Foster Parent Handbook
Colour Code Key:
Fosterplus Policies, Procedures and Guidance
Legislation and Government Guidance
General Sources and Good Practice Information
Each approved fostering household is guided and supported by a named and qualified supervising social worker. The supervising social worker works in a holistic way with all family members, as appropriate, including birth children. This means getting to know everyone in the family and being available to them for advice and support. They will also spend time with the child/ren in placement to ensure that the child’s wishes and feelings are captured regularly and to ensure they are seen and heard by a qualified worker.
What is a 'supervising social worker'?
It is the supervising social worker’s role to supervise the foster parent’s work, to ensure that they are meeting the child’s needs, and to offer support and a framework to assess the foster parent’s performance and develop their skills.
The supervising social worker fulfils the role laid down in national minimum standards and fostering guidance:
- Ensuring each foster parent they supervise is informed in writing of, and accepts, understands and operates within, all regulations and standards and with Fosterplus policies and guidance.
- Supervising foster parents’ work to ensure that they are meeting the child’s needs (taking into account the child’s wishes and feelings).
- Making regular visits, including at least one unannounced visit a year.
- Providing emotional and practical support.
- Assessing foster parents’ performance and supporting their skills development.
What is supervision?
Regular supervision meetings provide the opportunity to reflect upon the foster parent’s work, to offer support and to further develop their competencies and skills. Some foster parents may feel that the supervising social worker does not have the right to question them too closely, either about their approach to fostering, or to offer comment or constructive criticism. The role of the supervising social worker is embedded within the Health and Social Care Standards. Looking after other people's children is such an important and valuable job, and the children and young people are often vulnerable, so foster parents must be prepared for regular evaluation of the care they provide and the progress made by a young person.
It can be reassuring to remember that supervision is a two way process. The allocated supervising social worker also has responsibilities towards foster parents that they should be meeting. Supervision is an opportunity for foster parents to comment constructively on the service they are receiving from Fosterplus.
The supervising social worker should fully explain the arrangements for supervision, specifying the purpose, frequency and duration of meetings, and where the meetings will be held. Foster parents care for the majority of children in Scotland who are looked after by local authorities. Foster parents have to be approved to foster by a fostering service provider, following an assessment, recommendation by the provider’s fostering panel and a decision by the provider’s decision maker. All this is set down in law.
A foster parent cannot be approved by more than one fostering service at the same time. If a foster parent wishes to move to a different fostering service, their approval by the existing service must be terminated (which will usually be by way of the foster parent’s resignation, but could be termination instigated by the fostering service) before a decision by the new service to grant approval can be implemented.
When and where should supervision take place?
All foster parents should have supervision meetings on a regular basis. Where partners are jointly approved as foster parents, they should both attend meetings. On occasions where this is not possible, the supervising social worker should see the home-based or principal foster parent, but both foster parents should be seen at least every 3rd supervision meeting.
The Fosterplus standard for supervision is fortnightly or more frequent if required, and will be in addition to other forms of contact, including phone calls, e-mail and home visits. For permanent placements supervision will take place monthly or more frequently if required. It is good practice to book supervision meetings in advance, so that they are in people’s diaries and can be planned around, and for both parties to give high priority to these meetings. Inevitably, there will be occasions when dates have to be changed, but this should be avoided whenever possible. On the rare occasions when a meeting has to be postponed, an alternative date should be identified.
It is important that supervision takes place in an environment which is comfortable for both the foster parents and their supervising social worker. If possible, meetings should happen at a time and place where interruptions are less likely to happen.
What is discussed in supervision meetings?
These are formal meetings, and because both foster parents and supervising social workers need to use the time effectively, they should agree in advance of each meeting any specific items to be discussed. Foster parents should remember that supervision is a two way process, and therefore make sure they put forward items for the agenda that they want to explore.
If there are too many things to discuss, matters of the highest priority should be scheduled for the forthcoming meeting. If appropriate, follow up dates should be arranged to discuss the remaining items.
A typical supervision agenda will include:
- Matters arising from the last supervision meeting.
- Placement considerations - matters for discussion could include aspects of the child’s secure base – e.g. their self-esteem, emotional/behaviour management, level of trust, effectiveness and sense of belonging – and the foster parent’s impact on these, including strategies for the coming period.
- Consideration should also be given to any safeguarding concerns arising and identifying whether the child’s risk assessment is still valid.
- Contact, health, education, working with the child's social worker, identity issues.
- The use of child allowances and foster parents’ savings for the child.
- Any matters relating to the foster parent’s recording on CHARMS, including daily or weekly Logs, which will have been checked and verified by the supervising social worker.
- Review of medication administered.
- Written information/documentation - this could be a check that foster parents have received all the documentation or information they need for any child in their care. It could also be a check that foster parents have been given the information that they need, e.g. any new guidelines that would have an impact on fostering, or new fostering allowances rates.
