1. National and legal context
1.1 This guidance is written within the context of the Working together to safeguard children documentation.
1.2 It is guided by the Fostering Network publication Managing allegations and serious concerns about foster carers’ practice or standards of care 2006.
1.3 This guidance forms part of the Local Safeguarding (Child Protection) Procedures.
1.4 The national minimum standards for fostering (Fostering Services Regulations, Care Standards Act 2000) apply, particularly Standards 9 and 24.
1.5 The National Minimum Standards for Adoption apply, as well as The Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and the Voluntary Adoption Agencies and the Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2003 (particularly Regulation 10).
2. Devon context
This guidance seeks to differentiate between allegations, serious concerns and complaints and to guide staff in the investigation and management of each type. The child in question in each case is a child who is being looked after by the local authority and is either fostered or placed for adoption.
2.1.1 An allegation is defined as an accusation of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect, for example, that a carer has injured a child or that the carer or someone in the family has behaved in a sexually inappropriate way towards the child in question.
2.1.2 A fostering service or adoption agency may have serious concerns about a carer, which may not warrant investigation under the child protection procedures – for example involving the disciplining of children, or non-cooperation with contact arrangements with the child’s family.
2.1.3 A complaint may involve a view about a carer’s approach to the care of a child or the way in which they respond to a child’s behaviour. For example, when a child complains that they are not being fed properly or a parent complains that a child’s culture or religion is being ignored.
2.1.4 Staff must be clear about whether the issue that they are dealing with falls under child protection procedures or whether it constitutes a standard of care issue. Allegations would usually be dealt with under child protection procedures. Consideration should always be given to whether serious concerns or complaints require implementation of child protection procedures. Child protection officers, implementing the functions of the Local Authority Designated Officer will offer consultation to staff to assist in decision-making regarding the category any referral falls into. Scroll down to sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 on this page.
2.1.5 Staff should be aware that any complaint, concern or allegation has the capacity to be redefined after initial referral or part way through a procedure, depending on forthcoming information, and may therefore require to be dealt with under a different process.
2.2 Scope of this guidance
2.2.1 Devon foster carers (approved by the Local Authority or an independent fostering provider) and prospective adopters who have children placed with them prior to an adoption order are included in the scope of this guidance in relation to allegations. In the instance of prospective adopters who are resident in Devon but were approved by another local authority or adoption agency, workers should make immediate contact with the placing and approving agencies to agree who will lead the process of responding to the allegation. Prospective adopters approved by DCC who have a child placed for adoption by (and still in the care of) another local authority. Any foster carer approved by an independent fostering provider would also be subject to the policies and procedures relevant to that particular agency, and Devon County Council staff should make themselves aware of these.
2.2.2 Complaints and concerns raised in respect of Devon Local Authority foster carers and prospective adopters would also be dealt with through the relevant Devon County Council concerns and complaints procedures. Complaints and concerns regarding carers approved by independent fostering providers, Voluntary adoption agencies and other local authorities would be dealt with under the procedures of their approving agency.
2.2.4 This guidance complies with the procedures for dealing with allegations against people who work with children. It offers additional elements which recognise the nature of fostering (and pre-order adoptive placements) where carers look after children in their own homes, often working alone, and where the consequences of an allegation may affect their home as well as work environment.
2.3.1 Every child looked after has the right to be protected and to feel safe in their foster or prospective adoptive home: their safety is of paramount importance. Foster carers, prospective adopters and members of their families who face allegations must be treated sensitively and fairly within a clear procedure. This guidance aims to ensure a clear process to take account of the law, national guidance and local safeguarding procedures.
3. Roles and responsibilities
3.1 The process of investigation of a complaint, concern or allegation against a foster carer or prospective adopter may well be complex. It is important therefore to be clear about the various roles and responsibilities of those involved.
3.1.1 Safeguarding Board
The role and membership of the Local Safeguarding Children Board is set down by the Children Act 2004. The board works to coordinate the effectiveness of member agencies in child protection. In relation to allegations against carers and prospective adopters, the direct role will be minimal, but the procedural framework in which the allegations are investigated will be set by the Board.
