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EnfieldChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers

NOTE

For temporary approval as foster carers of approved prospective adopters, see Placements in Foster Care Procedure, Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters.

For procedures regarding the temporary and full approval as foster carers of Connected Persons (Family and Friends Carers), see Placements with Connected Persons Procedure.

Please see the flowchart for and explanation of the Stages of the Foster Carer Assessment and Approval Process.

AMENDMENT

In October 2019 a link was added to Attending an IRM Panel: information sheets. See Section 9, After the Panel Recommendation.

Contents

  1. Recruitment and Assessment Policy
  2. Responding to Initial Enquiries
  3. Assessment - Stage One
  4. Checks and References
    1. Checks
    2. References
    3. Health
  5. Preparation Training Course
  6. Assessment - Stage Two
  7. CoramBAAF Form F
  8. The Panel Recommendation
  9. After the Panel Recommendation
  10. Representations / Independent Review Procedure
  11. Criteria for Foster Carers
  12. After the Approval
  13. Register of Foster Carers

1. Recruitment and Assessment Policy

The purpose of this policy and procedure is to develop a consistent approach to the business of recruiting and approving prospective foster carers. It strives to deliver a similar service to all applicants that is transparent and evidence based and keeps at the focus of the recruitment and assessment process the needs of Looked After Children.

There is always a need to recruit and approve new foster carers to maintain a pool of approved carers so that children can be matched appropriately with carers who are able to meet their needs in terms of location, ethnic, religious and cultural needs and their specific care needs.

A recruitment strategy with an annual operational plan determines the way the service aims to attract new carers.

In any given year there will be a loss of existing carers; for various reasons they will cease to foster. To maintain the pool and create more placement choice it is important to welcome and respond to all prospective carers in a clear and professional manner. It is equally important that those applicants who are not suitable are advised in a timely manner so that neither their or the time of the service is wasted in pursuing an application which cannot come to fruition.

The process that then follows is important to maximize the chances of maintaining the interest of carers and translating this into approved foster homes.

2. Responding to Initial Enquiries

All members of the public who make an initial enquiry by telephone, in person, email or letter in relation to becoming a foster carer will be referred to the Recruitment and Assessment Team Duty. All enquirers will be treated as a potential resource and, however they are received, will receive a response from a fostering social worker or fostering support officer within 2 working days. They will be contacted to gather further information and for a general discussion about fostering; usually this will be by telephone. An Initial Enquiry Form will be completed, which addresses key areas such as:

  • Is the person interested in a particular type of fostering (such as teenagers, children with special needs, young babies etc)?
  • Does the person have any paid employment, and if so what the working hours are?
  • What is the family composition?
  • What is the person's ethnicity and nationality?
  • Does the person have a spare room suitable for a foster child?
  • Previous Children's Services involvement;
  • Criminal offences related to children or vulnerable adults;
  • Health;
  • Previous child care experience.

Should the enquirer not have time to complete an enquiry over the phone, or want to request an information pack and read this first before having a discussion about fostering, an Expression of Interest Form will be completed. This will ensure that the enquirer's full contact details will be captured so that a file can be created for them on Liquidlogic.

In both instances the enquirer will be informed about the drop-in sessions or other recruitment events that offer general information about fostering. The Initial Enquiry Form will be completed in relation to all new enquiries where the enquirer wishes to progress beyond the seeking of written information about fostering. In addition, a check will be carried out in relation to enquirers and all members of their household on Children's Services records.

All enquirers are sent an Information Pack and letter. The Information Pack will be sent within 5 working days of the enquiry.

Where the enquirer or a member of the household is known, the enquiry will be passed to the manager for a decision on how to proceed if the information might have a bearing on the fostering application. The enquirer's written consent will be sought for the full information to be accessed from our IT systems, and to be discussed with them. At this early stage, it may be appropriate to advise these enquirers against pursuing fostering if they clearly do not meet the basic criteria (see Section 11, Criteria for Foster Carers). The manager's decision will be communicated to the person concerned in writing, with reasons given, and the decision will be recorded. Where the decision is not to proceed the referral will be closed. Where the decision is to proceed, the enquirer will be sent an Information Pack and the same procedure will be followed as for all other enquirers.

