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

6.1.7 Supervision and Support of Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all approved foster carers.

AMENDMENT

Section 7, Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker (During Placement) was updated in September 2017 to reflect that the household Safer Caring Plan, any changes in household circumstances along with any health and safety issues including the addition of any new pets and the environment in which they are kept should be reviewed as required.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definition of Supervision
  3. Principles
  4. Purpose of Supervision
  5. The Supervision Process
  6. Unannounced Visits
  7. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker
  8. Tasks of Social Worker if Allegations are made Against the Carer


1. Introduction

This procedure is intended to provide a clearly understood framework within which supervision of foster carers should take place within Wiltshire Council Fostering Service.

  • To ensure compliance with minimum standards in accordance with Fostering Services National Minimum Standards and Regulations 2011;
  • To ensure consistent standards of practice;
  • To ensure the role of the supervising social worker is clear both to the worker and the foster carer.

This procedure applies to all Wiltshire approved foster carers, including those who are approved as Connected Person (family and friends) carers, SEND and family link carers. 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.

However, it is the social worker of the child or children in the foster placement who holds responsibility for specific advice or support in relation to the child and his or her Care Plan and Placement Plan.

The supervising social worker must also ensure that the foster carers' training and development needs are identified, and that newly approved carers work towards meeting the Training Support and Development (TSD) Standards and gaining the Certificate of successful completion. They also have the responsibility to ensure foster carers are familiar and made aware of new policies and guidance.


2. Definition of Supervision

Supervision is a process which supports and develops the knowledge, skills and values of an individual, group or team. The purpose is to improve the quality of their work to achieve agreed objectives and outcomes. High quality supervision is one of the most important drivers in ensuring positive outcomes for people who use social care and children's services. Foster carers are recognised as very important members of the Children's Workforce as they can make a real difference to the lives of children, young people and their families.

Supervision is recognised as being made up of a number of elements which include:

  • Communication;
  • Support;
  • Learning and development;
  • Performance management.


3. Principles

The supervising social worker's first responsibility is to the child in placement, even though they do not have case management responsibility for the child.

  • Supervising social workers are managers of the fostering resource and as such the managers of the foster carers;
  • Supervision is a carer's right and a source of support;
  • Where there are two carers jointly approved both should receive and participate in supervision;
  • Supervision is a partnership between the supervising social worker, foster carer and Fostering Service. It is the responsibility of all parties to make sure that supervision takes place in accordance with the Foster Carers Supervision Policy;
  • Supervision should be an enabling and supportive experience for carers, and should be conducted in an open, non-discriminatory and non-oppressive way.
Formal supervision is one aspect of a range of support provided to foster carers and their families by Wiltshire Council Fostering Service. Other forms of support are provided to carers through attending carers support groups, membership of Wiltshire Fostering Association and the national Fostering Network, peer support from other foster carers, contact with Fostering Support Workers and with other members of the Fostering Team including the duty fostering social worker and out of hours support and advice service, contact by Fostering Social Workers outside formal supervision, training events, breaks from caring, financial support and insurance cover. In addition, a variety of support exists to support carers in caring for specific children from the child's social worker, Emergency Duty Service, Virtual School Officers, Looked After Children's Nurses and Child and Adolescence Mental Health Service. Supervision should be provided as part of an overall support package and not be seen as carers' only form of support. All supervision sessions will be recorded and carers given a copy of the recording. The recording must be signed by all parties present as a true account of the supervision session. Supervision session will be regular, planned and have a clear purpose and agenda. Supervising social workers should have the skills to carry out effective supervision with carers. The quality of foster carers' supervision will be monitored on an ongoing basis by managers through social workers' supervision, file audits and the foster carers reviewing process.


