Foster Parent Handbook
Care of Children and Young People
Colour Code Key:
Fosterplus Policies, Procedures and Guidance
Legislation and Government Guidance
General Sources and Good Practice Information
Expressing your views
“My views will always be sought and my choices respected, including when I have reduced capacity to fully make my own decisions.”
“If I am unable to make my own decisions at any time, the views of those who know my wishes, such as my foster parent, independent advocate, formal or informal representative, are sought and taken into account.”
Health and Social Care Standards: 2.11 and 2.12
Every fostering service must produce a written Children’s Guide, which includes:
- A summary of what the fostering service sets out to do for children
- How they can find out their rights
- How to contact Care Inspectorate, if they wish to raise a concern with inspectors
- How to secure access to an independent advocate
The supervising social worker ensures that every child (subject to age and understanding) receives an age appropriate copy of our Children’s Guide, at the point of placement. It is the responsibility of foster parents to go through this with children and young people and to explain the contents. Where a child requires it, we will make the guide available in translation or through suitable alternative methods of communication, such as pictures, tape recording etc. If foster parents think this is required, they should discuss it with their supervising social worker.
Participation of Children and Young People
Listening to children and young people - what is the role of foster parents?
Fosterplus has since its inception had a commitment to participation at all levels of the organisation including, involving stakeholders in shaping the development of the service provided. We will talk and listen to the users of our services and make changes where possible in light of what we learn.
Fosterplus Participation Strategy – can be downloaded from CHARMS/Download
It is essential that children and young people are empowered to communicate their views on all aspects of their care and support. Within a foster home, children should receive personalised care and be allowed to exercise reasonable choice and independence in the food they eat and are able to prepare, clothes and personal requisites they buy etc. This should happen within reasonable limits set by each foster family.
Foster parents can play an important role in helping children and young people to take up issues with Fosterplus or their local authority, and can also help children understand how their views have been taken into account or to understand why their wishes or concerns have not been acted upon.
Fosterplus young people's participation groups
Each local Fosterplus office runs a range of structured activities for young people of different ages, usually during school holidays. There are also participation groups where young people can meet together to share experiences and contribute their ideas to the running of Fosterplus. Your local office will keep you informed of events being organised.
“I am supported to use independent advocacy if I want or need this.”
Health and Social Care Standards: 2.4
Why might a child need an advocate?
Foster parents are often the best champions for the children they care for and you should certainly see your role as that of a ‘pushy parent’ when it comes to dealing with services such as Education and Health; but sometimes you may not be in the best position to advocate for a young person. For example, a child or young person may wish to express dissatisfaction with their foster parent or their social worker and, in some situations, foster parents will feel unable to represent the child's wishes and views as they may conflict with their own.
Children also may feel that they are not being listened to and that adults are making major decisions about their lives without treating their views seriously. They may not feel confident enough to challenge adults on their own, or may not know the right way to make sure their views are heard and acted upon.
What does an independent advocate do?
The role of an independent advocate is to support young people in making sure their views are properly represented, either by enabling the young person to speak for themselves or speaking on their behalf. All local authorities are required to provide independent advocacy schemes to which foster children must have access. It is very important that foster parents ensure that the children in their care are aware of their right to advocacy services and actively encourage them to use such services.
How does a child or young person access an advocate?
The welcome pack given to all young people when they come into the care of Fosterplus contains information regarding advocacy services such as the Children’s Rights Officer and Who Cares? Scotland; there is also information on how to give feedback about the service; It is important to bring this to their attention. Their local authority social worker should also be ensuring they have the information they need.
The role of the Children's Commissioner in Scotland has a duty to promote and protect the rights of all children in Scotland in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Children and young people from all over the Scotland helped choose Bruce Adamson as their current Commissioner. They interviewed him about how he would help young people know more about their rights and found out his plans for the job by asking him lots of questions.
It is his job to make life better for all children and young people by making sure their rights are respected and realised and that their views are taken seriously.
He and his team looks after the rights of
- Everyone in Scotland under 18
- Everyone in Scotland under 21 who has been looked after or in care
There are various ways of making contact with the Commissioner either on line, by phone or text. There is also a link on their website with HAPPY TO TRANSLATE which is a unique and innovative national scheme which bridges communication gaps between organisations and service users who struggle to communicate in English.
Children & Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
99 McDonald Road
Edinburgh EH7 4NS
Tel: 0131 346 5350
Contact can be made by an online email service at
Young People’s Freephone: 0800 019 1179
Or by Text 0770 233 5720 Texts will be charged at your standard network rate
In addition, there is the national CHILDLINE help line who can be contacted confidentially on 0800 1111 - the service is free and fully confidential and young people can contact them anonymously if they wish for information, advice or guidance.
Promoting a positive identity and valuing diversity
Identity and Heritage
“I am supported to be emotionally resilient, have a strong sense of my own identity and wellbeing, and address any experiences of trauma or neglect.”
Health and Social Care Standards: 1.29
Many looked after children have low self-worth and a very poor sense of their own identity. Many come from families that are subject to multiple problems and marginalisation. The Human Rights Act 1998, the Equalities Act 2010, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 all require that every individual child who is looked after should be cared for in a way that respects, recognises, supports and celebrates their identity and provides them all with care, support and opportunities to maximise their individual potential.
Fosterplus is committed to a positive policy of equal opportunities in the delivery of its services to children and foster parents, employment of staff and recruitment of foster parents. We will actively oppose all forms of discrimination carried out on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
All foster parents and staff will receive training on equality and diversity practice and expectations.
Trans-racial and trans-cultural placements
Fosterplus believes that a child's racial and cultural background is fundamental to their identity and needs to be maintained and encouraged. Foster parents have a key role to play in enabling young people to feel secure in their sense of identity. This will often be best achieved through placements into families with same or similar racial and cultural backgrounds.
Where such placements are not available, it may still be in the child’s better interests to place them with a family from a different racial or cultural background. We recognise that an important principle in working with children from different cultures is to acknowledge that this requires special commitment, knowledge and skills, which need to be developed if young people of differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds are to grow up with a positive image of themselves.
Fosterplus will offer training, support, information and guidance for foster parents and social work staff to enable them to meet the needs of each child, and to maintain a commitment to equal opportunities. Foster parents are expected to undertake the mandatory training course Equality and Diversity within their first year of approval by the agency.
We also record and monitor the ethnicity, religion and spoken languages of children referred to us and placed with our foster families, as well as those who enquire about fostering with us. This data is used to inform the continuing development of services that meet the cultural and racial needs of foster children.
Promoting cultural identity
The practical ideas that follow have four important aims:
- To promote the child’s cultural identity.
- To give the child positive images of their identity.
- To prepare the child for the society in which they will be growing up.
- To learn about and share in the child’s culture.
The following is a list of some of the ways in which foster parents and social workers can actively involve themselves in any foster child’s culture, whether or not they share the same culture with them. The list is by no means definitive and each idea does not apply to all cultures, but it does include some important suggestions:
- Find out about special dietary rules.
- Find out about essential cultural customs, like hair and skin care.
- Make sure you have a stock of appropriate toys, books, etc.
- Find out about the rules of religious observance.
- Involve the foster family and the child with other families who reflect the child’s heritage.
- Encourage the child to keep contact with members of their original community, (the foster parents and their family should also meet them, where this is appropriate).
- Learn about the historical foundations of the child’s culture and share these with the child.
- Make contact with the local black or other minority ethnic community and attend social events with the child.
- Be aware of racism in the language you use and examine your attitudes to it. Help the child find ways of coping with it.
- Encourage the reading of black literature and the watching of television programmes directed towards ethnic minorities.
- Encourage mother-tongue speaking and learning.
Foster parents must respect parents’ wishes and encourage all children to value their background. Foster parents should aim to care for the child in accordance with the parents’ views. Birth parents may be greatly distressed if their child breaks food laws or the observances of religion.
Making these efforts will show children in care that their foster parent and their social worker value their culture, and that any differences between them are manageable. The efforts will be rewarded by a much more real understanding of the child in your care. Foster parents can probably think of many ways in which they can involve themselves in a child or young person's culture. On the other hand, if the culture is very unfamiliar to them it may feel daunting, and if foster parents are not sure about how to go about seeking advice and making contact with their local black African, Asian, or other minority ethnic community, they should expect help, advice and support from the child's social worker, and their supervising social worker.
We expect foster parents to care for a child’s spiritual and moral well-being as well as their physical and emotional development. Foster parents must not impose their own religious beliefs upon children and young people, even where the child may not declare themselves to be of any particular faith; but making them familiar with different beliefs may help them to develop their own ideas as they get older.
Information about a child's religious beliefs should be provided by the child, his/her parents and/or social worker at the beginning of a placement and detailed in the placement plan, so that there is a clear understanding of expectations with respect of religion. This includes the religious background of a child’s family, the rules of religious observance, and the expectations regarding attendance at a place of worship.
Foster parents may need to take a child to and collect them from a place of worship, and must be prepared to do this. Foster parents should actively familiarise themselves with the values and practices of the child's religious faith so that, for example, important dates in the child or young person's religious calendar can be observed.
Dealing with discrimination
Children and young people may respond to prejudicial attitudes and discrimination by feeling ashamed, angry, rejected, and it may lower their sense of self-worth. For them to feel comfortable, foster parents and social workers need to feel comfortable too. Foster parents and social workers should help the child or young person to understand the nature of prejudice and prepare them to meet it and support them when they have to cope with it. It is a shared duty to take positive action to combat discrimination on the grounds of culture, religion, ethnicity or language.
If a birth has been registered then a birth certificate is available recording the details of the child's birth. If a copy of a child's birth certificate is required, foster parents should contact the child's social worker or seek advice from your supervising social worker.
Many foster children do not have a passport at the point they are first looked after. It is important that the potential for holidays and other trips abroad (e.g. school trips) is covered in the placement plan and that there is clarity about how a passport is to be obtained. This will be the responsibility of the child’s social worker and the United Kingdom Passport Agency provides guidance for social workers seeking to obtain a passport for a looked after child.
Where there are already plans in place for a holiday or other trip and the child does not have a passport, it is best to formally request that a passport be obtained as a matter of urgency. The written request should go to the supervising social worker to be passed on to the responsible authority, and should include:
- The reason for the request.
- The wishes of the child.
- The views of the parent/s, if known.
- The views of the foster parent/s.
The child’s social worker should obtain and complete the necessary application for the child or assist the child to complete the necessary application form.
If the child/young person is accommodated, their parents must be consulted with a view to obtaining their agreement. In such instances, good practice would suggest that involving the parent in the passport application process is recommended. Should the parent/s refuse to give consent and this is deemed unreasonable, then the child’s social worker may have to take advice from their Legal Services.
Life story work
What is life story work?
Children who live with their birth families generally have plenty of opportunity to know and learn about the events in their lives. These children generally grow up surrounded by their family members and they accept and feel secure about their place in the family. Their knowledge of who they are is built up from personal memories - good and bad - photographs, anecdotes and family folklore. All this is the foundation on which people build their self-image and become a secure adult.
All children are entitled to accurate information about their past and their family, but children separated from their birth families are often denied this opportunity. Many children come to blame themselves for being separated from their families and believe they are unlovable. Some children, particularly young children, can seem to live in the present and to forget the past. If a child has had a particularly unhappy time, foster parents and local authority social workers may also be tempted to try to protect them by encouraging them to forget the past. Though some memories will fade in the long term, curiosity - the deep need to know about their parents and understand their history in search of their true identity - will almost certainly surface, particularly when children are in their teens.
Compiling facts about their lives, and the significant incidents and the people in them, helps children to begin to understand and accept their past and move forward into the future. Life Story Work is a way of identifying and capturing the child's past both by collating material such as photos, videos, mementos and written records, but also writing down people's recollections of the child. Such information can be kept in a Life Story Book and Memory Box. The child’s social worker usually undertakes the sensitive task of compiling a life story book with the child, often in collaboration with the foster parent who has an important role in gathering material for the book.
The other important task for foster parents is to talk with the child in a way they can understand, about the fact they are not living at home and the reasons for this. It will be important for the foster parents to give them words to help explain their present circumstances and to allow them to accept those circumstances.
In summary, life story work can help the child feel comfortable with their past and reinforce their sense of identity and worth.
Ways to gather information for life story work
Written information – keeping regular records about the child's development: when they walked and talked; what toys they liked; what food they liked etc. When deciding on what information to store in trust for the child, it is a good idea to think about the sorts of things your own children asked you about when they were younger. Also record factual information, such as full address of the playgroup or school attended.
Photographs and/or videos – taking these on a regular basis and on special occasions. It is important that, however brief, you take pictures of the child’s time in your family. Photographs of the foster parents and their family, foster home, child’s school and friends, pets, and of the child's parents and family, may all be very important in the future. Take photographs of favourite activities, significant incidents, holidays, birthdays, weddings, parties and religious festivals. Write the date, location and names of people in the photo on the back. NB: Polaroid and computer generated photos fade. Use regular film and/or retain photos in digital format.
If children are reluctant to have their picture taken, then please respect this. Usually, with time and the excitement of an event, this self-consciousness passes. It is always possible that children may be reticent to have photographs taken because this was part of their previous abuse by an adult.
Mementos – keeping mementos of places visited, holidays shared, some playgroup pictures, school reports and so on. Retain certificates from school, sporting or educational awards, and anything else you or the child feel is important. These offer tangible evidence that the child had many experiences and provide a record of them.
Records of family time with birth families – keeping information about their family: from what they look like to what they were good and bad at. This is especially important if the child is not returning home, because it may eventually help them understand why this was not possible.
What happens to the life story book?
The life story book and other information in a memory box belongs to the child and should go with them when they leave a foster home. At the point a child or young person is moving on, you should discuss with the supervising social worker the best way to pass on information held in a memory box and/or life story book.
Self-Regulation and Behaviour Management Training
In addition to the Secure Base Model, Fosterplus has also introduced a positive behaviour support training programme called Self-Regulation and Behaviour Management:
- Support foster parents and other involved professionals in developing knowledge and skills in positively responding to challenging behaviour.
- Promote the on-going development of resilience, de-escalation skills and confidence in children, young people and their foster parents.
The importance of secure base
The Secure Base Model provides a positive integrated framework that underpins Fosterplus’s practice, service delivery and learning. We have been running Introduction to The Secure Base Model programmes for both foster parents and support staff since 2016. This has included the senior leadership team, all managers, social workers and administrators, reflecting a shared vision and ambition to embed the secure base model throughout the organisation at every level. This is about building on and developing the foundations from which we all support, understand, share experience and improve the ordinary life experiences and chances of the children and young people who live within our service.
A secure base is at the heart of any successful caregiving environment - whether within the birth family, in foster care, residential care or adoption. A secure base is provided through a relationship with one or more caregivers who offer a reliable base from which to explore and a safe haven for reassurance when there are difficulties. Thus a secure base promotes security, confidence, competence and resilience.
Understanding children's behaviour
Many children who are fostered have had experiences that give them little reason to trust adults. They have developed behaviours based on a need to try to protect themselves and to control their relationships and environments. Attachment theory suggests that exposure to warm, consistent and reliable caregiving can change children’s previous expectations, both of close adults and of themselves. The role of adults who can provide secure base caregiving, therefore, is of central importance.
The Secure Base Model provides a positive framework for therapeutic caregiving, which helps infants, children and young people to move towards greater security and builds resilience. It focuses on the interactions that occur between caregivers and children on a day to day, minute by minute basis in the home environment. But it also considers how those relationships can enable the child to develop competence in the outside world of school, peer group and community.
It can be helpful, first, to think about caregiver/child interactions as having the potential to shape the thinking and feeling and ultimately the behaviour of the child.
This cycle begins with the child's needs and behaviour and then focuses on what is going on in the mind of the caregiver. How a caregiver thinks and feels about a child's needs and behaviour will determine his or her caregiving behaviours. The caregiver may draw on their own ideas about what children need or what makes a good parent from their own experiences or from what they have learned from training. The caregiving behaviours that result convey certain messages to the child. The child's thinking and feeling about themselves and other people will be affected by these messages and there will be a consequent impact on his or her development. This process is represented in a circular model, the caregiving cycle, which shows the inter-connectedness of caregiver/child relationships, minds and behaviour, as well as their ongoing movement and change.
Information and support to foster parents around behaviour
Foster parents must be given all the relevant information about the child or young person placed with them to help them to provide a secure base, build positive relationships and manage behaviour. This must include information about previous challenging behaviour and advice about how this might be handled in the future. If this is not provided by the child’s social worker, the supervising social worker will follow this up.
The child’s placement plan must set out any specific behavioural issues that need to be addressed or approaches to be used.
Research tells us that it is of great importance for foster parents to realise and build on whatever strengths and abilities (‘resilience’) a child has. The Secure Base Model emphasises the critical role the foster parent (‘caregiver’) can have in creating the best possible environment for a child to build on and develop their resilience, by thoughtfully offering:
- Availability - Helping the child to trust
- Sensitivity - Helping the child to manage feelings and behaviour
- Acceptance - Building the child’s self-esteem
- Co-operation - Helping the child to feel effective and to be co-operative
- Family membership - Helping the child to belong
Availability - Approaches for helping children to build trust
N.B. It is important to choose only activities that the child is likely to accept and enjoy.
- Day-to-day activities
- Establish predictable routines around mealtimes, getting up and going to bed.
- Ensure that the child always knows where to find you when you are apart.
- Manage separations carefully, with open communication about why it is happening, how long it will be and clear ‘goodbyes’ and ‘hellos’.
- Use calendar or diary chart to help the child predict and anticipate events.
- Ensure that the child feels specially cared for and nurtured when ill, hurt or sad.
- Be ‘unobtrusively available’ if the child is anxious but finds it hard to talk or accept comfort (for example, suggest a ride in the car).
- Offer verbal and non-verbal support for safe exploration.
- Building trust when caregiver and child are apart.
- Allow child to take small item or photo from home to school.
- Use mobile phone or text to help child know that you are thinking of them.
- Place small surprise on child’s bed when he is at school to show you have thought about them during the day.
- Keep a ‘goodies tub’ in the kitchen and put small treats in it for child to have in the evening.
- Activities that help children to think about trusting.
- Ask child to draw a fortress or make one in clay or sand. Child may choose miniature toys or animals to stand for the main people in his life. Ask child to show and talk about which ones he would let into his fort and which ones he would keep out and why (from Sunderland 2000).
- Ask child to draw a bridge with themselves on one side and someone they trust on the other. Ask them to draw a speech bubble coming out of their mouth and write in it what they are thinking or saying. Do the same with the other person (from Sunderland 2000).
Games and activities that help to build trust:
- Hand holding games such as ‘ring a roses’.
- Clapping games.
- Reading stories with child on lap or sitting close.
- Leading each other blindfold.
- Face painting.
- 3-legged race.
- Throwing a ball or beanbag to each other.
- Bat and ball.
- Blowing and chasing bubbles together.
- Rocking, singing, gently holding child.
- Rub lotion onto each other’s hands and arms.
- Brush and plait hair, paint nails.
- Teaching a new skill or learning one together.
(Source: Providing a Secure Base, Gillian Schofield and Mary Beek, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)
Sensitivity - approaches for helping children to manage feelings and behaviour
N.B. It is important to choose only activities that the child is likely to accept and enjoy.
- Observe child carefully – perhaps keep a diary, note patterns, the unexpected etc. Try to stand in the child’s shoes.
- Anticipate what will cause confusion and distress for the child and avoid if possible.
- Read cues for support and comfort – be aware of ‘miscuing’.
- Express interest, at a level that is comfortable for the child, in his/her thoughts and feelings.
- Provide shared, pleasurable activity and a ‘commentary’ on the feelings experienced by self and child.
- Find time for interactions that promote synchrony of action, experiences, expressions of feeling (simple action rhymes and songs, clapping games for younger children, ball and beanbag games, learning a dance together, building or making something together, share an ‘adventure’ or new experience together, a game that involves a shared experience of both winning and losing).
- Make a ‘me calendar’ to help a child to see and remember what is going to happen next.
- Collect tickets, pictures, leaflets, stickers etc. and make an ‘experiences book’ to help a child to remember and reflect on positive events.
- Name and discuss feelings in everyday situations (happy, proud, sad, confused, angry, worried, peaceful, excited, guilty, lonely, pleased, etc. Also discuss mixed feelings and feelings that change over time.
- Play ‘sensory’ games (involving touch, sound, smell, observation).
- Use clay, paint, crayons to express feelings.
- Use play and real examples to make sense of the world, how things work, cause and effect.
- Encourage children to stop and think before reacting.
- Help children recover/repair the situation/make things better after losing control of feelings – praise them for doing this.
- Use stories or puppets to develop empathy in the child – ‘poor owl, how does he feel now his tree has been cut down’, etc.
- Use television programmes/films to focus on why people feel different things and how they can feel different things at the same time.
- Speculate on and give names to the possible feelings of others in everyday conversations.
(Source: Providing a Secure Base, Gillian Schofield and Mary Beek, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)
Acceptance - approaches for building self esteem
N.B. It is important to choose only activities that the child is likely to accept and enjoy.
- Praise child for achieving small tasks and responsibilities.
- Provide toys and games that create a sense of achievement.
- Liaise closely with nursery and school to ensure a sense of achievement.