3.1.2 Designated officer
The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) is a role set out in the Working Together document. In Devon, it has been agreed that the child protection officers perform the LADO function.
In the context of managing allegations against carers, the LADO function includes:
- assisting colleagues to determine whether an issue raised falls under the category of complaint, concern or allegation, and therefore which route should be taken for investigation or follow up
- offering consultation to colleagues through the process of risk assessment, particularly in relation to whether the child (and any others in the household) needs to move from the home or can be safeguarded within it whilst the issue is looked into.
3.1.3 Child protection officers
Child protection officers (CPO) will chair the strategy meeting called to deal with an allegation. Advice can be sought from the CPO ahead of the strategy meeting to help determine the route by which an issue should be dealt such as complaint procedure, concern procedure or allegation procedure. The CPO will chair the meeting in accordance with the practice guidance at Section 5.1 of this guide – ‘Agenda Structure for Strategy Meetings’.
The CPO is responsible for agreeing the strategy meeting plan, and for arranging reconvened meetings as required to maintain the momentum of the investigation or to collate the conclusions of the investigation.
The CPO will (as chair of the strategy meeting) agree a risk management plan in relation to any children of the household, taking account of any protective factors which are, or could be introduced in to the household to minimise disruption to the children.
(Note: the preliminary version of this assessment and plan may have already been put in place, depending on the nature and timing of the allegation.) See the process flowchart for managing allegations against foster carers and prospective adopters in section 5.
The foster carers or prospective adopters who are subject to allegation are likely to require additional support. The forms that this support may take are described in Section 5.4 of this guide – ‘Support for foster carers and prospective adopters facing allegations’.
Carers facing allegation will be required to cooperate with the plans which emerge from the strategy meeting(s) and with any subsequent investigation.
If a decision is made to remove the child or children as a result of the allegation, the carers will be expected to assist in making this transfer as comfortable as possible for the child or children. The emotional impact on the carer is recognised and full support will be given.
3.1.5 Fostering Service
In relation to foster carers facing allegations, the Fostering Service (usually the supervising social worker and fostering practice manager) will be responsible for:
- assisting in undertaking a risk assessment and (if required) risk management plan regarding the feasibility of the child(ren) remaining in the household and providing a report for the strategy meeting including background information on the carers (caring history, any previous allegations and their outcomes, current placement information)
- arranging additional support for the foster carers (and their sons and daughters if relevant) throughout the process of the investigation
- facilitating the updating of the carers involved with information about the progress of the investigation in line with joint agency agreements made at the strategy meetings, or by the chairperson and police
- ensuring that all carers are aware of sources of support and advice (for example, legal assistance) when facing an allegation
- pursuing any actions agreed in relation to the fostering service by the strategy meeting in relation to any internal management of the issues
- participating in a Section 47 enquiry should this be required
The fostering supervising social worker will normally retain the role of link between the foster carer and the fostering service – where this is not possible, the fostering practice manager will arrange an alternative temporary worker to fulfil this role.
3.1.6 Adoption Team
In relation to prospective adopters with children placed the Adoption Team will take responsibility for:
- assisting in undertaking a risk assessment and (if required) risk management plan regarding the feasibility of the child(ren) remaining in the household
- providing a report for the strategy meeting including background information on the prospective adopters (caring history, any previous allegations and their outcomes, information regarding the child(ren) placed)
- arranging additional support for the prospective adopters through the process of the investigation
- facilitating the updating of the prospective adopters involved with information about the progress of the investigation in line with joint agency agreements made at the strategy meetings, or by the chairperson and police
- ensuring that all prospective adopters are aware of sources of support and advice (for example, legal assistance) when facing an allegation
- pursuing the actions agreed by the strategy meeting in relation to any internal management of the issues
- participating in a Section 47 enquiry should this be required
Approved prospective adopters who have not yet a child placed for adoption with them do not fall under this guidance – any allegation would be dealt with either via the child protection route (if the adopters have other children) or via their employment (if appropriate) or police investigation if criminal activity is alleged.
