3.7.6 Annual Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers

RELATED CHAPTER

This Chapter should be read in conjunction with the following:

Foster Carer Reviews Guidance

Competence Assessments Based Guidance

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in August 2016. Details were added in Section 2, Review Meeting and Skills Level Review Board. The Review Meeting considering foster carer reviews and The Skills Level Review Board considering Skill Level applications.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Review Meeting and Skills Level Review Board
3. The Agency Foster Panel
4. Agency Decision Maker
5. Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer’s Approval
6. Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval
  6.1 Where the Foster Carer is in Agreement
  6.2 Where the Foster Carer is Not in Agreement
7. Resignation of Foster Carers
  Appendix 1: Monitoring and Quality Assurance


1. Introduction

Formal reviews of foster carers will take place at least annually.

Reviews will take place more frequently in the event of a significant change in circumstances of a foster carer for example where there are concerns about the care provided by the foster carer as a result of a complaint or allegation.

As well as formal reviews, there will be regular dialogue and feedback between the fostering worker and the foster carer.

Reviews will either be presented to the Review Meeting - see Section 2, Review Meeting and Skills Level Review Board below or to the Fostering Panel before being presented to the Agency Decision Maker (Foster Carer Approval).


2. Review Meeting and Skills Level Review Board

The Review Meeting and Skills Level Review Board will:

  • Consider all of those foster carer annual reviews that are not required, from a regulatory point of view, to be determined by the Fostering Panel;
  • Consider all applications for a move within the agency’s skills based payment scheme.
  • Provide a monthly report to the Fostering Panel consisting of management information about the outcome of foster carers’ annual reviews and skills level applications;
  • Provide quarterly figures for panel concerning the range of carers available to the Authority in comparison with the needs of children;
  • Provide a quarterly summary of the broad detail and the outcome of all complaints in connection with the fostering service provider. (See note one ‘Monitoring and quality assurance’);
  • The Co-ordinator (Foster Carer Reviews) will be responsible for the collation and report of all management information, consequent of the review process, for consideration by the Fostering Panel (see Appendix 1: Monitoring and Quality Assurance, Note 1).

The Review Meeting and Skills Level Review Board will meet bi-monthly. The Review Meeting considering foster carer reviews and The Skills Level Review Board considering Skill Level applications.

The composition of the Review Meeting and Skills Level Review Board for the consideration of foster care reviews will be as follows:

The following additional people will attend The Skills Level Review Board when skills level applications are considered:

  • Team Manager – Fostering Support Team; or
  • Team Manager – Permanence Support Team (depending within which team the carer is allocated);
  • Foster carer training co-ordinator.

Attendance at the Review Meeting and Skills Level Review Board

Although there is no specific guidance about the attendance of foster carers at review boards, good practice would indicate that carers can, if they wish attend the Board at the time of the consideration of their review.

The attendance of link social workers at the time of the consideration of a foster carers’ annual review to whom they are linked is not a formal requirement, they should attend however to support a carer who wishes to attend the Board.

It is expected that link social workers and the carers will attend the Board at the time of the consideration of all skills level applications.

Skill Level Applications

All applications for a move within the skills based scheme will, in the first instance, be referred to the Skills Level Review Board for a recommendation.

If the applicant and the fostering service provider fail to agree on a recommendation, then the fostering service provider will refer the case to the Fostering Panel for consideration. It is the responsibility of the Fostering Panel to make a recommendation to the fostering service provider who will then make the final decision on the skill level.


3. The Agency Foster Panel

Also see the Fostering Panel Procedure.

In respect of foster carers annual reviews the Fostering Panel will:

  • Consider those foster carer annual reviews that take place not more than a year after initial approval;
  • Consider, as a matter of good practice and quality assurance, a random selection of those reviews that are reported to the panel on a monthly basis;
  • Consider any subsequent review or skills level application which the fostering service provider refers to it;
  • Receive management information for monitoring and quality assurance purposes (see Appendix 1: Monitoring and Quality Assurance, Note One);
  • Receive notifications in respect of all other relevant matters (see Appendix 1: Monitoring and Quality Assurance, Note Two).
Typically, the reviews referred to the Fostering Panel by the fostering service provider will be those generally:

 “Where termination of approval or significant changes in terms of the approval is being considered or where there are major concerns about the suitability of the carer ….”

And specifically:

  • Following a significant allegation or complaint involving CP concerns;
  • A consistent failure of the carer to comply with care standards or quality standards (agency);
  • Significant changes in personal or familial circumstances such as death, divorce, health, accommodation, criminal record and so on;
  • Any circumstances where the carer and the agency fail to agree on a recommendation.

All reviews where the recommendation is for a significant change to the current approval of a foster carer, for example, a proposal to increase the number of fostered children and / or recommend significant changes to age range which are not consistent with the carer’s developmental progress.

Any other circumstance that gives rise to a carer being unavailable to foster, either through a decision by the fostering service provider or the foster carer.

Where the Review recommends the termination of approval of the foster carer, see Section 5, Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer’s Approval.