4. Purpose of Supervision

  • To provide information, support, consultation and advice to carers to enable them to provide consistent high quality care for a child or children placed in their home;
  • To provide a forum for clarification and understanding of the role of the child's social worker to ensure effective working between foster carer, fostering service social worker and child's social worker;
  • To ensure that carers are informed of, understand and work within, all standards, policies and guidance agreed by the fostering service;
  • To ensure that carers are clear about their roles and responsibilities;
  • Provide a place to discuss expectations of the foster carer, supervising social worker and Fostering Service;
  • To provide opportunities for all parties to raise issues/difficulties/ concerns in order to problem solve, agree a plan for action, seek a resolution;
  • To identify carers' support needs and how these needs might be best met;
  • To provide support to other members of the fostering household and to monitor their involvement in the fostering task;
  • To identify a carer's personal development plan (PDP), establishing training needs and making plans to meet these in order to help carers develop their skills;
  • To discuss, and sign off when standards met - Training, Support and Development Induction Standards for Foster Care to be completed within 12 months of approval (18 months for Family Link carers);
  • To support and encourage reflective practice so that carers can develop their skills;
  • To discuss the impact of fostering on carer's own children and other members of their household;
  • Provide an opportunity to monitor the work of the carer in accordance with the child's care and placement plan;
  • To check records are being maintained and offer support with this;
  • To give feedback on a carer's work to develop practice and recognise good work and achievement;
  • To allocate tasks to be undertaken by the worker or the carer;
  • To identify and address carers personal issues or problems, including health related issues that may impact on their fostering role, or may be impacted upon by fostering;
  • To identify and manage risk - ensuring Disclosure and Barring Service checks, medical, Health and safety checks, household safer caring policy are up to date and reflect carers' current situation and household composition. To ensure children's risk assessments are in place, up to date and monitored and that carers' have the information about children in their care in order to provide high quality care;
  • To monitor the work of all carers to ensure that children are safe in foster care by undertaking occasional unannounced visits;
  • To inform foster carers' annual review. Goals set at the carer's review will provide a framework for future supervision sessions.


5. The Supervision Process

On approval, or on the placement of a child with a Connected Person (friends and family) carer under Regulation 24, foster carers/family link carers will have a supervising (Fostering) social worker identified by the Fostering Team Manager or Assistant Team Manager.

At their first meeting the supervising social worker, or their delegated representative, will ensure carers have signed the Foster Carer Agreement and have access to the Foster Carers Handbook which outlines the standards, policies and guidance within which the foster carer must operate, including information on foster carers' supervision.

The supervising social worker and the carer/s will draw up a supervision agreement together which should be signed by the supervising social worker and carer/s. The agreement will be placed on the carer's file and the carer will receive a copy. The contract should consider other members of the household and agree when and how often they should be seen. Foster carers will receive a minimum of monthly supervision from their supervising social worker, or delegated representative. The frequency of meetings for short break carers should be proportionate to the amount of care provided and therefore may be take place less often. The expectation is that supervision will last from 1.5 to 2 hours per session. Where there are two carers jointly approved both should be seen at every supervision meeting wherever possible, and every 3 months as a minimum unless there are exceptional circumstances. A reduced supervision visiting schedule must be agreed by the Fostering Team Manager and recorded in the supervision contract.

Where carers are on hold, or do not have a child in placement over a prolonged period, supervision frequency can be reduced to a minimum of every 3 months as an exception and by agreement with the Team Manager. It is important that carers in this position continue to receive regular supervision in order to meet their development and support needs, and to ensure the fulfilment of the safeguarding functions of supervision. It is possible that more frequent supervision meetings may be required if carers are newly approved as part of induction, and when a first placement is made, or following concerns when a carer's performance is being monitored. Other forms of support may be more appropriate between supervision sessions, and supervision should be seen as part of an overall support package to the carer. Foster carers own children should be seen alone during carers' supervision by the supervising social worker a minimum of three times a year and a report of this conversation recorded on the Record of Carers Supervision form. All other adult members of the carers' household should also be seen during supervision visits by the supervising social worker a minimum of three times a year to ensure their role in the household and in the care of children in placement is understood. A record of this contact should be recorded on the Record of Carers Supervision form.