If there is no response within 1 week, the enquirer will contacted again to chase up.

When a response is received and the Initial Enquiry Form is completed, the manager will be informed so that the form can be signed off and an action agreed on by the manager. If the enquirer does not meet our current recruitment requirements, for example they do not have a spare room, then it is not necessary to take an Initial Enquiry and an Expression of Interest will suffice. The manager does not need to be informed and the Expression of Interest can be emailed straight to Fostering Business Support for the Expression of Interest to be uploaded to the system. Depending on the manager's recommendation, the outcome of the initial enquiry will either be for the case to progress to an Initial Visit, for further information to be sought or for closure. The Initial Enquiry or the Expression of Interest will be uploaded to Liquidlogic by the administrative staff.

An Initial Assessment Visit will usually take place within 5 working days of the allocation of the visit (assuming this is convenient for the prospective carer). A visit should be arranged for a time when all members of the household can be available. Initial Assessment Visits are carried out by a member of the Fostering Recruitment Team. An Initial Assessment Visit will usually last for up to two hours, during which time the social worker/fostering support officer will:

  • Provide information about fostering for Enfield and the diverse needs of Enfield's looked after children and young people;
  • Look around the home to assess its suitability for fostering by carrying out the initial health & safety check;
  • Obtain information about family background and composition;
  • Interview all members of the household;
  • Ask for information about current employment and employment history of all adult members of the household;
  • Enquire about personal history and experiences relevant to the competencies for foster carers;
  • Enquire about any convictions or cautions for criminal offences in regard to all relevant members of the household;
  • Provide information about the fostering assessment and pre-approval training process;
  • If after this visit the social worker/fostering support officer, and his/her manager and the applicant decide that it is appropriate to proceed to the next stage, then the enquirer will be informed about the forthcoming preparation training dates for new applicants and be invited to attend;
  • Prospective foster carers can apply to foster with Enfield at any stage from Initial Enquiry to following attendance at preparation training. During the initial enquiry, prospective foster carers are asked if they wish to apply or to enquire at this stage. If the department considers this an appropriate application, enquirers will be encouraged to apply as soon as possible, so that the necessary statutory checks relevant to Stage 1 of the fostering assessment process can commence;
  • On receipt of the completed application form, which includes written consent to medical checks and authorisations for the statutory checks/references, the administrative staff will input the date of the application on the electronic records and initiate the necessary checks.

3. Assessment – Stage One

Where a person applies to become a foster carer and it is decided to assess their suitability to become a foster carer, the following information must be obtained as soon as is reasonably practicable, relating to the applicant and other members of their household and family:

  • Full name, address and date of birth;
  • Details of health (supported by a medical report);
  • Particulars of any other adult members of the household;
  • Particulars of the children in the family, whether or not members of the household, and any other children in the household;
  • Particulars of their accommodation;
  • The outcome of any request or application made by them or any other member of their household to foster or adopt children, or for registration as an early years provider or later years provider under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006), including particulars of any previous approval or refusal of approval relating to them or to any other member of the household;
  • If the applicant has, in the preceding twelve months, been a foster parent approved by another fostering service provider, the name and address of that fostering service provider;
  • Where the applicant was approved as a foster carer by another fostering service provider, access will be requested to the relevant records compiled by that other fostering service provider in relation to the applicant. A reference will also be sought from that provider;
  • Names and addresses of three persons who are adults who will provide both verbal and written personal references who, have known the applicant for at least five years and are not related to the applicant, and one other referee who is a family member (not a child of the applicant). All referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity and ideally can comment on their parenting ability. If the applicants are a couple then ideally referees should have known them both whilst they have been in a relationship;
  • In relation to the applicant and any other member of the applicant 's household who is aged 18 or over, a Disclosure and Barring Service Check;
  • Details of current, and any previous, marriage, civil partnership or similar relationship;
  • The views of, the local authority in whose area the applicant lives, if different to the local authority;
  • Where the applicant is applying;
  • Where the applicant has been approved as a prospective adopter by an adoption agency, access will be requested to the relevant records compiled by that adoption agency in relation to the applicant and a reference sought.

