Supervision and Support of Foster Carers

This chapter was added to the manual in September 2021 and replaced a similar chapter.

1. Introduction

All approved foster carers will have an allocated, suitably qualified supervising social worker. The allocated supervising social worker is responsible for supervising and supporting carers, ensuring that they have the necessary guidance, support and direction to maintain a quality service, including safe caring practices. This will include an understanding that they must work within the National Minimum Standards for Fostering and the agency's policies, procedures and guidance.

The supervising social worker must also ensure that the foster carers' training and development needs are identified, and that newly approved carers work towards completing the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers Workbook. They also have the responsibility to ensure foster carers are familiar and made aware of new policies and guidance.

The foster carer(s) should be fully aware of the Notification of Significant Events and the need to immediately report to their Supervising Social Worker or Fostering Agency the following:

  • The death of a child;
  • A serious illness or serious accident of a child in their care;
  • The outbreak at their home of any infectious disease (which in the opinion of a general practitioner attending the home is sufficiently serious to be notified);
  • An allegation that a child in their care has committed a serious offence;
  • Concerns that a child in their care is being sexually exploited;
  • The Police being called to the carer’s home as a result of a serious incident relating to a child placed there;
  • A child in their care going missing;
  • Any serious concerns about the emotional or mental health of a child, such that a mental health assessment would be requested under the Mental Health Act 1983.

See also Notifications of Significant Events Procedure.

The child’s allocated social worker should be contacted for specific advice or support in relation to the child and their Care Plan and Placement Plan.

2. Planned Supervision Visits

A programme of supervision visits should be set up and agreed between the foster carer and the Supervising Social Worker from the time of the foster carer's approval and endorsed by the Fostering Officer's line manager. Visits should be recorded on the Supervisory Form.

Supervision is essentially a supportive and enabling two-way process to:

  • Ensure the foster carers understand how they contribute to the local authority's services for children;
  • Enable foster carers to contribute effectively to the plans for the children for whom they are caring;
  • To assess the parenting capacity of the foster carer and how they are meeting the needs of any child placed in their care;
  • Provide appropriate monitoring and feedback on the foster carer's work to ensure National Minimum Standards and Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers are fully met;
  • Support foster carers by providing advice or making this available from elsewhere as appropriate;
  • Give foster carers an opportunity to raise any problems and make sure they are addressed appropriately;
  • Acknowledge the challenges and demands that the fostering tasks make on foster families and ensure appropriate support is available;
  • Recognise and address any difficulties the foster carer's own children may be experiencing arising from fostering; and
  • Assist foster carers to work in an anti-discriminatory way that respects and promotes individual differences.

The agenda for each meeting should cover:

  1. Matters arising from the last supervision;
  2. Personal issues, e.g. effect of a placement on the foster carer’s own family, changes in the carer’s situation and circumstances etc;
  3. Child(ren) in placement:
    1. Their health, cultural, educational, leisure and contact needs – and any support needs;
    2. Progress and work with respect towards each child’s Care Plan;
    3. Any accidents, injuries and illnesses experienced by each child;
    4. Any complaints in relation to children placed with them and their outcomes;
    5. Any concerns around behaviour management in relation to children they are caring for;
    6. Any other significant events (see Section 1, Introduction);
    7. Any medication, medical treatment or first aid administered.
  4. Training/development issues for the foster carers and their family;
  5. Safe caring and health and safety issues;
  6. Foster carer’s recording which is to be reviewed by the Supervising Social Worker who should sign the foster carers' diary.

The supervision visits should be recorded on a pro forma Foster Carer Supervisory Form, signed by the foster carer and the Supervising Fostering Officer, and should include:

  • Any concerns expressed;
  • Any support needs expressed by the foster carers and how they will be met;
  • Any financial issues.

A record of all meetings should be kept on the foster carers' file and one copy given to the foster carers.

The supervision records will inform the foster carer’s review – see Exemptions and Extensions/Variations to Foster Carer Approval Procedure.

3. Personal Professional Development Plan (PPDP)

The Personal Professional Development Plan (PPDP) should be discussed between the Supervising Social Worker and the foster carers as it becomes the framework for supervising foster carers during their first year of fostering. A review of the PPDP should be presented to panel with their first annual foster care review. There is a separate PPDP for foster cares who are approved for short term breaks for disabled children (see Foster Carer Annual Personal Professional Development Plan (PDP) and Review).

4. Frequency of Supervisory Visits

6 weekly supervisory visits will be completed for all short-term placements (children have been placed for less than 12 months). Supervisory meetings will take place at least once every 12 weeks for long term placements (children who have been placed with the Foster Carer for 12 months or more).

Additional visits may be made for the purposes of support (to the foster carer or any member of the foster family).

All members of the household should be seen by the Supervising Social Worker annually.