- Fostering household matters - does the foster parent need to discuss any significant areas that are affecting the rest of the household? For example, these could be financial concerns, or issues related to their own children and the effect fostering may be having on them.
- Discussion of any other pieces of work that foster parents may have undertaken for their Fosterplus office - they may have helped with a recruitment campaign, or training session and will want to feedback their thoughts.
- Training, development and support considerations - foster parents should have the opportunity to review any training they have had, any literature they may have been given, videos loaned etc. How useful were they? What were the key learning points? The discussion should not just focus on training courses. But should also be discussion about opportunities to help foster parents develop their skills further, or learn new skills. It is about being creative with the resources available to assist.
- Care standards - for example, compliance with health and safety procedures. Are there any concerns or complaints that need to be addressed?
- Any other business. The date and time of the next supervision meeting.
Written records of supervision
Supervising social workers complete a written record of supervision meetings, which you will be able to access on CHARMS and digitally sign. These will then be used as the basis of the next supervision session. Having written records of supervision discussions is useful for a number of reasons:
- They provide foster parents and supervising social workers with a reminder of any agreements reached, or action required, and by whom.
- They will help monitor a particular situation or difficulty over time. For example, whether any strategies for helping foster parents cope with difficult behaviour are having an effect.
- They will form the basis for the foster parent's review. All foster parents will have reviews at least annually, to assess whether their home, and the care they provide, is still suitable for fostered children. Like supervision meetings, foster parent reviews will also give foster parents the opportunity to comment on the service they have received over the previous year. The process of having regular supervision meetings therefore feeds naturally into the review process, and should ensure that reviews do not raise unexpected issues.
A record of supervisory meetings is held on the foster parents’ CHARMS case record.
Supervising social workers are required by law to make unannounced visits to foster homes. At least once a year, foster parents can expect a Fosterplus worker to call round outside of the agreed schedule of meetings. Foster parents are obliged to allow them access to the home. If a child is in placement and at home during the unannounced visit, the worker may want to speak to them alone and inspect their bedroom. If the child is not at home arrangements should be made to visit within the next 3 months in order to spend time alone with the child.
Foster parents should also understand that they may be interviewed as part of the Care Inspectorate inspection process. Care Inspectorate inspects each fostering service, checking against the national minimum standards and for compliance with regulations, as well as making a judgement about quality of care and organisation of the service.
These matters are covered in the foster parent agreement.
Out of Office Hours Service
Outside of normal office hours and over weekends and bank holidays, Fosterplus operates an OOH service that is available to foster parents for advice and support in an emergency. A supervising social worker (duty worker) and a manager (duty manager) will be on duty out of office hours to respond to foster parents. The OOH service operates through the mobile telephone network. This is usually reliable, but coverage cannot always be guaranteed. If foster parents receive the message ‘We cannot connect your call’ or, after a number of rings, the telephone is apparently unanswered, it may be that the line is engaged. Foster parents should attempt to redial after a reasonable period, and keep trying.
Remember that the person on duty or the duty manager may not know as much as you about your situation and the child you care for. They will be able to access case records on CHARMS and will certainly offer advice and support and take urgent action until the crisis can be dealt with during office hours by your supervising social worker, another member of the local office’s staff, or the child's social worker. Some examples of emergencies are: a child running away; a serious accident; admittance or attendance at hospital; illness or death; trouble with the police or with parents, any matters that affect your ability to care for the child safely.
Out of Office Hours Scotland: 0333 220 5041
Learning and Development Team
The Polaris Community has an experienced and skilled Learning and Development Team that works together with each individual fostering agency and the registrations within it to design local training and development programmes.
Training and development for staff
All supervising social workers are registered with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and are required to undertake continuous professional development activities, in order to maintain their knowledge base and to ensure that they are up to date with current research findings, especially in relation to fostering.
Each year, a training calendar is put together for all social work staff which covers topics of relevance to practice development. All staff are also encouraged to participate, where appropriate, in the training programme for foster parents.
Managers, support workers, administrators and all other supporting staff each have the opportunity to advance their skills through tailor-made training where necessary in their particular area of development.
Foster Parents Mandatory and Core Training
Some elements of training for Fosterplus Parents are mandatory or core training. All Foster Parents are expected to meet these training requirements and it is incumbent on you to make yourself available to attend. Fosterplus has to comply with The Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 and as such you are required to take part in the mandatory and ongoing training. This will be reviewed regularly and will always form part of your review. This applies to both foster parents when you are fostering as a couple.
As a Fosterplus foster parent you will have completed the Fosterplus ‘Skills to Foster” ’ initial training course prior to approval by the Panel. The only exception to this rule is when the appropriate Service Manager and the Panel are satisfied that an applicant has already received up-to-date training of an appropriate level and quality from a reputable agency.
It is your responsibility as a foster parent to ensure you are completing all mandatory & core training. The courses are available on the “Foster Parent Training Pathway Plan” and show the expectations of what will be completed.