Where, having regard to any information obtained, it is decided (by the Agency Decision Maker) that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, the applicant must be notified in writing with reasons. This notification may be given whether or not all of this information has been obtained. Such a notification may not be given more than 10 working days after all the information has been obtained. The applicant has no right to make representations about the decision or to have their case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism.

Where all the specified information has been obtained and notification has not been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable, then the application must automatically proceed to Stage 2 of the assessment process - see Section 6, Assessment - Stage Two.

The applicants will be booked onto the Foster Carers Preparation/Training Course - see Section 5, Preparation Training Course.

4. Checks and References

4.1 Checks

The administrative staff will arrange for the following checks to be made on all members of the household aged 18 and over: Disclosure and Barring Service, Probation, Health Trust, Education Welfare, Children's Services (including CAMHS and the List of Children with a Child Protection Plan), Ofsted. Where the applicants live or have lived outside the local authority area within the past 10 years, the checks must be made with the local authority where the applicant has lived. These checks should be recorded including the date when the checks were made.

Where applicants have recently moved to the UK (within the last 10 years), checks need to be initiated by the applicant via the relevant Consulate on all members of the household aged 10 and over. Should this be a country from which it is difficult to obtain a police check or a local authority check, the applicant can provide the contact details of someone of good standing in that community, to provide a character reference.

In addition, where the applicant has school aged children, the relevant school(s) will be contacted, for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education. Where the applicant has pre-school children a reference from a health visitor or GP for information regarding the quality of care of under 5's should be obtained.

On receipt of the statutory checks, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.

Where the checks reveal that the applicant or a member of the household is a Disqualified Person (Foster Carer), see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.

Where the Disclosure and Barring Service check reveals a trace, which does not automatically disqualify the applicant, the fostering manager must consider whether the application should still proceed and record this in writing. Such convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. A risk assessment may be required to assist with this judgement. In a case where the conviction would usually disqualify an applicant, the case should be referred to the Fostering Panel (if concurrently in Stage 2 of the fostering assessment) and the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) for a preliminary decision - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure. In any other case where there is doubt, an early referral should be made to the Fostering Panel if relevant and/or Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).

4.2 References

Where the applicant has been a foster carer within the preceding 12 months and was approved as such by another fostering service provider, a reference must be requested from that other fostering service provider.

There is no requirement to also interview personal referees (see below). However, additional verbal and/or written references may be sought from personal referees. If the previous fostering service, for whatever reason, does not provide a reference, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.

Otherwise, each applicant will be asked to provide the names of three personal referees, who are adults, have known the applicant for at least five years and are not related to the applicant, and one other referee who is a family members. All referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity.

Where there is a joint application, referees should know both applicants, or additional referees will be required.

During Stage 2 of the assessment A written reference must be obtained from each applicant's current employer regardless of the applicant's occupation. where the applicant is self-employed a reference from someone else who has known them in a work capacity, such as a solicitor or accountant, should be obtained. A written reference should also be sought from the previous employer. When the applicant has worked with children or vulnerable adults, references will be sought from all previous employers.

Where the applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference.

During Stage Two of the assessment the assessor will seek to interview former partners where there has been a significant relationship or a relationship for more than 2 years, or where they have lived with a partner for at least 10 years. Should attempts to interview the former partner fail, Fostering Business Support will write to the former partner to seek a reference.

The administrative staff will send requests for written references to each referee.

On receipt of the references, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.

4.3 Health

The applicants will be provided with the relevant medical form to fill in with their details and send to their GP with a covering letter requesting that the GP complete the Form and send it to Fostering Business Support. On receipt the allocated assessor or recruitment duty will complete a cover sheet and Fostering Business Support will pass the information and the medical to the Medical Adviser for comment.