It essential that children in placement are seen on a regular basis by the Supervising Social Worker as part of Supervisory Visits.

The Supervising Social Worker should facilitate support groups and networks for and between approved carers.

5. Unannounced Visits

There should also be unannounced visits at least once a year. The main purpose of the unannounced visit will be to look at the home environment that a child is living in.

The unannounced visits will be undertaken by the foster carer's Supervising Social Worker who will need to check:

  1. Who is in the home;
  2. Who is looking after the child;
  3. If the carer is not at home, what arrangements have been made for the care of the child.

If the foster carers are not at home, the Supervising Social Worker should leave a note for the foster carers to say they have visited.

If the foster carers are not at home but the child is present and being cared for by someone else, the Supervising Social Worker should check the identity of that person but should not continue with the visit.

Unannounced visits should be recorded.

There should not ordinarily be a regular programme of unannounced visits without particular reason - for example if a foster carer is being closely monitored. In such an event the reason for such will be explained to the foster carer.

6. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker

Supervising Social Worker’s should ensure the following tasks are done:

Post Approval

  1. Ensure that all new carers complete the induction programme and that their support, development and training needs are assessed and met so that they meet the standards and complete the Training, Support and Development Standards workbook by their first annual review, or soon after if extra support is required;
  2. Give the Foster Carers' Handbook to new carer;
  3. Give Foster Carer Agreement to the carer: 2 copies to be signed and one returned and placed on the carer’s file;
  4. Support carers with any specialist issues for disabled children for e.g. support in completing applications for Carer's Allowance, Disability Living Allowance etc.

Pre-Placement

  1. Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing, mixing with other children in home, etc. Discuss and check equipment (especially in the child’s bedroom) and ensure it is appropriate to the age of the child in placement;
  2. Take part in discussions about potential placements;
  3. Take part in planning meetings regarding placements;
  4. Ensure that the child's social worker give the foster family full information about children about to be placed, including any abuse or neglect and the reason for the placement, the child’s educational, medical, religious, racial, linguistic and cultural needs;
  5. Discuss issues relevant to contact with birth parents and other family members;
  6. Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
  7. Discuss financial issues with the carer: allowances, pocket money, leisure activities, toiletries and travelling etc. and the importance of complying with the terms of the city's insurance policy for carers;
  8. Enquire about holiday plans the carers have made, and if the child is able to join them? If not the carer must inform the child’s social worker so alternative arrangements can be made;
  9. Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family, including out of hours support;
  10. Organise equipment as required. Be aware of the process for Occupational Therapy referrals for adaptations and items of support for disabled children, and liaise with the child’s social worker to ensure these services are acquired;
  11. Set date of first visit after the placement;
  12. Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed.

During Placement

  1. Where necessary, check and follow up on all issues raised during the placement. Discuss any areas of concern with foster carers and ensure appropriate support/advice is in place;
  2. Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
  3. Ensure the Supervising Social Worker and the foster carers receive invitations to child’s Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences, and attend when appropriate;
  4. Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (See Exemptions and Extensions/Variations to Foster Carer Approval Procedure);
  5. Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and their family and children;
  6. Ensure training programme is updated and accessed by carers and carers' family and children;
  7. Visit regularly in accordance with the foster carer’s needs, the child’s Care Plan and as required;
  8. Review the Safer Caring Plan and any changes in household circumstances;
  9. Assess and review any health and safety issues within the fostering household including the addition of any new pets and the environment in which they are kept;
  10. Make unannounced visits as required;
  11. Update Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on members of the family every 3 years, including those reaching 18 years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are over 18 years;
  12. 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 carers health, a review of the foster carers approval should be carried out immediately;
  13. Record contact with carers;
  14. Provide reports for Panel as required under the relevant procedures;
  15. Where appropriate contribute to Court Reports as agreed with child’s social worker;
  16. Maintain the foster carer's file in accordance with the relevant recording Standards (Standard 26 –National Fostering Standards);
  17. With the foster carer, complete a Personal Professional Development Plan which addresses the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care and Payment for Skills training needs.

At End of Placement

  1. Support the family as much as possible in what can be a very difficult time;
  2. Discuss fully with the carer and their family all the issues that have led to any unplanned end of a placement and identify any learning/training opportunities;
  3. Assist the foster carer to complete their end of placement report if required;
  4. Attend Disruption Meetings as required;
  5. Send the child's social worker form CC1 at the end of each placement.

7. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer

For the detailed procedure, see Allegations Against Foster Carers Procedure.

Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the Supervising Social Worker should:

  1. Support the family;
  2. Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation, as agreed at the Strategy Meeting;
  3. Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation;
  4. Make the carers aware of their own possible conflict of interests and inform them of where they can seek alternative support and advice from the Fostering Network or other independent sources.