- Use positive language. For example, ‘hold the cup tight – good, well done’, rather than ‘don’t drop the cup’
- Offer a brief explanation of why behaviour is not acceptable and a clear indication of what is preferred. For example: ‘If you shout it’s really hard for me to hear what you want to say. I want to be able to hear you, so please talk in an ordinary voice’.
- Help child to list and think about all the things they have done that they feel proud of.
- Help child to think about times, events, occasions when they felt valued and special. Use photos and other mementos to record these events.
- List alongside child, all the things that make you feel proud of them. Can include acceptance of limitations (e.g. a time when the child tried but did not succeed at something, was able to accept loosing etc.).
- Encourage child to draw, paint, make a clay model or play in music how it feels when they feel good about herself. Do the same for yourself.
- Suggest that child lies on the floor, draw round the outline of the child’s body. Encourage the child to make a positive statement about different parts of herself (I’ve got shiny brown hair, a pretty T shirt etc.) and write or draw these onto the figure. Take this at the child’s pace and ensure the child feels comfortable with the statement made.
- As a family group, suggest that each person in the family writes down one good thing about all other family members, so that each child gets given a set of positive things about themselves.
- Make a poster with the child of ‘best achievements’.
- Ask child to teach you something that he is good at – such as a computer game or a joke.
- Buy a small treat and place it in the child’s bedroom as a surprise.
- Discover and support activities and interests that the child enjoys and can be successful in. May need active support (liaison with club leader, becoming a helper at the club etc.).
- Use dolls, toys, games and books that promote a positive sense of the child’s ethnic, religious and cultural background.
- Ensure that the child’s ethnic, religious and cultural background is valued and celebrated within the household.
- Model the acceptance of difference in words and behaviour.
- Model a sense of pride in self and surroundings.
- Model within the family that it is OK not to be perfect, that no one is good at everything but everyone is good at something.
(Source: Providing a Secure Base, Gillian Schofield and Mary Beek, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)
Co-operation - approaches for helping children to feel effective – and be co-operative
N.B. It is important to choose only activities that the child is likely to accept and enjoy.
- Find individual activities that the child enjoys and that produce a clear result. For example, give the child a disposable camera to use on holiday or on a day out, help them to get the photos developed and give them a small album for the results.
- Within the house and garden, minimise hazards and things that child cannot touch and keep ‘out of bounds’ areas secure so that the child can explore without adult ‘interference’ when he is ready to do so.
- Suggest small tasks and responsibilities within the child’s capabilities. Ensure recognition and praise when achieved. If they become an issue, do them alongside the child – a chance to show availability.
- Introduce toys where the action of the child achieves a rewarding result. For example, pushing a button, touching or shaking something.
- Make opportunities for choices. For example, allow child to choose the cereal at the supermarket, a pudding for a family meal, what to wear for a certain activity.
- Ensure that daily routines include time to relax together and share a pleasurable activity.
- Respond promptly to child’s signals for support or comfort or reassure an older child that you will respond as soon as possible. For example ‘I must quickly finish what I am doing and then I will come and help you straight away’.
- Do not try to tackle several problem areas at any one time. Set one or two priorities and work on them gradually until there are sustained signs of progress. Ensure that these are acknowledged.
- Use co-operative language wherever possible. For example ‘Would you like to come and have a sandwich after you’ve washed your hands’, rather than ‘Wash your hands before you eat your sandwich’.
- Find shared activities that the child enjoys and that produce a clear result. For example, baking cakes.
- Introduce games. State clearly when you have had enough and suggest alternative activity.
- Seek opportunities for the child to co-operate with other children – you may need to be present so that this is managed successfully.
- Help the child to identify a target that they would like to achieve, do, change etc. Settle on one where something done now will make a difference. Discuss what the young person can do and negotiate simple, relevant and achievable steps that they can take. When agreed, draw a simple staircase and write one task in each of the bottom steps of the staircase. For example, if the target is ‘go to see Manchester United play at home’, steps might be – use internet to find out dates of home games this season, settle on suitable date and put on calendar, find out train times, etc. Set a time to review progress and think about further steps needed.
Family Membership - approaches for helping children to belong
N.B. It is important to choose approaches for helping children to belong that are suitable for the individual child and the plan for this child.
Belonging in an adoptive family, foster family or residential group
- Explain to the child from the beginning how the family/group works – its routines and expectations, its choice of food and favourite television programmes – so that the child can see how to fit in.
- Adapt those routines where possible and reasonable to accommodate the child’s norms and help the child feel at home e.g. meal times or bedtime.
- Have special places for the child in the home e.g. a hook for the child’s coat; a place at the table; the child’s name on the bedroom door or in fridge magnets on the fridge; bedding and bedroom decoration (posters etc.) that reflect the child’s age and interests.
- Promote family/group mealtimes and activities (e.g. going bowling) where the child can feel fully accepted as part of the family/group.
- Ensure extended family members and friends/all staff members welcome the child and treat the child as one of the family/part of the group.
- Have photographs of the child and of the child with the foster or adoptive family or residential caregivers on display – alongside photographs of other children who have lived in the foster or adoptive family or residential unit and moved on/grown up.
- Use memory and experience books of events and feelings about events during the child’s stay to build a family story to help the child be able to reflect on the meaning of family/group life and, if the child moves on, to take home to the birth family or to a new placement.
- Make sure the school knows (and the child knows that the school knows) that you are the family/residential unit caring for the child and need to be kept informed of any concerns but also of things to celebrate.
- Plan family/group life and talk about plans that will include the child, even if this is just an expectation that they will all go swimming together next week.
- Belonging to the birth family when separated.
- Develop or build on an existing life story book that contains information, pictures and a narrative that links the child to birth family members and birth family history. Ensure that it includes key documents e.g. copy of birth certificate, provides a full and balanced picture (see also Chapter 12) and is nicely presented, robust, valued and cared for. Even children who return to birth families benefit from making sense of complex family histories and their place in the family.
- Have photographs of the birth family where the child would most like to put them, e.g. bedroom or living room.
- Ensure that conversations about the birth family happen appropriately and are carefully managed within the family/group, so that the child does not have to make sense of negative, contradictory or idealised ideas about the birth family.
- Where direct or indirect contact is occurring, be actively involved in planning and facilitating contact so that the child’s welfare is paramount and contact promotes security as well as roots and identity.
- Managing memberships of more than one family.
- Adults need to demonstrate their own flexibility about children’s family memberships and what they might mean to the child.
- Both informally and in a planned way, talk with the child about the benefits and the challenges of having more than one family and help the child to understand and manage these relationships.
- Find models around the child of children who manage multiple families e.g. in friends’ families, on television, in books.
- Help the child think about/talk about the inevitability of mixed feelings.
- Watch for possible pressure points e.g. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, and find ways of indicating (where appropriate) that it is OK to give cards to more than one parent or to choose one rather than the other at different times.
- If necessary and with the child’s permission talk to the teacher about family issues that may disturb the child if raised in class, i.e. help others outside immediate family circle be aware of the child’s task in managing their multiple loyalties/families.
Allowing children to take risks
As well as promoting the safety and welfare of children in their care, foster parents have to support and encourage children to take appropriate risks as part of normal growing up and to learn from their mistakes. This includes allowing children to participate in every day rough and tumble activities and physical sports, as well as permitting them the opportunities to participate in organised activities through school, such as outward bound weeks, canoeing and kayaking etc.
Decisions about what is an ‘appropriate risk’ will often be child specific and will relate to the child or young person’s previous experiences, age, developmental stage, confidence and other attributes. Foster parents should consult about and review such matters regularly with their supervising social worker and ensure that they are reflected in the placement plan. The principle is that children and young people in foster care should have the same opportunities as other children to try out new activities, take risks and learn from them. Foster parents should feel supported in helping children to do this and not feel that they cannot agree to anything.
Disciplining children to develop an awareness of danger and respect for the rights, needs and feelings of others, as well as helping them to develop appropriate self-control, is a daunting responsibility for all parents and caregivers. Most parents use the experiences of their own childhood and family life as a basis for their approach to discipline.
Secure base theory and research into foster care tells us that foster parents need to be sensitive and try to identify and understand patterns of thinking and behaviour that reflect a child’s coping or defensive strategies. The focus should always be on helping the child to express and talk about their feelings and the foster parent must have the capacity to ‘stand in the shoes of the child’, before approaches to discipline are routinely adopted. This caregiving cycle begins with the child's needs and behaviour but then focuses on what is going on in the mind of the caregiver. How a foster parent thinks and feels about a child's needs and behaviour will determine his or her caregiving behaviours. The foster parent may draw on their own ideas about what children need or what makes a good parent from their own experiences or from what they have learned from training. The caregiving behaviours that result convey certain messages to the child. The child's thinking and feeling about themselves and other people will be affected by these messages and there will be a consequent impact on his or her development. This process is represented in a circular model, the caregiving cycle, which shows the inter-connectedness of caregiver/child relationships, minds and behaviour, as well as their ongoing movement and change.
There is also a level of prescription about use of discipline and sanctions for fostered children and foster parents need to be aware of what the expectations are upon them.
Research indicates that looked after children on average are involved earlier and more often than other young people with the police and criminal justice system. Fosterplus is committed to trying to minimise the need for police involvement in dealing with challenging behaviour, and we wish to avoid criminalising foster children unnecessarily. You can contact your supervising social worker and/or our out of office hours service to discuss any concerns or issues that you may have concerning a young person’s behaviour.
Acceptable sanctions and punishments
Wherever possible, foster parents should use constructive dialogue with the child or guide them away from a confrontational situation. The aim at all times is to try to think flexibly about what the child may be thinking and feeling and to reflect this back appropriately to the child.
Foster parents should also have an understanding of their own emotional response to a confrontation or threat, and know when to withdraw, concede or seek help. Where sanctions are used, it is important that they are:
- Relevant for the child and related to his or her care plan, age and circumstances.
- Realistic and sensitive.
- Understandable for everyone in the household.
- Used sparingly.
- Time limited.
- Follow the behaviour as quickly as possible.
- Follow good practice in the care of children/young people.
- Have been discussed during the placement planning meeting.
- Recorded by the foster parents on the child’s CHARMS case record.
Sanctions/punishments may include:
- Loss of/withdrawing privileges – e.g. loss of staying up late on a special night of the week, or visiting friends. This can help the young person understand that the unwanted behaviour will not be tolerated.
- Going to bed early – This can be used alongside other methods of control, and is particularly useful when it is linked to behaviour in which the young person has been late home, been disruptive at bedtime etc. Young people should not be sent to bed more than one hour before their normal bedtime.
- Paying towards damages – Young people could be expected to pay a portion of their pocket money regularly until they have made amends, or made an agreed contribution towards damage. The whole of a child’s pocket money must never be taken. They must always have some money that is their own each week. Any money stopped for reparation is clearly recorded by the foster parent in their diary sheets and should have prior agreement of the child’s supervising social worker and local authority social worker.
- Doing extra jobs – Like tidying the living room each day for a week if they have been responsible for creating a messy environment for others.
- Grounding for a time – This should be used sparingly and linked to the behaviour which has been unacceptable e.g. the young person may have damaged trust by not returning home at the agreed time.
- No television or treat – A difficult punishment if it means that others in the family will also lose out, but possible to achieve if a young person has a particularly favourite programme, and it is possible to use another room while others watch TV.
- Withdrawing attention – This can be an effective means of decreasing unwanted behaviour in children by not giving any attention to the unwanted behaviour. Care should be taken to ensure that this behaviour would not result in the child being placed in any danger. Foster parents should also try to ensure that they do reward positive behaviour. Withdrawing attention should be for short impact periods only. A strategy could be to tell the child that if they sit quietly for ten minutes, then it will be time for a game.
- Time out – This gives everyone the opportunity to reflect on what has happened. Time out should only be used for very short periods, particularly if the child is young. Telling them to sit on a chair just outside the room that the foster parent is in for five minutes can constitute time out. Bedrooms where children have toys should not be used for time out.
- Verbal disapproval – A raised voice, or different tone, can signal to a child that the adult is displeased. Foster parents need to make clear to the child that it is the behaviour that is disliked, not the child. Children should not be reprimanded in public if possible.
- Increased supervision – Young people like freedom, and knowing that someone is taking a keener interest in their activities can help them re-consider how they behave.
- Contracts - These can be particularly useful for older children, or where a young person wants to work towards something. Contracts are a sophisticated measure which must be discussed with the Supervising social worker in the first instance.
Unacceptable measures of control and discipline
Unacceptable sanctions include those that intentionally or unintentionally humiliate a child or young person, cause them to be ridiculed, or have been experienced by a child or young person under different circumstances at home, and which may evoke past painful and traumatic memories.
Foster parents should never threaten to end a placement as a punishment for the child who is living with them. They may have previously experienced this threat being carried out in their own family, and it can seriously damage relationships in the foster home.
There are a number of unacceptable methods of control that are forbidden by legislation. These include:
- Corporal punishment – any intentional application of force as punishment, including smacking, slapping, punching, rough handling, grabbing and throwing missiles.
- Deprivation of food and drink.
- Restriction on visits to or communication with parents, relatives, social worker, children’s guardian, solicitor.
- Any requirement that a child wears distinctive or inappropriate clothes.
- Use or withholding of medication or dental treatment.
- Locking a child in a room or building. (This does not include time out in a child’s unlocked bedroom, the use of which should be limited and used in a positive way).
- Intentionally depriving the child of sleep.
- Imposing fines other than for compensation or repayment.
- Intimate physical examination of a child.
There are other unacceptable methods of control which are not forbidden by legislation, but which we would not accept as good practice, including:
- Keeping a child in isolation because of their behaviour – if isolation is necessary because of other reasons, it must only be with close adult supervision.
- Excessive use of sending a child to bed early as a punishment – bedtime should be a pleasant experience, and a child’s day should not end in an unsatisfactory way.
- Bribery or threats – this should not be confused with encouragement and praise as an incentive to promote appropriate behaviour.
Physical intervention by foster parents
Physical intervention on children should only be used in exceptional circumstances, where it is the only appropriate means to prevent likely injury to the child or other people, or likely serious damage to property.
In the event of a serious incident (e.g. accident, violence or assault, damage to property), foster parents should take what actions they deem to be necessary to protect children and themselves from immediate harm or injury. They must notify the agency immediately afterwards.
If there is a risk of serious injury, harm or damage to property, foster parents should not use any form of physical intervention, except as a last resort to prevent themselves or others from being injured, or to prevent serious damage to property. If any form of physical intervention is used, it must be the least intrusive necessary to protect the child, foster parent(s) or others. At no time should foster parents act unless they are confident of managing the situation safely, without escalation or further injury.
The agency will endeavour to deal with as many as possible of the challenges that are involved in caring for children without recourse to the Police, who should only be involved in two circumstances:
- An emergency necessitating their immediate involvement to protect the child or others; or
- Following discussion with the supervising social worker, Service Manager, Head of Operations, or the Out of Hours Manager (outside office hours).
If any serious incident occurs or the Police are called, the supervising social worker, Service Manager, Head of operations or Out of Hours must be notified without delay. They will then notify the relevant social worker(s) and arrange for a full report to be made of the incident and the actions taken.
Where there is significant evidence of patterns of violent or dangerous behaviours, the supervising social worker will liaise closely with the child’s social worker and foster parent, in order to agree how such behaviours should be best managed.
Recording of sanctions
Foster parents should record, in detail, any sanctions that they have used with a child or young person, including why they were used, what led up to the incident, an account of the behaviour/incident, and the consequences/outcome of the incident. Any triggers to the situation for the child/young person should be noted.
The information should be recorded on the carer log. Please inform your local office as soon as possible, by telephone, of any incident that you have recorded in CHARMS.
Where foster parents have used sanctions that were not previously agreed, it is particularly important that they carefully record the events and the sanctions used for discussion later with their supervising social worker, the young person, and where appropriate, their parent. The appropriateness of the actions should be discussed, and alternative action explored for the future if necessary.
The use of sanctions should be monitored for their effectiveness by the foster parent and supervising social worker. Significant use of an inappropriate sanction, or continued use of inappropriate sanctions may be deemed as a child protection issue and be investigated accordingly.
Suicide and self-harm
Looked after children are at greater risk of committing suicide than other young people. We must treat all histories and incidences of suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts and self-harm seriously and not be tempted to deny or minimise their significance. We must not allow ourselves to be over optimistic about a child’s self-harming and assume that someone with a history of self-harming will not also attempt suicide. We must also be alert to recognising less common forms of self-harm such as refusal to take prescribed medication such as insulin. Dealing with a child who self-harms can be very frustrating, anxiety provoking and stressful. The trauma of the child can be transferred to the professional, who may react in a number of unhelpful ways, including intervention paralysis, drift or overreaction.
An intervention plan must be agreed with the local authority and foster parents must not act without the agreement and full knowledge of their supervising social worker. This area is one where individual, subjective thresholds play a very significant part in deciding whether we are concerned enough to intervene. The facts, history and risks must be established first, before decisions are reached about whether intervention or non-intervention is appropriate. Where there are differences in personal thresholds amongst professionals, we must work for consensus. When this cannot be achieved, we must establish and record clear accountability and decision making.
Confiscation of dangerous, illegal or unacceptable items
Any alcohol, illegal drugs, substances, solvents or weapons found in the possession of any child or young person should be confiscated by the foster parent and reported to, and handed in to, the child’s social worker or supervising social worker. Possession of such items should be considered as a significant incident and reported immediately to the supervising social worker or out of hours service. Fosterplus may seek advice regarding legal issues to assist everyone in determining the right way forward.
If foster parents discover that a child or young person in their care has taken illegal drugs, they must immediately contact their supervising social worker, or use the out of hours telephone support number to seek advice and action. It is not appropriate for foster parents to try and deal with this situation on their own.
What is child abuse?
It is generally accepted that there are four main forms of abuse. The following definitions are taken from National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2014
Physical abuse is the causing of physical harm to a child or young person. Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of, or deliberately causes, ill health to a child they are looking after. For further information, see the section on Fabricated or induced illness.
Emotional abuse is persistent emotional neglect or ill treatment that has severe and persistent adverse effects on a child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may involve the imposition of age - or developmentally - inappropriate expectations on a child. It may involve causing children to feel frightened or in danger, or exploiting or corrupting children. Some level of emotional abuse is present in all types of ill treatment of a child; it can also occur independently of other forms of abuse.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, to protect a child from physical harm or danger, or to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or failure to respond to, a child’s basic emotional needs. Neglect may also result in the child being diagnosed as suffering from “non-organic failure to thrive‟, where they have significantly failed to reach normal weight and growth or development milestones and where physical and genetic reasons have been medically eliminated. In its extreme form children can be at serious risk from the effects of malnutrition, lack of nurturing and stimulation. This can lead to serious long-term effects such as greater susceptibility to serious childhood illnesses and reduction in potential stature. With young children in particular, the consequences may be life-threatening within a relatively short period of time.
Sexual abuse is any act that involves the child in any activity for the sexual gratification of another person, whether or not it is claimed that the child either consented or assented. Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of indecent images or in watching sexual activities, using sexual language towards a child or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways (see also section on child sexual exploitation).
Peer on Peer Abuse
The term ‘peer on peer abuse’ relates to various forms of abuse, where all parties involved are under the age of 18 years. The abuse can include violence and criminal activity, harmful sexual behaviour, sexual exploitation, relationship abuse and bullying (including cyberbullying) and is harmful to both the victim and the perpetrator due to their status as children.
The victims of peer on peer abuse are both male and female and particularly vulnerable groups include those with disabilities and those who represent minority groups (e.g. on basis of sexuality, race or religion). Peer on peer abuse is often a feature of gang activity, and a victim might experience a combination of different abuses and have multiple support needs.
Where does peer on peer abuse occur?
Young people in foster care might experience abuse from their peers:
- Within the foster home
- At school
- At clubs/social activities
- On public transport/walking to school
Foster parents and agency staff need to be alert to the signs of peer on peer abuse and be familiar with agency policies to ensure a swift and appropriate response. Young people’s risk assessments should identify key concerns and safeguarding measures both for use within the home and community.
- Being aware of, and managing bulling:
Bullying is defined as “behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, which intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally.” Bullying behaviour can include name calling, hitting, pushing, spreading hurtful and untruthful rumours, taking belongings, inappropriate touching or excluding someone from a social group. Young people might be targeted as a result of their race, religion, sexuality or disability and bullying might take place online. This is known as ‘cyberbullying’. The Anti-Bullying Alliance has an excellent interactive online resource for parents and foster parents to raise awareness of bullying issues, https://anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk
- Gangs awareness
Young people can be exploited physically and/or sexually by a gang or group of young people. Gangs (mainly comprising young men and boys aged 13-25 years) are typically involved in various forms of criminal activity including violence with knives and guns, robbery and intimidation, exposing both gang members and targets to harm. Gangs are characterised by their identifiable markers including territory, name and clothing, while other groups without specific gang characteristics exist within the community and online to exploit young people, often sexually.