Where the medical information suggests that the applicant may not be suitable for health reasons, this should be discussed in detail with the applicant(s) and withdrawal may be advisable at this stage. Additional advice may be sought from the Medical Adviser or the Medical Adviser may raise questions with the GP or consultant where this is appropriate. It may be necessary for reports from other health professionals also to be obtained and presented to the Medical Adviser and the Fostering Panel (if the applicant is in Stage 2 of the assessment process).

Where any member of the household smokes, Enfield's Foster Carers Smoking Policy applies. This precludes children under the age of 5 being placed in smoking household unless exceptional circumstances apply.

5. Preparation Training Course

The fostering applicants' preparation/Skills to Foster Course will cover in detail all aspects of the fostering task, including the need for approved foster carers to notify the manager of any changes in their home circumstances, for example any new relationships they have where they wish their new partners to become a member of the household.

Applicants will be booked on the course following a positive initial assessment visit, prospective foster carers will be required to attend this training, which is an integral part of the assessment process. However existing foster carers who are moving from other boroughs or agencies are not required to attend this course.

The objectives of the course are:

  • To raise awareness and understanding of the key competencies which need to be developed by all foster carers;
  • To assist applicants to consider more thoroughly the implications of fostering;
  • To assist applicants to determine the type of resource they can offer to the children needing foster placements.

Those facilitating the course will provide written feedback on their observations on the applicants during the course and will highlight any issues that need to be addressed during an assessment. the assessing social worker will use evidence from this feedback in the assessment report. Any issues of concern should be referred to the manager. The observation report will be uploaded to the electronic system by one of the course facilitators/observers.

Following the training all applicants will be invited to a feedback meeting facilitated by two of the course facilitators, where they can share their responses to the training and be given feedback on the observations made on them and any areas for development. Any issues of concern that remain following the initial assessment visit should also be addressed. The applicant will be informed during the meeting whether the department has decided to progress to Stage 2 of the assessment or not; the facilitators will have discussed each application with the manager and received the manager's decision prior to the feedback meeting.

Where issues emerge during the training as a result of which the manager decides that it is not appropriate to proceed with the application, the applicants should be notified in writing of the decision, with reasons. Advice should be given of any steps they may take in order to meet the criteria or of how they might pursue their interest elsewhere, if appropriate.

6. Assessment - Stage Two

Where the Assessment - Stage One information has been obtained, or whilst Stage One is still in process/is about to commence (i.e. the applicant has completed and submitted their application form), and the applicant has successfully completed their fostering preparation training, Stage 2 of the fostering assessment will commence. Following completion of Stage 1 (checks and references) if the applicant is deemed unsuitable for fostering, written notification must be given to the applicant within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable to be a foster carer. If no notification is given the applicant will automatically progress to Stage 2.

During Stage 2 the applicant will be allocated a social worker who will through a home study of approximately 8 visits to the applicants' home conduct an assessment of their suitability to foster.

The assessing social worker will:

  • Familiarise him or herself with the application form;
  • Contact the applicant(s) and arrange a visit;
  • Draw up a written agreement setting out the dates for the assessment visits and the date for the presentation to the Fostering Panel;
  • Interview couples individually and together and ensure the children of the applicant and significant members of the family/household are seen alone;
  • Contact ex partners (see below);
  • Inform the applicant(s) of any revised timescales if there are delays.

The assessing social worker will record all appropriate factual information and address issues including the applicants' understanding of the following areas:

  • Child rearing and providing good quality care and support to foster children;
  • Caring for children born to someone else;
  • Contact between children and their families;
  • Helping children to make sense of their past;
  • Sexual boundaries and attitudes;
  • Awareness of sexual and other forms of abuse;
  • Health and health promotion;
  • Promotion of education;
  • Approaches to discipline;
  • Awareness of how to promote secure attachments between children and appropriate adults;
  • Religion;
  • Standards of living and lifestyles;
  • Racial, cultural and linguistic issues;
  • Experiences of disability and attitudes to disability;
  • Awareness of equal opportunities;
  • Understanding and dealing with young people's behaviour including encouraging children to take responsibility for their behaviour and helping them to learn how to resolve conflict.

The list is not exhaustive - other issues relevant to the individual applicant and his or her family may need to be addressed. The skills and personal qualities that need to be evidenced will be different according to the type of fostering the applicants want to do, e.g. babies and toddlers, teenagers, short term or permanent.

