Foster Parent Handbook
Colour Code Key:
Fosterplus Policies, Procedures and Guidance
Legislation and Government Guidance
General Sources and Good Practice Information
What records are kept by Fosterplus?
All fostering services are required by law to keep certain records. Records in relation to each foster parent, including their assessment, approval and details of children placed with them, must be kept for at least 25 years after the foster parent's approval has ended or until their death if earlier. Every service must also keep a register of foster parents, and of children placed with foster parents.
Fosterplus still retains in archived files which predated our computer storage facility of CHARMS. Any files will now be retained on CHARMS for the required period.
Retention and confidentiality of case records for foster parents
A case record for a foster parent or prospective foster parent compiled under Regulation 31 must be retained by the local authority [RFA] for at least 25 years from the date the foster parent’s approval is terminated or until their death if earlier.
The requirements of paragraph (1) may be complied with either by retaining the original written record or a copy of it or by keeping all the information from the record in some other accessible form (such as by means of a computer).
Looked after Children Regulations (Scotland) 2009 section 32 (1) & (2)
Fosterplus holds the following information about approved foster parents on its secure CHARMS system:
- The current foster parent assessment forms and related papers.
- The signed foster parent agreement.
- Foster parent reviews and related information e.g. health and safety checks.
- Records of the supervising social worker's supervision meetings with foster parents.
- Dated records of all conversations and contacts by staff with foster parents which relate to their fostering activities.
- A record of any complaint or allegation made about a foster parent or a member of their household, the investigation of any complaint or allegation, and its outcome.
- Records of any training attended.
How does a foster parent access the records held about them?
All information held by Fosterplus (apart from personal references and, if applicable, confidential "third party" information) in relation to the individual foster parent is available to that foster parent, under the terms of Access to Information and Data Protection legislation. Foster parents who wish to see their records should make a written request to their supervising social worker or Service Manager who will make arrangements for the records to be made available. A SAR should be discharged within 1 month of receiving the request (or 1 month from the point at which the identity of the data subject is confirmed). This can be extended by a further 2 months if the request is complex or multiple requests have been received.
Who else can access a foster parent's records?
Some records may be shared with other organisations and professionals, but only if there is a clear and justifiable reason. For example, a current foster parent assessment form, their foster parent profile and their latest foster parent review reports would be made available to a local authority as part of the process of matching a child with a foster parent.
Looked after and accommodated children’s records are retained by the Local Authority until the 100th anniversary of the child’s date of birth or for 25 years following the death of a child before the age of 18, (Sec 43 of the LAAC regulations). Fosterplus keeps information stored confidentially on charms on records produced by the Foster Parent and staff members in regards to children. This is retained if in the future the person wishes to read about their time in care.
Case records on children are held securely in our CHARMS database. Key documentation, records of contact with the children, their families and other professionals, and all other relevant information relating to fostered children is uploaded to and securely stored on the CHARMS system. Only those staff or foster parents with permissions can access this information.
What is CHARMS?
CHARMS is a complete secure database system designed for care providers. All the fostering services that are part of the Polaris community use CHARMS to record information and store documents in relation to fostered children and foster parents. CHARMS can manage the entire process from initial enquiry, through assessment and training, to the placement of children and post-placement support. The complete record of placement episodes (including disrupted placements) can be viewed at any time. Placements in foster care are all recorded in CHARMS.
CHARMS is a fully online system, offering full access for everyone that needs it.
CHARMS Foster Parent Login
All foster parents receive a user name (your email address) and login details for CHARMS and are expected to record their weekly logs and records of any specific information about a fostered child/young person. There is a CHARMS User Guide ‘Foster Parent login’ on the main page of CHARMS – this is to be found, with the other CHARMS guides under ‘Download ’.
CHARMS works best using the Microsoft edge browser; however, you can use Google Chrome, especially if you are using an iPAD.
If you ever forget your password you can click on ‘Reset Password’. This will send a link to your email address or alternatively you can call Social Care Network Tech support on: 0161 237 1872. The opening hours are Monday - Friday from 9am to 5pm.
There are two stages to login to CHARMS. First you will be asked to enter your username (which is your email address) and then your password. The second stage of the login will ask you for three characters from your passphrase (it is important to keep a record of your passphrase as you will need this if you have to reset your password).
You will be sent the web link to CHARMS via email.
Guidelines on recording
All contacts by e-mail, telephone, visits, meetings or appointments made in relation to children and young people must be recorded, stating who made the contact, who was present and/or seen, the relevant discussions which occurred, actions or decisions taken and by whom; the reasons for taking any decisions should also be recorded.
Foster Parent Recording on CHARMS
There is a CHARMS User Guide ‘Foster Parent login’ on CHARMS under Download.
How to record
Ideally, foster parents’ logs should be recorded on a weekly basis and as soon after a specific event, or incident, as possible. If giving evidence in Court, it is particularly important that any notes referred to were made as soon as possible after the event that is recorded. Foster parent logs and progress actions will show the date they were entered on CHARMS, but content relating to key events should also be dated and, if appropriate, a time recorded. It should always be clear who has made the recording (e.g. which foster parent). This will help to ensure the accuracy of recording.
Separate records should be entered for each child or young person, even where siblings are placed together. It is possible to link progress actions from one child on CHARMS to a sibling, ensuring the recording appears in both their records.
Recordings should be simple and concise. Recordings should be factual and expressions of opinion kept to an absolute minimum. Foster parents need to be aware that their recordings may be made available to a Court, for examination during care proceedings for example.
When significant incidents occur, the foster parent is also expected to ring their local office to advise that information has been uploaded.