A report of the conclusions and outcome of any investigation must be provided to the adoption panel so that they may make a recommendation about whether the prospective adopter is still considered suitable to adopt.
3.1.7 Social work teams
The child’s social worker is responsible for:
- collating a report for the strategy meeting outlining the background of the child or young person
- contributing to a risk assessment to determine whether the child(ren) of the household are safe to remain, and any risk management plan made as a result
- leading a Section 47 enquiry should this be required
- pursuing the actions agreed by the strategy meeting in relation to any internal management of the issues
- providing the focal point for police and other agencies to share information about the progress of any enquiry and passing this information to the fostering supervising social worker
- informing parents of a child or children involved of the allegation and of progress of the investigation as determined by the strategy meeting (or chair of meeting in conjunction with the police).
The child’s practice manager is responsible for:
- liaising with the fostering or adoption practice manager in collating information to enable an assessment risk to children of the household to be carried out
- ensuring that the child’s social worker is aware of his or her responsibilities under this guidance, and contributing to the monitoring the progress of the investigation.
The police are responsible for:
- collating the referral via the Central Referral Unit (Contact Number 0845 6051166), researching any background information and forwarding the referral to the relevant Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit for allocation
- providing a police manager to attend the strategy meeting to assess the level at which the issue should be dealt with – see National Guidance from Recommendation 93 of Laming Report
- allocating a named police officer to lead any resulting investigation on the next working day following the strategy meeting and sharing this information with the chair of the strategy meeting and the relevant child’s social worker
- sharing responsibility with the chair of the strategy meeting to agree what information can be shared with the foster carer or prospective adopter and at what stages of the investigation
- explaining the process and requirements of police interviews to any carer who is to be interviewed, including the fact that the interview is likely to be recorded as Criminal Records Bureau information (and will be disclosed at future dates as a result for enhanced disclosure requests)
- keeping the chairperson of the strategy meeting informed if the investigation is unduly delayed.
3.1.9 Emergency Duty Team
The Emergency Duty Team is responsible for responding to a report of an allegation against a carer by contacting a senior officer on call to agree whether immediate action is required or whether it is appropriate to refer the matter to the day staff.
In cases where it is decided that immediate action is required, to agree a risk management plan with the senior officer in relation to the safety of any children of the household, and to take into account any protective factors which are or which could be introduced to the household to minimise disruption to the children.
3.1.10 Fostering panel
The fostering panel is responsible for:
- monitoring countywide statistical information regarding allegations as prepared by the fostering service manager and contributing to service development based on analysis of this data
- considering any post investigation report and making recommendations to the agency decision-maker concerning any restrictions or alterations to the carers’ original approval range
- recommending reinstatement (or otherwise) – to the agency decision-maker – of carers whose approval has been temporarily suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.
3.1.11 Adoption panel
The adoption panel are responsible for:
- reviewing the case of any prospective adopters about whom concerns are raised prior to any child being placed with them or who have had a child removed from their care, and if necessary making recommendations or offering advice regarding their suitability in general or for particular kinds of children
- receiving reports about any prospective adopters with a child placed who experience an allegation, and subsequently considering any learning points emerging from the situation
- taking into account any allegation, its investigation and outcome when considering any further application to adopt by a family about whom concerns have been raised.
3.1.12 Independent support workers for carers
Independent support workers for carers facing investigation following allegations are responsible for:
- offering a listening ear and signposting carers to sources of support (for example, legal advice)
- acting as a source of information to carers about the process of investigations and the reasons why certain steps must be taken
- offering emotional support to carers if required
- updating the carers with agreed information regarding the progress of the investigation (at the request of the chairperson of the strategy meeting(s))
- alerting local authority or police colleagues to information provided by the carer which indicates a risk to any child (and informing the carer that such information will be passed on)
- continuing to offer support to the carers through the process of any reassessment or review of their approval, if required.
Prospective adopters requiring support following an allegation will be considered on a case-by-case basis and an individual support plan devised by the adoption team.