Throughout the assessment information will need to be verified through references, the preparation training feedback, interviews with birth children, the medical adviser's comments, etc. This evidence will be linked to the assessor's analysis in the various sections.

As well as providing a written reference, personal referees will also be interviewed during the assessment. Referees and any other family members spoken to during the preparation of the report should be informed in writing about the position in relation to confidentiality. A written reference will not be shown to an applicant unless the referee consents to disclosure. The same applies to information and opinions shared in the course of conversation. These will not be disclosed to an applicant without permission. However, referees and others should be made aware that it will often be necessary to discuss with applicants information and opinions expressed although where this happens, the particular source of the information or opinion may not be disclosed if the referee does not consent to this. Referees should be sent a written record of the discussion held with the assessing social worker and be asked to sign their agreement to it being a true record.

The assessing social worker should also contact the previous partners of the applicants (taking care not to disclose confidential personal information about the applicant). Where the applicant has had previous relationships it is important to establish the length and significance of these relationships, why it ended and what likely impact the former partner considers fostering will have on children who may have been born from that relationship. The purpose of the interview will also be to verify information, and obtain the former partner's view about parenting capacity and any concerns such as domestic violence.

For any other relationship deemed to be significant every attempt must be made to interview the previous partner. Significant can be deemed to be when the couple lived together or were a couple in an ongoing relationship for more than 2 years.

If the previous partner cannot be face to face interviewed, a telephone interview must be held ( if overseas or too far outside London) and if an interview is not possible in any of the above circumstances this must be discussed and a plan agreed with the Fostering Service Manager, such as a written reference being sought. If the partner has concerns for their safety or the contact is deemed to be too difficult this must also be presented to the Fostering Service Manager for a decision about how to proceed. The reasons given must be recorded and summarised within the assessment document.

Where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the social worker will arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable. All adult children of the applicant(s) living away from home must also be contacted and interviewed. (If face-to-face is not practical, then via telephone).

Applicants without previous relationships

If applicants have not had previous relationships then this must be documented with an explanation, analysis and assessment by the assessing SW.

Applicants will be encouraged to be actively involved in contributing towards the assessment, and supported to provide their own written report/portfolio for Panel to evidence their capabilities and to support their application.

The foster home will also be thoroughly checked to ensure it provides appropriate and safe accommodation for the child, as well as safe transport. Each child over 3 has their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom by siblings has been agreed by the service manager, based on a risk assessment. A risk assessment must be conducted in regard to pets. (The pet assessment form can be obtained from the Fostering Service).

During the Stage 2 assessment the following must be undertaken:

  • Obtain the following information relating to the applicant and other members of the household, together with any other relevant information:
    • Details of personality;
    • Religious persuasion, and capacity to care for a child from any particular religious persuasion;
    • Ethnic origin, cultural and linguistic background and capacity to care for a child from any particular ethnic origin or cultural or linguistic background;
    • Past and present employment or occupation, standard of living, leisure activities and interests;
    • Previous experience (if any) of caring for their own and other children;
    • Skills, competence and potential relevant to their capacity to care effectively for a child/children placed with them.
  • Consider whether the applicant is suitable to be a foster parent and whether the applicant 's household is suitable for any child;
  • Prepare a written report on the applicant which includes the following matters:
    • The information required to be obtained, as set out above;
    • Any other relevant information;
    • An assessment of the applicant's suitability to be a foster parent;
    • Proposals about any terms of approval.

The applicant must be notified that the case is to be referred to the fostering panel, be given a copy of the report and be invited to send any comments in writing within 10 working days beginning with the date on which the notification is sent.

At the end of the 10 working days, (or when the applicant's comments are received, whichever is sooner), the report, the applicant's comments on that report, if any, and any other relevant information obtained, must be sent to the fostering panel.