Some courses are only completed once in your fostering career, unless you or your Supervising Social Worker would feel it would be beneficial for you to redo a course. Other courses are repeated annually, however, a new subject is chosen by you each time. The courses are made up of e-learning courses which can be done at any time of your choosing or classroom/ virtual based training which you need to register on and then choose an available date for.
The mandatory & core training pathway is regularly reviewed to ensure we as an agency and you as foster parents are meeting the expectations of the regulations, the Care Inspectorate and agency standards. You will be made aware of any changes to the expectations of training requiring completion.
As Fosterplus foster parents, whether new or experienced, you will be expected to spend a minimum of 25 hours per year on study activities related to your role as foster parents. You have access to the training platform Learnative where you can do online training modules. Alternatively, this may be achieved through attending courses provided by Fosterplus, in-house, or by trainers commissioned by Fosterplus. Training should be focussed primarily on enabling the foster parents to improve the outcomes for the child/young person as outlined in Getting it Right for Every Child embracing the SHANARRI wellbeing indicators.
As part of the training requirement, Fosterplus will also fund attendance at training days provided by FosterTalk, BAAF, or other such agencies provided the Head of Operations agree that the course is relevant to the foster parents role.
‘Study Activities’ could take a number of forms including reading and personal study agreed with the Supervising Social Worker.
YOUR COMMITMENT TO TRAINING
Commitment to continuing professional development is an essential part of a foster parent’s role within fostering. Your foster parent’s allowance contains a sum each week to allow for your time; travel and childcare costs to participate in learning and development activities. Your achievements are documented during your Review and consideration is given at the time of the Review if you have failed to meet the requirements, not only your registration as foster parents with Fosterplus, but also the financial payments that have been made. It is a requirement of The Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 that you attend and take part in training as part of your continuing approval as foster parents.
If you do not have placements it is still an important part of the registration as foster parents that you keep up-to-date with learning and development and you should speak to your Supervising Social Worker at Fosterplus about being reimbursed for any travel costs that are out with the element of your fee which covers this.
NON ATTENDANCE AT TRAINING
All Foster Parents are expected to attend mandatory & core training. Where there are gaps in undertaking this training, this will be discussed within supervision in order to review supports. An action plan may be implemented to support the foster parent(s) to attend training. Foster parents may be requested to return to Panel if mandatory & core training has not been completed within agreed timescales.
Training Policy for Foster Parents
The Fosterplus training policy for foster parents can be downloaded at: On CHARMS /Download
What is the purpose of training?
Foster parents, especially those with many years’ experience, sometimes wonder why they need to attend training. There are lots of good reasons why it is useful to attend.
- There are often changes to national policy or practice guidance that affect the role of foster parents.
- New areas of knowledge or need arise, such as working with asylum seekers, child sexual exploitation and radicalisation in recent years.
- National Minimum Standards that apply to agencies such as Fosterplus, as well as local authorities, place an expectation on foster parents to attend training and undertake development opportunities.
Training is an opportunity for foster parents to consolidate their knowledge and skills, recharge their batteries, share ideas and socialise with other foster parents. Newly registered foster parents can meet up with other more experienced foster parents, and begin to develop a range of skills in all the main areas of the fostering task.
Training records and foster parent reviews
Training records are kept on all foster parents, held on their Learnative record, and made available for consideration at foster foster parent reviews. Foster parents can access a copy on Learnative through their foster parent login.
Each foster parent's review is a good time to look back on any training they have attended and to plan which courses to attend in the coming year. Foster parents who have been fostering for many years still need to attend some courses in order to regularly update their knowledge. The foster parent review can also identify learning and development needs outside of the Fosterplus programme.
Foster parents with specific training needs - for example, if they are caring for a child or young person with a disability – may be funded to attend whatever training is appropriate to ensure the foster parents can fully meet the needs of the child or young person concerned, this must be agreed by the Head of Operations prior to any bookings.
Learning and Development – Contact Details
If foster parents have any other training or development needs not met by the current programme, then they should speak to:
- Their Supervising Social Worker
- The Service Manager
- The Training Assistant
What training methods are used?
Some foster parents may feel apprehensive about their participation or feel a lack of confidence about their communication or literacy skills. No assessments are made about foster parents on courses. A training day is a place to learn, to practice and to ask questions, and we actively encourage this. It is also an opportunity to meet with other foster parents and to share experiences.
Good quality training should enable foster parents to do the job to the best of their abilities. It should also encourage foster parents to develop and build on their fostering experiences and skills to the benefit of the children who are entrusted to their care.
How to apply for training courses
All mandatory & core training will be notified to you when you are required to attend. However, there is an expectation that you will complete e-learning courses in a timely manner as we do not book these for you. Any additional or developmental training will be offered to foster parents and this will be discussed with you by your supervising social worker.
If there are any practical difficulties that prevent you from attending training then do not hesitate to raise these with your supervising social worker. It is best that these are raised as early as possible.