- CSE awareness
The sexual exploitation of young people by adult perpetrators has been well publicised with recent prosecutions of adult males in Rotherham and Rochdale. Young people can also be sexually exploited by older young people and this is reflected in the most recent definition:
CSE “occurs when an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity”
CSE always involves in imbalance of power and victims might not be aware of the exploitation, perceiving the relationship as loving. https://www.kscmp.org.uk/guidance/exploitation
- Youth produced sexual imagery (“sexting”)
The sharing of nude images online between young people is not always intentionally harmful but has the potential to harm if there are elements of coercion, bribery and/or blackmail involved. Young people can feel pressured to send nude images and once images have been shared they lose control over them; the image can be copied and shared indefinitely. The law prohibits the taking, possessing and sharing of ‘indecent images of children’ which includes nude images shared between young people, if the subject of the image is under 18 years of age. Young people who are involved in this behaviour can therefore need support with both the emotional impact of image sharing as well as possible police investigations.
Resources for young people
Childline: 0800 11 11 or find out about the “For Me” app at https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/for-me/
National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2014
The Scottish Government’s guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children can be downloaded at:
Staff and foster parents who are in positions of trust
Legislation states that it is a criminal offence for adults who are in positions of trust to commit sexual acts (including inappropriate touching), or have sexual relationships, with young people between the ages of 16 to 18 years in their care (even if the young person initiates or consents to the sexual activity). This legislation also applies to people over the age of 18 years if they are deemed to be ‘vulnerable’. The legislation is primarily intended to protect young people where a relationship of trust with an adult looking after them exists.
A position of trust can be broadly defined as a relationship in which one party is in a position of power or influence over the other by virtue of their work or nature of their activity. A young person is vulnerable to exploitative contact or relationships irrespective of their chronological age. Some work roles such as Social Worker or foster parent are defined within the legislation as being positions of trust. Positions of trust may also be created by virtue of the nature of the adult’s contact with a young person; for example a relative of a foster parent caring for a fostered child for short periods during the daytime would be in a position of trust. Adult members of the foster parent’s household including sons and daughters may also be seen to hold positions of trust in some circumstances.
Allegations or complaints would be subject to the procedures defined in the Scottish Government guidance Managing Allegations against foster parents and approved Kinship Carers (2013). Fosterplus’s Child Protection procedures take account of this guidance. Conviction of criminal charges under this legislation may lead to a custodial sentence and a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service.
If a foster parents feels sexually attracted to a young person they care for, they have a personal and professional responsibility to inform their supervising social worker. The social worker must consult with their Registered Manager and the Quality Assurance and Safeguarding Team as to the appropriate actions to safeguard the young person concerned (including moving the young person to a different placement).
Disclosure Scotland Checks
Applicants to foster and all people aged 16 or over living or regularly visiting their household will be asked to complete the disclosure forms and produce the necessary identification. There are different levels of checks the highest being PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) and depending on the role of the individual different checks will apply. These will then be sent to the Disclosure Scotland Service by the fostering service. Disclosure Scotland checks are not transferable, so copies of checks carried out by other agencies or for other posts cannot be accepted. Checks will be updated at least every three years.
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
Child sexual exploitation takes different forms - from a seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship where sex is exchanged for attention, affection, accommodation or gifts, to serious organised crime and child trafficking. Child sexual exploitation involves differing degrees of abusive activities, including coercion, intimidation or enticement, unwanted pressure from peers to have sex, sexual bullying (including cyber bullying), and grooming for sexual activity. Child sexual exploitation is not gender specific. There is increasing concern about the role of technology in sexual abuse, including via social networking and other internet sites and mobile phones. The key issue in relation to child sexual exploitation is the imbalance of power within the ‘relationship’. The perpetrator always has power over the victim, increasing the dependence of the victim as the exploitative relationship develops.
Many children and young people are groomed into sexually exploitative relationships but other forms of entry exist. Some young people are engaged in informal economies that incorporate the exchange of sex for rewards such as drugs, alcohol, money or gifts. Others exchange sex for accommodation or money as a result of homelessness and experiences of poverty. Some young people have been bullied and threatened into sexual activities by peers or gangs which is then used against them as a form of extortion and to keep them compliant.
Children and young people may have already been sexually exploited before they are referred to children’s social care; others may become targets of perpetrators whilst living at home or during placements. They are often the focus of perpetrators of sexual abuse due to their vulnerability. All staff and foster parents should therefore create an environment which educates children and young people about child sexual exploitation, involving relevant outside agencies where appropriate. They should encourage them to discuss any such concerns with them, another member of staff, or with someone from a specialist child sexual exploitation project, and also feel able to share any such concerns about their friends.
As an agency, Fosterplus has a strong commitment to learning and development and believes that this is an important part of exploring the subject of Child Sexual Exploitation. Core training has been specifically designed by the agency and all foster parents, staff, panel members and volunteers are expected to attend this course which explores the meaning of Child Sexual Exploitation and working with children who have been or are at risk of being sexually exploited.
Child Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessments
These assessments are completed in addition to ‘Safeguarding Risk Assessments’ where there is an indication or concern that the child or young person is at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). The CSE Risk Assessment provides a method of establishing the level of risk the young person is at of being a subject of Child Sexual Exploitation. This risk assessment focuses specifically on the known vulnerabilities and indicators of Child Sexual Exploitation. However, these assessments must be considered alongside regular Safeguarding assessments as each should inform the other.
Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a collective term for procedures which include the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons. The practice is medically unnecessary, extremely painful and has serious health consequences, both at the time when the mutilation is carried out and in later life. The procedure is typically performed on girls aged between 4 and 13, but in some cases it is performed on new-born infants or on young women before marriage or pregnancy.
FGM has been a criminal offence in the U.K. since the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 was passed. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 replaced the 1985 Act and made it an offence for the first time for UK nationals, permanent or habitual UK residents to carry out FGM abroad, or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad, even in countries where the practice is legal.
The rights of women and girls are enshrined by various universal and regional documents which highlight the right for girls and women to live free from gender discrimination, free from torture, to live in dignity and with bodily integrity.
Where a foster parent has concerns about the welfare and safety of a child or young person in relation to Female Genital Mutilation they should immediately inform their supervising social worker.
Who are trafficked children?
Trafficked children are likely to be children who arrive in the country as unaccompanied children or asylum seekers. They are brought into the country for the purposes of adult exploitation, which could include prostitution or sexual abuse, forced or/and cheap labour, slavery or servitude, financial or benefits fraud, and being used as drug 'mules'. Such children may be unaware that they have been brought into the country for such purposes, others may be too frightened to tell, whilst a few may be aware but compliant.
Identifying trafficked children
Unaccompanied children arriving in the country are screened by the immigration authorities at the point of entry. Some children will have only vague arrangements as to their future care or the immigration authorities may have concerns about the adults who have been identified as their future foster parents. Such children are likely to be placed with foster parents for at least a short period pending the outcome of further investigations. These children are at particular risk of adult exploitation, but will rarely disclose their experiences directly to a foster parent. However, children are likely to show patterns of behaviour and activity which may indicate that the child is the subject of adult exploitation. These include:
- Does not appear to have any money but does have a mobile phone when first placed.
- Receives unidentified/unexplained phone calls.
- Possesses money/goods not accounted for.
- Has a prepared story and appears to have been coached or rehearsed in recounting how they arrived in the country.
- Shows signs of physical or sexual abuse or sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy.
- Has unexplained absences from the foster parents' home or goes missing.
- Unidentified adults loitering outside or near foster parents' home.
- Has significant sums of money which are not adequately accounted for.
- Acquires expensive clothes, mobile phones etc. without plausible explanation.
- Possesses keys to unidentified premises.
- Observed entering or leaving cars driven by unknown adults.
- Found in areas the child has no known links with.
- Inappropriate use of internet and forming online relationships with adults.
These indicators are not a definitive list but provide a guide to alert foster parents that a child might be 'trafficked'.
Safeguarding children at risk of being trafficked
When unaccompanied children are first placed with foster parents, the local authority should undertake a risk assessment of the child and should plan for the possibility that the child may be 'trafficked'. If and when a foster parent feels that there is evidence that the child may be 'trafficked', then they should report their concerns to their supervising social worker who will liaise with the local authority social worker. The local authority will decide whether the concerns or evidences warrant the implementation of formal child protection procedures.
Children Missing from Care
Children at risk of going missing
At the point a child is placed with foster parents there should be a Risk Assessment completed, which will include any specific factors that may increase the possibility of the child going missing. Any identified risk factors should then be addressed in a way that will reduce the possibility of a child going missing. For example, clear arrangements for contact between a foster child and his/her birth family may decrease a child's level of anxiety about seeing his/her family and therefore their likelihood of running away.
In addition to the Risk Assessment, the foster parent and/or supervising social worker should complete a record detailing information such as the child's height, distinguishing features etc. which can be given to the Police if the child is actually reported as missing. This may include a photo, which should only be taken with the child's agreement and those who hold parental authority.
The placement plan should define the circumstances in which a child is authorised to be absent from a foster parent's home. For example, it could record that an older teenager may stay with a close friend one night every two weeks on an on-going basis, without identifying the specific dates. The placement plan should detail who has authority to agree such an arrangement on each individual occasion e.g. the foster parent, and whether the foster parent should inform each absence to the Fosterplus OOH service. These arrangements would be viewed as authorised absences rather than unauthorised absences or a missing child.
Foster parents should know when to try to prevent a child or young person leaving the home and should do so through dialogue, but they should not physically intervene to try to restrain any child should they be intent on leaving, or in any other circumstances, unless it is necessary to prevent injury to the child or others, or serious damage to property. No physical intervention may be excessive or unreasonable.
What to do when a child or young person is missing
In order to avoid any confusion, Fosterplus foster parents should, in all instances where a child is absent from their care without permission, contact their supervising social worker or their Service Manager during normal working hours, or the OOH service at evenings or weekends, to report the child’s absence.
The supervising social worker will ascertain whether any further steps can be taken to identify the child’s whereabouts e.g. phoning the child’s mobile phone number, family or friends, visiting the address the child claims to be at. It may be that the foster parent is the best placed person to visit addresses (subject to any safety issues) as – in terms of the Secure Base Model - this is a powerful demonstration to the child/young person of the foster parent's availability and that the child has a place – i.e. ‘belongs’ – in their foster family.
The supervising social worker may exercise a professional judgement in allowing a child some time to return to their foster parents before taking any further action; for example, if the child has informed their foster parent they been delayed because they are waiting for a bus.
Reporting the child as missing
When it is evident that a child’s whereabouts are unknown, the supervising social worker (or Out of Hours worker) will advise the foster parent to report the child as a Missing Child immediately, without the need to consult first with the child’s placing authority. The supervising social worker will then inform the placing authority as soon as possible.
The supervising social worker/duty worker will always inform the placing authority of a child’s absence. In this situation, after consultation with the local authority, a decision will be reached as to whether the child should be reported as a Missing Child to the Police and the supervising social worker/duty worker will advise the foster parent accordingly. In order to avoid any possible misunderstandings, the person reporting the child’s absence to the Police should always emphasis why a child may not be safe, even if the child’s whereabouts may be known.
The foster parent is normally the person best positioned to report a foster child as a Missing Child to the Police. They will be visited by the Police for the purpose of collating information about the child and their possible whereabouts. Copies of any relevant forms and photos should be made available to the Police. Depending on the circumstances, the Police may search the foster parent's home and garden to make sure the child is not hiding on the premises.
Most missing children are found quickly, but occasionally children may be missing for substantial periods of time or may repeatedly go missing. Local authorities are required to have mechanisms in place to ensure all agencies and services remain pro-active in identifying the child’s whereabouts and safe return.
When a Missing Child is Found
The Police are the people most likely to find a Missing Child and may return the child directly to the foster parent's home or take the child to a local Police Station. A Police Station may be regarded as simply a safe place for the child to be kept whilst awaiting collection by the foster parent or social worker. Alternatively, the child may have been taken to the Police Station because the Police have reason to believe the child has been involved in some form of criminal activity.
The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is a significant and complex policy area, which raises sensitivities due to the potential for rare, serious cases involving young children. Children under 12 cannot be prosecuted in court in Scotland, but those aged 8 and over can be referred to the children’s hearings system on offence grounds.
The minimum age of prosecution was set at 12 through changes in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. That change has worked well, though it has not ended discussion about the age of criminal responsibility. There is ongoing consultation on this.
How should foster parents respond when a Missing Child is found?
In all instances when a child is found after being reported as absent they should be given the opportunity to discuss their reasons with another professional in a ‘Return Interview’. This interview should take place, if possible, before the child actually returns to their foster parent, but certainly within 72 hours of the child returning. Guidance is that this interview should be conducted by a person ‘who is independent of their placement’. This person might be the child’s local authority social worker or an independent person or advocate.
The supervising social worker responsible for the child’s placement should consult with the child’s social worker as to who should conduct this interview. If the child’s social worker is unable to identify a suitable person, then the supervising social worker may conduct this interview themselves or commission someone else suitable to do it and will provide written feedback to the child’s social worker.
Children run away for a variety of reasons, but often because they are confused or unhappy about something. Though the reason may sometimes seem very trivial to the foster parents, at the time the child ran away it was the only way they felt they could deal with their confusion or unhappiness. They may not have got very far away, before they realised that there were other ways of dealing with the problem. They may feel very embarrassed and so coming home may be difficult and they will need an understanding welcome.
Whilst the child is missing, foster parents will often be trying to understand why and perhaps blaming themselves for what has happened. When the child absents themselves frequently, foster parents and their families can feel physically tired from lack of sleep and worry, dispirited and resentful at the child’s apparent disregard of their needs and feelings. Sometimes in such circumstances, foster parents may feel that the process of reporting a child as missing is long and unproductive. When the child returns, they may be filled with a mixture of anger and relief. Negative feelings need to be acknowledged and managed and foster parents should expect help and support from the child’s social worker and their supervising social worker, so that they will be in a position to be helpful to the child, when they return.
Where an individual goes missing for a long period of time or very regularly, the child, responsible authority, fostering service staff and foster parents should meet together to decide what further action should be taken to help and protect the child.
Recording when a child goes missing
Fosterplus maintains written records on a child’s CHARMS case record of when a child goes missing. These include logs and incident reports submitted by and detailing action taken by foster parents, the circumstances of the child’s return, any reasons given by the child for running away from the foster home and any action taken in the light of those reasons. It is a requirement to notify the local authority for the child and the Care Inspectorate and Fosterplus records this using the progress action ‘Notifiable Event - Child missing from placement (whereabouts unknown)’.
This information is shared, where appropriate, the child's parents.
Payments to foster parents when a child is missing
Payments may continue when a child absconds until the placement has formally ended, as long as the Fosterplus Head of Operations is satisfied that the situation is being monitored closely and is kept informed. Payments will not continue indefinitely. They are subject to monitoring and review. There are tight time limits, as the placing authority may decide to terminate a placement if a child is absent for more than a few days.
Fosterplus considers that any bullying behaviour is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Our policy in relation to bullying can be downloaded from
We try to ensure a culture in Fosterplus that regards any form of bullying as totally unacceptable. Foster parents and staff should be able to recognise and deal with any indications or incidents of bullying, act proactively and intervene positively, engaging with those bullying as well as those being bullied. Children who are bullied should be supported and those who bully given help and guidance to prevent them continuing to do so.
What is bullying and how to respond?
Bullying can include the following types of behaviour:
- Name calling and teasing, including taunts about sexual orientation and race.
- Gestures, taunting and mocking.
- Making offensive comments.
- Malicious gossip.
- Stealing from the victim.
- Extortion of money, food or homework.
- Physical violence, such as pushing, punching or pulling hair.
- Isolation from groups.
Bullying is deliberately hurtful and difficult for victims to defend themselves against.
Children are the most likely group in the population to experience bullying, especially in a school environment, though it can take place in any setting, including home. If a foster parent (or member of staff) suspects or is aware that a child or young person is being bullied, the most important thing is to listen to the child or young person’s fears and worries, and then agree who should be told and what the child or young person would like to happen as a result.
Bullying at School
Schools are legally required to have an anti-bullying policy, and this should be made available to all pupils and their foster parents. The policy will outline the school’s procedure for responding to allegations of bullying. Foster parents should always request a copy when a foster child is enrolled. Foster parents and supervising social workers should always encourage and support young people who they believe are experiencing bullying at school to make full use of the school’s policy and procedures.
If foster parents think a fostered child is being bullied you should:
- Talk to the child about their experiences. Assure them things can be done to stop it.
- Keep a record of what the child says, especially of the incidents of bullying.
- Reassure the child that they are right to tell you about the bullying.
- Advise the child that they should report any further incidents at school to a teacher straight away.
- Discuss how to resolve the situation with your supervising social worker and the child's social worker.
- Make an appointment to meet with the foster child's teacher - explain the problem and agree on what the school will do to stop any further bullying.
- Keep a record of what has been agreed and make a time to meet the teacher again to discuss what progress has been made.
- If little progress has been made, discuss with your supervising social worker and the child’s social worker whether to request a meeting with the head teacher or register a formal complaint.
Foster parents must record all suspected or actual incidents and report these to the child or young person’s social worker as soon as possible.
Bullying in the Community
All suspected or actual incidents of bullying must be taken seriously and the incident fully investigated, either by the responsible local authority or Fosterplus, with support provided to the child or young person as well as their foster parents.
The foster parent and social worker should formulate a plan to address the concerns and this should include:
- Who should talk to the child or young person?
- Who else needs to be notified (e.g. schools, birth parents).
- Whether any immediate action is needed to safeguard the child/young person.
The plan should involve any relevant others, including:
- The foster child or young person.
- Other children or young people in the household.
- The foster child’s birth parents.
- The bully.
- The social workers and parents of other children in the foster home.
- Other relevant professionals such as teachers and therapists.
After the concerns have been discussed with the child or young person, if bullying is confirmed or continues to be suspected then a protection plan should be drawn up to attempt to ensure the bullying ceases and does not re-occur.
If the bullying is being done by someone outside the foster home, then attempts should be made to engage the bully’s parents or foster parents in helping to put an end to the bullying. The social worker for the child or young person, rather than the foster parent, should normally undertake any contact with parents or foster parents in such circumstances.
Bullying behaviours by a child
Foster parents who are concerned a foster child is bullying others should:
- Challenge the young person's behaviour as unacceptable and explain why.
- Ask what the young person can and will do to change such behaviour.
- Try to find out what has led to the child's behaviour.
- Be prepared to regularly discuss, with the young person, how they can change their behaviour.
- Seek a meeting with the young person's school to discuss how other professionals can work together to stop a young person's bullying behaviours.
- If the bullying behaviour doesn't stop, talk to your Supervising social worker about the use of sanctions.
Bullying against foster parents
Foster parents who believe that they have been subjected to bullying by an employee of Fosterplus should follow the Complaints and Representations Procedure.
Cyber bullying, also known as eBullying, is any form of bullying which takes place online or through smartphones and tablets - using social networking sites, messaging apps, gaming sites and chat rooms such as Facebook, XBox Live, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and other chat rooms.
Cyber bullying is meant to cause upset. It can be defined as simply as continuously sending an e-mail or messages to someone who does not want any further contact with the sender. It can also involve rude remarks (including gossip) about people over the internet via social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Tiktok, Instagram and Snapchat.
If children or young people have a mobile phone, you should advise them to be careful who they give the number to. Advise them that if they receive threatening or abusive phone calls, texts or e-mails they store the message (do not delete it) and tell their foster parent/s or someone else they trust. It is a criminal offence to send offensive or threatening phone messages, text messages or e-mails and, if it continues, it can also amount to harassment. The police can, and do, take action, but will need the messages as evidence.
The website https://www.kidscape.org.uk/cyberbullying/ has some very good advice for children and young people on protecting themselves from and responding to cyber bullying and covers:
- Abusive comments, rumours, gossip and threats made using digital communications and/or technologies - this includes internet trolling.
- Sharing pictures, videos or personal information without the consent of the owner and with the intent to cause harm or humiliation.
- Hacking into someone's email, phone or online profiles to extract and share personal information, or to send hurtful content while posing as that person.
- Creating dedicated websites that intend to harm, make fun of someone or spread malicious rumours.
- Pressurising someone to do something they do not want to such as sending a sexually explicit image.
All foster parents approved for placements of school age children should provide a personal computer suitably located within their home and available to foster children. The computer must have a Broadband connection to the Internet. Foster parents must take reasonable precautions to protect children from harm whilst they are using the Internet.
What risks do the Internet and Social Networking Sites present?
Foster parents need to protect young people, as far as possible, from the potential threats that some materials accessible online may present. The main dangers are from:
- Web sites on the Internet that contain pornographic, violent, racist or hate motivated material.
- Chat rooms or social networking sites that can provide opportunities for paedophiles to contact, and exploit young people. In addition, bullying, offensive and threatening language can feature.
- Unsolicited e-mail also known as Spam. Once it was dominated by pornography, but now it is often used for advertising and scams and may carry malicious software.
- Viruses or Worms that are often distributed by email as an attachment, or by a website containing malicious software. These are programs that install themselves into your computer software, causing malfunction and damage. Some malicious software can transfer all the information stored on the computer to another source unbeknown to the user.
- Phishing scams which are emails from companies or individuals that pose as someone such as your bank or possibly someone needing your help. They will try to obtain information such as passwords from you with the intention of stealing money or personal details. This can also lead to identity theft.
- Hacking - whilst connected to the Internet it is possible for someone to access your computer contents without your knowledge, if you do not have the correct firewall and antivirus products in place.
What do foster parents need to do to minimise risk?