Where, having regard to the information obtained, and Stage 2 is formally underway (i.e. all checks from Stage 1 have been completed), it is decided that the applicant is unlikely to be suitable to become a foster parent, a written report must be prepared for the fostering panel notwithstanding that not all the information has been obtained. Where the applicant disagrees with the decision and/or is not willing to withdraw, the procedure to be followed should be the same as if the report was a full report on the applicants (see Section 8, The Panel Recommendation to Section 10, Representations / Independent Review Procedure).

The Fostering Panel must make its recommendation on the application within eight months of the applicant first applying to be assessed.

7. CoramBAAF Form F

The information gathered during the assessment, the Preparation Training Course and the checks and personal references, will form the basis of the assessment set out in the CoramBAAF Form F.

Once the assessing social worker has completed a draft, it should be submitted to the manager for discussion in order to identify whether there are any issues that are unclear or need further work before the assessment is completed. At some point towards the end of the assessment a second opinion visit should be carried out by another assessing social worker.

The final draft of the Form F will then be sent to the applicants. The applicants should be asked to sign and return the report, if agreed, and/or send their comments in writing to the assessing social worker. It should be explained to them that they have 28 days to do this, (or they can be asked to sign a disclaimer stating they do not wish to take 28 days to comment) and that any written comments they make will be circulated to Fostering Panel members, with the report.

The CoramBAAF Form F will then be passed to the manager to be endorsed and counter-signed.

The applicants should also be advised of their rights of appeal to the Independent Review Mechanism (the same rights applicants have during the formal Stage 2, even when their assessment hasn't been completed) and should to attend the meeting of the Fostering Panel, which considers their application.

The social worker will then send the CoramBAAF Form F, the applicants' written comments (if any), the medical adviser's comments, the reports on the interviews with the referees and their written references, any other references (e.g. employment, former partners) and relevant documents, to the Panels Support Team at least 10 working days before the relevant Fostering Panel meeting.

The date, time and venue of the Fostering Panel meeting will be communicated to the applicants as soon as possible, together with written information about the Panel process, who will attend and their respective roles. If the applicants know a particular Panel member, the applicants may request that the Panel member stand down. (Panel members are in any event expected to declare an interest in these circumstances - see Fostering Panel Procedure).

8. The Panel Recommendation

The assessing social worker will attend the Panel meeting, together with the applicants.

Applicants should be fully prepared as to the procedure prior to their attendance.

The Panel will consider the reports together with all the supporting documentation, and make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) regarding the suitability of the applicant for fostering.

The recommendation, with reasons, will be recorded in writing and, where approval is recommended, the category of fostering, any limitations of the approval to named children (for example in the case of a Family and Friends Fostering Applicant) or conditions as to the age range or number of children to be placed in the foster home may also be specified.

9. After the Panel Recommendation

The Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will make a decision within 7 working days as to the suitability of the applicant, based on the reports presented to the Fostering Panel and the minutes detailing the Panel's recommendation. This decision and the reasons for it must be fully recorded. Where the decision is to approve the applicants as foster carers, the Agency Decision Maker may specify the terms of the approval i.e. the number and age range of children to be fostered, the type of placement and any specific inclusions/exclusions. Applicants can be approved for more than one placement category.

Where a Brief Report has been submitted to the fostering panel during the formal Stage 2 assessment, the Agency Decision Maker will, taking into account the fostering panel's recommendation, make a determination about whether to terminate the assessment or whether the full assessment should be completed.

The manager will arrange for the applicants to be given verbal notification of the decision within 24 hours and written notice of the decision, with reason, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within 5 working days of the decision.

If the decision/qualifying determination is to refuse approval, the assessing social worker and manager will assess the need for further discussion with the applicant and arrange any necessary follow-up action.

Upon approval, foster carers should be issued with an agreed form of identification to enable their role as a foster carer to be verified.

10. Representations / Independent Review Procedure

If a Qualifying Determination (decision in principle) is made to refuse an application, the applicant will be advised that if he or she wishes to challenge the qualifying determination, they have a right to submit representations within 28 days of the date of the written notice of the qualifying determination to the manager. In addition, as an alternative, they may exercise the right to apply to the Secretary of State to request a review of the qualifying determination through the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). Any such application must be made in writing within 28 days of the qualifying determination and supported by reasons.