3.1.13 Peer guides
Peer guide foster carers are expected to:
- model good foster care practice, incorporating anti-discriminatory values and actions and acting in a professional manner consistent with the National Standards and Directorate procedures
- meet all new carers in the local area; to attend local support groups and training and to actively encourage new carers to do likewise
- offer support and general advice to other carers primarily by telephone – at times, particularly in complex and ongoing situations, personal visits may be required and these commitments should not normally take place after 9 pm
- offer signposting within one’s areas of expertise and to refer carers to other carers and Directorate staff in the first instance in seeking specific advice
- encourage carers to work with directorate staff to resolve difficulties with a view to restoring good working relationships
- bring to the attention of the Fostering Service issues of concern about carers’ needs, standards of care, placement issues and service standards, usually via the Foster Care Strategy Group representative – also to feedback information regarding strong, positive practice with a view to disseminating this to other carers and staff
- support carers against whom allegations or complaints have been made with particular awareness of one’s own feelings and the risks in not maintaining neutrality
- maintain a log of the demands made for the purposes of informing the future development of this support all calls will be recorded, even where carers have simply called to ‘offload’ (no specific details required) – the log will be routinely copied to the group manager to contribute to the full service monitoring.
4. Procedural guidance
4.1 Receipt of information regarding an allegation, serious concern or complaint against a carer or prospective adopter (with a child placed for adoption but not yet adopted).
The action to be taken when an allegation is reported is outlined in the process flowchart and in Section 5 of this guide – ‘Practice guidance’.
4.1.1 The Working Together document requires fostering providers and other agencies to consider very seriously any allegation which might indicate that a person is unsuitable to work with children in their present position or in any capacity. This applies when it is alleged that a foster carer or a member of his or her family has:
- behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child
- possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child
- behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she is unsuitable to work with children, in connection with the person’s employment or voluntary activity.
In relation to prospective adopters with children placed (where the children remain ‘children in care’ until the making of the adoption order) the prospective adopters will be subject to the same processes and procedures as foster carers.
After the granting of an adoption order, the adoptive parents would be subject to child protection procedures as for any other family in the event of an allegation.
4.1.2 The designated child protection officers (with delegated LADO responsibility) should be contacted without delay with details of any allegation against a carer that appears to satisfy the criteria described in 4.1.1. The designated CPO is then responsible for arranging contact with the police and setting up a strategy meeting. The strategy discussion between the CPO and reporting officer should be recorded on the ‘Record of strategy discussion decisions following receipt of an allegation against a carer’ form.
4.1.3 Once confirmed as an allegation (rather than serious concern or complaint) the issue will be subject to a strategy meeting (see section 5.1) and under the Working Together document may be considered within the context of:
- a police investigation of a possible criminal offence
- enquiries and assessment by children’s social care about whether a child is in need of protection or in need of services
- the operation of the fostering service’s procedure concerning a review of a foster carer’s suitability to foster, and the decisions of the fostering service’s panel and decision-maker, in accordance with the Fostering Services Regulations 2002 (29.7)
4.1.4 The Fostering Network stresses the importance of not subjecting foster carers and their families to unnecessary delay whilst maintaining thorough and fair investigation procedures.
4.1.5 We are aiming to promote a fair and honest system of investigating allegations against carers, but recognise the constraints placed upon the police in relation to evidence gathering. It is therefore important to make clear decisions and be realistic and timely in communications with carers. Support for carers is also vital – refer to sections 3.1.10 and 3.1.11 and section 5.4 of this guide which outlines sources of support. Carers should have access to immediate information and advice from an independent source following an allegation or issue of serious concern being raised against them.
4.1.6 In the event that a child is removed from the foster carer’s care following an allegation, the foster carer will continue to receive the boarding out payment (not progression payment) for up to eight weeks. Refer to section 5.6 of this guide and to the Foster Care Rates and Allowances for full information. Written notice must be given if the fostering service provider intends to terminate the carer’s approval, together with the reasons (and inviting any representations within 28 days) – this should include confirmation that any payments will cease.