It is very important that foster parents let us know if they cannot attend a training day they have been invited to or signed up for, no matter how short the notice. Your place can be given to someone else.
With an E Learning course, you will receive an email direct to you. Your Supervising Social Worker and the Training Administrator based in the Learning and Development Team is able to monitor progress.
Training attendance records
Your training record is kept up to date on Learnative. This will provide a record for your continuous professional development and help in planning training and to assist you with your development plan.
You can add details of any external training carried out to your own Learnative account by uploading your certificate to the “other evidence” tab on your record of Learning.
Evaluation of training courses
At the end of a training course you will be asked to complete an evaluation form. Your feedback, thoughts and constructive criticism is truly valued and central to the development and quality of the training service we provide to you.
Learnative will create a certificate for every course you complete and this is available within your Learnative record.
Foster Parent Support Groups
Foster parents are encouraged to attend the regular meetings of their local foster parents support group. Meetings are organised for foster parents who come under one local office, or a defined geographical area. They provide foster parents with the opportunity to:
- Meet other foster parents in their locality and to share experiences.
- Develop friendship networks with other foster parents, if they wish, to support one another.
- Keep up to date with information on changes and developments within Fosterplus and the national fostering scene.
- Participate in informal workshops on specific topics.
Foster parents are expected to make every effort to attend support group meetings, which take place at a time and venue suited to the majority of foster parents in the group.
All Foster Parents will be registered with Foster Talk. The aim at FosterTalk is to ensure that Foster Parents receive the correct support and training to feel safeguarded in their role. The membership packages include legal insurance to protect against allegations, helplines to give daily advice and guidance, counselling at any time of the day or night, savings on family days out and holidays and much, much more.
“WE BELIEVE THAT BY SUPPORTING THOSE WHO CARE WILL MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE TO THE LIVES OF CARED FOR CHILDREN ACROSS THE U.K.”
The benefits and services available include:
- Fostering Helpline
- Legal insurance
- The Fostertalk awards
- 24/7 legal helpline
- Tax benefits and NI advice
- Shopping and lifestyle discounts
- Financial advice
- 24/7 counselling service
- 24/7 medical helpline
- Education advisory service
- Free online events
Short Break Care
On occasions, foster parents who have children or young people in placement may need a break from fostering and someone else will need to care for the child/ren for a short period. This should not be common practice and many foster parents will never need to ask for short break care. Short break care must always be carefully planned with Fosterplus and the responsible local authority. We will work closely with the child and foster parents to find the most suitable short break placement. This may be with other Fosterplus foster parents who are approved specifically as short break foster parents. After the short break, the child returns to their regular foster placement.
Fosterplus does not offer a set amount of short break but it is based on the needs of the child. We have a policy outlining the way in which short break works which you can access on CHARMS/Download.
Unfortunately there are occasions when an allegation is made against a foster parent. Fosterplus has procedures which outline the process involved and how we are required to respond. However we will always deal with the matter sensitively and in a way that provides effective protection and support for children and the person making the allegation and at the same time supports the person who is subject to the allegation.
What is an allegation?
An allegation against a foster parent or member of their household involves someone – be it a child or adult – saying that the foster parent or household member has or may have:
- Behaved in a way that has harmed a child or may have harmed a child; or
- Possibly committed a criminal offence against a child; or
- Behaved towards a child in a way that indicates they are unsuitable to work with children.
The law is clear that any allegation made by or in relation to a child must be taken seriously and investigated, although we know that sometimes false allegations are made. Our procedures are in line with the legal requirements, including the duty to refer information to statutory bodies.
Child Protection Policy and Guidance
Fosterplus’s policy and procedure in relation to allegations against foster parents or staff can be downloaded on CHARMS/Download.
Who will deal with the allegation?
All allegations or concerns about foster parents will be reported to the local Fosterplus Service Manager, who has a duty to inform and consult with the local authority responsible for the child concerned, including those that on the face of it may appear relatively insignificant or that have also been reported directly to the police or local authority. We also have a responsibility to notify the Care Inspectorate of any allegations immediately.
As well as being responsible for managing Fosterplus’ response to the allegation, the Service Manager will, wherever possible, ensure that the person against whom an allegation has been made is kept informed of the progress of the investigation.
The Head of Operations and the Service Manager will consult on how to proceed. This may involve child protection procedures, criminal procedures only, standards of care procedures or no further action. Fosterplus will have to consider whether the foster parent should be ‘on hold’ from fostering while the above process takes place. Foster parents will not be placed ‘on hold’ automatically or without careful thought. The safety of other children must be considered and immediate advice may be sought from the investigating local authority and the child’s placing authority.
How will the investigation be handled?
It is important to understand that any formal child protection investigation is undertaken by the local authority responsible for the child. The Service Manager will liaise with the local authority but will also inform the host local authority, i.e. the authority the foster parent is living in, if this is different, that such an investigation is taking place.