Supervision will normally take place in the carer's home at a mutually convenient time with efforts made by both parties to keep free from interruptions. Supervision will include an agreed agenda as identified on the Carers Supervision Record Form. Agenda items can be put forward by either party, agreed at the start of each supervision session and prioritised. Both carer and worker should prepare in advance for supervision sessions by reviewing previous supervision record and bringing issues to supervision session for discussion.

Supervising social workers will view foster children's bedrooms as part of supervision and will meet with children in placement from time to time in order to gain their views regarding the care they are receiving. Foster children should be given the opportunity to see the supervising social worker alone. A record of any conversation with foster children should be made on CareFirst and shared with the child's social worker. Foster carers will receive a minimum of one unannounced visit a year by their supervising social worker or another member of the Fostering Service. A record of this visit will be recorded on Unannounced Visit Report form or Record of Foster Carers Supervision (as appropriate) and should be read and signed off by the worker's supervisor before placing on the carer's file. 

All supervision meetings must be recorded by the supervising social worker, or their delegated representative, on the Carers Supervision Record Form or Record of Unannounced Visit. The supervision record must be signed and dated by all parties at the supervision meeting or as soon as possible thereafter.

The supervising social worker must record all instances of supervision on the Record of Foster Carers Supervision template on CareFirst. If a carer is not happy with the arrangements for or content of the recorded supervision meeting and cannot resolve this with their supervising worker, they should contact the Fostering Assistant Team Manager in the first instance.


6. 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 carers' 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 that s/he has visited.

If the foster carers are not at home but the child is present and being looked after by someone else, the 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.


7. Support Provided by the Supervising Social Worker

Supervising social workers 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 achieve the TSD certificate of completion by their first annual review;
  2. Give access to 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 Carers' Allowance, Disabled Living Allowance etc.

Pre-Placement

  1. Complete risk assessments surrounding bedroom sharing (each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the placing authority), 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 a history of abuse or suspected abuse 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. Discuss how child's health needs are promoted and how children should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle;
  7. Assist carers in dealing with other relevant services such as health and education;
  8. Discuss appropriate training to provide appropriate care when caring for children with complex health needs;
  9. Assist carer with training needs for appropriate safer care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children;
  10. 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 Council's insurance policy for carers;
  11. 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;
  12. Exchange contact numbers with all relevant members of the family, including out of hours support and the Emergency Duty Service (EDS);
  13. That arrangements are made for the provision of specialist equipment for disabled children;
  14. Set date of first visit after the placement;
  15. Let the social worker for a child already in placement know when another child is placed;
  16. Provide carers with training and written policy on behaviour management.

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 addressed and in place at the time rather than waiting for reviews;
  2. Provide foster carers with breaks from caring as appropriate, which must meet the needs of placed children and be reflected in the child’s care plan;
  3. Take part in any Strategy Meetings and Section 47 Enquiry relating to the foster family. Be involved in interviews/support as agreed;
  4. 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;
  5. Prepare for and attend Foster Carer Review Meetings (See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure);
  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 (see also Section 6, Unannounced Visits);
  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 checks on members of the family every three years, including those reaching eighteen years of age, and other persons who come to live at the home, who are eighteen plus;
  12. Update medicals on the carers every 2 years or as necessary;
  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. Discuss how the carers can support young people into adulthood.

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 Breakdown Prevention Meetings and Disruption Meetings as required.


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

For the detailed procedure, see Managing Concerns, Complaints & Allegations Against Foster Carers, Including Historical Allegations Procedure

Where allegations regarding childcare or child protection are made, the supervising social worker should:

  1. Support the fostering family;
  2. Discuss fully, with the carer and their family, all the issues that have led to the allegation. The Strategy Meeting will make an explicit agreement about what can be shared;
  3. Make the carers aware of the process and of their rights during any investigation, including access to independent advice and support;
  4. Make the carer’s 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.

End