The need for adoption financial support should be reviewed in response to any significant change in circumstances and would always end if the child no longer had a home with the prospective adopter.
4.2 Risk assessments
Any allegation made against a carer where there are foster children in the home or where the carer has their own children living at home will require a decision as to their safety in remaining in the home.
Careful consideration must be given to the damage which may be inflicted on a child due to a hasty or unexplained (or both) move balanced against the risk that they may be subject to harm if they remain in the household.
4.2.1 As part of the initial strategy discussion, a risk assessment and management plan might, depending on the situation, include:
- the nature of the allegation – for example, an allegation of serious sexual abuse is likely to require a different response to an allegation of rough handling or inappropriate chastisement
- the background of the carers – what is known about their fostering or parenting history to date?
- the background of the child making the allegation
- consideration of the situations of any other children in the household including carers’ own children if applicable
- consideration of risks to any children previously placed as well as children in the community
- consideration of risks to the carers themselves
- any protective factors should be taken into account, for example, in a couple household, if the allegation is against one carer, could the other carer be called upon to offer supervision of the children? Are any teenage children in the household able to protect themselves?
- the risks or potential damage to a child of a sudden, unexplained move, especially if that move is proposed to happen at night or where the child would not know the staff or substitute carers
- any action already taken by the fostering or adoption services, care management team or others.
5. Practice guidance
5.0 When the concern, allegation or complaint against foster carers or prospective adopters is observed or reported to a fostering social worker, that worker should make an immediate report to the fostering practice manager (or covering fostering practice manager in their line manager’s absence). The practice manager should immediately liaise with the practice manager for the child(ren).
It is the responsibility of the child(ren)’s practice manager to contact the LADO to discuss the information and determine whether the matter is to be dealt with under, concern, allegation or complaints process.
5.0.1 Where the concern, allegation or complaint against a foster carer or prospective adopter is observed or reported to a child’s social worker (or that social workers team) that worker (or duty officer) should make an immediate report to their practice manager (or covering practice manager in their line managers absence).
The child’s practice manager will liaise firstly with the fostering practice manager to discuss the issues and gather relevant information regarding the carers including any history of similar concerns and secondly with the LADO to determine under which process the matter will be dealt with.
5.0.2 If the allegation, concern or complaint is notified to the Emergency Duty Team the worker and or manager should consult with the senior officer on call to agree whether immediate action is required, or whether it is appropriate to refer the issue to the day staff. The senior officer on call will consult with the relevant practice manager(s) (fostering or adoption or care management) as appropriate in order to inform their decision.
5.03 If the issue is defined as an allegation, the following procedures should be followed. If the issue is defined as a concern, this will be taken forward by the Operations Manager for Fostering and the Practice Manager Fostering and similarly for adoption. If the matter is defined as a complaint, the Devon County Council complaints procedure should be followed. If the complainant is a child in care, a referral should be made to Reconstruct (who provides advocacy services) for an advocate to work with the child or young person in pursuing his or her complaint.
5.1 Agenda structure for strategy meetings
Note – the strategy process in the Child Protection procedures includes all adults working with children or young people including foster carers. Whilst the procedures will therefore be the same, Working Together to Safeguard Children indicates additional steps which may be necessary due to the unique environments in which foster carers operate.
The strategy meeting should take place within 72 hours of the receipt of the allegation.
5.1.1 Proposed agenda
- Reason for meeting.
- Clarification of the status of the carers and all the children involved and which agencies or local authorities have responsibility for them and whether all relevant agencies have been alerted.
- Background information on carers, for example, any previous allegations or outcomes.
- Background information on child or young person.
- Consideration of other children in the carers’ home; other looked-after children or foster carers’ or prospective adopters’ own children (if appropriate). Will depend on the nature of the allegation.
- Consideration of carers’ environment if they work with children. Again, this will depend on the nature of the allegation.
- Decide most appropriate way forward; Section 47 investigation or to be dealt with internally by the fostering team or care management team.
- Agree what the parent(s) of the child or young person should be told, by whom, by when.