Where the Fostering Panel's recommendation is for a different category of approval, see Section 6, Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval.

Where the foster carer has decided to give up fostering, see Section 7, Resignation by Foster Carers.

Finally, this procedure will not prejudice the rights of any carer or service user to make representation in accordance with the Local Governments complaints procedure.


4. Agency Decision Maker

Whether presented to the fostering panel or not, the report will be presented to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision as to whether the foster carer remains suitable to foster and whether the terms of approval remain suitable. Where it has been presented to the fostering panel, the Agency Decision Maker will take into account the panel’s recommendation.


5. 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 he or she 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 Recruitment, Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure, Representations / Independent Review Procedure which will need to be received by the Agency Decision Maker within 28 days of the date of the notice of the decision being sent to them. The matter will be referred to the fostering panel, and the Panel Administrator will then notify the foster carer within 7 working days of the date when the Panel will reconsider the matter.

The foster carer will not have the right to request a review by an Independent Review Panel is if he or she is 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 within the 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. Where a foster carer wishes to make representations in person, the Panel Chair may consider the Panel meeting as a smaller quorate sub-group. 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.


6. Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval

6.1 Where the Foster Carer is in Agreement

Where, as a result of a review, the it is proposed to revise the terms of the foster carer’s approval, a statement must be sent to the foster carer setting out whether it is considered that the foster carer or members of their household (including any children placed there) may have additional support needs as a result of the proposed revision and, if so, how those needs will be met, and request the foster carer’s agreement in writing to the proposed revision of terms.

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 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 5, Proposal to Terminate Foster Carer's Approval will apply.


7. 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 procedure for Recruitment, Assessment and Approval 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.


Appendix 1: Monitoring and Quality Assurance

Note 1: Monitoring and Quality Assurance

The Fostering Panel should receive management information about the outcome of foster carer reviews. Fostering Panels should also monitor the range of foster carers available in relation to the profile of children needing foster carers. A recent Government inspection of LA fostering services confirmed that there is a shortage of foster carers.  The inspections also found that there is a shortage of Black and minority ethnic carers.

Disabled children are sometimes placed inappropriately. High numbers of exemptions are being granted. 

The Fostering Panel needs information on all of these issues in order to monitor, to ask questions and to assist the agency in developing recruitment strategies and support packages for foster carers as required. 

The Coordinator (Foster Carer Reviews) will provide monthly and three monthly reports to the fostering panel with the additional three monthly summaries of the broad detail and outcome of all complaints in respect of the fostering service provider.

The Fostering Panel provides a quality assurance function in relation to the assessment process, in particular to monitor and review the work of the assessors; to provide feedback; to identify problems; and to ensure that there is consistency of approach in assessments across the service, that is fair to all applicants and that it has been completed in a thorough and rigorous way.

The Fostering Panel therefore needs to monitor the quality of reports and work undertaken by the fostering service provider. Inadequate and poor reports should be challenged and recommendations deferred.

The speed of assessments should also be monitored so that carers are not waiting unduly. Panels should be aware of the preparation, training and support provided by the agency. It may be helpful to set up forums where there can be an exchange of views between panels and social workers. Regular and consistent feedback from carers about the process should be obtained. 

An annual report should be prepared detailing the work of the fostering service, including the numbers and profile of foster carers and children; number of disruptions and retention strategies; training and support; strengths and achievements of the service; training and support; strengths and achievements of the service; performance targets measurements and future areas for development. This report should be approved by the chair and made available to Fostering Panel members, children and young people in foster care, elected members, and responsible individuals as well as the managers and staff within the agency.

Note Two: Matters to be reported to the agency fostering panel and timescales

Foster carers are required to give 28 days notice in writing to the fostering service provider and their approval is terminated 28 days from the date on which the agency receives the notice. This applies to all carers who request a break from fostering.

  • Resignation – no child in placement:

    Should be referred to fostering panel for information and acknowledgement.
  • Resignation – child in placement:

    Should be referred to the fostering panel with a copy of the agreed protocol detailing the arrangements for the continuing care of the child.
  • Short term variations to the foster carer’s terms of approval:

    Emergency variations to terms of approval can be agreed by a Team Manager Family Placement Services for up to 6 working days, to enable a placement to take place before the case has been presented to the Fostering Panel. It must then be presented to the Fostering Panel. 

    See Changes to terms of Approval Procedure.
  • Exemptions to the usual fostering limit:

    This should be for short periods only. Children should be named and only the Designated Manager (Exemptions) for the area authority in which the foster family live can grant the exemption. Upon the granting of an exemption, it is the responsibility of a Team Manager Family Placement Services to ensure that the appropriate notifications are made.

    See Exemptions to the Usual Fostering Limit Procedure.

The Fostering Panel should be notified of exemptions at its next meeting so that the situation can be monitored. It is essential that the panel and the fostering service provider are fully satisfied that such arrangements are working in the best interests of children and within the capabilities of the foster carer. A foster carer review should be arranged if the exemption continues beyond six weeks.

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