Carer's Safe Caring practice, fire plan, training and development plan and any risk assessment in relation to the family pets as part of the review. A health and safety checklist will have also been completed for the review.
The review will consider all the available information and views and reach the following conclusions:
- Whether the Foster Carer continues to be suitable to foster children;
- Whether the terms of approval continue to be suitable;
- What training and development needs the Foster Carer has;
- How these needs will be met and who will be responsible;
- What support needs the carer has, and how these will be met;
- Any difficulties or concerns since the last review;
- The date for presentation to the Fostering Panel, if relevant.
The chair will prepare a review report recommending whether the carers continue to be suitable to foster and whether the terms of their approval continue to be appropriate. This report should include a summary of the fostering work undertaken so far and how this relates to the development of the Foster Carer's skills. Any recommendations for change in the Foster Carers' approval should be highlighted.
A copy of the review report will then be sent to the Foster Carers who will have the opportunity to put their views on the recommendations in writing to be presented to the Fostering Panel (if applicable) or the Agency Decision Maker when the Review Form is considered. A copy of the decision will be kept on the Foster Carer's file.
4. Presentation to the Fostering Panel or Agency Decision Maker
The review reports must be presented to the Fostering Panel on the foster carer's first review for a recommendation within 12 months of approval and thereafter may be presented to the fostering panel. This may include where significant changes to the foster carer's approval, or the termination of the foster carer's approval are recommended or where any circumstances exist which in the opinion of the Agency Decision Maker require consideration by the Fostering Panel. This may include the situation where an updating Disclosure and Barring Service check reveals a new concern about the foster carer or a member of the household.
Where the report recommends termination of the Foster Carer's approval, the report should give full details of the concerns, allegations or complaints and the outcome of any Section 47 Enquiry or investigation. Any mitigating circumstances should be outlined. A copy of the Foster Carers' Form F and any previous relevant panel minutes should also be attached to the report.
The report for the panel will be shared with the Foster Carer(s) and they should be invited to submit written comments.
A copy of the report to the panel (and attachments including any written comments of the Foster Carer(s) on the report) should be sent to the panel administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant panel meeting.
Foster Carers should be invited to attend the Fostering Panel when their review is being considered, together with a supporter if they wish, and the Panel Administrator should be informed if they intend to do so.
Where the Review recommends the termination of approval of Foster Carers, the review should be presented to the earliest possible Fostering Panel.
The fostering worker will present the review findings and recommendations to the Fostering Panel or Agency Decision Maker in a written report which incorporates the views of the child or children placed, the written views of the foster carer and any report provided by a social worker particularly where concerns have been expressed about a placement with the foster carer. Any recommendations for change in the foster carer's approval should be highlighted in the report.
Whether or not the Foster Carers are present at the Panel, the Panel Adviser will arrange for them to be informed in writing of the outcome of the review as soon as possible and at the latest within 5 working days after a decision or qualifying Determination is made. The notice will set out:
- That the Foster Carer and household continue to be suitable and that the terms of the approval continue to be appropriate; or
- That the approval is terminated from a specified date, and the reason for the termination; or the revised terms of the approval and the reasons for the revision.
Where the Review recommends the termination of approval of the foster carer, see Section 6.1, Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer's Approval.
Where the Fostering Panel's recommendation is for a different category of approval, see Section 6.2, Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer's Approval.
Where the foster carer has decided to give up fostering, see Section 8, Resignation by Foster Carers.
5. After the Review
The foster carer will be informed in writing of the outcome of the review. The Supervising Social Worker will write to any Social Worker for a child placed with the Foster Carers to inform them of the outcome of the review.
The outcome of the review will also be recorded, and the Register of Foster Carers updated as necessary. Where there has been any change in the terms of the approval, the Foster Care Agreement will be updated and signed by the Supervising Social Worker and Foster Carer. A copy of the Review Form and a record of the outcome of the review will be retained on the foster carer's case record.
Where the approval is terminated, the Agency Decision Maker, in consultation with the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)/team of designated officers, will decide whether to refer the former Foster Carer to the Disclosure and Barring Service under the Vetting and Barring Scheme.