- Install the computer in a room which will enable foster parents to monitor and supervise young people's computer use; this is most likely to be the living room, (or the room where family members tend to spend most time).
- Educate young people about the potential dangers of the Internet, through discussion and use of written and on line materials.
- Use reputable Firewall and Anti-Viral protection programmes.
- Where a foster child has sole use of a computer or a foster child and their foster parent has shared use of the same computer, to install suitable security systems to reduce the risk of harm to the child.
- Draw up a Family Safety Code, so that everyone understands the rules for computer use.
Internet Safety eSafety Training
The Learning and Development Team commissions training for foster parents on Internet Safety eSafety – A guide for foster parents to safeguard young people’s use of the online world.
Please discuss with your supervising social worker how to access this course.
Example of a Basic Internet Family Safety Code
Acceptable use of the Internet
- No one is allowed to go to pornographic, racist, and violent or hate motivated web sites.
- No one must use abusive or threatening language in on line communication.
- Never download unknown files or illegal content (pirated music or movies) from the Internet.
- All family members under the age of 12 years should use a child friendly Search Engine - http://www.kidfriendlysearch.com/Kid_Friendly.htm
- All family members will keep all personal information secret: this includes, names, ages, addresses, landline and mobile phone numbers or personal financial details.
Providing details online
Sometimes, for registration purposes or buying on the Internet, some details may need to be provided. In all such instances:
- The responsible family member for providing such information is.......... (foster parent).
- All family members will only use moderated and age appropriate chat rooms and social networks that have been agreed with by.......... (foster parent).
- An online friend is a stranger in the real world and no family member should meet someone they have contacted on the Internet without the agreement of.......... (foster parent).
- Any agreement will be given only on the understanding that ............. will be accompanied by.......... (foster parent) and meetings must take place in a public place decided by ............ (foster parent).
- No family member should open unrecognised email or spam.
If things go wrong
- If any family member is upset by any communications received via the Internet, they should inform........... (foster parent).
- If any family member is subject to inappropriate contact whilst using the Internet a complaint will be made to the Internet Service Provider. In the case of illegal materials or content the Police will be informed.
Computer security in the home
A number of technical options are available to foster parents to minimise the risks to young people. What are the right ones for an individual family will be influenced by the individual family member's needs and the knowledge and competence of the foster parent in the use of computers.
Ensure you do not give administrative access to your computer to children. Administrator accounts on your computer give the user full access to all settings, which could enable the child to bypass any measures that you have put in place. Set up user accounts on your computer which only have limited access to the computer’s settings. Use different passwords for each account.
Foster parents who feel they have limited knowledge or skills are advised to provide Internet access through a Search Engine designed for children. This will help to filter out inappropriate content. There are several options, including one provided by Google - http://www.kidzsearch.com/. This is also the safest option for all children under the age of 12 years.
Foster parents will need to take a close interest in what the family computer is being used for and by whom. Regular monitoring and supervision are essential to ensure young people can achieve, learn from and enjoy the online world. By providing this range of technical equipment and safety measures, young people can enjoy and make positive use of the Internet. However, if foster parents have concerns that a young person is not using the computer for the purposes for which it is provided, they should always discuss with their supervising social worker and agree any appropriate actions or sanctions.
Age classification: films, games and online content
In order to protect children from unsuitable or potentially harmful content in films, DVDs and some online entertainment services, the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) provides a system of classification to give consumers information about the suitability of the content for children of different ages. Shops must not sell DVDs to children who are younger than the age stated, and cinemas must not admit children to view a film if they are underage. The BBFC considers issues of discrimination, drugs, language, nudity, sex, dangerous and imitable behaviour, and violence.
PEGI (Pan European Game Information) provides a similar service in relation to video games. Shops must not sell games to children who are underage.
BBFC ratings for film, DVD and online content
- U (Universal, suitable for all ages)
- PG (Parental Guidance – general viewing). Might be unsuitable for very young children, but should not unsettle a child aged 8 years or older
- 12A/12 (suitable for children aged 12 years and older). 12A is used for cinema release and 12 for DVD. A child aged under 12 years will be admitted to a cinema showing of the film if they are accompanied by an adult
- 15 (suitable for 15 years and older)
- 18 (suitable for 18 years and older)
PEGI game ratings
- 3 (considered suitable for all ages)
- 7 (generally suitable for all, but might contain fighting scenes)
- 12 (games that involve slightly graphic violence towards fantasy characters, or non-graphic violence towards human-looking characters/recognisable animals. Might involve some non-graphic nudity and mild swearing
- 16 (depiction of violence or sexual activity is realistic, more extreme bad language, depiction of drugs criminal activity)
- 18 (depiction of gross violence that could cause a viewer to feel revulsion)
Using the classification system in your home
You should not purchase DVDs or games for children if they are underage, and you should not permit them to watch films or play games that are not considered suitable for their age at other locations (e.g. school, friends’ houses).
Making judgements about the suitability of a PG-rated film, or a 12A cinema release involves a careful consideration of the content and the likelihood that the young person might be unsettled by viewing it. A parent is entitled to make this judgement and it therefore falls within the remit of delegated authority, and should be discussed at the placement planning meeting and/or Care Plan review meetings. If you are not sure that you have been given delegated authority to make this decision, please discuss the issue with the young person’s local authority social worker.
Parental control software of mobile devices permits you to restrict online content in accordance with BBFC guidelines. Discuss this with the local authority for each young person and agree appropriate restrictions. These restrictions should be included within the young person’s risk assessment and safer care plan.
Staying safe online
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre is the UK's national law enforcement agency that focuses on tackling the sexual abuse of children. It has a thinkuknow website where you can find the latest information on websites, mobiles and new technology resources for those who work with children and a place to report any concerns about someone a child may be chatting to online. The site contains good information and safety tips: www.thinkuknow.co.uk
Further information on staying safe on line can be obtained from:
Social networking sites - foster parents
Social networking sites are widely used by foster parents and children as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends. However please do not upload photographs of children in your care on your Facebook page or other networking sites, for example Instagram or Twitter. There are some potential dangers, due primarily to the fact that accounts can be easily accessed unless appropriate levels of security are set by the account holder. Foster parents must use the Privacy Settings to limit access to their account to people they trust. Foster parents who feel there are positive reasons for a former or current foster child as an on-line friend should first discuss this with their supervising social worker and obtain their agreement.
But remember, Privacy Settings do not guarantee 100% security. Foster parents are strongly advised not to make any reference to a fostered child whilst using a social network site as this may breach their right to privacy. Foster parents should not communicate any work related information that is of a confidential nature on a social network site including any information that may identify a foster child. For example, some birth parents who are legally prevented from having contact with their children may try to use sites to trace their whereabouts or use personal information logged by a foster parent to discredit them.
Social networking sites - children
A majority of children use social network sites. Such sites are therefore an important way in which young people choose to stay in touch and communicate with friends. However, there are potential dangers; for example, from predatory adults pretending to be a 'friend', in order to gain access to vulnerable young people. Foster parents should take the risk minimisation steps identified above.
The younger the child the more closely the foster parent should oversee the child's activities. If young people want to upload photos of themselves, encourage them to use pictures you both agree are suitable. Advise young people against entering details such as their phone number or address or any information that can identify their whereabouts. The foster parent should ensure that, should they become aware of any inappropriate photos of a child placed with them being put on social networking sites, they do not download them and forward/distribute them to other professionals involved with the child. It is illegal to distribute inappropriate images of children, whatever your motivation. Bring their presence online to the attention of the professionals.
Educate young people about cyber bullying and encourage them to tell someone they trust if they are subjected to bullying. The Child Exploitation & Online Protection (CEOP) Centre is the UK's national law enforcement agency that focuses on tackling the sexual abuse of children and provides advice on steps that adults and young people can take to keep themselves safe. www.thinkuknow.co.uk.
Responding to Sexting (Youth Produced Sexual Imagery)
What is ‘Sexting’?
Youth Produced Sexual Imagery (“sexting”) can be defined as images of videos generated by children and young people that are of a sexual nature or are considered to be indecent. These images may be shared between children and young people and/or adults via a mobile phone, webcam, handheld device or website/app.
Sexting & sharing of naked images
There is an increasing trend for young people to take photographs of their breasts and genitalia and share this by mobile phone or social media with their boyfriend/girlfriends. Some young people are also exposing themselves on webcam both to the people they know and strangers within chat rooms. It is vital that young people know that when they send such images, they lose control of them and could find that they are shared beyond the recipient. The images can be taken and placed anywhere online without their permission. There is an additional risk that eh recipient will use the image in future to blackmail the young person.
Young people also need to know that creating and distributing these images can be a crime, if the young person pictured is under 16. Being convicted of distributing “indecent images” of children could result in a prison sentence (for those aged 16+) or admission to secure accommodation. It will also go onto affect the young person’s career and travel opportunities. The message to young people is clear:
- Do not take indecent images of yourself
- If you receive an indecent image, delete it without saving or sharing it.
It is important that young people know that if anyone is making them feel uncomfortable online and asking them to take indecent images of themselves that they can:
- Tell you
- Report the other person to CEOP, particularly if the required comes from someone they don’t know. You can make a CEOP report at www.thinkuknow.co.uk
- Use helpful apps such as Zipit, which was created by NSPCC to respond to request from boyfriends/girlfriends in a humorous way.
The law and youth produced sexual imagery
It is an offence to “communicate indecently” which includes the sharing of images via text, electronically (social media) or verbally, with any person who did not consent to receiving the communication, or that the person sharing this knows that the recipient does not consent. (Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009).
The Act maintains the age of consent at 16 and provides that any sexual activity between an adult and a child or young person constitutes a criminal offence. Sexual intercourse and oral sex between children and young people under the age of 16 is unlawful.
- “Indecent” can include images or verbal descriptions of penetrative and non-penetrative sexual activity
- “Making” can include opening an attachment, downloading images and saving images to a computer/mobile device online
- “Sharing” includes sending by email, offering on a file sharing platform, uploading to a site that other people have access to, and possessing with a view to distribute or a sexually explicit conversation.
Examples of offences:
- A young person under 16 years of age taking a nude photograph of themselves, possessing the image and sending it to another person.
- A young person under 16 years of age who receives a sexual image of another young person aged under 16 years, and keeps this image on their phone
- A young person under 16 years of age who receives a sexual image of another young person aged under 16 years, and forwards the image to a friend
- A person over the age of 16 who creates/possesses and/or shares a sexual image of a young person under the age of 16 years
If an incident of ‘sexting’ involving children under 16 is reported to the police, their initial response will be to discuss with social work colleagues and agree whether the offence is considered solely a criminal office or merits a joint investigation by Police and Child Protection Social Workers.
For young people aged 16 + who are subject to a supervision requirement Police Scotland may decide to adopt a similar process to that outlined for children under 16 above. However this will depend upon the circumstances of the sexting incident.
In deciding this the police may consider whether;
- The alleged activity has been shared with a number of recipients
- The alleged activity has been shared with an intent to cause harm or distress
- The alleged activity was solicited by an adult or an unknown person online
- The alleged activity was solicited by threats or deception
Young people’s devices might be seized by the police as evidence, although this action is avoided wherever possible as typically the device cannot be returned due to the technical difficulties in completely removing images from electronic devices so that they are irretrievable.
The subsequent investigation will consider whether the incident involved consensual sharing of images between individuals of a similar age, or adult where there could have been and evidence or coercion/violence/threat/profit making/revenge. Where offenders/victims are looked after children, child protection procedures are usually initiated.
Irrespective of the nature of the offences, and the circumstances involved, a referral to the Children’s Reporter is likely to be made, to enable the offences to be considered by a Children’s Hearing (for children under 16). The hearing will consider the support plans developed by social work for the young people involved to prevent recurrence of the incident.
Foster parents should report any known/suspected incidents of youth produced sexual imagery as a notifiable event. Foster parents should notify their allocated SSW of the incident as soon as they become aware, or involve the out-of-hours service if the situation is outwith normal office hours. The agency will inform the Local Authority of the situation and the local authority will discuss the situation with their JIIT (Joint Investigative Interviewing Team) or equivalent. The JIIT is a combined police/social work team whose primary focus is child protection and investigation.
The Agency will also provide a notification to the Care Inspectorate.
The young person’s risk assessment will need to be updated, and a CSE risk assessment might be undertaken.
Support will need to be offered to the young person throughout the investigation, to include emotional support regarding the impact of the incident on their wellbeing and information about the JIIT investigation and any consequences thereof. This might include therapeutic support.
N.B. Agency staff and foster parents must not print, forward, distribute or save any youth produced sexual imagery unless instructed to do so by the police.
Access to television, videos and adult magazines
Through a number of media - including terrestrial television, cable or satellite TV, the Internet, videos, DVDs and magazines - it is possible to access a range of sexually explicit, obscene, violent and racist materials. Foster parents , along with others responsible for the day to day care of fostered children, have a duty to ensure that children in their charge are protected from these images.
Fosterplus expects that foster parents will make responsible decisions about the suitability of videos and DVDs, bearing in mind the censors' classifications of a film. Similarly, foster parents must ensure that children and young people are unable to access unsuitable, adult oriented cable and satellite television channels. These are generally, subscription channels. It is possible to exclude access to such channels, and foster parents should contact their supplier for advice, if necessary.
Photography and videos
There are no routine restrictions on foster parents taking family pictures of their fostered child, or of the child and their friends. Foster parents do not need consent for this. But permission is required if they are to be used publicly for example the Fosterplus newsletters or school newsletters. Placement plans should also confirm that foster parents can give consent for formal school photographs. These should be encouraged to ensure children have school and group photographs taken as part of their life history. It is important that fostered children have a record and memories of their childhood and photographs can be a helpful way for fostered children to make sense of their history and can contribute to their life story book.
However, decisions on whether foster parents can consent to other types of photographs or media activity can be more problematic, where issues of confidentiality and safeguarding can be present. We also have to factor in the age and competency of a young person to make informed decisions. It should be assumed that many young people aged over 16 will very much take the ‘lead’ in these decisions.
Many children and young people take part in activities, in school, leisure, social or sporting settings, that may lead to publicity in the media. Others wish to engage in paid or voluntary activities which drive improvements in foster care and that may attract media attention. While this should be normally encouraged and celebrated, the issue of ‘who consents’ needs to be carefully judged in relation to particular known risks to the safety of an individual child.
Young people and foster parents often feel they are struggling with blanket policies in these areas, so individual consideration of each case is important. Any restrictions on a child’s photograph or name appearing in the media should be based on good explanations and clearly specified in the placement plan. If foster parents anticipate that these sorts of issues may arise, they need to bring them to the attention of their supervising social worker as early as possible.
There may be occasions when foster parents need to have a break from the child they are caring for; this may be for personal or family reasons or to take a short holiday.
Where these are occasional or infrequent absences by the foster parent, it may cause the least disruption to a foster child if relatives or friends of the foster parent (who are known to the foster child) act as ‘temporary’ foster parents. Such ‘temporary’ foster parents are known as the support network. They will need to be assessed and checked by a supervising social worker.
In addition to assessing your support network, Fosterplus also recognises the importance of ensuring that any support network have been sufficiently prepared for the task and understand the regulatory framework within which they will be accountable, as well as where advice and support can be accessed.
Adults planning to stay with foster parents
The foster parent agreement requires any foster parent to give reasonable notice to Fosterplus of any plans to allow another adult to stay at their own home. Foster parents who neglect to do this would be in breach of the foster parent agreement and it may result on them being taken back to the Fostering Panel for a review.
We require that Disclosure Scotland checks are taken up on any person, over the age of 16 years, who wishes to join the household of a current foster parent. If it is a short holiday, attending a family event such as a wedding or simply a social visit, in such circumstances, the foster parent must not leave any fostered child in the sole care of the adult overnight.
Because of the legal status of fostered children, Fosterplus has a duty to ensure that any adult who plans to stay at a foster parent's home is subject to an appropriate level of scrutiny, to establish that they are ‘safe’ and ‘suitable’. If we are unable to establish this or conclude that the adult is unsafe or unsuitable, we will refuse such a proposal.
The most likely reasons an adult plans to stay at the home of a foster parent are:
- They are the new partner of an existing foster parent.
- They are to look after the foster children, in the absence of the foster parent, as a short term arrangement (including where the foster children stay at the home of the temporary foster parent).
- For a short visit for such reasons as holidays, family events e.g. birthdays, Christmas celebrations, social visits.
- There is a change in the adult’s personal circumstances; such as ill health, marital breakdown, financial loss etc. As a consequence, the adult may not be able to continue to maintain their pre-existing living arrangements or accommodation. The main reason for the proposed move to the home of the foster parent is other than for direct involvement in the fostering activities of the foster parent.
Significant Relationship Policy
Fosterplus will only consider adults joining fostering households who are relatives or close friends. This excludes such people as lodgers (including foreign students), due to the difficulty in undertaking a meaningful assessment and vetting process and the likely temporary nature of such arrangements. In the event of a new partner who is having contact with foster children or intends to move into the house, Fosterplus will follow the significant relationship policy.
This is required when a foster parent forms a new relationship which brings the person into contact with foster children. It has a staged response depending on the level of involvement.
This policy can be downloaded from CHARMS/Download.
Holiday with friends and relatives of foster parents
There is no requirement that where a looked after child visits or spends a holiday with their foster parent's friends or relative that the individual must be approved as a local authority foster parent, as the child will remain formally placed with their usual foster parents. There is also no statutory duty for Disclosure Scotland disclosures to be sought in relation to adults in a private household where a child may stay overnight or visit.
Ideally, such arrangements will be planned, authority agreed in the placement plan or at a LAAC review. Where this has not occurred, we would expect foster parents to raise the prospect of a holiday or school trip, sufficiently ahead of time, with their supervising social worker.
Holiday Planning Guidance
Where possible, Fosterplus will support and encourage foster parents to take foster children on holiday either within the UK or abroad. For children who are fostered there needs to be a clear process and plan developed to ensure the safety of all who are participating in the holiday.
Foster parent's Holiday Homes
Many foster parents have holiday homes that will have been assessed as second homes and a H&S risk assessment undertake on these properties by the SSW. This needs to be updated alongside the home H&S assessment as part of the review cycle. A holiday risk assessment in respect of the children currently in placement requires to be completed and shared with the LASW prior to going to the holiday home. This does not need to be completed each time you go to the holiday home except if there is a change in placement or different foster family members visiting and staying over in the holiday home.
Please note that if the holiday home is in another country including England, Wales or Northern Ireland, then the LASW should be advised as soon as possible so that any legal notifications e.g. Children’s Reporter, can be made. This is particularly important if the child in your care is placed on a named place of residence.
All other holidays including travelling abroad
We recognise that at times there are holiday special offers that may require the holiday to be booked prior to the points below being completed, however you should only do this if you have had a discussion with your SSW or another member of the Fosterplus team who have then had a discussion with the child’s social worker and their agreement has been given to book the holiday.
In giving agreement your SSW or the LASW will provide guidance in relation to sleeping arrangements/bedroom sharing, permission to travel abroad, and insurance cover required prior to booking a holiday.
- Discuss your intention to plan a holiday with your SSW as soon as possible and, where you are planning to use an hotel, or go abroad, prior to confirming any booking with a holiday company. This allows us to have discussions with the placing social worker for the child placed and ensure that the plan will not impact upon the care plan arrangements for the foster child, and enable appropriate checks and documentation (for example passports, parental consent) to be progressed prior to the holiday.
- A holiday risk assessment form has been developed for use to collate the core information to help you, the placing social worker and the agency have clear understanding of the location of the holiday, the sleeping arrangements, and the plans should there be a need for Fosterplus or the Local Authority to respond to an emergency whilst you are on holiday.
- The form needs to be completed by your SSW alongside yourself and shared with the LASW so that they can seek agreement from their council in relation to the plans being made.
- A completed copy of the form will be uploaded to the child’s Charms record, and a copy will be sent to the LASW for their records.
- Fosterplus OOH system will be advised that the holiday is taking place and the LASW will update their own OOH system.
Overnight stays and visits
Guidance on Overnight Stays
There is no legal requirement to undertake disclosure checks on adults in a private household where a looked after child may stay overnight. Disclosure checks should not be sought as a precondition of an overnight stay unless There is evidence to suggest that this may be necessary. If a foster parent has serious worries about an overnight stay invitation then it should be refused. If permission for an overnight stay has been refused, this should be based on clear, recorded reasons that are necessary to protect the child’s welfare in his or her particular circumstances. The child’s views should also be recorded. As far as possible the reasons should be shared with the child or young person, although care needs to be taken not to disclose confidential information about a third party.
Children need to feel able to stay with their friends and Fosterplus does not wish to impede this, but nonetheless Fosterplus and foster parents have a shared responsibility to ensure the safety of children in their care. Parents routinely make judgements on whether or not there are known risks to staying in a particular household or visiting relatives, and similar judgements should normally be made for children in foster care by their responsible foster parents. Judgements should be based on a reasonable assessment of risks, which at times will require consultation with your supervising social worker and/or the child’s social worker.
In all cases, we will seek to ensure that foster parents are fully aware of any specific individuals, addresses or areas which may place a child at risk and this information should also be included in the child’s placement plan. At the placement planning stage and all subsequent LAAC reviews, it is essential that foster parents and supervising social workers establish clearly what decision making powers are delegated to the foster parent in responding to a child's request to stay overnight and/or visit with a friend.
