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Guide: Resources and Forms

Changes within the Fostering Household

Household composition, change of circumstance, reassessment following Practice concerns.

Introduction

There are times when there are changes to fostering households and Fostering Devon expect their carers to work in an honest and open fashion to ensure these changes do not adversely affect the fostering role.

Single foster carers may form new partnerships or other significant relationships and any such changes in the fostering household/circumstances need to be considered. Forming new relationships requires the investment of both energy and time and will impact on the developing relationships within the household.

Situations will also occur when a foster carer has a relationship breakdown or is bereaved and in such situations a reassessment should be undertaken to recognise the new situation and the impact on their fostering.

For the purposes of this guidance a new partner is defined as “a significant person with whom the foster carer is having/intending/expected to develop a relationship, which is committed and serious.”

If a foster carer is single at the point of their application it should be discussed during their initial assessment what would happen should they form a new partnership or a significant relationship.

For those foster carers who experience separation, bereavement or divorce, while fostering, this discussion regarding new relationships should be covered as part of their review/reassessment as a single foster carer.

There may also be fostering families who have a change in their household composition due to people moving in/out etc. All changes should be discussed and a decision made on how to proceed. This may require an early review to Panel with details of the change.

Approved foster carers should be made aware of the following:
• The foster carer should advise the SSW if there are plans for the foster carer couple to separate.
• The foster carer would be expected to carry on any relationship within the context of a safer caring plan.
• The SSW should be informed by the foster carer when they are in a new couple relationship.
• The foster carer should inform their SSW of any change in the household composition.
• The foster carer must advise the SSW if planning to move home.
• The foster carer should inform the SSW if there is any significant illness in the home that affects the carers ability to foster.
• The foster carer must advise their SSW if they are experiencing significant difficulties in the relationships between any household members which is likely to have an impact on the children in the home.
• Foster carers should inform their SSW’s of any new pets in the household so that relevant paperwork can reflect this. A dog assessment will need to be completed for new dogs in the household.
• The foster carer should be aware that an early review or reassessment may be undertaken and presented to the fostering panel if the change in circumstances requires it.

Fostering Procedure – New Partners

This document outlines the procedures regarding introducing a new partner into a fostering household. It is important that foster carers are aware that when they are embarking on a new relationship that this will impact upon the household and upon any children who are being looked after. Therefore, this process will help to recognise the different stages of a relationship and allow for the relationship to develop, while also introducing the different aspects of fostering and maintaining safer care boundaries for all those connected with the fostering household.

Stage one: Initial stages of the relationship (i.e.) no contact with foster child in home.
• Foster carer to inform the SSW that they are beginning a relationship and whether it is the intention that the new partner will visit the foster home on a regular basis i.e. more than once per week. The impact of this new relationship upon the foster carer/household should be addressed by the SSW.
• SSW to reiterate that an assessment will be needed as/when/if the relationship progresses and meet the new partner if the foster carer agrees.
• SSW recommends that the foster carer informs the new partner of her/his/their fostering status and that this will lead to a future assessment if the relationship progresses.

Stage two: New partner plans to visit the household and/or stay over at the foster home when the foster children are in placement.
• DBS check to be undertaken (for the purpose of this policy, when new partners are visiting the household regularly or staying overnight they should be treated as a member of the fostering household when completing the DBS check).
• They must not stay over or have unattended time with children being cared for before Fostering Devon has had confirmation of a clear DBS form or a DBS2 signed off by senior management if required.
• Viability assessment of new partner to be undertaken by the SSW before overnight stays commence (see Appendix 1) and agreed by Team manager. This should be stored on the foster carer file.
• A Confidentiality Statement should be signed by the new partner before any contact with children in the care of the foster carer (see Appendix 2). This should be stored on the foster carer file.
• The SSW should ensure that the new partner is aware of the allegations/complaint procedures before staying overnight in the fostering household.
• The SSW and foster carer must review the Safe Caring Plan for the fostering household to reflect the change in household composition.
• The child/young person’s social worker or SSW should talk to the foster child/ren about the new partner to gain their understanding and view.
• The SSW, in conjunction with the foster carer and the new partner, clarifies the involvement of the new partner in respect of childcare responsibilities within the household.
• The new partner can be offered the opportunity to attend the Skills to Foster training but this would not become compulsory until stage 3. (the existing foster carer should not attend)
• The Viability assessment should be sent to Team Manager to sign off once all the checks are completed.

Stage three: New partner moves into foster home.
• SSW refers to the Fostering Assessment or Kinship Assessment Team for a Form F or Connected Persons assessment to be completed and presented at Panel within 6 months of the partner moving into the household.
• References are taken up during this stage in line with the usual assessment process for Form F or Connected Persons assessment.
• A Household Review should be undertaken to include the new partner.
• Skills to Foster training to be completed by new partner only whilst in assessment (if not already completed in Stage 2).
• Process of approval in line with the Recruitment and Assessment Policy.
• First Household Review after 12 months of new partner being approved should be returned to the fostering panel as a first review following approval.

Appendix 1 & 2 should also be used in Form F assessments of prospective carers when they have a partner who does not live in the prospective carer household but will be a frequent visitor.

Fostering Procedure for newly single carers.