The only circumstances where the applicant/ 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 this 28 day period, the decision to refuse the application can be confirmed.

If written representations are received within the period, the Panel Adviser will arrange for the reports and other documentation to be reconsidered by the Fostering Panel, taking into account the written representations, and make a new recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker. Where possible the make-up of this review Panel should draw on members of the Central List who were not present at the first panel.

The Panel Administrator will advise the applicant within 7 days of the date of the Panel meeting when they can attend and their written representations will be considered.

In these circumstances, applicants who wish to attend the meeting of the Fostering Panel can arrange for a friend or supporter to accompany them.

After considering the representations, the Panel will make further recommendations either confirming or amending their previous views, which the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will consider before a final decision is made.

If the decision remains not to approve the application, the manager will arrange for the applicants to be informed verbally within 2 working days. Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant by the Panel Adviser within 7 working days of the Panel meeting. Information about the Complaints Procedure must also be sent. A copy of the report to the Panel, the Panel's recommendation and the decision, with reasons, must be retained on the applicant's case file.

If the applicant decides to refer the matter to an Independent Review, the relevant Panel reports, any new information obtained since the Panel meeting, a record of the qualifying determination made and reasons, a copy of the written notification of the qualifying determination and a copy of the Panel minutes, if different, will be sent to the Independent Review Mechanism within 10 working days of their written request. (See also: Attending an IRM panel: information sheets (GOV.UK)).

The applicant and two representatives of the fostering agency will be invited to attend the Independent Review.

After considering the representations, the IRM may make a recommendation, which the Agency Decision Maker will consider before a final decision is made.

Written notice of the final decision, together with reasons, must be sent to the applicant within 7 working days of the receipt of the IRM recommendation.

Where the decision is to approve the application, the procedure set out in Section 9, After Approval will be followed.

11. Criteria for Foster Carers

11.1 Individual and Joint

Applications will be considered from married couples, civil partners, unmarried couples or single people.

11.2 Religion

Applications will be considered from people of any or no religious persuasion.

11.3 Ethnicity

Applications will be considered from people of any ethnicity or culture.

11.4 Age

The minimum age for foster carers is generally 21 years. In exceptional circumstances, e.g. with some Family and Friends Carers, the minimum age may be reduced to 18. There is no specific upper age limit.

11.5 Gender

Applications will be considered from people of either sex and from same sex couples.

11.6 Sexual Orientation

Applications will be considered from people of any sexual orientation.

11.7 Income and Work Commitment

Applicants may be in work or not.

11.8 Health

Applicants will be required to have a full medical and undergo any further tests/checks that may be required by the Fostering Panel's Medical Adviser. The Medical Adviser will advise on the applicants' ability, from a health point of view, to meet the needs of a child who is fostered. Any comments or advice given by the Medical Adviser must be taken seriously by the applicants and will be addressed during the assessment process.

Applicants are expected to positively promote a healthy life-style which will enable a child to reach his or her full potential. This would encompass attention to nutrition, exercise, routine and hygiene.

It is expected that foster carers will comply with nationally recommended alcohol consumption levels and that children's needs and safety will be met at all times.

Applicants who smoke will not be considered for children under the age of 5 unless there are exceptional circumstances. Furthermore applicants who smoke should only smoke outdoors, regardless of the age of the foster child.

11.9 Criminal Convictions

A person who is seeking approval as a foster carer will not be considered if s/he or any adult member of the household is within the category of Disqualified Persons (Foster Carer) unless the application is to foster a child who is already living with the applicant(s) and at least one of the applicants is a relative of the child, in which case the caution/conviction will not automatically preclude the application but will be taken into account when assessing the suitability of the applicant - see Persons Disqualified from Fostering Procedure.

Other convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. All such cases will be referred to the Fostering Service Manager who may also consult the Agency Decision Maker.

11.10 Accommodation

Applicants may own their own home or live in Council, Housing Association or privately rented accommodation.