Checklist for decisions
The following factors about the looked after child should be considered when making a decision about an overnight stay:
- The views of the child or young person on their friend and his/her family.
- If the child were subject to a supervision requirement specifying where the child is to reside, would an overnight stay conflict with any other terms of the supervision requirement or with the expectations of the children’s hearing? If so, the overnight stay cannot take place. Was the possibility of overnight stays discussed at the most recent hearing? If not, then the issue should be raised at the next hearing.
- The child’s age and level of maturity. Is the request appropriate to their age and are overnight stays common among children of their age?
- Has the child or young person stayed overnight with a friend before? If so how did they cope and did they enjoy the experience? Is there any evidence that they said they were staying at one friend’s house but moved on to another house without letting their foster parent know? If they have not previously had an overnight stay, are they ready now?
- Is the overnight stay likely to cause conflict with other aspects of the child’s life for example, the need to finish a project for school or visit their family? Can ways be found to fit in both activities?
- Is the child’s legal status one where their parents’ permission for an overnight stay should be taken into consideration?
- Does the child or young person have any health problems or disabilities that may affect the overnight stay for example, wetting the bed, a need to take medication or the need for wheelchair access? The foster parent should discuss with the child or young person the information and advice needed to be shared with the family of the child’s friend (the ‘host family’) beforehand to make sure that the child has a safe and comfortable stay.
- Does the child or young person have any cultural or religious needs that may affect the overnight stay for example, a halal, kosher or vegetarian diet? The information and advice to be shared with the host family beforehand should be discussed with the child or young person, and how this will be done.
If in doubt about the appropriate decision or if there is reason to consider that a child or young person may be at specific risk in staying in a particular household, you should consult the Supervising social worker for advice.
Foster parents are still expected to inform their supervising social worker (in advance) of any overnight stays, in particular. We have a responsibility to know where the child will be sleeping and to ensure that the child’s local authority have an awareness of the arrangement. Should emergencies occur when foster parents have gone away, for example, the responsible adult/s can access our out of hours service and report any issues, seek advice etc. For this purpose, we must be clear on the child’s location.
What information do I need to obtain when a child stays away?
Foster parents should always have contact details for the household in which the child or young person will be staying. They should also make contact with the household beforehand, as would any good parent, to assist in assessing the request and to confirm arrangements and to ensure that the household where the child will be staying have, in turn, the contact details of the foster parent(s):
- Obtain an address and telephone number.
- Ascertain who will be responsible for the child.
- Personally speak to the responsible adult to satisfy yourself that they are suitable as a temporary foster parent and to check that the sleeping arrangements for the child are appropriate.
- Know when the child or young person is due to return home.
- Clarify what transport arrangements are needed to facilitate this.
Keep a written record of the steps taken to ensure the child will be safe whilst staying with a friend and of the actual dates agreed for an overnight stay.
Adult supervision of children
Children under 8 should never be left unsupervised in or out of doors. Children aged 8 to 16 should not be left on their own, unless agreed in the placement plan. Young people over 16 can be left alone, unless the placement plan states otherwise.
An initial risk assessment is made during the matching process when a child is first referred to the placement team for a possible placement. This will determine whether there are any known risks that a child may present, either to themselves or to others. It is quite possible that a child will show behaviours that can be identified as risks, only after a placement has taken place. Fosterplus will request copies of any existing written risk assessments and initiate the completion of an updated Risk Assessment once the child is placed.
Family Safer Caring Plans
Fosterplus requires that each foster home produces a family safer caring plan. This enables families to record how they behave towards each other and what family rules are in place, especially in the area of safer caring. This document should be shared with fostered children prior to their placement, if possible, as it will help them understand the essential rules of the home, what is expected of them and what they can expect of you. This plan should be reviewed annually or whenever there is any change in the household membership.
Individual Safer Caring Plan
It is important for the foster parent to draw up a plan with the young person that is specific to their needs to ensure that everyone understands what is permissible and acceptable to both the individual young person and the foster parent.
Health & safety responsibilities
Fosterplus has designed a Foster Parent Health and Safety Handbook to assist prospective foster parents, assessors, approved foster parents and supervising social workers to plan and review home safety, including outdoor areas, second homes and vehicles.
Health checklist when children and young people are first placed
- Have you registered the child with your GP (if the child is not to remain with their own GP)?
- Have you checked with your supervising social worker or the child’s social worker that a health assessment (medical) has been requested?
- Have you made a dental appointment for the child?
- Does the child require an eye test?
- If caring for a baby, are you attending baby clinic for regular developmental monitoring?
- Is the child’s vaccination record up to date?
- Has any medication been prescribed by a GP or other health professional, are there arrangements for storing it safely and administering it in accordance with the prescribed dosage?
- Is there agreement from birth parents, those with parental responsibility or the responsible authority for administration of non-prescribed medication and first aid?
- Have you checked to see if the child is undergoing tests, checks or treatment that you need to keep up?
- Have you the necessary signed consent from birth parents, those with parental responsibility or the responsible authority before any planned treatment is commenced on the child?
Registration with the local GP
The child or young person in your care should be registered with your local GP as soon as possible after placement, unless continuing registration with the child’s current GP has been agreed in the placement plan or with the child’s social worker. Where possible, the child should be permanently registered with your GP, as otherwise their medical records are not requested and this limits the child’s access to secondary health care services.
These are an increasingly popular addition to the home garden and holiday accommodation. They are, however, several potential risks including bacterial infection and drowning. If you have a hot tub at home, we will complete a health and safety risk assessment with you to ensure that children are safe.
Children and young people must not use a hot tub without an adult present, and they are not suitable for young children who cannot regulate their body temperature. There is no legal age restriction on the use of hot tubs, but RoSPA considers that hot tubs should not be used by children under 5 and for children over 5 this should be set at a lower temperature of around 35°C and a limited soaking time of 10 minutes is advised, as they are less able to regulate their body temperature. We will ask for the consent of children’s social workers before allowing them to use a hot tub.
Read RoSPA’s advice about hot tubs here. [https://www.rospa.com/leisure-water-safety/water/advice/hot-tub-safety]
When the hot tub is not in use, please cover it and lock the lid.
Regularly test the water quality in the hot tub, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Store cleaning chemicals in a secure place, where children cannot find them.
Hygiene is particularly important when it comes to hot tubs. Everyone should shower before entering the hot tub, and nobody should use it if they have an infectious illness or an open wound, however small, as this can lead to bacterial infection.
It is also important never to submerge your head in a hot tub as hair can be caught in the filtration system.
Evidence from research and practice shows that looked after children and
care leavers are more likely to experience health problems than young people in the general population.
Health assessments and planning for Looked After Children should be carried out within the Values and Principles of the Getting it right approach and applying the core components of the approach.
Guidance on Health Assessments for Looked After Children and Young People in Scotland
Frequency of health assessments
It is the responsibility of a local authority to ensure that health assessments are carried out for every looked after child. Therefore, it is the child’s social worker who initiates the process. Initial health assessments should be undertaken by a registered medical practitioner, while review health assessments may be carried out by an appropriately qualified registered nurse/midwife – for example, a school nurse, health visitor or member of a LAC Nurse Specialists team.
Comprehensive Health Assessment
Every looked after child or young person receives a comprehensive health assessment within four weeks of the NHS Board receiving notification (that an individual has become “looked after‟).
Guidance on Health Assessments for Looked After Children and Young People in Scotland:
In many situations, as for children and young people who are looked after, the Childs Plan will include contributions from different services and agencies including needs identified through specialist assessments such as the Health Assessment and the actions to address these needs. To ensure that a consistent approach is taken by services and agencies the GIRFEC National Practice Model, should be utilised as the framework for any assessment and planning.
Involving parents and those with parental responsibility
It is good practice to involve parents in health assessments to provide an opportunity to obtain child and family health history directly as well as to obtain consent to gather further necessary data from GPs, consultants and hospitals. Where a child is provided with accommodation by the responsible authority under section 25 the parents must be given the opportunity to be involved in the child’s health assessment and parental consent is required for a health assessment to proceed.
Health services for looked after children
Looked after children should have access to the full range of health services, including General Practitioner (GP), health visiting/school nurse, child and adolescent mental health, speech and language therapy, audiology, vision, health promotion, oral health, specialist, and sexual health services.
Guidance on Health Assessments for Looked After Children and Young People in Scotland
Comprehensive Health Assessments
Objectives of health assessment
The objectives of the health assessment are to:
- Provide an opportunity to collate and to analyse the child/young
- Person’s health history including antenatal, birth, neonatal, past
- medical and family history.
- To identify unrecognised/unmet health needs, ascertain if the
- child/young person has missed or has any outstanding appointments,
- and to plan appropriate action.
- To comprehensively assess the child/young person’s current physical,
- developmental and emotional health needs.
All assessments and planning by each Agency involved in a child’s plan should be constructed around the 8 wellbeing indicators; safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included. The Child’s Plan should contain a holistic overview of all information gathered and assessments carried out and structured around the wellbeing indicators; a summary of how this information was considered in terms of the child’s circumstances identifying strengths and pressures; how specific actions/ priorities were identified; and detail of a clear action plan. This must include the health assessment and action plan. The comprehensive health assessment will lead to a single agency health plan that can be shared and integrated to develop the multiagency Child’s Plan. The initial health assessment should be submitted to the multi-agency plan in My World Assessment format – i.e. strengths and pressures around SHANARRI.
These should be reviewed at every LAAC review to ensure that health plans are being followed and any actions carried out.
Key health workers
All looked after children should have access to a LAAC nurse. The LAC nurse should co-ordinate children’s health care irrespective of the number of care placement moves, ensuring coordinated continuity of health care and avoiding repeated assessments.
If the child needs to go into hospital, foster parents must inform their supervising social worker and the child's social worker. If this takes place out of office hours, foster parents must inform the out of hours worker. Admissions to hospital are matters that we must notify to the Care Inspectorate and it is vital that this is communicated immediately to the Agency.
Going into hospital is frightening and the child or young person is going to experience a further separation from people they know. In line with the principles of providing a secure base, foster parents should, if possible, stay with and remain available to them in hospital. Fosterplus may be able to provide assistance, if this means additional costs or the need for extra help.
Consent to medical treatment
Consent to medical or preventive treatment
In Scots law, when persons reach their 16th birthday, unless they lack the appropriate mental capacity, they gain the legal capacity to make decisions which have legal effect under the Age of Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act 1991.
However, even under the age of 16, a child can have the legal capacity to consent on his or her own behalf to any surgical, medical or dental treatment where in the opinion of a qualified medical practitioner attending the child, the child is capable of understanding the nature and possible consequences of the procedure or treatment (see section 2(4) of the 1991 Act).
- This is a matter of clinical judgement and will depend on several things, including:
- The age of the patient
- The maturity of the patient
- The complexity of the proposed intervention
- It's likely outcome
- The risks associated with it.
- Consent for Health Professionals in NHS Scotland
If a child under the age of 16 is not capable of understanding the nature of the healthcare intervention and its consequences, then you should ask the child’s parent or guardian for their consent to proceed with the intervention. The Local Authority will require to authorise any health care intervention where permission is required. However in the case of emergencies where treatment cannot be delayed it will usually be acceptable for medical practitioners to provide medical treatment without obtaining consent where it is immediately necessary to save life or to avoid significant deterioration in the patient’s health. The treatment given must be no more than the immediate situation requires however.
Promoting the health of children and young people in foster care is very important if they are to grow into mature, stable, well balanced adults. Children often have poor health when they first become looked after, and fostering services have a duty to promote the health and development of children placed with foster parents. Attention must be paid to both their physical and emotional health. Foster care must provide a healthy environment, where children’s good health and wellbeing is promoted, their health needs are identified and services are provided to meet their needs.
Healthy eating is all about making sure you get the recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates as well as the right types of fats and sugars. Good healthy eating habits need to start early, but foster parents often have to deal with a child whose eating habits have developed in a deprived or unhappy atmosphere. Even where this is not the case, a child may refuse to eat unfamiliar food when they have just left home. All sorts of behaviours are possible; overeating, hoarding, stealing, being finicky, refusal, vomiting. Whatever the case may be, it is always best to avoid confrontation; find out what the child's eating habits and preferences are and only introduce new eating experiences gradually, at the child's own pace. This is especially important for children with disabilities who may need special diets or help with eating. Some of the approaches foster parents can take include:
- Get children started on the idea of ‘five a day’ early. If they are not keen on vegetables then blend them into meals or see if they prefer them raw.
- Encourage children to get up early enough to have breakfast to avoid them seeking high fat, high sugar products later or on the way to school. One idea might be to draw up a ‘Food Agreement’ with children to facilitate a clear expectation around eating and shared meals.
- Encourage children to eat wholemeal bread instead of white bread.
- Encourage children to eat fruit as part of their daily diet.
- Encourage the drinking of water.
- Sit with children at meal times and model/encourage appropriate social skills at the table to help develop confidence eating with other people.
- Ensure that foods are appropriate to the child’s individual culture and religion. All children bring with them their own unique ethnic identity and food may play a role in this.
- Ask children and young people their views on food.
- Actively encourage the involvement of looked after children and young people in buying, preparing and cooking meals.
- Encourage them, especially when preparing to leave care, to budget around food, menu plan, shop, cook and clear away.
- Encourage young people to have a realistic and positive body image where the emphasis is on a healthy weight rather than the image dictated by the media.
A whole family approach should be encouraged to ensure that children are not treated differently. Spin off benefits can include helping children tackle behaviour problems that might be exacerbated by too many sugary food and drinks.
Getting more fruit and vegetables into a family’s diet
The Change4Life campaign recommends the following for getting more fruit and vegetables into your diet:
- If you do not have time to prepare fresh vegetables try canned, frozen or pre packed and try stir frying vegetables to improve flavour.
- Have fruit juice at breakfast.
- Keep a well-stocked fruit bowl.
- Snack on fruit or raw sticks of vegetable such as carrot, celery or peppers.
- Serve two types of vegetables with your dinner.
- Swap to lower sugar cereals.
- Switch to fresh or dried fruit, breadsticks or unsalted nuts instead of sweets and biscuits.
Change4life – http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/five-a-day.aspx
Vitamins and homeopathic remedies
Vitamin supplements and/or homeopathic remedies should, in the first instance, be discussed with your supervising social worker, who would consult with the child's social worker. Medical advice can also be sought from the family GP or our own medical advisor. A discussion with the child’s social worker should always be a precursor to any action being taken in relation to a significant change in dietary supplements.
It is well recognised that children are less fit than in the past. This is due to a changed lifestyle. Regular exercise is essential for everyone. It can be running, jumping, bike riding, swimming or any other type of exercise the child enjoys. Simply walking to and from school or playgroup can be good for the children and their foster parents. The time can also be spent talking to the child. Getting children to walk everywhere rather than putting them in the "buggy" or car because it is quicker is strongly recommended. Young people should exercise at least one hour each day to help stay healthy.
Physical and emotional health
“As a child, I have fun as I develop my skills in understanding, thinking, investigation and problem solving, including through imaginative play and storytelling.”
“As a child, my social and physical skills, confidence, self-esteem and creativity are developed through a balance of organised and freely chosen extended play, including using open ended and natural materials.”
“As a child, I play outdoors every day and regularly explore a natural environment.”
Health and Social Care Standards: 1.30, 1.31 and 1.32
Foster parents can:
- Enable and encourage children to take up sports and help them to sustain their interest.
- Encourage free time outdoor play such as walking, running, informal games, cycling as well as formal clubs and teams.
- This might also include initiating physical activity, active travel, active play, sports and hobbies outside school particularly during weekends and school holidays.
- Take younger children to the park.
- Consider introducing a maximum time that children and young people can be in front of TV, computer or video games.
- Use the car less and walk more with them.
- Find out if the local authority gives free entry to their leisure facilities.
Change4life – 60 active minutes
The Change4life website has lots of ideas for everyday family activities that can help children do 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
Fostering services are required to ensure that foster parents promote the leisure interests of children and young people. It is important for looked after children to have access to a wide range of leisure activities which helps them to enjoy their interests, develop self-confidence and maintain good health. The activities from which children derive enjoyment will be varied and personal, but such experiences will be important in helping them to gain a sense of achievement and in helping them to develop skills that will prepare them for independence later on. Children will find life more fun if they have interests outside the home. Interests will:
- Help them build self-confidence.
- Give them a purpose, something to aim for and to achieve.
- Help them make new friends and develop their identity.
- Give them somewhere different to go.
Foster parents should encourage children to participate in normal leisure activities in the same way that any reasonable parent would. Supervising social workers can help foster parents to consider the full range of social, leisure and sporting opportunities available locally to foster children, including any with which the foster parents were not previously familiar. Foster children may need additional help and support from their foster parents to participate fully. Sometimes this may involve an element of informed risk taking, so that children are able to learn from their experiences. Foster parents need to be aware of the authority that they have to make decisions on activities, leisure interests and social events, and these must be included in arrangements in the placement plan.
Many fostered children will need a lot of help and encouragement to find interests they enjoy and there may be ‘false starts’ along the way. It is normal for children to try out several activities before they find one that really suits them, and it is important for foster parents to be patient. If any of these activities entail excessive expenditure, then foster parents should talk to their supervising social worker and child’s social worker about the possibility of getting assistance with this.
Immunisation helps protect against serious diseases such as flu, measles, mumps, whooping cough, meningitis, and polio. It is easy to protect most children against infection with a simple course of injections. Every year several children die unnecessarily from dangerous diseases. Permission for any vaccination programme must be included in the placement plan. If this is not the case, please discuss with your supervising social worker.
Here is a checklist of the vaccines that are routinely offered to children in the UK for free on the NHS, and the age at which children should ideally have them.
- 5-in-1 vaccine – this single jab contains vaccines to protect against five separate diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), polio and Haemophilus influenza type b (known as Hib – a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children)
- Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine
- Rotavirus vaccine
- Men B vaccine
- 5-in-1 vaccine, second dose
- Rotavirus vaccine, second dose
- 5-in-1 vaccine, third dose
- Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, second dose
- Men B vaccine second dose
- Hib/Men C vaccine, given as a single jab containing vaccines against meningitis C (first dose) and Hib (fourth dose)
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, given as a single jab
- Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, third dose
- Men B vaccine, third dose
2-7 years (including children in school years 1, 2 and 3):
- Children's flu vaccine (annual)
3 years and 4 months:
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, second dose
- 4-in-1 pre-school booster, given as a single jab containing vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis) and polio
12 - 13 years (girls only):
- HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer – two injections given 6-12 months apart
- 3-in-1 teenage booster, given as a single jab and contains vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and polio
- Men ACWY vaccine, given as a single jab and contains vaccines against meningitis A, C, W and Y
NHS Immunisation Scotland
The NHS choices website provides detailed information on the vaccines that are routinely offered to everyone in the UK for free on the NHS, as well as planning tools for parents and foster parents and comments pages:
Foster parents should keep medicines in a safe place that children cannot access, unless it has been specified in the placement plan that a child is capable of managing their own medication. Whilst children should be supported to keep and administer their own medication, care must be taken to ensure that they are responsible enough to do so, or will be able to do so with adequate support and supervision. Foster parents and social workers will need to make a judgement about whether children should manage their own medication, which is why it is best recorded in the placement plan.
When a child is first placed with them, foster parents ideally should be given written permission from a person with parental responsibility to administer first aid and non-prescription medication, and this should be clearly recorded in the placement plan. If it is unclear what permission has been given, please raise this with your supervising social worker.
Proper care must be taken to ensure prescribed medicines are only administered to the individual for whom they are prescribed. Foster parents should keep a written record of all medication, treatment and first aid given to children during their placement, using the progress action on CHARMS ‘Monitoring Event - Medication, medical treatment or first aid’ – you should record any medication administered and time given. This includes use of inhalers prescribed for asthma.
HIV and AIDS
N.B. This information relating to a child should be confidential, as with any medical record.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus which damages the body's immune system and exposes it over time to the risk of severe infections (e.g. pneumonia, which affects the lungs) and certain cancers which affect the skin and various organs. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the name given to a group of these diseases when caused by HIV.
There is as yet no cure for AIDS or vaccine against HIV infection. There are, however, anti-retroviral drugs that can improve the quality of life and extend the lifespan of people with HIV. However, such treatments may have debilitating side effects.
Children with HIV should be referred for assessment by an HIV specialist physician.
HIV infection is not spread by normal daily contact and activities e.g. coughing, sneezing, kissing, hugging, holding hands, sharing bathrooms and toilets or food, cups, cutlery and crockery.
Further information about HIV and AIDS - AVERT
AVERT is an international HIV and AIDS charity based in the UK. AVERT provides a wide range of information to educate people about HIV/AIDS across the world, including sources of local information and help in the UK:
Hepatitis A is less serious than hepatitis B, but also attacks the liver. It is transmitted in human faeces and contaminated food and drinking water. The incubation period is about three weeks. It causes sickness, diarrhoea and stomach pains but is not serious to otherwise healthy people. Sufferers usually recover completely in a few weeks and one attack usually gives full immunity. There is a vaccine available for hepatitis A.