- Agree whether or not the child (or any other children in the home) should be removed pending the outcome of the investigation (carried out by fostering and care management staff. Please refer to section 4.2 ‘Risk assessments’).
5.1.2 In preparation for the strategy meeting the fostering supervising social worker or adoption social worker should provide a written report regarding known information on the carers. The social worker for the child(ren) should provide written information on the background of the child(ren), including any special needs, history of entry into the care system, foster home history, any previous allegations and the outcomes of same.
5.1.3 If the outcome of the strategy meeting is a Section 47 investigation, the chair of the strategy meeting will agree:
- who should be seen, by whom, by when
- what information will be shared with the foster carers or prospective adopters following the meeting and who should take on this role
- a date to reconvene the strategy meeting
5.1.4 If the outcome of the strategy meeting is not to pursue a Section 47 investigation, the chair of the strategy meeting will:
- agree who will raise the issues to be discussed with the foster carer(s)/prospective adopters
- consider whether or not it is necessary to reconvene the strategy meeting – if not, then the chairperson will agree on who will advise the chair of the meeting, in writing, the outcome of any work undertaken with the carers or prospective adopters
- agree timescales for reporting back and for the outcomes meeting (to which the carer(s) or prospective adopters are invited)
5.2 Reconvened strategy meeting
As a general principle, any planned reconvened strategy meeting should go ahead, even if all the action points of the original plan have not been completed.
The meeting should provide an update of how the investigation is progressing.
The meeting should again agree what information should be shared with the foster carer(s) or prospective adopters in terms of an update, and who will communicate this to the carer(s).
If there are difficulties in progressing the investigation, the source of these should be clearly identified and any remedial action planned (including if necessary, reporting delay to senior management within Children and Young People’s services and police.
Where an investigation takes longer than eight weeks to complete, the carers’ situation should be referred by the child’s social worker and fostering social worker to the Director of Early Years and Families, for a decision on continuing to pay the carer an allowance.
5.3 Final strategy meeting
This is the forum to share the outcome of the investigation.
The meeting should agree what final feedback should be given to the foster carer(s) or prospective adopter(s) at the outcomes meeting.
Agree what feedback should be given to the child or young person who made the allegation – and who will take responsibility for action planning for the child.
Agree what feedback should be given to the parent(s) of the child or young person.
5.3.1 Following an investigation there are four probable outcomes
The four probable outcomes are that:
- further police action to be taken, for example, file to Crown Prosecution Service
- it is a clearly unsubstantiated allegation
- it is a substantiated allegation that does not warrant further police action but clearly identifies some practice issues for the carer(s)
- no further police action on the basis that there is lack of evidence, for example, one person’s word against another.
The first two of these outcomes are definite, and the feedback to the foster carers will be able to reflect a clear decision.
In the case of an unsubstantiated allegation that does not warrant police action, but nevertheless identifies some practice issues for the carer, the final strategy meeting could:
- identify the learning points for the carer(s) concerned
- agree who will undertake this work; timescales and who will advise the chair, in writing the outcome of the work
The chair of the meeting will also agree with strategy group members the wording to record the episode both on the carer(s) file and, if necessary, in conjunction with the investigating police officer agree the record which will be forwarded to the Criminal Records Bureau.
The final point probable outcome, where the situation is deemed to be one person’s word against another, is, unfortunately, a frequent outcome of an investigation and the issue then remains unresolved as a ‘grey area’.
In these situations, the multi-agency group should make a comment regarding their views as to ‘the balance of probability’ in respect of the allegation. This will assist the process of providing as full and clear feedback to the foster carer(s) as possible.
5.3.2 Outcomes meeting
Following each allegation investigation, an outcomes meeting will be convened (within 15 days of the final strategy meeting). This meeting will include the foster carers or prospective adopters who were subject to the allegation and will advise all participants of the outcome of the investigation and any action arising from it.
Carers or prospective adopters will be made aware that a report of the investigation and its findings will be prepared for the respective fostering or adoption panel, which they will be able to read in advance of the panel.
