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Guide: Devon Fostering policy on managing allegations against foster carers

4. Procedural Guidance

4.1 Receipt of information regarding an allegation, serious concern or complaint against a carer or prospective adopter (with a child placed for adoption but not yet adopted)

The action to be taken when an allegation is reported is outlined in the process flow chart  and in Section 5 of this guide – ‘Practice Guidance’.

4.1.1 The Working Together document requires fostering providers and other agencies to consider very seriously any allegation which might indicate that a person is unsuitable to work with children in their present position or in any capacity. This applies when it is alleged that a foster carer or a member of his or her family has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a chid, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child, or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she is unsuitable to work with children, in connection with the person’s employment or voluntary activity.

In relation to prospective adopters with children placed (where the children remain ‘children in care’ until the making of the adoption order) the prospective adopters will be subject to the same processes and procedures as foster carers.  After the granting of an adoption order, the adoptive parents would be subject to child protection procedures as for any other family in the event of an allegation.

4.1.2 The designated Child Protection Officers (with delegated LADO responsibility) should be contacted without delay with details of any allegation against a carer which appears to satisfy the criteria described in 4.1.1. The designated CPO is then responsible for arranging contact with the police and setting up a strategy meeting. The strategy discussion between the CPO and reporting officer should be recorded on the “Record of Strategy Discussion decisions following receipt of an allegation against a carer” form.

4.1.3 Once confirmed as an allegation (rather than serious concern or complaint) the issue will be subject to a strategy meeting (see section 5.1) and under the Working Together document may be considered within the context of:

  • A police investigation of a possible criminal offence
  • Enquiries and assessment by children’s social care about whether a child is in need of protection or in need of services
  • The operation of the fostering service’s procedure concerning a review of a foster carer’s suitability to foster, and the decisions of the fostering service’s panel and decision-maker, in accordance with the Fostering Services Regulations 2002 (29.7)

4.1.4 The Fostering Network  stress the importance of not subjecting foster carers and their families to unnecessary delay whilst maintaining thorough and fair investigation procedures.

4.1.5 We are aiming to promote a fair and honest system of investigating allegations against carers, but recognise the constraints placed upon the police in relation to evidence gathering.  It is therefore important to make clear decisions and be realistic and timely in communications with carers.  Support for carers is also vital – refer to sections 3.1.10 and 3.1.11 and section 5.4 of this guide which outlines sources of support. Carers should have access to immediate information and advice from an independent source following an allegation or issue of serious concern being raised against them.

4.1.6 In the event that a child is removed from the foster carer’s care following an allegation, the foster carer will continue to receive the boarding out payment (not progression payment) for up to eight weeks. Refer to section 5.6 of this guide and to the Foster Care Rates and Allowances for full information. Written notice must be given if the fostering service provider intends to terminate the carer’s approval, together with the reasons (and inviting any representations within 28 days) – this should include confirmation that any payments will cease.

The need for Adoption Financial Support should be reviewed in response to any significant change in circumstances, and would always end if the child no longer had a home with the prospective adopter.

4.2 Risk assessments

Any allegation made against a carer where there are children in placement or where the carer has their own children living at home will require a decision as to their safety in remaining in the home.  Careful consideration must be given to the damage which may be inflicted on a child due to a hasty and/or unexplained move balanced against the risk that they may be subject to harm if they remain in the household.

4.2.1 As part of the initial strategy discussion, a risk assessment and management plan might include the following issues, depending on the situation:

  • The nature of the allegation – for example, an allegation of serious sexual abuse is likely to require a different response to an allegation of rough handling or inappropriate chastisement
  • The background of the carers – what is known about their fostering or parenting history to date?
  • The background of the child making the allegation
  • Consideration of the situations of any other children in the household including carers’ own children if applicable
  • Risks to any children previously placed should also be considered, as should children in the community
  • The carers themselves may also be at risk
  • Any protective factors should be taken into account –for example, in a couple household, if the allegation is against one carer, could the other carer be called upon to offer supervision of the children? Are any teenage children in the household able to protect themselves?
  • The risks/potential damage to a child of a sudden, unexplained move, especially if that move is proposed to happen at night or where the child would not know the staff or substitute carers
  • Any action already taken by the fostering  or adoption services, care management team or others