Further information about Hepatitis - AVERT
'Hepatitis' refers to viral infections that cause inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common types. Each has different causes and symptoms. There is more information about how each form of hepatitis is spread, signs and symptoms, where to go for help, tests, treatments and prevention on the AVERT website:
Hepatitis B is a virus, which causes infection that may damage the liver. People with hepatitis B infection do not necessarily have symptoms or feel unwell, but some do get a short "flu-like" illness, often with jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes and dark urine), nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Infection without symptoms and illness without jaundice occurs, particularly in children. Very rarely, hepatitis B infection may cause acute liver failure.
Hepatitis B carriers are infectious to other people, and about one in five infected in infancy or childhood may develop serious liver damage later in life such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and primary liver cancer. Children with chronic hepatitis B infection should be referred for assessment by a specialist clinician, such as a hepatologist, gastro-enterologist or infectious disease physician. Drug treatments may be available, although they are not effective in every case.
Vaccination against hepatitis B is available, though not a necessary requirement. However, should foster parents or social workers feel worried or concerned about the risks to themselves or their families, they should discuss this with their GP.
Like HIV, hepatitis B infection is not spread by normal daily contact and activities e.g. Coughing, sneezing, kissing, hugging, holding hands, sharing bathrooms and toilets or food, cups, cutlery and crockery.
Like hepatitis B, hepatitis C is a virus, which causes infection that may damage the liver. Many people with hepatitis C infection have no symptoms and are often unaware that they have been infected. Some people will experience tiredness, nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and "flu like" symptoms. They may also develop jaundice (yellow eyes or skin and dark urine), but this is unusual.
Hepatitis C infection is not spread by normal daily contact and activities e.g. coughing, sneezing, kissing, hugging, holding hands, sharing bathrooms and toilets or food, cups, cutlery and crockery.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by either a virus or bacteria. Viral meningitis is rarely life threatening, but can make people feel very unwell. Most people who get viral meningitis recover after a few weeks without any specific treatment.
Bacterial meningitis can be life threatening and needs urgent medical attention. Many different bacteria can cause meningitis but the three main types are hib, pneumococcus and meningococcus.
Common signs and symptoms
(Symptoms do not appear in any order and some may not appear at all).
Babies & Toddlers:
- Fever - cold hands and feet
- Refusing food or vomiting
- Fretful or dislike of being handled
- Pale, blotchy skin
- Blank staring expression
- Drowsy, difficult to wake
- Stiff neck, arched back
- High pitched cry
- Fever - cold hands and feet
- Stiff neck
- Dislike of bright light
- Joint or muscle pain
As well as the above symptoms a sign of this disease can be a rash that does not fade under pressure. Do not wait for a number of symptoms to appear. Trust your instincts. Use a glass to press against the skin; if the rash does not fade this could be a sign of Meningococcal Disease. Meningococcal bacteria can cause both meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Together these are known as Meningococcal Disease.
Foster parents should always contact their GP immediately if they have any concerns; early medical intervention is critical to recovery. Do not wait for a number of symptoms to appear - trust your instincts!
Further information about Meningitis – NHS Choices
NHS Choices is the online 'front door' to the NHS. It is the country's biggest health website and gives all the information you need to make choices about your health. There is full information on meningitis as well as hundreds of other medical conditions:
The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 banned smoking in both the work place and indoor areas which are used by the public. All Fosterplus premises are subject to this legislation which applies to both staff and visitors. The legislation states that anyone who smokes in a smoke free place will be committing a criminal offence and could be subject to an instant fine of £50.
There is overwhelming evidence that children and young people are especially vulnerable to the effects of tobacco smoke which have serious long term effects on their health. Their entitlement to a healthy, smoke free environment is paramount and therefore foster parents are expected to ensure that all household members do not smoke in the home during fostering placements. This also means that Fosterplus staff should not smoke whilst visiting a foster parent. Equally, children and young people should be assured of a smoke free atmosphere whilst being transported by staff or foster parents.
Smoking in cars causes harm both to the smoker and to others in the vehicle, and children are particularly vulnerable to harm from second hand smoke (SHS).
Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Act 2016 came into force in January 2016. The penalty is £100 if caught smoking with a child in the car.
Fosterplus will not place the following with any foster family who have a smoker living in the household:
- Children under the age of 5 years.
- Parent and child.
- Child of any age with a respiratory illness which is known to be aggravated by smoke.
There is a lot of pressure on young people to smoke; from peers, television, film and advertising, and older people who they admire. Many young people who are looked after are smokers. Reducing or giving up smoking should be encouraged, for the financial as well as health benefits. It is illegal for young people under the age of 18 to buy cigarettes or tobacco. If a young person needs advice on giving up smoking, they should speak to their GP about various aids to giving up, such as nicorette gum and nicotine patches.
Fosterplus will respect the wishes of those foster parents who choose not to foster young people who are known to smoke and foster parents should inform their supervising social worker if they do not wish to be considered for such placements. Wherever possible, foster children who choose to smoke should be persuaded and supported to stop. Occasionally, a foster child will be determined to continue to smoke and in such circumstances the foster parent should insist the young person does not smoke within the foster parent's home. Foster parents should inform any fostered child of the house rules on smoking before or at the beginning of the placement.
Fosterplus Smoking Policy
Fosterplus’s policy on smoking – which also covers electronic cigarettes can be accessed on
Where approved foster parents do smoke, the issue will be raised and reinforced through supervision and reviews. Support is crucial, particularly as smoking can be a response to stress, and consideration needs to be given to ways of minimising the level of stress experienced.
Supervising social workers will agree a smoke free plan with foster parents to include the following:
- Foster parents and other members of the household, including visitors, will not smoke in the company of children of any age, in the home or in the car and will promote non-smoking as the norm;
- Smoking will take place outside the home;
- Tobacco products, matches or lighters will not be left lying around or accessible to children.
Fosterplus’s policy views e-smoking the same as conventional smoking.
E-cigarettes contain a number of toxic chemicals and ultrafine particles in addition to nicotine. However, because they are not currently licensed or regulated, it is not possible to be sure of their exact ingredients or how much nicotine they contain, although in general the content of nicotine is lower than in conventional cigarettes.
There is also concern that e-cigarettes may ‘renormalise’ smoking, thereby undermining the smoking bans which have helped to de-glamorise cigarettes.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has stated that the existing smoke free legislation in the UK should be extended to include the vapour from e-cigarettes.
Alcohol is generally accepted in our society as an aid to relaxing, socialising and enjoyment; but like tobacco, alcohol is a drug and people can fairly easily become addicted to it:
Alcohol misuse and, particularly, the pattern and levels of alcohol consumption, have harmful consequences for individuals, their family and friends as well as wider society and the economy. Alcohol consumption and related harms are significant public health issues in Scotland.
The Scottish Chief Medical Officer’s advice is that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option.
Foster parents and supervising social workers have a responsibility to encourage positive health promotion through modelling the sensible use of alcohol. Therefore, Fosterplus expects foster parents to follow the Medical Officer's guidance. The consumption of alcohol by fostered young people with the knowledge and approval of a foster parent can be a sensitive issue as foster parents are not the legal parents of the child. Some children will have experienced trauma associated with alcohol misuse. Some birth parents may have strong views about their child consuming alcohol. Therefore, foster parents should always discuss this issue with the young person and their local authority social worker and agree some rules about alcohol consumption.
However it is inevitable that many young people will use or experiment with alcohol or become involved through peer pressure. All young people come into contact with alcohol as they get older and they will receive mixed messages about its use from peers, adults and the media. Alcohol misuse by young people is more common than drug misuse. Most young people have their first alcoholic drink when they are teenagers, often in the company of their peers. At this age many young people will not appreciate the potential dangers of alcohol or of its effects. The risks include:
Aggressive behaviour - alcohol dis-inhibits people’s emotions, often leading to anger and violence.
Sex - unprotected sex can lead to unintended pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.
Injuries - alcohol affects balance, co-ordination and the capacity to make decisions.
Alcohol poisoning - overdosing on alcohol is life threatening, as it can cause vomiting and choking whilst the child is unconscious. Foster parents should call an Ambulance if they are worried the young person has drunk excessively, whether or not causing unconsciousness. Place the child in the Recovery Position so that they won't choke. If they vomit, stay with them and check their breathing regularly.
It may be that the young person needs additional help to manage this if their drinking has got out of control. This should be discussed openly with the young person and suitable services to help should be accessed, if necessary.
The legal position in Scotland in respect of alcohol consumption
In Scotland the primary legislation is the Licensing Scotland Act 1976. (However, despite what it says legally, some Placing Local Authorities/parents may have different views).
It is illegal to give an alcoholic drink to a child under 5 except in certain circumstances (e.g. under medical supervision).
A young person under 14 cannot go into a licensed premises unless they have a 'children's certificate'. If it does not have one the child/young person can only go into parts of licensed premises where alcohol is either sold but not drunk (e.g. an off-licence or a sales point away from a pub), or drunk but not sold (e.g. a garden or family room).
14 or 15
14 and 15 year olds can go anywhere in a pub, but they cannot drink alcohol.
16 or 17
16 and 17 year olds can buy (or be bought) beer or cider (and wine in Scotland) as an accompaniment to a meal, but not in a bar (i.e. only in an area specifically set aside for meals).
Except for 16 or 17 year olds having a meal, it is against the law for anyone under 18 to buy alcohol in a pub, off-licence, supermarket or other outlet; or for anyone else to buy alcohol in a pub for someone who is under 18.
Scotland has a long legacy of drug and alcohol misuse. This damages lives, families and communities, and contributes to violence and crime.
Many of those affected will have experienced difficult life circumstances, and are among the most vulnerable and marginalised in society, subject to stigma because of their addiction. Many of the young people we care for will have been exposed to some of the harshest effects of drug or alcohol misuse.
One of the first significant attempts to understand and tackle the problems of children and young people affected by parental abuse - the Hidden Harm report - was published in 2003 by the UK Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. This report significantly raised the profile of the issue and highlighted the challenges for public agencies to work together more effectively to address it.
What are illegal drugs?
Illegal drugs are controlled under the Drugs Act 2005 and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which placed different kinds of illegal drugs into three different categories, or classes. These classes (A, B and C) carry different levels of penalty for possession and dealing.
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 will continue to be the main drug legislation in the UK. The 1971 act controls over 500 psychoactive substances as well as other harmful drugs, e.g. heroin and cocaine, however the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 came into force in May 2016 and bans psychoactive substances, also known as ‘legal highs’, in the UK and prevents the supply of these previously unregulated and frequently harmful substances for human consumption.
The following Home Office website provides further information about the classification of drugs and maximum penalties: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/drug-law/
Talking to children and young people about drugs
Young people who are upset and troubled are especially open to others who may influence them into trying alcohol, drugs or solvents. Fostered young people may get involved for many reasons. These can be to escape from painful experiences, to seek attention, to rebel, to take risks, or to bow to the pressure of their friends and acquaintances. Whatever the reason they have used drugs, it is important to try to talk openly with the young person. Make sure you have accurate information about drug use. There is some evidence that if you talk directly to a child about drugs, they will be less likely to try them at a young age.
- Ask children and young people what they are covering in alcohol, smoking and drug education at school in order to discuss it with them.
- Remind them of your views and be clear about house rules around these issues. Be prepared to highlight the potential harm to health, whilst also trying to keep open channels of communication.
- Use opportunities to give young people knowledge about drug use along with the support services that are around.
- Encourage them to develop life skills, perhaps through encouraging co-operative tasks.
- Reinforce their sense of self-worth through demonstrating your acceptance of who they are. This will assist them to be able to make good decisions and keep themselves safe.
- Encourage them to develop positive values around their own health choices and explore with them how to resist peer pressure.
- Model sensible alcohol use.
Find out the circumstances in which the young person used whatever they used. Do not make assumptions. Do not accuse the young person. Instead, when you have as much of the story as you can get, try to put it into some form of context. From here you will be in a position to decide, in consultation with your supervising social worker and the young person’s social worker, how best to proceed.
Some children or young people may need specialist help to deal with a drug or alcohol habit in which case, as a foster parent, you will need to work in partnership alongside relevant agencies. Helping young people change their risk taking behaviour can be a rewarding, if challenging, part of the job for foster parents.
What if I find drugs in my home?
Remember that if a young person is caught by the Police in possession of illegal drugs in your home, they could possibly receive a prison sentence. You, however, also run the risk of a sentence if you do not report it. If you think a child or young person in your care may be in possession of drugs, seek help and advice immediately from your supervising social worker or the out of hours worker.
Recognising different types of drugs
This is a short list which may quickly be out of date. Contact your supervising social worker for more up to date information or go on the FRANK website at: http://www.talktofrank.com/
- Amphetamines (sometimes called speed) are man-made powders which can be dissolved in water and injected or even smoked, but are generally sniffed.
- Cannabis comes in black or brown lumps of resin or looks like grass. Also known as hash, dope, weed, head, grass, ganga, gear, hashish, score, draw, marijuana, puff, bash or pot. It is usually taken by rolling it into a joint or cigarette.
- LSD is a manmade powder usually taken as pills, but may also be supplied in paper, gelatine sheets or sugar cubes.
- Cocaine, also known as coke or snow, is a white powder in appearance which can be sniffed or injected.
- Crack is refined cocaine, using other chemicals such as baking powder. It is usually smoked and is rapidly addictive.
- Opiates, e.g. heroin (also known as smack or junk). Heroin is a white or brown powder which can be injected, smoked or sniffed.
- Ecstasy comes in different coloured pills or tablets and some of them have designs or logos stamped into them.
- MDMA is the chemical name for Ecstasy, which in its pure form is a powder made of white crystals.
- Solvents and gases may be sniffed to produce a similar effect to alcohol. People have been known to use cleaning fluids and lighter fuel. The vapours from these products quickly reach the brain and cause reduced breathing and heart rate which can lead to loss of consciousness.
Common symptoms of drug misuse
There are many warning signs of drug use and abuse. The challenge for foster parents is to distinguish between the normal, sometimes volatile, ups and downs of puberty and the teenage years and the red flags of drug abuse.
Physical warning signs of drug abuse
- Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than usual, or use of eye drops to mask this.
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
- Deterioration of physical appearance and personal grooming habits.
- Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
- Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.
- Using incense, perfume, or air freshener to hide the smell of smoke or drugs.
Behavioural warning signs of drug abuse
- Drop in attendance and performance at school or work.
- Unexplained need for money or financial problems.
- Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions.
- Being secretive about friends, possessions, and activities.
- Sudden change in friends, favourite hangouts, and hobbies.
- New interest in clothing, music, and other items that highlight drug use.
- Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).
Psychological warning signs of drug abuse
- Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
- Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
- Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, or depressed.
- Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around.
- Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
- Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason.
Foster parents and social workers can and should give young people, including under 16s, reliable information on sexual health and contraception and details of where and how to contact local services. Young people should be encouraged to contact health professionals for advice at the following centres where contraceptive advice and treatment is free:
- Family Planning Clinics.
- Brook Advisory Clinics.
- Their own GP.
- Some NHS walk-in centres/Young People’s Information Services.
- Genito-urinary (G.U.M.) sexually transmitted infection centres.
Health professionals can give contraceptive advice and treatment to young people under 16 without parental consent, if they consider the young person to be ‘Gillick competent’. This term describes whether the young person has sufficient understanding to be able to consent to their own medical treatment without the consent of a parent.
Young people under care orders have the same right to confidentiality and treatment from health professionals as other young people. This means that they can ask for and access contraceptive advice from health professionals with the same degree of assurance about confidentiality as young people who are not subject to care orders.
Young people can also get information and advice about sexually transmitted infections from the centres listed above.
The legal position in relation to sexual behaviour in Scotland
Age of Consent
The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women, so that any sexual activity between an adult and someone under 16 is a criminal offence. The age of consent is the same regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
There are possible defences if the sexual activity does not involve penetrative or oral sex. These are if the older person believed the young person to be aged 16 or over and they have not previously been charged with a similar offence, or the age difference is less than two years.
Sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal) and oral sex between young people aged 13–15 are also offences, even if both partners consent. A possible defence could be that one of the partners believed the other to be aged 16 or over.
Guidance from the Scottish Government acknowledges that not every case of sexual activity in under-16s will have child protection concerns, but young people may still be in need of support in relation to their sexual development and relationships.
A range of specific offences protect children under 13, who cannot legally give their consent to any form of sexual activity. The maximum penalty could be life imprisonment for rape, sexual assault, sexual assault by penetration, or causing a young child to participate in sexual activity. There is no defence that the accused believed that the child was older.
The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 parts 4 & 5 covers offences against children which includes rape of a young child; sexual assault on a young child by penetration; sexual assault on a young child; causing a young child to participate in a sexual activity; causing a young child to be present during a sexual activity; causing a young child to look at a sexual image; communicating indecently with a young child; sexual exposure to a young child; voyeurism towards a young child.
The offence of 'grooming' was introduced under the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences Act 2005. Grooming is described as a person intentionally developing a relationship with a young person under the age of 16 'in order to gain their trust and persuade them into vulnerable situations where they can then be sexually assaulted'. A Risk of Sexual Harm Order can be imposed on a person by the courts if that person's behaviour suggests they pose a risk of sexual harm to a particular child or to children generally.
In Scotland, extreme pornography is defined by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. An extreme image is defined in the Act as one which is ‘grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character’.
Consent and confidentiality
Promoting and safeguarding a young person’s sexual health should be discussed at the placement planning meeting (if age-appropriate) and at statutory reviews of the young person’s care plan. At these meetings, the Local Authority will set out their expectations of the foster parent, and issues of confidentiality and safeguarding can be discussed and agreed. In the absence of alternative instructions from the placing Local Authority, the agency will abide by the following principles and procedures:
• Young people under the age of 13 years cannot, in law, consent to sexual activity and consequently any incidents involving sexual activity must be reported to the Registered Manager and agency Safeguarding Manager.
• Sexual activity among young people over 13, but under 16 years of age is illegal, but law enforcement decisions are influenced by the age of the participants together with issues of coercion, exploitation and relative vulnerability of the young people concerned. If you are aware that a young person over 13, but under 16 years of age is involved in sexual activity you should inform your supervising social worker. They will initiate discussions about any risk factors and possible child sexual exploitation (CSE). Young people can be vulnerable to CSE as a result of mental ill health, psychological problems, emotional immaturity, physical disability, learning disability, substance misuse or low self-esteem and as many of our young people experience these problems it is important that you do not make decisions about their vulnerability in isolation from the agency’s social workers and the Local Authority.
A sexually active young person over 13, but under 16 years of age can access free and confidential sexual health advice and contraception from the NHS without you or their Local Authority being informed, subject to the health professional judging them to be “Gillick Competent” (according to Fraser Guidelines), and subject to the health professional being satisfied that there are no CSE factors involved.
• Young people who are over 16 years of age can consent in law to sexual activity and can access confidential sexual health advice and contraception from the NHS. Young people’s sexual health clinics will be alert to CSE factors and will take appropriate action to safeguard young people when they are concerned. If you are aware that a young person over 16 is involved in consensual, non-exploitative sexual activity you should encourage them to access NHS sexual health services and also encourage them to let you inform their social worker to increase support available to them. If a LAC Nurse conducts their annual health assessment, they are well-placed to give advice and support and young people should be encouraged to access this service. You are not obliged to breach their confidentiality should they ask you not to inform their social worker, unless you have concerns about CSE, or other wellbeing concerns. Please consider the following factors:
- The age of the young person and their sexual partner
- Number of sexual partners/frequency with which they change
- The level of maturity and understanding of the young person
- Aggression, coercion or bribery in the relationship
- Changes in the young person’s mood or behaviour, e.g. becoming withdrawn, secretive, anxious, aggressive
- Misuse of substances, which can act as a dis-inhibitor
- Young person’s ability to make informed decisions and accept advice
If you do feel it necessary to speak with your supervising social worker about your concerns, it is important that you discuss this with the young person first and let them know who you are going to tell, and the reasons why.
Puberty is the stage at which young people develop sexual characteristics and become sexually aware. The age at which this occurs is variable for boys and girls but usually takes place between 10 and 16 years. Children will need to be prepared for the changes that will occur in their bodies and helped to understand their feelings and emotions. Parents and foster parents often struggle to talk to young people about puberty and sex, but if a looked after young person has missed out on sex education at school because of absences then, without guidance, they are often left to pick up both facts and myths from friends. Remember, children who have been sexually abused may need particular help to accept and understand any form of sex education.
It is common for children and young people to masturbate and it does not automatically mean that they have been subject to abuse. Help them to understand that it is a private activity, but seek advice from your supervising social worker if you are unsure about what response to make.
Different families and cultures have their own sets of standards and rules about sex, and cultural and religious attitudes to puberty vary considerably. If you are caring for a child from a different culture or religion from your own, find out about attitudes to sex and puberty so that the child is adequately prepared for any changes.
Some children learn to use their sexuality to stimulate the interest of the opposite sex at an early age. Sometimes they are copying their parents' behaviour and may not have experienced a normal parent/child relationship. Sometimes they will not know that their behaviour is inappropriate. Some children feel deprived of love and feel unsure of their attractiveness and so sexual relationships help them to feel wanted.
Sex should be a normal and healthy part of life. Children and young people need help in understanding the facts about all aspects of sexual behaviour and most importantly in understanding the issues about personal relationships and sex. You have a vital role in helping the child in your care to gain knowledge and in supporting the child in the journey to sexual maturity (physical and emotional).
