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On hold and suspension policy

Fostering Devon acknowledges that there may be reasons or circumstances that suggest, for a time-limited period, children should not be placed with a foster carer.

This means that the foster carer is not available to take children and young people and is identified on the fostering snapshot as ‘on hold’ or suspended.

There can be several reasons why a foster carer may be placed on hold or suspended. This policy aims to elaborate on the two most common scenarios which are when a foster carer:

  • asks to be put on hold due to personal circumstances
  • is suspended due to concerns, for example, practice issues regarding consistent standards of care concerns, an allegation or a complaint

When a foster carer asks to be put on hold

Foster carers may request to be placed on hold due to personal circumstances. This policy identifies how this should be addressed within Fostering Devon.

There are many reasons for this including:

  • serious illness or bereavement within the family
  • a change in family circumstances such as a relationship breakdown
  • an extended break from the fostering role following the ending of a child or young person’s stay
  • following the birth of a baby, an adoption or special guardianship order
  • at the carer’s request such as when they ask for an extended holiday or when they are moving house

When a foster carer requests a break from fostering, the supervising social worker must ascertain the reason for this and the likely timescale the family is requesting.

A report that sets out the reason for the foster carer being on hold and the timescale for this should be completed by the supervising social worker and signed by the foster carer.

The report should also be signed and agreed by the fostering team manager, recorded on the chronology and as a Case Note and uploaded onto Eclipse.

On hold foster carers will continue to be visited at a minimum of every three months, to ensure it is still appropriate for them to be on hold and to recognise that they are still registered foster carers.

A foster carer should not be on hold for more than a period of 12 months – a review of their registration will be considered after this length of time.

If after 12 months they are unable to return to their fostering role the review should be presented to panel with a recommendation to de-register, with agreement that a carer would reapply at a future date if there was a change in their circumstances and they became available to return to the fostering role.

They would need a full Form F to be completed and taken to panel for approval.

In exceptional circumstances, the 12-month period is at the discretion of the Fostering Service with oversight from the service manager.

Where an annual review is due within the period of a carer being on hold this should still be completed, as delaying will impact upon their ongoing approval and the timescale for them returning to the fostering role.

There is limited discretion by the fostering manager regarding the delay in an annual review. Any decision to delay a review must be clearly recorded with reasons on an Eclipse case note. In most circumstances, foster carers are expected to continue to be invited to training and support groups.

Under no circumstances should ‘on hold’ be used where there are practice concerns with the standard of care provided within a fostering household.

When a foster carer is suspended

When an allegation or serious complaint is made against a foster carer or a member of the fostering household, the foster carer may be suspended – which means they will not be available to look after children and young people and they will be suspended on the fostering snapshot.

Suspension may also be used when there are significant and consistent standards of care concerns that need further investigation.

Fostering Devon takes all allegations or complaints seriously and will investigate thoroughly within the timescales as per the policy for complaints and allegations.

Foster carers whose approval is suspended should be provided with appropriate support and supervision, as set out within the allegations and complaints against foster carers policy. Please refer to the policy for complaints and allegations for details on the process.

For the purpose of this policy, it is important to recognise that Fostering Devon will always endeavour to investigate and resolve complaints and allegations quickly and fairly, but equally will not compromise on the thoroughness of the investigation.

If the outcome of the investigation is substantiated, consideration must be given as to the suitability of the foster carer to continue to foster. In some circumstances, de-registration will be necessary immediately and this should always be presented to the foster panel.

If the outcome recommends reassessment of the carer, the reassessment will need to be presented at foster panel with a clear recommendation for whether approval should continue or whether there is sufficient evidence for a recommendation of change of approval or de-registration.

It is important to recognise that as part of this process, Fostering Devon will reconsider the approval criteria, such as age and types of fostering and the children and young people it recommends for the foster carers to look after.

Any police investigation does not have to be completed for a foster carer to be de-registered. The decision-making and recommendation is based on any likelihood of harm a looked-after child may experience even if there is insufficient evidence for police to progress to a conviction or take the matter further.

If a carer is subject to an allegation that necessitates the child needing to move from the household to allow an investigation, the carer will be entitled to up to eight weeks of basic fostering allowance, including the training and support group element payment. This will apply to each child who has moved.

Fostering Devon will not pay for any agreed retainers or bed blocks in place at that time.

Payment will cease either at eight weeks or earlier if the investigation has concluded and an outcomes meeting has been held. In exceptional circumstances, the Senior Manager for the Fostering Service could adjust these payments.