We understand that it can be very distressing for a foster parent or member of their household to have an allegation made against them. We will hold an internal planning discussion within two working days and will agree on the immediate intervention plan and support to be made available to the foster foster parent/s, including:
- Supervising social worker involvement.
- Information as to legal and emotional support services.
- Sources of advice and information about the process.
- Whether any fostering payments will be made, in line with guidance in the Foster Parent Finances Handbook, if children have been removed from the foster parents while an investigation is undertaken.
- Whether placing foster parents ‘on hold' from fostering is required pending the outcome of any investigation.
The planning discussion will also consider any changes needed to the placement plan and the support to be made available to the foster child/children.
The Service Manager or supervising social worker will inform the foster parent of the outline situation, in person or by telephone, as soon as possible. This will include:
- Discussion about who is best placed to support them (including the option of independent support).
- A summary of the content of the allegation (subject to the agreement of the investigating local authority).
- How to access copies of Fosterplus’ and the relevant local authorities’ child protection and allegations procedures.
- Clarification of which procedures are being followed and where the foster parents are in the process.
- Who will visit and when, and their roles within the procedures.
- How their views and responses to the allegation will be heard, including if needed, the availability of mediation between the foster parent and Fosterplus and/or advocacy (including attendance at meetings and panel hearings).
- Information as to sources of advice and information, including access to legal services through FosterTalk.
- Confirmation about fostering payments.
- Guidance on implications for foster children, and other children in the household.
During an investigation
One of the Service Managers, or supervising social worker will be named to be the foster parent/s link and to keep them up to date with developments. The Service Manager will identify the person who will provide follow-up support to the foster child/children.
Where appropriate, the Service Manager or supervising social worker will identify strategies for intervention to reduce the future risk of incidents, concerns or risk of abuse and agree a review period with the foster parent/s. Such interventions may include therapeutic support, risk assessment and risk management, safer caring advice, review of matching, or further training and development.
At the end of the Investigation
The Service Manager will ensure that the content and outcome of any investigation is recorded in the relevant progress action on the foster parent/s' case record. Outcomes for investigations into allegations should be recorded as substantiated, unsubstantiated, unfounded or malicious.
At the end of the investigation, Fosterplus will produce a summary of the allegation, investigation and outcome and provide a copy to the subject of the allegation. The foster parent’s suitability to continue to foster will then be reviewed, taking account of our written policy on the circumstances in which a foster parent's approval should be terminated in the interests of children.
We make a distinction between an investigation into an allegation of harm and discussion about standards of care. If an investigation finds no evidence of harm, we would not automatically consider that care standards had been breached. Standards of care concerns are treated quite separately from Child Protection Investigations and may or may not follow on from an investigation. A summary of any allegation and its resolution will be kept on a foster parent's records, but unsubstantiated, unfounded and malicious allegations will be clearly recorded as such.
The Service Manager will report quarterly on the content and outcome of any child protection investigations involving foster parents, and may make recommendations to the Agency.
What can foster parents do if they are unhappy with the outcome?
In general, if foster parents are unhappy about decisions taken by Fosterplus following an investigation, they have access to the Fosterplus complaints and representation procedure. In the event that Fosterplus proposes to change their terms of approval or terminate their approval, this will be considered by the Fosterplus fostering panel and there will be the opportunity for a foster parents to appeal any decision made by them.
In relation to the actions and decisions of the investigating local authority, and of the responsible local authority for any child placed, the foster parent/s will have recourse to these authorities' own complaints procedures.
Standards of Care
What are standards of care?
All foster parents have a contractual duty to provide high quality care to the young people placed, including their own children. These standards are defined within:
- The foster parent agreement
- The Health and Social Care Standards
Concerns may arise when there is:
- Misuse of a position of trust e.g. intimidation, humiliation, threatening behaviour, undermining of children, making sexual remarks, promoting sexual relations with young people.
- The misuse of drugs or alcohol.
- Misuse of internet, email, texting and/or social network sites.
- Inappropriate intimate care/invasion of privacy e.g. showering with children, adults sharing a bedroom with placed children, sharing changing rooms with placed children etc. There may, of course, be times and situations when one of the above is necessary or appropriate. This needs to be discussed and agreed with the supervising social worker or Service Manager.
- Inappropriate and disproportionate physical intervention or restraint.
- Inappropriate intimate photographic and video images, secret images, images appearing in a public arena where the whereabouts of children may be disclosed and put them in danger. Sensible use of photography and images can of course help a child to be part of the foster family and are not discouraged. If there is any doubt discuss with the supervising social worker or Service Manager.
- Contravention of safer caring guidelines.
- Irresponsible behaviour.
- Failure to understand how behaviour can adversely impact on the safety and wellbeing of a child and failure to change such behaviour.
- Inability to make sound professional judgements.
- Failure to follow policy or procedure relating to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.
- Failure to adhere to appropriate boundaries.
- Behaviour in personal life which can put children at risk.