They will need living and sleeping accommodation appropriate to the number and ages of the children they are seeking to foster. They must be able to offer separate bedrooms for each foster child. Only in particular circumstances would sharing of bedrooms be allowed for children aged over 3, based on a risk assessment and the consent of all parties involved, and this would NEVER be with adult sons or daughters of the foster carer.

It is important that the home environment is child-friendly, welcoming to children, safe and meets reasonable levels of hygiene.

All applicants will have a safety check on their home undertaken by their assessing social worker. This will include the outdoor space, animals (including the sleeping and toileting arrangements for any pet) and the holding of any firearms.

11.11 Child Care Experience

It is important that the applicant who is going to be the main carer has some experience of 'hands-on' care of children of the age group in which the applicants are interested, or can evidence transferrable skills from other fields, or show a willingness to undertake some voluntary work with children to contribute towards the evidence gathered during their Form F assessment.

11.12 Family Contact

All applicants must be prepared to facilitate contact between any foster child and his or her parents and significant family members. Sometimes this will take place in the foster carer's home, based on a risk assessment and with the agreement of the foster carer.

12. After the Approval

Once approved, the administrative staff will enter the foster carers' approval details, including their first review date, on the Fostering Register database (see Section 13, Register of Foster Carers) and update the electronic records. They will also send notice of the outcome to the foster carer and fostering department.

The foster carer will be allocated a supervising social worker - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure. If the social worker does not know the new carer, he or she will read the CoramBAAF Form F and the supporting documentation presented to the Fostering Panel including the references prior to introducing him or herself to the carers and arranging to meet the carers, their family and members or their support network as appropriate.

The supervising social worker will visit the foster carers within one week of their approval and request the foster carer to sign a Foster Care Agreement between the local authority and the foster carer, which contains the information the foster carer needs to carry out his or her functions as a foster carer effectively, ensuring that the foster carer understands its contents.

The foster carer will be given two copies for signature, and will retain one signed copy. The other will be kept on the foster carer's file, together with the report and supporting documents presented to the Fostering Panel, a copy of the Panel's recommendation and a copy of the approval decision.

The Foster Care Agreement will contain the following information:

  1. The terms of the foster carer's approval;
  2. The support and training to be provided to the foster carer;
  3. The procedure for the review of the foster carer's approval;
  4. The procedure for placements of children;
  5. The procedure for making representations and complaints;
  6. The requirement to inform the fostering service of any change of circumstance, address or in the household composition, or of any registration as a childminder or application to adopt or of any offence;
  7. The requirements in relation to confidentiality and internet usage;
  8. The procedures for behaviour management and unauthorised absences of children placed with the foster carer including the ban on corporal punishment;
  9. The procedures for informing the supervising social worker of the child's progress and any significant events relating to the child;
  10. The need to give 28 days' notice in writing if they wish to cease fostering;
  11. The need to allow access to the Regulatory Authority.

New foster carers will also be given their personal copy of the Foster Carers Handbook, which contains information about fostering in the local authority and covers policies, procedures, guidance, legal information and insurance details. Information about local foster carer support groups will also be provided.

The foster carer(s) must sign confirmation of receipt. The signed and dated confirmation of receipt will be placed on their file.

Foster carers will be assisted by their supervising social worker to update and personalise their Safe Care Plan once a child is placed.

The supervising social worker will continue to provide support and supervision to the foster carer up to, during and after all placements - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure and ensure that they understand the need to undertake Disclosure and Barring Service and other checks and assessments on any new member of the household and the need to repeat Disclosure and Barring Service checks on themselves every three years, (unless they have subscribed to the Disclosure and Barring Service Update Service), as well as medical checks every three years - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

13. Register of Foster Carers

A register of all approved foster carers will be maintained by the fostering service containing the following particulars:

  1. The name, address, date of birth, sex and ethnic origin of each foster carer;
  2. The date of approval and of each review of the approval;
  3. The category and current terms of the approval;
  4. The name, address, date of birth of each Connected Person with whom a child is placed under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 and who has been granted temporary approval as a foster carer, together with the date and terms of the temporary approval.

Once approved, the administrative staff will be informed and will enter the foster carers' approval details, including their first review date, on the Fostering Register database.