5.3.3 Foster or adoption panel report and function
The supervising fostering social worker or adoption social worker will prepare a report for the appropriate panel (fostering or adoption). The purpose of the report is to inform the panel of the investigation and its outcomes and make recommendations regarding future placements and or registration or approval. The report should follow a similar structure to the agenda for the strategy meeting, namely:
- Background information on foster carers or prospective adopter, for example, any previous allegations or outcomes (including the original Form F or Prospective Adopters Report).
- Background information on child or young person.
- Report of consideration made in relation to other children in the foster carer or prospective adopter’s home; other looked-after children or foster carer or prospective adopters’ own children (if appropriate). Will depend on nature of allegation.
- Report of consideration of foster carer or prospective adopter’s employment environment (if they work with children) – again this will depend on the nature of the allegation.
- Record of decisions regarding the most appropriate way forward, for example, Section 47.
- Record of agreement made concerning what the parent(s) of the child or young person were told, by whom, by when.
- Record of agreement as to whether or not the child (or any other children in the home) should be removed pending the outcome of the investigation.
- Record of any additional action taken during or following the investigation.
- Recommendations regarding future placements or registration for prospective adopter or foster carer.
- Any other relevant information to assist the panel.
The fostering or adoption panel will then make a recommendation to the agency decision maker who has the final say regarding the future registration and placement details of the foster carer or whether the prospective adopter is still considered suitable to adopt.
In the case of prospective adopters, if the child remains in the carers’ household, the adoption panel should be asked to make a fresh recommendation on whether the child should be adopted by these carers. The panel may offer other relevant advice to the local authority.
If the child is no longer living with the prospective adopters their approval must be reviewed by the adoption social worker and practice manager. If they consider that the prospective adopters may not be suitable to adopt, and have not withdrawn their application, then the case must be referred to the adoption panel for consideration of whether they remain suitable prospective adopters.
Any appeal made subsequently to a panel decision will follow the regular appeals processes laid out for the respective fostering and adoption panels, including the possibility of an application to the Independent Review Mechanism.
5.4 Support for foster carers and prospective adopters facing allegations
National Minimum Standard 22.9 requires fostering agencies to provide independent support to carers during an allegation.
5.4.1 Devon foster carers can access support and information through a number of routes, which workers should actively promote and signpost, namely:
- independent support through FosterTalk’s, Allegations Support Team – this will be initiated through your fostering team manager who will authorise an initial 10 hours of support (any additional support required will be at the discretion of the Service Manager for Fostering Devon)
- a fostering supervising social worker
- an independent support worker
- the foster carer handbook
- Fosterline: Confidential advice line commissioned by the DfES and operated by the Fostering Network.
- Fostering Network Advice and Mediation Service 0800 040 7675 – for situations where more in-depth counselling, support and mediation are required.
- Legal Advice Line: 0870 264 6943 – carers can quote reference STS 14488 for general legal advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- peer guide foster carers
5.4.2 Independent support workers are employed on a sessional basis by the local authority to offer impartial support and guidance to carers facing allegation investigations. The independent support workers are not part of the Fostering Service. See section 3.1.10 of this guide for information regarding roles and responsibilities.
To access an independent support worker, contact the Operations Manager, Fostering. There is no prescribed limit to the level of support available to carers, but it is anticipated that in an investigation completed within eight weeks, carers may need up to four visits (or accompaniment to meetings or panel) plus telephone calls.
Each individual situation will be reviewed by the Fostering Practice Manager and an agreement reached with the Operations Manager Fostering regarding extending support beyond this.
5.4.3 Support for prospective adopters can be accessed through the adoption team and may include securing independent support through another adoption agency or adoption support agency, for example, Adoption UK.
5.5 Payments to carers facing an allegation who have children removed as a result
Where carers are subject to an allegation and a child or children placed with them are removed as a result, the carer will continue to receive the boarding out payments (minus any progression payment) for a period of up to eight weeks.
Should an investigation still be ongoing after the eight-week period, the situation will be referred to the Director of Children and Young People’s Futures for agreement to continue the payment.
This is intended to ensure that carers do not suffer undue financial hardship as a result of an allegation having been made against them.