- Behaviour that seriously undermines the trust and confidence placed by the foster agency.
- Secret liaisons with children.
- Medical conditions that raise the possibility of risk to the safety and welfare of children.
Investigations into standards of care
Fosterplus must exercise judgement as to the seriousness of any such allegations or concern. Where it appears on the surface that a foster parent has breached the terms of these requirements and in so doing would have jeopardised the safety and/or wellbeing of a child, an investigation should be held.
Foster parents may fail to meet the standards for a variety of reasons. This may be, for example, through a momentary lack of forethought, or ignorance, in ways that do not place a child in danger. In such circumstances, the supervising social worker, in consultation with their Service Manager and if necessary Head of Operations should exercise a professional judgement as to how to address this directly with a foster parent, without the need for a formal investigation. The use of ongoing formal supervision, or further training and development, may be appropriate methods of clarifying any difficulties and facilitating positive changes in the way foster parents maintain high standards.
The decision as to whether a formal investigation should begin rests with the Head of Operations. They will also consider if the breach of care may have crossed the threshold for child protection procedures to be implemented and, if so, these procedures must take precedence.
In other cases a decision may be made that the concerns may best be addressed via a complainant using the complaints and representation procedures.
In serious cases, the Service Manager, in discussion with the Head of Operations will decide whether a foster parent needs to be placed ‘on hold’ or, if not, whether there are conditions that need to be put in place for the foster parents to continue to foster, until the investigation can be completed.
The primary purpose of the investigation is to establish if the foster parent has breached the required standards of care. A second purpose is to define and obtain agreement on what steps need to be taken to ensure a breach of standards does not re-occur.
A wide variety of options should always be considered that would facilitate the required changes such as: advice giving, additional information and guidance, additional or different support systems, additional training, changes to registration criteria.
There will be occasions when it is not possible or desirable to reach such an agreement with a foster parent/s. In such circumstances, the termination of the foster parent/s’ approval may be considered as the appropriate resolution.
What can foster parents do if they are unhappy with the outcome?
In general, if foster parents are unhappy about the actions taken by or process followed by Fosterplus following an investigation into standards of care, they have access to the Fosterplus complaints and representation procedures. In the event that Fosterplus proposes to change their terms of approval without their agreement or terminate their approval, foster parents also have the option to appeal and the Head of Operations will consider arranging an independent fostering panel to consider this.
Representations and complaints
“I know how, and can be helped, to make a complaint or raise a concern about my care and support.”
“If I have a concern or complaint, this will be discussed with me and acted on without negative consequences for me.”
Health and Social Care Standards: 4.20 and 4.21
Principles of the complaints and representations procedure
Disagreements between individuals will occur from time to time and often, through a process of discussion and negotiation, a resolution is found that both parties are comfortable with. The capacity to resolve disagreements satisfactorily is part of each person’s interpersonal skills and social development. However, occasions will arise when people are unable to resolve their disagreements or dissatisfactions between themselves.
For example, this may be because:
- They feel very strongly about an issue.
- They don’t feel they have been listened to properly.
- They have had a ‘solution’ imposed on them against their wishes.
- They don’t feel they have been treated fairly.
Fosterplus provides a compliments, complaints and representations procedure for people who feel their dissatisfactions have not been resolved through conversations with the person(s) with whom they are in conflict. The Agency welcomes the opportunity to reflect on practice and service provision to provide a safe and positive experience for children and young people with our foster parents. The complaints procedure should offer a useful tool for indicating where our services may need improving – conversely, compliments can indicate to us what we are doing well.
The Compliments, Complaints and Representations Procedure
Can be found on CHARMS Download
Fosterplus aspires that concerns, representations and complaints are resolved swiftly. We will ensure that the person making a complaint is kept informed at all times of the progress of the procedure throughout, and that they are consistently treated with dignity and respect, with all staff members being open and courteous in their communication with the complainant.
Fosterplus will take account of the rights of the complainant, of their culture, disability, gender and method of communication when undertaking an investigation.
The Agency will manage all complaints in accordance with information sharing and data protection requirements. Records will be kept securely, with consideration to the importance of confidentiality.
All Complaints and Representations will be monitored by the Complaints Officer. No person subject to a complaint or representation shall take part in its consideration, unless considered appropriate by the Head of Operations. Should a complaint or representation be received concerning the Head of Operations or Senior Manager, an independent person will be appointed to undertake an investigation.
A written record shall be maintained for all complaints or representations, recording the nature of the complaint, the action taken in response to the complaint, and the outcome of the investigation.
The Complaints Officer
Formal complaints about Fosterplus should be sent, in writing, to:
Chrise Grundy Hoban
Head of Operations
25 Colquhoun Avenue
Representations are matters other than complaints, which give rise to some level of concern, which requires consideration. This process can be followed prior to the formal complaint process.
Fosterplus hopes that many of the issues that someone may be concerned about can be settled and resolved at the earliest opportunity and responded to by the local manager prior to embarking into the Complaints process, through discussion with the person they would ordinarily have most contact with, or through discussion with their line manager.