Content of recording
The log entry facility and progress actions available to foster parents on CHARMS allow for recording of information in such areas as:
- Any positive improvements, achievements, and happy events for a foster child.
- Details and observations of contact with own family (including the child's reactions). Failures to visit and reasons given, together with telephone calls and letter box contact.
- Details of contacts with other professionals e.g. school teachers, doctor, dentist and optician appointments.
- Comments by a child or young person which cause the foster parent/s concern. Always try to record the child's actual words.
- Details of a child's behaviour which cause the foster parent/s concern. What happened before it started, how it was dealt with, and the child's response?
- Details of any occasion when it was necessary for the foster parent/s to physically intervene with a child. What happened before the event, when did it happen, how was it dealt with, who else was present, how did the child respond?
- Details of any injury, accident or serious illness involving a foster child.
- Dates when the foster child is away from the foster home – with family, friends, school trips or missing.
- Details of any theft or damage caused by the foster child.
- Details of any specific incidents, events or changes in circumstances in the foster parent/s’ household.
Foster parents should exercise sensitivity in what information they record, and they should aim for it to be factual and free of their own personal views. Where they include personal views, this should be clearly stated.
Foster parents are required to keep a record of any illnesses or injuries sustained by a fostered child and of any treatments undertaken whether they are undertaken by the foster parent or a health or medical professional. Details must be recorded using the CHARMS progress actions ‘Monitoring Event – Accidents, injuries and illnesses’, ‘Monitoring Event – prescribed medication’ or ‘Monitoring Event – Non-prescribed medication’.
Most medication is prescribed for short term treatment of minor infections. In such instances, foster parents should record in the Notes box and using Start/End dates:
- Circumstances in which the medication has been prescribed;
- A description of the medication e.g. Penicillin;
- The daily dosage e.g. twice daily;
- The dates on which the treatment started and finished.
Fosterplus uses electronic communications, particularly email and SMS, as a way of relaying information to and from foster parents about support groups, training and other services. Foster parents should not send and receive information about the children they foster via e-mails or SMS, but should enter and access this information on CHARMS. If e-mail is used by foster parents in urgent situations and contains identifying information about children, the e-mails should be encrypted. Any e-mails received from other professionals should not be stored on foster parents’ own computers unless they are securely encrypted. Fosterplus uses the Egress e-mail encryption software.
Fosterplus seeks to comply fully with data protection legislation. In light of changes to data protection legislation in 2018 and advice received from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Fosterplus holds the view that foster parents are not data controllers in their own right as they do not determine the means and purpose of processing personal information of individual children, being identified more so as an employee in this respect. The Agency therefore has set the following expectations on foster parents, which are incorporated in the foster parent agreement.
- Foster parents should ensure that any information relating to a child placed with them, to the child’s family or to any other person, which has been given to them in confidence is kept confidential and is not disclosed to any person without the consent of Fosterplus.
- Foster parents should hold and keep all information securely and comply with the Agency’s Information Governance and Data Protection policies – these can be located on Charms. Foster parents can expect that confidentiality and data security will be addressed as necessary in supervision and at reviews.
- Foster parents should always use the CHARMS system and/or encrypted e-mails and/or other secure forms of delivery for recording and communicating personal data about a child placed with them. When an individual child's foster placement ends, they should ensure that any information held by them about the child is returned to Fosterplus.
CHARMS is a complete secure database system which Fosterplus uses to record information and store documents in relation to fostered children and foster parents. CHARMS can manage the entire process from initial enquiry, through assessment and training, to the placement of children and post-placement support. The complete record of placement episodes (including disrupted placements) can be viewed at any time.
Information about individual children is kept confidential and only shared with those who have a legitimate and current need to know the information.
Personal information held about children is subject to a legal duty of confidence as adults, and should not normally be disclosed without the consent of the subject.
The legal framework for confidentiality is contained in common law, the Human Rights Act 1998, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018.
How should foster parents store any records outside of CHARMS?
The law requires fostering services to ensure that all records are kept under conditions of confidential and secure storage so as to prevent their loss or destruction. Premises must be suitable to enable secure storage of records, both paper and electronic. Within the foster home, this means that any paper records, such as copies of legal documentation about the child, should be kept locked in a filing cabinet or other suitable place. No e-mails that contain identifying information about a child should be sent from or stored on foster parents’ own computers unless they are securely encrypted. Fosterplus uses the Egress e-mail encryption software.
All information provided about a child who is or who has been placed with a foster parent is confidential. This applies equally to information given as part of a written record, accessed electronically or given verbally during meetings and discussions concerning the child or family. In the same way, all information collected by a foster parent, in whatever form, about a child they are looking after, or have looked after, is confidential.
The basic principle of confidentiality is that personal or confidential information about a child, young person or their family should only be provided to another person if it is for the purpose of the child or young person’s protection or welfare. This might include a doctor needing to know past medical details, a teacher needing to know educational history or an organisation needing to know date of birth. Disclosure of confidential information to someone who has a need to know that information must be restricted to the information they need. Where there is doubt about a person’s need for knowledge, advice should be sought from the supervising social worker before any information is disclosed.
Discussion about the child’s personal and confidential information, including their history, their family connections etc. with a foster parent’s family members, friends and others who do not need to know of such details is contrary to the Data Protection Act and is therefore illegal. Positive aspects of a child’s day to day life and progress can, of course, be shared with friends and family members in general terms.
No matter concerning a fostered child should be discussed in a public place under any circumstances whatsoever. This includes the foyers of Children’s Services offices, school entrances and doctors’ surgeries, as members of the public have access to these settings.