There will be situations when foster carers who have been approved as a couple will require review/reassessment as a single carer – this may be through the breakdown of a relationship, because of significant illness or due to bereavement. As a fostering service, it is particularly important that alongside the support we offer carers, there remains a clear focus on their ability to continue with the fostering task. This specifically refers to their ability to meet fostering standards and the needs of the children following their separation.

As soon as it is apparent that carers are planning to separate and one partner is going to leave the family home, then the social worker for every child in placement must be advised immediately and their views sought by the carers Supervising Social Worker. Consideration must be given as to whether a child’s placement is to continue. A Panel date should be booked within 3 months of the couple’s separation.

The SSW should complete a report to share with Panel (see Appendix 3). The focus of the report needs to address the work that has been undertaken by the remaining foster carer in order to meet the needs of the child/ren who stayed in placement. There may need to be some flexibility in this timescale due to the sensitivity of some situations and this should be agreed with the team manager and recorded on the carers file.

It is not necessarily anticipated that a full reassessment of the remaining carer as a single carer needs to be undertaken. This should only be considered necessary when there are significant concerns that the separation will impact on the carers ability to provide a good level of care to children.

The decision as to whether a full reassessment is considered necessary in respect of the remaining single carer should be clearly recorded and agreed by the Fostering Team Manager, following his/her/their consideration of the report regarding the carers single status (Appendix 3) and applicable documents, prior to submission to the Fostering Panel.

The report should go to the Fostering Panel with a copy of the last Annual review, an updated training log and references.
It is anticipated that the single foster carer will attend the Fostering Panel meeting in these circumstances.

It is expected that weekly contact is maintained with the remaining carer during this interim period, prior to the review going to Panel. The usual supervision should also be undertaken by the Supervising Social Worker.

The foster carer who left the family home should be encouraged to offer their resignation unless they wish to be assessed as a foster carer in their own right. If they do wish to continue then it would generally be anticipated that a full re-assessment of their changed circumstances and new home will be undertaken. This needs to be actioned through a referral to the Fostering Enquiry Line by the SSW. If they do not wish to resign or be reassessed, the SSW will need to deregister them through Panel.

There may be circumstances where a couple determine that they are to separate, although they are both to remain living within the family/foster home. In this event it may be considered to be in the best interests of children not to remain living in an environment for any significant period of time where there is potential for considerable conflict. It would generally be anticipated that any children in placement would be found alternative placements and the carer’s status placed on hold until such time as their relationship issues are finally resolved. This should be a decision made jointly between the Childrens social work team and Fostering with the focus of the child’s needs as the priority.

Following Panel if there are significant concerns raised regarding the foster carer’s capacity to foster as a single carer and this cannot be addressed through an Action Plan, the reassessment should be discussed with the Assessment Team Manager and followed up with a referral (Appendix 4). The reassessment should be completed within 4 months.

Change of Household Composition

At times there may be other changes to the fostering household composition. For example, an adult in the home is expecting a baby, an adult child moves back into the home, an older relative moves in or the household has a new pet. It is expected of foster carers that any change of household composition is reported to the supervising social worker.

The SSW should inform the foster carer of the action required.
• It is recommended that a foster carer who is expecting a baby should have at least 6 months without accepting a new placement to allow essential time with the new baby. This should be reviewed at the 6-month mark and further time taken if required.
• It is recommended that a foster carer who adopts or has an SGO to a child new to the family household, should have a period of a year without accepting a new placement.
• The views of the child’s social worker and the child regarding the change should be sought and recorded on the carers file.
• All household members over the age of 18 must have a DBS check.
• All joining household members over the age of 18 should sign the confidentiality agreement (see Appendix 2)
• All changes in the household should be reflected on the Health and Safety assessment and Safer Care statement.
• All changes of household composition should be recorded in the foster carers annual review.
• New pet assessments to be completed as required.

Reassessment of foster carers following concerns.

If there are significant concerns regarding a foster carers ability to provide appropriate care for children and this cannot be addressed through an Action Plan, a reassessment may be required. This can be requested through the Managing Allegations Strategy plan, Panel or ADM recommendations or following the review of an Action Plan. The referral form for reassessment must be completed in all cases (Appendix 4). It may be helpful to pose in the referral any specific questions that the Fostering Team want answered in the assessment report.

The referral should be sent to the Assessment Team Manager and followed up by a planning meeting once accepted and allocated to an ASW. A Panel date should be requested at this point. The reassessment should be completed within 4 months of allocation unless a Full Form F is requested to reassess, which should be completed within 6 months.

The reassessment should explore all paperwork pertaining to the concerns, including foster carers files and children’s files. Relevant professional opinions should be obtained as well as a personal reference if appropriate. This may include external organisations as well as DCC professionals.

Foster carer feedback on the assessment process and / or a response to the assessment report should be sought by the ASW or SSW and shared with the Panel.

The child’s social worker and supervising social worker should be kept updated in regard to the reassessment plan and timescales.

The reassessment should be presented at Panel by the ASW along with a copy of the last annual review and any other relevant paperwork. The SSW and foster carers should be present at the Panel.

*For further details and copies of appendices referenced above, please speak to your SSW.

March 2022