It is strongly recommended that the Service Manager/Head of Operations endeavours to resolve any concerns or issues raised at the earliest opportunity preventing the need for it to be considered as a complaint and investigated via the complaints process.
Any issues dealt with without the need to escalate to a complaints process must still be recorded along with any actions and outcomes.
Where a concern has been raised, in the event that such discussion does not resolve the matter a copy of the Procedure will be provided to the complainant.
Definition of a Complaint
A complaint is defined as ‘the expression of dissatisfaction concerning the service provided by the service, or of the actions of an individual providing that service’.
We recognise that sometimes raising a concern may not be enough and that you may wish to take the matter through our complaints procedure.
If feedback or comments indicate that, the service may not have followed correct procedure or regulation this will be considered as a complaint.
An allegation may relate to a person who works with children who has:
- behaved in a way that has harmed a child; and/or
- possibly committed a criminal offence against a child or related to a child; and/or
- Behaved towards a child in a way that indicates that they may pose a risk of harm to children.
- Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.
Eligibility and Timescales
Who can make a complaint or representation?
- Children, young people and adults who are in receipt of services from any service within Fosterplus
- In addition to the above, their advocates, anyone with parental responsibility or their representatives including local authorities that commission services.
- A complaint can be made up to 12 months from the event giving rise to it. This time limit can be extended at the discretion of the Head of Operations.
Factors which will be taken into account in this decision include:
- Whether or not it was reasonable to expect the complainant to have made their representations within this timescale, and
- Whether or not it is still possible to consider the complaint effectively and fairly, despite the passage of time.
- This decision and the reasons for such a decision will be provided in writing to the person making the complaint.
- Where the complainant is a child, or was a child at the time of the matters cited, the discretion to refuse to consider the complaint is unlikely to be applied.
If the complainant wishes to remain anonymous, then the service may be unable to investigate the situation. If there is any indication of a child being at risk, the information will be passed on to the relevant Local Authority and to the Care Inspectorate.
Stages of complaint
Fosterplus will work to find a resolution to your complaint as quickly as possible. There are three potential stages to the investigation or resolution of any complaint.
Stage 1: Local Problem Solving
A complaint is considered as made on the date on which it is first received by the service. Complaints may be submitted in writing or given verbally. Where given verbally, this must be recorded in writing by the recipient, dated and a copy sent to the complainant and this action recorded.
The recipient of the Complaint is required to immediately inform the Head of Operations who will take a decision whether to accept the complaint and within 3 working days of being informed will provide written acknowledgement to the complainant about their complaint and of their decision to take the complaint forward or not.
Complaints will in the first instance be investigated within the service in an attempt to resolve the complaint informally. The Head of Operations for the service will identify the most appropriate person to respond to the Complainant (if not themselves) and that person will then lead on the complaint at this stage and will keep the Senior Manager updated.
The Head of Operations or other appropriate manager should conclude complaints being dealt with at Stage 1 within 10 working days of being notified of the complaint. This timescale may however be extended by mutual agreement by a further 10 working days if it is felt the Complaint can be satisfactorily dealt with but more time is needed.
The Head of Operations or other appropriate manager will provide a clear written response to the complainant this should, as far as possible, answer all issues raised by the complainant, be as helpful as possible and apologise for any shortcomings in the service found and what action the service intends to take as a result of the investigation into the complaint.
If the complaint cannot be resolved at Stage 1 the complainant will be informed of their right to pursue the matter further through the Head of Operations and asked to do so within 20 working days.
Stage 2: Formal Investigation
The complainant should contact the Head of Operations or appropriate manager for the service in writing or verbally, providing reasons why they are not satisfied with the outcome of Stage 1 of the Complaints procedure and that they wish to proceed to Stage 2 (this must be requested by complainant within 20 working days).
The Head of Operations would then make contact with the complainant to explain their role, advise on the process and agree next steps within 5 working days of receiving the request. They will also identify the appropriate person to act as the ‘investigating officer’. This will be somebody who has had no previous involvement with the matter concerned. This may be an appropriate manager from within the service or an external contracted individual with relevant qualifications and experience.
The chosen Investigating Officer once appointed will respond to the complainant within 5 working days to establish the specific detail of the complaint and to agree the specifics of their complaint as a ‘statement of complaint’. They will also advise the complainant of their right, in some circumstances, to have their complaint investigated under this procedure. The beginning of the ‘Stage 2’ timescales begin when the ‘statement of complaint’ is agreed by the complainant. If a complainant raises new aspects to be considered these can be considered at stage 2 if appropriate without the need to return to Stage 1.
The complainant may bring a support person to any meeting convened and they should confirm in advance that they will be doing so providing details of who they will be bringing. The role of the support person is to listen and provide support to the complainant and not to ask questions. In the case of a child, they may attend with an advocate. The Head of Operations should ensure that the person leading the investigation is briefed to ensure that the complainant is adequately supported in the meeting and that notes are taken and kept.