Happiness for all of us depends on being accepted for who we are, not living life according to the wishes of those who care about us. If a young person you are caring for thinks that they are lesbian or gay, or is not sure, then talking to somebody who understands, without feeling pressurised will help. Ideally, that person will be you, but could also be another significant family member or friend in their life, or another professional such as a social worker or counsellor.
Everyone needs the support, acceptance and understanding of those who are caring for them. Lots of people make different choices about their partners, often in the face of prejudice and hostility from those around them. Your supervising social worker and the child’s social worker will be able to advise and put you in contact with additional support services, groups or help lines that the young person can contact for advice.
There are many complex issues to be considered in relation to young people and contraception. They include legal considerations relating to the age of consent; potentially different moral and religious views of young people, their parents, foster parents and social workers; ignorance of the facts of life and sexually transmitted diseases. There is need for clearly defined roles about who should be advising the young person in the light of the above. Foster parents can discuss this with their supervising social worker and decisions could be included in the placement plan, especially when there is particular concern about a young person's sexual activity.
Foster parents are expected to discuss sexual matters with young people when appropriate and so need to be knowledgeable and confident about discussing contraception, sexual preference and identity and the consequences of unprotected sex. Foster parents will be advised and trained in this area. Supervising social workers and foster parents cannot give consent to contraception. If the young person is accommodated, the person with parental responsibility must give permission.
Foster parents are expected to take a health education approach, giving support and information. This may include information that young people can obtain confidential contraceptive advice from a GP or Family Planning Clinic or a Young People's Clinic. If the young person is subject to a supervision order, the Director of Children’s Services/Social Work may give consent after taking into account the parents' views
Whether planned or unplanned, pregnancy needs to be dealt with sensitively. Local authority social workers, supervising social workers and foster parents should help the young woman through her pregnancy and support whatever decision she makes about her baby. She may need help to decide whether to keep her baby, ask her family's support or consider adoption, but it is her decision to make. If a young man is about to father a child he will have feelings too. He must know that he can talk to you. He may also need professional advice on such matters as parental responsibility.
The termination of a pregnancy requires careful counselling as it can have serious emotional and physical effects. Young women considering an abortion should be referred for professional counselling to an unbiased independent service. Foster parents should seek advice from their supervising social worker in such situations.
What is mental health?
Mental health and emotional wellbeing
A number of studies, including several in Scotland, have identified that the mental health problems for looked after and accommodated children and young people are markedly greater than that of their peers in the community. Reasons include the child’s experience in terms of poor parenting, trauma, bereavement or serious illness, including mental health difficulties in one or both parents, and the impact on the child of the environment such as poor neighbourhoods, deprivation, social exclusion and poverty.
The health of looked after and accommodated children and young people in Scotland - messages from research Jane Scott and Malcolm Hill SWIA
Mental health and wellbeing is an important part of overall health and wellbeing and can be affected by different factors, including life events such as relationship breakdowns, bereavement and work stress as well as mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Health Scotland has two definitions which are helpful in understanding what we mean by mental wellbeing and mental illness:
There are many different definitions of mental wellbeing but they generally include areas such as: life satisfaction, optimism, self-esteem, mastery and feeling in control, having a purpose in life, and a sense of belonging and support.
Mental illness refers to a diagnosable condition that significantly interferes with an individual's cognitive, emotional or social abilities e.g. depression, anxiety, schizophrenia.
It is also important to remember that it is natural to feel happy when something positive happens to you, to feel sad or angry when a bad event occurs, or scared and anxious if you are dealing with something worrying. Part of ensuring good mental health and wellbeing in children and young people is helping them recognise that it is natural to feel different emotions, but also knowing when they perhaps need some help in dealing with life events and mental health conditions.
What can foster parents do to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing?
The most important thing that all foster parents can do is to offer a secure base environment to children and young people, one in which they can begin to trust the adults who care for and are available to them, enhance their self-esteem through feeling accepted for who they are, begin to regulate and manage their feelings and behaviour through sensitive, reflective caregiving.
The DfE has identified a range of social, emotional and behavioural skills that contribute to children’s mental health and a sense of feeling good about themselves. They are to:
- Be an effective learner.
- Build and sustain friendships.
- Deal with and resolve conflicts.
- Be able to solve problems both with others and alone.
- Manage strong feelings such as frustration, anger and anxiety.
- Recover from setbacks.
- Work and play co-operatively.
- Compete fairly and lose with dignity.
- Respect the rights of others.
A nurturing, secure base foster placement, helping a child or young person to build a secure, trusting attachment with at least one adult, will assist them to develop the life skills and resilience referred to above and is the best preventative approach - providing children with available, sensitive and accepting parenting, with clear boundaries, and using co-operative parenting methods to help them feel effective in the world.
Practical things you could do:
- Provide a supportive and stable living environment with caring and consistent relationships.
- Encourage children and young people to join local clubs so they get a sense of achievement from doing something they enjoy as well as forming new social contacts.
- Celebrate achievements at school and support school work.
- Help them to feel included and to have a sense of belonging.
- Encourage children to express themselves and give them opportunities to talk about their feelings.
- Do things together that enhance a sense of achievement such as cook a meal, bake a cake, go on bike ride, and learn a new computer game.
- Do not overprotect children by avoiding challenging situations that may help them problem solve or develop emotional skills such as negotiating new friendships.
- Facilitate access to the mental health services that will help children and young people.
If you spot signs or symptoms that may lead you to be concerned that a child or young person has a mental health issue, observe, make notes and discuss with your supervising social worker. It is important to remember that, though you have a crucial role in helping children build resilience and good self-esteem, you are also working as part of a team alongside psychiatrists and psychologists who may prescribe drug treatment or one to one counselling sessions. Your role here is to be included and engaged in the therapeutic process by working in partnership with those delivering the service.
Eating disorders are a common problem, yet they often go unnoticed, undiagnosed or untreated. Anorexia, binge eating and bulimia nervosa are types of eating disorder. They are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food, difficulty controlling how much is eaten, and making unhealthy choices about food that damage the body.
Whilst it is true that eating disorders are most common in teenage girls, research suggests that 10% of cases affect males and the indication is that this percentage is rising. Eating disorders are often blamed on social pressure to be thin, as young people in particular feel they should look a certain way. However, the causes are usually more complex, and may reflect underlying mental or psychological issues.
Problems with food can begin when eating is used to cope with feelings of boredom, anxiety, anger, loneliness or guilt. Controlling what is eaten can become a way of controlling difficult emotions or coping with painful situations. There is unlikely to be a single cause, but a range of factors that leave people feeling unable to cope. These can include:
- Difficult family relationships.
- The death of someone special.
- Problems at work, school or university.
- Sexual or emotional abuse.
Low self-esteem can be a problem, as many people do not see themselves as being good enough, and blame this on being 'too fat'. Recovering from an eating disorder can take a long time and it is important that the person wants to get better. The support of family and friends is very valuable. Specialist care will help to deal with underlying psychological causes and physical effects.
If foster parents are concerned that a young person is taking their eating far too seriously, eating alone or only specific items or in tiny amounts, they should carry on as normal, but find an opportunity to talk with the young person alone and to try to get them to speak of how they are feeling. These disorders often go with very low self-esteem. They generally take a lot of care and counselling to help the young person back on to a sensible eating pattern. Foster parents must raise their concerns with their supervising social worker, with a view to consulting with their GP and/or accessing an assessment through CAMHS or other health service.
Eating disorders – further information
Beat provides helplines, online support and a network of UK-wide self-help groups to help adults and young people in the UK beat their eating disorders:
If you think that a foster child in your care has mental health issues and is in need of specialist therapeutic input, you should first discuss this with your supervising social worker who can explore the options further with the child’s local authority. Referral to a CAMHS service may be an option.
CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) is a multi-disciplinary NHS service commissioned to provide mental health assessment, treatment and intervention for children and young people, and their families, where there is concern about emotional or behavioural difficulties. CAMHS teams are generally made up of people trained as occupational therapists, child and family counsellors, specialist nurses, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, family support workers and psychotherapists. Generic CAMHS services are locality based and open to the entire community, although referrals need to come from professionals from heath, education or social care. Those over 16 can contact CAMHS directly.
However, many locality CAMHS services have waiting lists - it can be several months before a child is seen. It is essential that referrals are made as early as possible and foster parents should discuss their concerns with their supervising social worker and the child’s social worker – the latter will usually make the referral to CAMHS.
Evidence shows that looked after children and young people share many of the same health risks and problems of their peers, but often at a greater degree.
Many local authorities now have their own looked after children’s CAMHS service which provides a designated or targeted service for looked after children and young people. However, there is variability as to the age range served, and whether the service is available to children living within the authority’s boundaries, but placed by another local authority, or to children placed by the authority outside of their own boundaries – as a consequence, some young people appear ‘to fall between two stools’. Some services work with care leavers up to age 25, whilst others have a cut-off age of 16. These specialist CAMHS teams tend to undertake some or all of the following:
- Assessment/consultation/therapeutic input in relation to a specific child’s needs and /or placement stability.
- Assessment of emotional, behavioural and therapeutic needs in preparation for permanence.
- Time limited direct therapeutic work with young people and/or their foster parents regarding mental health needs.
- Therapeutic parenting groups for foster parents.
- Monthly ‘drop ins’ for case holding social workers.
Again, referral to this looked after children (LAC) CAMHS would be via the child’s social worker.
Death of a child
In the event of the death of a foster child in their care, the foster parents will need to be clear about who they should inform and what action they should take. The following procedures are designed to help at a time when everyone may be confused and distressed:
Who to notify
- Contact the relevant emergency services: doctor, ambulance, and police. Dependent upon the action they take, ensure that you know where the child is being taken.
- Immediately notify the supervising social worker, if possible by speaking to them personally. If they are not available, speak to their service manager or another manager. Do not leave a message - insist on speaking to someone as a matter of urgency. If the death occurs out of normal hours you should immediately contact the out of hours duty worker on your local centre number.
- Fosterplus will tell the child's social worker, and the local authority will take responsibility for informing the child's parents and anyone with parental responsibility.
- Fosterplus is required to inform the Care Inspectorate about the death of a fostered child, within 24 hours. A report outlining the circumstances to Scottish Ministers in the Scottish Government is required to be submitted by the Local Authority within 28 days.
- The child’s social worker will discuss with the parents the arrangements they wish to make about the funeral. Following the death of a child, any legal order on that child is no longer in place and the responsibility returns to the parents. This is a distressing time and sometimes parents and foster parents can disagree about funeral arrangements. It is the parents’ right to make decisions on these matters.
- Depending upon the parents’ wishes, you may be involved in the arrangements for the funeral.
- Fosterplus will make a worker available to offer you and your family support and keep you informed of the procedures and the arrangements. This will usually be your supervising social worker.
Fosterplus has a legal responsibility to inform the Care Inspectorate about the death of a fostered child, within 24 hours. We/they may request further information, and it may be necessary to conduct a formal review of events before the child's death. In the event of a sudden death there is likely to be an inquest, which foster parents may be required to attend.
The duty and responsibilities of local authorities to promote educational achievement
The Education (Scotland) Act 2016 introduced legislation that stated it was a duty of local authorities to have due regard to the need to reduce inequalities of educational outcome experienced by pupils as a result of socio-economic disadvantage. The Scottish Ministers must fulfil this duty when exercising their powers in relation to the delivery of school education.
National Improvement Framework
The National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education was announced as the centrepiece of the Programme for Government in September 2015. Following a period of consultation on a draft Framework, the final publication was launched by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, on 6 January 2016.
The publication sets out four key priorities that everyone in Scottish education should be working towards:
- Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy;
- Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children;
- Improvement in children and young people’s health and wellbeing; and
- Improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school leaver destinations for all young people
The Framework builds on a strong record of improvement and will drive work to continually improve Scottish education and close the attainment gap, delivering both excellence and equity. Alongside the Scottish Attainment Challenge, the Framework aims to raise attainment and ensure equalities of outcomes for all children and young people. As part of the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, the reporting procedures for the Framework have been placed on a statutory footing.
The Framework identifies 6 key drivers of improvement – progress across all of these is needed to deliver the improvements we want to see for all children:
- School leadership
- Teacher professionalism
- Parental engagement
- Assessment of children’s progress
- School improvement
- Performance information
Curriculum for Excellence
Another key strategy within Scottish Education is Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) which is transforming all aspects of education in Scotland. It has been developed over a number of years in partnership with teachers, parents and the wider education and business community. The curriculum comprises a broad general education up to the end of S3 followed by a senior phase of learning from S4 to S6. Increased emphasis is placed on inter-disciplinary learning, skills development and encouraging personal achievement. CfE is intended to foster four capacities in all young people: successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
Curriculum for Excellence puts the learner at the heart of their own learning and provides them with a range of pathways that meet their individual needs and aspirations. This means helping every young person understand how and why they are learning and what they need to do to develop.
Children with Additional Support Needs
Through Getting it Right for Every Child and Curriculum for Excellence, the Scottish Government has set out its ambition for services provided to children and young people, and for their learning. An important part of their approach is the recognition that all children and young people are different. To enable them to reach their full potential some will need additional support.
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 was amended in 2009 and The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2009 came into force on November 14th 2010. The main components of the act (as amended) are:
- It created the term 'additional support needs'
- It places duties on local authorities to identify, meet and keep under review the needs of pupils for whom they are responsible
- It gives parents a number of rights, including the right to access mediation, dispute resolution and refer decisions to the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for matters concerned with a co-ordinated support plan.
Co-ordinated support plans (CSPs) are now prepared for children with additional support needs:
- arising from complex or multiple factors;
- requiring a range of support from different services; and
- enduring for one year or more
Children and young people who have complex needs which are likely to endure and which require significant input from a body other than the Education Authority should receive a coordinated support plan (CSP) to ensure their needs are met.
If a child is not receiving the support they require this can be appealed (once the LA appeal processes have been followed) to the
Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland (ASNTS)
A report published by the Scottish Government in June 2016 on the educational outcomes for looked after and accommodated children for 2014/15 showed that:
The Getting it Right for Every Child practice model is now legislated through the Children and Young People’s Act 2014. This legislation is based on planning for every child and a child’s plan for those who require more concerted processes of support across agencies like education, health and social care.
Children and young people may be looked after for short or long periods; some return home, some are adopted, and some remain looked after for many years until they reach adulthood.
The Scottish Government published guidance Included, Engaged and Involved Part 1: attendance in Scottish schools (2007) aims to promote good attendance in schools and provides guidance for Local Authorities and schools on how to promote engagement and motivation, including among those who may be at risk of poor attendance.
The Scottish Government published Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2: a positive approach to managing school exclusions (IEI2) in 2011 and provides guidance and support to Local Authorities, schools and other learning establishments and their partners to keep all children and young people fully included, engaged and involved in their education wherever this takes places; and to improve outcomes for those most at risk of exclusion.
What is the role of fostering services in promoting educational achievement?
“I am supported to achieve my potential in education and employment if this is right for me.”
Health and Social Care Standards: 1.27
The UK government has described the role of a foster parent and the fostering services as that of a ‘pushy parent’ in relation to educational settings, which is as relevant in Scotland as it is in the rest of the UK.
School placements – choosing a school, admissions, transitions
There is an expectation that looked after children are on roll at and attend a pre-school, mainstream school or alternative education provision. Preferably, and where appropriate, this will be full-time at a local school and one that provides the best opportunities for the child.
Once a child becomes looked after or changes foster placement, careful consideration must be given to any associated change of school. If possible, children should continue to attend their current school, but clearly this will not always be practical. If it becomes necessary, changing school should be carefully planned and managed, utilising natural breaks in the school year or transitional periods. Foster parents will be well placed to recommend good local schools for their children and can advocate for this with the support of the child’s social worker. Transitional stages in a child’s life including education should be carefully considered before making changes.
A local authority school admissions department will have the responsibility for providing information about local schools and for processing admissions requests and transitions for children of statutory school age (5 – 16).
In order to avoid drift and delay in identifying a new school, school admission arrangements give priority to looked after children.
Regulations now require admission authorities to give looked after children the highest priority in their admission arrangements. This will ensure that they are guaranteed admission to preferred schools at normal time of entry. Looked after children are to be offered admission in preference to other children.
Outside the normal admission round, a maintained school must admit a looked after child if requested to do so. If the admission authority refuses then the local authority (who has care of the child) can direct the admission authority to take the child even if the school is full. Where the admission of a child into an infant class would breach infant-class size legislation, a looked after child can be admitted as an ‘excepted pupil’.
Local authorities and schools should be aware that many looked after children have unmet social and emotional needs and, as a group, are more likely to be at risk of exclusion. Schools are expected to proactively support and cooperate with foster parents and the local authority in doing everything possible to avoid excluding a looked after child. Any exclusion must be made only as a last resort and in the most exceptional circumstances. Before excluding, schools, in conjunction with the local authority, should first consider alternative options for supporting the looked after child or young person. No looked after child should be excluded from a school without discussion with the local authority to ensure that there is suitable alternative provision available elsewhere. The child or young person’s social worker should be involved at the earliest opportunity to work with the school to avoid the need for exclusion.
For fixed-term exclusions of up to five days, schools must take ‘reasonable steps to set and mark work’. Such work should be accessible and achievable, considering it will be done outside the classroom without teacher support.
Government statutory guidance states that head teachers should as far as possible avoid excluding any pupil who is a looked after child. When a school does seek to permanently exclude a child, two alternatives should be considered to avoid this:
- a ‘managed move’, meaning that the head teacher negotiates with another school accessible to the child to take them and give them a new start
- Attendance at alternative provision
When a young person truants from school, this is an unauthorised absence. Schools are primarily responsible for improving attendance and reducing persistent absence. Schools must have clear policies, practice and systems in place to deal with attendance issues and should employ a range of interventions and support for individual pupils causing concern. There is an emphasis upon partnership with parents/foster parents and the involvement of other agencies in order to re-engage young people and integrate them back into school. Schools should pay particular attention to the persistent absence of a looked after child and be aware that children in care are a high risk group.
School uniform, equipment, transport and other school expenses
Foster parents are generally expected to pay for school related activities, bus fares and passes, stationery and other routine equipment, school lunches etc. out of the allowances element of their fostering fee i.e. all the day to day costs of maintaining a child or young person in school that a parent would normally meet.
Only in exceptional circumstances can an extra payment be made. If at the point of placement a child or young person requires a new school uniform, this cost may be met by the placing authority and Fosterplus will negotiate this.
Further and higher education
If the young person is able to and wishes to continue their education at college or university they should be encouraged to do so. Local authorities have a duty to financially support a care leaver who pursues further or higher education, or vocational training, in accordance with their pathway plan. However, the extent of the support offered varies between local authorities.
Preparation for this is done well in advance and foster parents will need to be prepared to assist in filling in various forms for education maintenance grants etc. The child’s social worker should be able to help with this and clarify the financial assistance to which the young person may be entitled.
Young people may cease to receive leaving care support when they reach 21 if they are not in education or training. However, should they wish to return to education before the age of 25, they may approach their responsible local authority with a view to obtaining additional support if needed.
Principles of family time
Arrangements will be in place to make sure there are appropriate links between a young person, their foster family and their birth family, they will be helped to keep family contacts and friendships as set out in their care plan...
- Parents are the most important people in the child's life and children should be brought up in their families as far as possible.
- Children and Family Services are required by law to provide services to families to prevent the need for children to be looked after by the local authority.
- In a small number of cases, where the child's safety cannot be promoted or protected with the family, removal of the child will be necessary and alternative family care sought.
- Fostering is a positive service to children and their families.
- When a foster placement is being considered, the wishes and feelings of the child, the parents, and other significant people must be sought and taken into consideration.
- Whether the child is with the parents or not, the parents retain parental responsibility for the child. If the parents are married they both have parental responsibility. If they are not married, parental responsibility lies with the mother unless the father has also acquired it through being named on the birth certificate, by agreement or by Court order.
- Parents are positively encouraged to be part of the planning process and to be actively involved in decision-making.
- All placements need to take into account the requirement for the child to be placed as near to the family as possible and siblings should be placed together.
- Whenever achievable, all work within the placement should be focused towards the child returning to the family as quickly as possible.
A good family time visit will leave a child feeling reassured that they are loved and missed by their parents and still belong to them. They will have heard about what has been going on in their family in detail and the bonds will be kept alive.
The birth parents (and others with parental responsibility)
Every parent will respond differently to their child being looked after. Many parents will wish to be involved in their child's life while they are placed with foster parents, and some will not. Supervising social workers and foster parents should try to give them the opportunity to stay involved. Any separation will affect relationships. Family time can aid a speedy return of a child to their family.
Many parents experience feelings of shame or guilt if for some reason they are unable to look after their child. A parent's inability to care for that child should not require them to forfeit respect as parents or people. Parents may be shattered, stunned, angry, depressed or feel powerless and guilty. Children’s social workers, supervising social workers and foster parents can be seen to be all-powerful and threatening. Anger is often the best defense:
- They may feel angry with the local authority because they blame it for bringing the problem to light.
- They may see the foster parent as an agent of the local authority and also someone who condemns them for failing their children.
- They may be angry with the child for not being ‘good’ and easy to look after.
- They may be afraid of losing their child, and confused about the legal processes.
- They may feel bitter and uncomfortable if foster parents have a better standard of living and seem able to cope.
- They may be afraid foster parents will replace them in their child's affections.