6. Representations/Review Procedure
6.1 Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer's Approval
Where, as a result of a review, the termination of a foster carer's approval is proposed, written notice of the proposal and the reasons must be sent to the foster carer within 7 days of the decision and they must be advised that if they wish to challenge the decision, they have the opportunity to make representations to the Agency Decision Maker or to request a review by an Independent Review Panel under the Independent Review Mechanism as set out in the Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
Notification of representations will need to be received by the Fostering Service within 28 days of the date of the notice of the decision being sent to them and then sent to the fostering panel administrator. The Panel Administrator will then notify the foster carer within 7 working days of the date when the Panel will reconsider the matter (see also GOV.UK, Prepare for a review panel: adopters and foster carers).
The foster carer will not have the right to request a review by an Independent Review Panel if they are regarded as disqualified as a result of a conviction or caution for a specified offence - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.
If no written representations or notification of a request for a review are received by the IRM or Fostering service within the 28 day period, a final decision to terminate can be made.
If written representations are received within the period, the matter must be referred to the Fostering Panel for further consideration. Foster carers wishing to make representations in person to the Panel may be accompanied by a friend or supporter.
The Panel will make a new recommendation in relation to the foster carer and a final decision will be made by the Agency Decision Maker taking into account any fresh recommendation made by the Panel.
Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must then be sent to the foster carer within 7 working days of the decision.
Where the termination of the approval of a foster carer is being considered, plans for the termination of any current placement will also be required and made as appropriate.
Where the approval is terminated, the Agency Decision Maker, in consultation with the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) will decide whether to refer the former foster carer to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion of the carer's name on the Children's Barred List. (See Wirral SCP, LADO Allegations Procedure).
6.2 Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer's Approval
6.2.1 Where the Foster Carer is in Agreement
Where the foster carer's written agreement is received, the decision to revise the terms of approval may be made immediately.
The Agency Decision Maker's decision in such circumstances is not a Qualifying Determination and the foster carer may not apply for an independent review of the decision by way of the Independent Review Mechanism.
Foster carers must not be pressured to accept changes to their terms of approval.
6.2.2 Where the Foster Carer is not in Agreement
Where the foster carer does not agree in writing to the revision of their terms of approval, then the representations/review procedure as set out in Section 6.1, Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer's Approval will apply.
7. Updates on Checks
Disclosure and Barring Service checks should be updated every 3 years and if necessary, a review of the foster carer's approval should be carried out immediately to take account of any new information.
Whilst there is no statutory time interval, as good practice medical information should also be updated at least every 3 years by writing to the foster carer's GP. In the event of any serious concerns about the foster carer’s health, a review of the foster carers approval should be carried out immediately.
8. Resignation by Foster Carers
A foster carer may give written notice at any time of their wish to resign from the role. Once written notice has been given, their approval will automatically be terminated 28 days after receipt of the notice. The foster carer cannot withdraw their notice once it has been received, nor can the Agency Decision Maker decline to accept the resignation. Should a foster carer who has resigned subsequently wish to foster again, they will need to be assessed under the Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure. There is no requirement for the fostering panel to be notified of resignations, however the panel may find it helpful to be advised, as part of its monitoring role and therefore a resignation report will be completed by the fostering social worker and sent to panel for information.
9. Retaining/Returning the Information
On ceasing to be a foster carer the following arrangements apply:
- Any information that falls into the category of general fostering may be kept. However, care should be taken not to share information about other foster carers that may be contained in newsletters (e.g. addresses of carers running local support groups);
- Foster carers may keep any information that they have been given about themselves, except for their identity 'badge';
- The child's first name and ICS number only should be used;
- Any child-based information held by foster carers, whether it has been provided for them or if they have made the record, must be returned to the agency once the placement has ended or if the foster carers cease to foster. The only exceptions are if the foster carers secure the child's placement with a Residence Order, Special Guardianship Order or Adoption Order or with the young person's permission (for example, the child may reach 18 but remain with the family informally and wish for the information to be available 'at home').
Foster carers may have some concerns about returning all the child-based information to the agency, as they may feel it would leave them vulnerable to potential allegations.
However, foster carers may have access, at a later stage, to anything that they have written, should they wish. As such, on returning any information, foster carers may and should keep a record of:
- The name of the child in placement (first name and Liquidlogic number only);
- Placement dates;
- Where the information will be stored (Information about children will be stored on their ICS record, not the foster carers);
- What was included in the information (list of documents).
Foster carers should obtain a receipt for them, dating when and to whom the information was given.
Foster carer files are kept for a minimum of 10 years after they cease to be foster carers. Information kept on a child looked after's files is kept for 75 years after their 18th birthday. (See Case Records and Retention Procedure).