Issues Affecting Foster Carers
Foster Carers and the Smoking of Tobacco
A detailed health assessment will be carried out on all applicants as part of the overall assessment prior to approval. Applicants who smoke, are seriously overweight, or have long-term health problems will not be barred automatically from approval, although such factors will be taken into account in the context of their general health and lifestyle. The medical advisor will advise the panel on the implications of the health assessment for the applicant’s ability to retain health and vigour throughout a child’s dependant years, and of the implications for the child, for example, of growing up in a smoking household.
- The policy guidance is consistent with that applied by the Devon Adoption Service.
- Where prospective applicants smoke, they should be made aware that this is an issue which may affect their approval. If applicants wish to foster children under eight, the effect this could have on a child’s health must be seriously considered.
- Where applicants are willing to manage their smoking habit so that they do not smoke in communal areas of their house, for example outside or in a private room not used by children, their application should be properly considered.
- Devon medical advisers advise against placing a child under 3 years old, or who has known respiratory problems, in a smoking household.
- Where Foster Carers are accommodating a young person with a smoking habit, clear guidelines must be agreed with the child’s Care Manager and parents when they are placed. This should be discussed at a placement planning meeting. It should be clearly noted where Foster Carers decide that young people in their care who smoke cannot do so in the foster home, as this is a very significant matching issue.
Foster Carers - Drugs and Alcohol
Foster Carers must be aware that whilst they are responsible for the care of other people’s children, they must take account of the use of controlled drugs and the use of alcohol.
Where Carers are prescribed drugs for purposes of treatment, they must ensure that they are properly secured in a locked medicine cabinet and present no risk to fostered children / young people. If the drugs need to be kept in the fridge, a lockable cash box is a useful way of keeping them secure.
The illegal use of drugs by Foster Carers whilst they are responsible for the care of children / young people is likely to result in de-registration. Such matters will be referred to the relevant Assistant Director and Foster Care Panel.
Foster Carers must not collude in any way with the taking of drugs by young people in their care. Carers must advise a young person’s Care Manager of any concerns they have regarding their use of drugs.
Foster Carers must ensure that if they are drinking alcohol, this does not result in the inability to be responsible for children in their care.
Foster Carers should be aware that many children / young people will associate alcohol with violence as a result of their personal experiences, and therefore may be fearful when they see Carers drinking.
Foster Carers should not encourage children / young people to drink or purchase alcohol under the legal age limit. Where Carers are aware that young people in their care may be drinking alcohol, they should advise the child’s Care Manager.
Foster Carers who are also Childminders
It should be ascertained whether applicants who wish to Foster are registered as a childminder, or have had an application to become a childminder refused.
Where applicants are currently childminding, they must be advised that:
- Under Childminding Regulations there are limits on the numbers of infants / children under eight years old who can be looked after at any one time.
- The Commission for Social Care Inspection will be advised of the fostering application and a reference sought from them.
- That their work as childminders will be considered as part of the Foster Carer assessment, and during subsequent Foster Care reviews.
Devon Foster Care Service’s experience is that complex childminding arrangements do not fit well with fostering, particularly where there are many children involved or children minded over long periods of time. Also, risks to childminded children need to be considered during the assessment to ensure that Foster children who may be a risk to others are properly matched. This may, for example, determine the age group for which a Carer is approved to Foster.
Foster Carers and Firearms
- At the point of initial assessment of Foster Carer applicants, they must be asked whether they hold or have access to firearms. This is particularly pertinent in a rural county such as Devon.
- Where applicants confirm that they hold firearms, a current firearm certificate must be seen and a copy placed on file. The assessing Social Worker must see where all guns and ammunition are stored. They must be separately secured in such a way that they could not be accessed by children or young people.
- The Care Managers of children/ young people placed must be made aware that firearms are held by the Foster Carer.
- Foster Carers must not involve children or young people in their care in any use of firearms, including ‘beating’ on a shoot, without the written permission of their parents and Care Manager.
- As part of the Foster Carer’s annual review, the security of arms and ammunition, and the ownership of a current firearms certificate must be verified. Any concerns about the storage, use of firearms, or lack of a certificate must be immediately reported to the Fostering Group Manager and the Practice Manager.
- Assessing / reviewing Social Workers must be confident that applicants / Carers are fully aware of the risks of firearms and use them in a responsible manner. The holding of firearms must be recorded in the Foster assessment report to panel and the Foster Carer review report.
- No child or young person should be placed with applicants where guns are being held in an unsafe way, or where there is no current firearms licence.
- The Police should be notified where applicants are found to have firearms and no certificate.
The Directorate should review all Carers annually to re-assess their suitability to undertake the Foster role for which they are currently approved. As Foster Carers become older, their ability to undertake more strenuous, demanding forms of care may decline. This should be openly and sensitively considered with them, both at reviews and at the end of challenging placements.
The Foster Carer’s approval should reflect their abilities, skills, physical health and mental health. Foster Carers are not required to retire at any particular age, however, should significant health issues be noted at a review, a further medical should be sought and advice taken from the medical advisor (where necessary) to inform their future role and approval.
Any alteration of approval to reflect the Carers’ health and ability should be a shared process and be reported to the Foster Care Panel. Where Carers are likely to dispute any change in their approval due to health issues, advice should be sought from the medical advisor as to how to proceed and whether further medical evidence is required.
Tenants and Lodgers
Where applicants / Foster Carers are also providing accommodation to a tenant / lodger, that person must have a Criminal Record Bureau check as a member of the household. That person’s contact with any accommodated child must be fully understood by the assessing / link Social Worker.
Bed and Breakfast Accommodation
Where prospective Foster Carers run bed and breakfast accommodation, this would preclude them from fostering unless the accommodation is separate from where the Fostered children would live.
Foreign Students and Holiday Schemes
Where applicants / Foster Carers also provide accommodation to foreign students, or children not known to them under holiday schemes, they must understand that this may preclude them from fostering, as the students and children / young people accommodated could present a risk to each other. However, placements should not be ruled out if all involved are satisfied that:
- The child / young person accommodated is not vulnerable, and neither faces nor presents any risk.
- The student holiday scheme placement has a separate bedroom.
- Carers understand that the level of supervision must be rigorous while students are staying.
Foster Carers must advise the ...
- Link worker.
- Care Manager
- Accommodated child / young person
- Child / young person’s parents
... of any plans to take a student / scholar prior to placement, and all concerned must agree that this is appropriate and that there is no risk to those concerned.
The placement of a student can be a culturally rewarding experience and should not be excluded, provided the risks involved are shown to have been fully considered.
These guidelines are felt to be necessary, as there have been examples of a conflict of interest between a person’s fostering role and their employee role. For the most part, people manage the two roles successfully, so the policy is not intended to be too prescriptive. However, it is suggested that the following points are considered and acted on:
- When considering an application to foster, the worker needs to consider the Corporate Conflict of Interest Policy and discuss it with their line manager.
- During the assessment process, the Social Worker should pay particular attention to any conflict of interest between work and fostering. He / she should seek the views of the applicant’s line manager to ensure that areas of potential conflict have been fully discussed. Areas could include access to information, demands of their job, or conflict for the person as either a worker or Foster Carer if allegations are made against them.
- The type of child, age and number of children are always looked at during assessments, but special attention needs to be given to this to ensure that work and fostering are compatible.