As Fosterplus foster parents, your reactions to birth parents are vital. Birth parents need you to accept them for who they are. Foster parents should remember:
- That they are a responsible and professional adult in a very sensitive situation.
- The child in care is still the parents' child.
- To be sensitive towards the parents’ and the child's feelings.
- To be aware of their own feelings.
- Not to contradict the parents in front of the child.
- To involve the parents as much as possible in their child’s life.
- The child needs them to accept their parents because they are part of them.
- To let their own negative feelings out safely and away from the child.
A child's parents will always be important to them. They may want to talk to the foster parent about their child and sort their feelings out about them. Foster parents need to be honest and truthful and gentle with birth parents. Children may feel loyalty to their parents even if they are angry with them.
The role of foster parents in family time
Subject to the child’s care plan, Fosterplus foster parents and staff must help to promote, support and encourage children to maintain positive and constructive contact with their parents and wider family, friends and others who are important to them. Most foster parents will routinely take on facilitating contact as part of the fostering role and do it well, but we recognise that it can be a difficult task and that some foster parents will struggle.
We aim to ensure that foster parents are clear from the placement plan what authority they have to make day to day decisions on family contact arrangements. The placement plan should specify the arrangements made for family time between the child and any parent and/or person who is not the child’s parent, but who has parental responsibility for them, and any other connected person – including the type, frequency, timing, venue, transport and supervision; restraining or other relevant Court orders; arrangements for notifying any changes in the arrangements for family time and any conditions of an order from the Children’s Hearing.
Visits should be natural and active occasions and, as appropriate, involve going out, playing, etc. Family time for the majority of children should take place at an agreed venue which is normally decided by the local authority. On occasion a foster parent may be asked to supervise this contact, unless there are good reasons for this not to happen. There will be practical implications and foster parents will understandably want to minimise disruption and intrusion to other members of their own family. This must be discussed at the placement planning stage.
Family time is one of the most emotional aspects of child care arrangements for children and their families who are separated. The management of family time is one of the toughest aspects of fostering. If a child is to go home, their links with their parents must be continued. For young children, where the plan is to return home, visits may be intensive and frequent e.g. several times a week. For older children, and where the plan is not rehabilitation, visits will be less frequent.
Family time can also mean letters or phone calls and children should not be prevented from writing to, e-mailing or phoning family members, unless restrictions on this are part of the placement plan.
Support to foster parents around family time
When deciding whether to offer a placement, Fosterplus will agree with the responsible authority how the child’s family time with family and significant others will be supported, particularly where a child is placed at a distance from home. Any proposed role for foster parents should be discussed with you at the matching stage.
Fosterplus can give foster parents practical help to set up appropriate family time arrangements, alongside support to manage any difficult emotional or other issues that the child and foster parent may have as a result of family time. The support should be discussed as part of the placement plan and any issues arising from family time brought by the foster parents to the attention of their supervising social worker. Foster parents should feel that they can talk to their supervising social worker. They should not be alone in picking up the pieces after difficult visits.
Restrictions on or termination of family time
We will only place emergency restrictions on family time to protect the child from significant risk to their safety or welfare, and the supervising social worker or service manager will communicate these to the responsible authority within 24 hours of being imposed. Any ongoing restriction on communication by the child must be agreed by the child’s responsible authority, take the child’s wishes and feelings into account and be regularly reviewed by Fosterplus in collaboration with the responsible authority.
If a decision is made that rehabilitation of a younger child back to their birth family is not in the child's interest, the responsible authority will try to safeguard the child’s future with a permanent substitute family. This may mean terminating the parents' family time with the child, although this will require a decision of the Children’s Hearing. When this occurs, the child still needs to know and be able to talk and ask questions about their parents. If the foster parent understands the parents' situation, it is easier for them to explain kindly and truthfully to the child what is happening and why. In these circumstances, foster parents and social workers should discuss and agree what the children are told.
Recording family time
Fosterplus routinely feeds back to the child’s responsible authority any significant reactions a child or young person may have to family time arrangements or visits with any person. In addition, the supervising social worker or foster parent may need to give evidence in Court or information to a children’s hearing about the nature and quality of family time.
Foster parents should record all family time on the child’s CHARMS case record, using the carer log detailing type of contact, who with, where and how it went. Ideally, records should be made as soon after the family time as possible. Recording should be dated and, if appropriate, times recorded. It should be clear who has made the recording. This will help to ensure the accuracy of recording.
You should record details and observations of family time with birth family and other connected persons (including the child's reactions). You should also note any failure to visit and the reasons, as well as telephone calls and letter box contact.
Preparation for independent living
As young people approach adulthood, foster parents should increasingly support them to develop the skills they will need as they become more independent, working with the young person’s social worker to implement their pathway plan. Fosterplus offers foster parents training and support in this task.
The concept of a transition to adulthood is helpful in getting us to think about preparing young people for leaving care. Young people should be fully involved in all planning and decision making which affects them. We should be treating all young people as people in their own right, active partners in the care process. We should not treat young people as passive - they need to develop skills in independence, responsibility and decision making, in order to become successful adults.
Young people should be supported in developing life skills: self-care; practical skills; interpersonal skills. Many young people in the care system will have experienced challenges to their self-esteem and confidence and identity, either through abuse or deprivation. Foster parents and social workers have a responsibility to help young people build positive self-esteem. For many looked after young people there has not been gradual assimilation of skills throughout childhood. They may struggle with these skills and so need the support and assistance of their social workers and foster parents.
What is the role of foster parents?
Foster parents have key formal and informal roles in preparing young people for independent or semi-independent living. Formal roles include contributing to care plans and pathway plans, and attending reviews and other planning meetings. Fosterplus expects foster parents to prepare for and attend all relevant meetings and to take a pro-active approach to developing and implementing plans.
The informal role of foster parents is less easy to define, but is just as important. In the years leading up to the young person's 18th birthday they need to be prepared for independent living, and foster parents are the best placed people to help them on a day-to-day basis. For many young people this will be about supporting them to complete practical tasks, such as making job or housing applications, preparing a budget or notifying relevant agencies such as energy companies of an impending move. It may include remaining in contact and offering continuing support, as any good parent would, once the young person has moved on to their own accommodation.
Skills required for independence
The checklists below give an indication of the sorts of skills all young people need to acquire for independent living. Preparation should be seen as a process that occurs throughout the care experience of the young person. Many of these skills can be developed in an age and developmentally appropriate way through living alongside foster parents and their families, and taking part in ordinary family activities, such as preparing meals, shopping, travelling to places and discussions. Other skills directly relate to the pathway plan and will require a more focused approach.
Practical Daily Living Skills
Young people need to know about:
- How to shop for, prepare and cook food;
- Eating a balanced diet;
- Laundry, sewing and mending and other housekeeping skills;
- How to carry out basic household jobs such as mending fuses (which will involve basic electrical and other knowledge);
- Safety in the home and first aid;
- Household budgeting, including the matching of expenditure to income, the regular payment of bills and avoidance of the excessive use of credit;
- Applying for and being interviewed for a job;
- The rights and responsibilities of being an employee;
- Applying for a course of education or training;
- Applying for social security benefits;
- Applying for housing and locating and maintaining it;
- Registering with a doctor, dentist and optician;
- Contacting emergency services (fire, police, ambulance);
- Finding and using community services and resources;
- Contacting Children’s Services Departments and other caring agencies;
- Contacting organisations and groups set up to help young people who are, or have been, in care;
- The role of agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, local councillors, and MPs;
- How to write a letter of (a) complaint; (b) to obtain advice;
- How to socialise, where to go, how to relate to others.
Self-care and Emotional Skills
Young people need help with:
- Health education, including personal hygiene;
- Sexual education, including contraception and preparation for parenthood;
- Management of stress;
- General coping mechanisms;
- Exploring feelings about moving on - positive and negative;
- Feelings about identity;
- Feelings about transition from being a young person dependent on others to being more responsible for their actions;
- Feelings about family and relationships and support networks;
- Where can they go/where can they receive support in times of crisis?
- Continuation of therapy/counselling if applicable;
- Recognition of ongoing unresolved issues.
Some young people may be pregnant or already have a child when they move in to independent living. All young people should be adequately prepared for the reality of having a dependent child:
- Can this young person provide adequate care for a dependent child whilst living on their own in a flat?
- Do they understand and practice basic childcare to aid the child's physical development?
- What support networks do they have to provide continual emotional and practical support?
- What support networks do they have to provide assistance in times of crisis?
- Is there someone who can help with child minding?
By the age of 16, every eligible child should receive an assessment of their needs by their local authority, which will form the basis for their pathway plan (which should be completed within three months of their 16th birthday). The assessment of need should identify the young person’s independence skills which will decide their accommodation needs when they leave care. The pathway plan, which contains the same core elements as a care plan, will include:
- Nature and level of contact and personal support to be provided.
- Plans for education (the personal education plan) or training.
- Plans to assist in relation to employment or other occupation.
- Contingency plans if things do not work out as planned.
- Details of accommodation.
- Support for relationships with family and friends.
- Practical skills needed and a programme to develop them.
- Financial needs and arrangements.
- Health needs and how they will be met.
- Arrangements to meet needs in relation to identity.
- Details of their personal advisor and anyone else involved in supporting the plan.
Each young person will be central to drawing up their own plan, setting out goals and identifying with their social worker how the local authority will help them. The role of their foster parent/s should be included within this. While they are still living with their foster parent/s, their foster parent/s’ role and any staying put arrangements – including financial and other support available - should be summarised in the placement plan.
The pathway plan should be regularly reviewed and updated as part of the case review process up until the young person’s 18th birthday. Once a young person reaches the age of 18 they are no longer a looked after child and are therefore no longer subject to the looked after child review systems. However local authorities have a duty to regularly review the young adult’s pathway plan. The personal advisor is primarily responsible for co-ordinating this process, which would normally be undertaken by regular review meetings.
Some young people who are continuing their education may remain with their foster parents until this is completed. See Staying Put.
Throughcare and After Care
Services for Young People Ceasing to be Looked After by Local Authorities
Local authorities have a duty to prepare young people for ceasing to be looked after ("throughcare") and to provide advice, guidance and assistance for young people who have ceased to be looked after over school age ("aftercare").
Some local authorities will have specialised throughcare and after care teams who will work with young people who are moving towards independence and leaving care. This may mean that a young person is allocated a throughcare and after care worker. However in many authorities this work will be carried out by the child’s social worker. Some young people may not be in a place that they feel able to use this help at that time but will need it later. The Children and Young Person’s (Scotland) Act 2014 enables a local authority to assist a young person who was in care on their 16th birthday or subsequently to assist them up to the age of 26 years.
What is a Staying Put arrangement?
Despite considerable investment of resources and effort over recent years, data and research continues to provide evidence of poor outcomes for care leavers. This includes mortality rates (for those under the age of 26), criminal justice, mental health, homelessness and teenage parenthood. Care leavers themselves describe the significant challenges they face, with pressing financial worries, a lack of family and friend support networks and stress over employment and education all underpinned by problems with unsuitable and unstable accommodation.
Staying Put Scotland (Scottish Government publication)
Each local authority is required to have their own Staying Put Policy, which sets out the arrangements whereby the authority can fulfil their duty to facilitate and support young people to remain with their former foster parents from the age of 18, where this is the wish of both the young person and the foster parent.
Young people leaving care should get the support they need to secure a positive and sustained transition into adulthood. This should be when they are ready to do so and there should be mechanisms in place to allow them to return to their last care placement for support in times of difficulty. The aim of the throughcare and aftercare process is not to push young people into the adult world before they are ready, but to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary skills when the time is right for them to move to adult living.
Staying Put Scotland (Scottish Government publication)
Effect on the usual fostering limit
As the young person is no longer a foster child, the young person is not included in the number of children who can be fostered. This means that, if the foster parent continues to foster, in addition to any young adult living with them under a Staying Put Arrangement they can foster up to the limit of their fostering approval. The young person would be regarded as another adult in the household. Such factors as the number of bedrooms available, the capacities of the foster parents and the needs of other fostered children will determine the foster parents’ approval criteria if they also care for a former foster child.
Financial arrangements for Staying Put Arrangements
Where young people turn 18 and remain with their former foster parents on a Staying Put Arrangement, the basis for any payments will change. Staying Put should have been explored as part of Pathway Planning for young people. The foster parents and the Agency both need to be involved in discussions with the placing local authority. Young people aged 18 or over are no longer fostered and the financial aspects of Staying Put Arrangements need to be agreed in writing before they turn 18.
Payments to foster parents for Staying Put Arrangements are not standard – they depend on each local authority’s policy. If there is no written agreement in place, Agency payments to the former foster parents will automatically cease when the young person turns 18, so it is essential that discussions take place at an early stage. The service manager and the Polaris Contracts and Partnerships Team will play a key role in this negotiation. The arrangements that are agreed should be regularly reviewed. The Finance Team will be informed of the arrangements and any subsequent changes.
Payments to foster parents and tax implications – Staying Put Arrangements
The Inland Revenue provides general advice on the tax implications for Staying Put foster parents in their Self-Assessment Help Sheet 236 – go to:http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/helpsheets/hs236.pdf
Why do children with disabilities need foster care?
Children with disabilities ranging in age from babies to teenagers may be placed in foster care. Sometimes their parents are unable to care for them and these children often need to be placed in long-term or permanent foster care... For other families of children with disabilities, or children with life limiting conditions there might be a need for the child or young person to be placed regularly with foster parents for a few days each week, or each month, to help them and their family. Supporting both the family of a disabled child as well as the child can be hugely rewarding and is often referred to as short breaks foster care.
Some children have learning difficulties, such as those with Down's syndrome, whilst others may have been physically disabled from birth or have suffered an accident or injury that has resulted in them being disabled. A child may have severe and complex health problems arising from a disability. The use of the term ‘child with disabilities’ is actually quite vague and often describes a child with a lot of abilities, which can get forgotten in our attempts to classify what a child can't, or is less able to do.
Training and guidance
Fosterplus has a number of foster families with experience, skills and an interest in fostering children with disabilities. If foster parents have not offered this type of care, but think they might be interested, they should speak with their supervising social worker. We can offer specialist and targeted training and support to help foster parents acquire and develop the skills to care for children with complex disabilities and health care needs. There is much evidence within our own agency of the ability to provide good quality life experiences for these children notwithstanding the huge obstacles they face.
Equipment and accommodation
Placements for children with disabilities will be planned and matching discussions between Fosterplus and the referring local authority will include consideration of accommodation and equipment needs.
Children with disabilities and child abuse
Safeguarding children with disabilities
Children with disabilities have the same rights to be safe from abuse and neglect and to be protected from harm as non-disabled children. Disabled children do, however, require additional action. This is because they experience greater vulnerability as a result of negative attitudes about disabled children, unequal access to services and resources and because they have additional needs relating to physical, sensory, cognitive and/or communication impairments. Such additional factors include:
- Disabled children are at an increased likelihood of being socially isolated with fewer outside contacts than non-disabled children.
- Their dependency on parents and foster parents for practical assistance in daily living, including intimate personal care, increases their risk of exposure to abusive behaviour.
- They have impaired capacity to resist or avoid abuse.
- They may have speech, language, and communication needs which may make it difficult for them to tell others what is happening.
- They often do not have access to someone they can trust to disclose that they have been abused.
- They are especially vulnerable to bullying and intimidation.
Research has established that proportionately higher numbers of children with disabilities are subject to abuse than non-disabled children, yet professionals involved in their care may be reluctant to act on concerns for such reasons as:
- Over identifying with the child's parents or foster parents and being reluctant to accept that abuse or neglect is taking place, seeing it as being attributable to the stress and difficulties of caring for a disabled child.
- A lack of knowledge about the impact of disability on the child.
- A lack of knowledge about the child e.g. not knowing the child's usual behaviour.
- Not being able to understand the child's method of communication.
- Confusing behaviours that may indicate the child is being abused with those associated with the child's disability. Sexually harmful behaviour and self- harming may be indicative of abuse and not linked to the child's disability.
- Denial of the child's sexuality.
If foster parents have any concerns that a child they have care of may have been abused, they should contact their supervising social worker urgently.
Applying for benefits
Some children and their foster parents may be able to receive state benefits in recognition of additional living costs. These benefits are financed and administered by central government and not by Fosterplus or the child's responsible local authority. Any benefits paid do not affect the fostering fees paid to the foster parent by Fosterplus. Where a child is eligible for benefits as a result of a disability, foster parents are encouraged to apply for those benefits. This must be done with the knowledge and agreement of Fosterplus and the local authority for the child. Your supervising social worker can provide advice and help about how to go about this.
Accountability for disability benefits relating to a fostered child
Fosterplus expects that there will be regular recorded discussions between the foster parent/s and the supervising social worker about how any additional benefits are being spent to promote the best interests of the child.
Any complaint that the allowance was being misspent would be made to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for investigation. The criteria for entitlement to disability benefits are complicated and cannot be fully addressed within the Foster Parent Finances Handbook.
Information on disability benefits
Directgov has a website which provides detailed information on the range of disability benefits, including online application forms: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/FinancialSupport/index.htm
Disability Living Allowance
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a weekly benefit paid in recognition of the additional direct and indirect living costs incurred by young people with disabilities. Foster parents must make the claim for the child. The amount of the benefit depends on the nature and extent of the child's disability. There are two components: namely mobility and care. Once a child is awarded the assessed level of the allowance, the foster parent acts as the ‘Appointee’ and is responsible for administering the allowance.
Who is accountable for the Disability Living Allowance?
Although the foster parent is legally accountable to the DWP for how the allowance is spent and not to Fosterplus (or the child's social worker), it is expected that, when entitlement to the allowance has been confirmed, the use of the DLA will be discussed with both parties and that the Fosterplus supervising social worker will regularly monitor expenditure with the foster parents. Foster parents are expected to demonstrate to the Agency that they are managing this allowance appropriately.
N.B. Once a young person reaches the age of 16 years their DLA will stop and they will have to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The rate received is dependent on how the condition affects the individual, not the condition itself. The rate will be regularly reassessed. This should be applied for before the DLA is due to stop to avoid any gap in benefit.
For further information about Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Disability Living Allowance Helpline:
Telephone: 0345 712 3456
Text phone: 0345 722 4433
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Visit GOV.UK at:
For information and online application forms
For further information regarding Personal Independence Payment
Who are unaccompanied asylum seeking children?
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are young people who are not UK citizens and who arrive at a point of entry to the UK from abroad without having an identified and available adult to care for them or where there is uncertainty regarding the suitability of any identified carer. Such children are likely to have, for example, different cultural, religious, social, familial and language experiences which foster parents will need to understand, value and maintain along with facilitating the young person’s integration.
Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Policy
The full unaccompanied asylum seeking children policy can be downloaded on CHARMS.
Matching with foster parents
Our aim is to access and obtain the best possible care and support for these children and young people – many of whom have already suffered significant personal hardship and loss.
As for any child or young person placed with Fosterplus, we will seek to provide an appropriate match of family who will offer the stability and opportunity for development necessary for them to thrive and overcome their early experiences. We will only place unaccompanied asylum seeking young people with foster parents who have attended a Fostering Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children training course.
Clearly there are specific aspects of care that must be addressed for this group of children and young people. These will include ensuring that there is appropriate provision to reflect the young person’s culture, religion and language. There are mosques and also Catholic and other denomination churches in most cities and towns. Dates of festivals, Ramadan etc. can be obtained from a variety of sources (e.g. publications; internet). We expect dietary needs and requirements, as well as preferences, to be respected and catered for by foster parents. A major concern will be the possibility that the child is trafficked and therefore at risk. See Trafficked Children.
Support to foster parents and young people
The supervising social worker will assist foster parents in liaison with the school, family, church, mosque etc. as well as the placing authority. Where possible, and with due regard to the cultural and religious differences that exist in each country of origin, Fosterplus will endeavour to introduce children and young people of similar background who are placed with Fosterplus and who live in proximity.
Fosterplus can identify solicitors who have been approved by the Legal Aid Commission to undertake applications for asylum.
Education and translators
Fosterplus will work with the relevant local education departments to provide adequate support for children in schools. TESOL trained teachers are also available according to the location of the foster parents. Local authorities also provide intensive language courses. There are many other similar private language tuition centres available and several trained specialist teachers can be engaged on a sessional basis.
Where translation is required for legislation/application purposes, this is covered by legal aid. Translators for interviews, meetings and reviews are normally provided by the placing authority, but there are many local contacts if required.
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children may have complex and varied health needs. They may have experienced malnourishment or subject to infections or diseases unfamiliar to UK residents. Children from war zones may have been subject to violence and sexual assaults. They may have witnessed such actions and be emotionally traumatised by their experiences. Simply by being separated from family and friends may cause depression and anxiety. Foster parents and professionals will need to manage and support such children with great sensitivity.
Health care services will be accessed by the foster parents as appropriate. If immediate or specific attention is required, Fosterplus employs the service of a Medical Advisor.
As previously mentioned, some children may be traumatised and distressed by things they have witnessed or experienced in the past. Such children may need specialist and expert psychiatric intervention from CAMHS or other mental health services.
Fosterplus will encourage and support a child or young person’s family time with relatives and friends in this country where appropriate and as agreed with the placing authority. Where a child is able to contact relatives in their country of origin, Fosterplus will enable phone contact to take place regularly as part of the placement plan.