All persons relevant to the complaint should be informed of the complaint and interviewed by the investigating officer in order to provide explanation of their account of the matters complained against.
On conclusion of the investigation a written report will then be prepared by the person undertaking the investigation (the investigation & report completed within 20 working days where possible from the agreement of the statement of complaint), and sent to the Head of Operations which will incorporate the process of the investigation, findings of each point of the complaint (i.e. whether upheld or not upheld) recommendations of any actions required and learning outcomes.
The Head of Operations will then provide a written response to the complainant outlining the findings and summarising outcomes and recommendations within including a copy of the investigation report (this should be completed within 7 working days from report being received from the investigating officer.
This should, as far as possible, answer all issues raised by the complainant, be as helpful as possible and apologise for any shortcomings in the service found and what action the service intends to take as a result of the investigation into the Complaint. The response to the complainant will state whether each aspect of the complaint has been upheld, partially upheld or not upheld.
Stage 3: Review by Senior Leader
If the complainant continues to feel that their complaint has not been dealt with to their satisfaction, Stage 3 may be implemented. The Head of Operations should explain the option of progression to Stage 3 to the complainant. The complainant should inform the Head of Operations preferably in writing, that they wish to progress their complaint to Stage 3, within 20 working days of receipt of written confirmation of the outcome of Stage 2, providing reasons why they are not satisfied with the outcome of Stage 2 of the procedure.
The Head of Operations will acknowledge this request within 10 working days, with an explanation of the Stage 3 process.
A Senior Leader will review the Complaint within 20 working days. The complainant will need to be kept informed by the Head of Operations of any delays in responding to the complaint should more time be required by the Senior Leader to consider the information provided.
The Senior Leader reviewing the complaint will complete a written report of their findings, which will include:
- The process and adequacy of the investigation prior to Stage 3;
- Findings on each of the complaints being investigated;
- Conclusions / outcomes reached;
- Recommendations of actions required / learning outcomes to be considered.
Following completion of the review by the Head of Operations will inform the complainant.
What to do if you are still not satisfied
If you are still not happy after exhausting the complaints and representations procedure, you may take your complaint to:
How to make a complaint can be found on their website at www.careinspectorate.com. Complaints can be made by using their online form or telephoning 0345 600 9527 or contacting one of their local offices directly. Addresses can be found on their website.
In addition if you are unhappy with the outcome of the Care Inspectorate, you have the right to ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) to look into their decision. The SPSO website has information on making a complaint and the types of complaints it looks at. They are the final stage for handling complaints about public services in Scotland. Information can be found on their website at www.spso.org.uk.
Information for children or young people who want to make a complaint
Information for children on how to resolve any difficulties that may arise in their foster placement is included in the ‘Children’s Guide’, given to each child on placement. This outlines the steps to take if making a complaint and also how to access an independent helpline.
The complaints and representations policy can be downloaded from CHARMS
Formal complaints about Fosterplus should be sent, in writing, to:
Chrise Grundy Hoban
Head of Operations
25 Colquhoun Avenue
Conflicts of Interest
General principles to guard against conflicts of interest
Fosterplus expects foster parents to adhere to the following general principles:
- Foster parents must not use their role as a foster parent for personal gain. This includes the use of confidential information, as well as the use of their status or Fosterplus standing to promote an activity for personal gain.
- Foster parents must declare any personal interest which may impinge, or might reasonably be judged by others to impinge, on their impartially in carrying out their role.
- It is possible that a foster parent is asked to foster a child who is related or otherwise known to them, without realising this at the outset. Equally, a supervising social worker could find that they are related to a child. In the event of a potential conflict of interest arising, those involved must inform the supervising social worker or manager immediately. This would not necessarily mean the end of the placement, but there would be a discussion about any extra safeguards that might need to be put in place.
- Knowledge or evidence of impropriety, including those related to purchasing and contracting activities, must be declared. It is the duty of both an employee and a foster parent to report any concerns about another employee or foster parent’s activities, if those actions could affect Fosterplus’ reputation.
- No personal business activity must be undertaken using Fosterplus’ name or resources. This includes work for voluntary organisations.
- All foster parents should declare to Fosterplus any relatives or partners who are engaged in a business which might provide services to the agency.
- If a foster parent wishes to tender for a contract from the agency they must declare such an intention at the earliest possible opportunity.
Foster parents (or household members) who are also employees of Fosterplus
Any foster parent or household member employed by Fosterplus should regularly review in supervision whether, for example, their access to records, ability to influence a placement or approval decision, or to influence inappropriately any matters relating to their fostering task, creates any conflict of interest.
Where individuals have dual roles within the organisation, these roles must be clearly separated in the interests of children's safety, and additional safeguards put in place. No child should be expected to live with a foster parent who has a dual role in relation to that child e.g. as their therapist or teacher.