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8.3 Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter covers the procedure for assessing all foster carers including short break carers.

There are separate procedures for the approval of foster carers and for the approval of relatives and friends - sometimes known as kinship carers or regulation 24 placements (See Placements with Connected Persons Procedure)

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Fostering Service Statement of Purpose (2019)

Offences identified on DBS or VAT and Risk Assessment Policy

AMENDMENT

In July 2021, this procedure was reviewed and updated throughout.


Contents

  1. Responding to Enquiries or Leads via Social Media, Email and Phone
  2. Assessment - Stage One
  3. Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer Agreements
  4. Checks and References 
  5. Assessment - Stage Two


1. Responding to Enquiries or Leads via Social Media, Email and Phone

Fostering enquiries come to the City of York Council via increasingly numerous social media sources and campaigns. These can include internet pages, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Basic information (name, email and telephone number) can be gathered via these leads.

All members of the public who make an enquiry, generate an interest or lead will be picked up on a daily basis by the Fostering Service, designated social worker or support worker.

All enquirers will be treated as a potential resource and given a prompt response. They will be contacted within 48 hours to gather further information and for a general discussion about fostering. If they are not available a phone message, email or text will be left giving further contact details

1.1 Basic Information Gathering

Because they have only indicated an interest in fostering they are likely to wish to seek initial information. Where the enquirers are simply requesting further information regarding fostering an information booklet will be sent out via email and their details recorded on the registration of interest spreadsheet.

The enquirer should be informed that this initial interest will be logged but not recorded onto mosaic. If it becomes a viable enquiry they will be informed that their data will be added to the computer system and a formal enquiry is then started.

Where appropriate, the enquiry conversation should seek basic preliminary information. This should include numbers in the household, the availability of a separate bedroom for foster children, motivation, working hours, flexibility within work, health, child care, experience etc. in order that inappropriate enquiries can be filtered out. At this stage, if basic information is viable, the adult or families information is taken and added to mosaic and an enquiry workflow started.

An information booklet and letter will be sent on the same working day via or email or by post. A tentative appointment for an initial visit should be agreed. The family may wish to consider all the information in the booklet before progressing further; if this is the case, a call back should be agreed.

1.2 What to do with the information shared in order for you to communicate

Enquiry information (name, phone number and email address) will be stored while the enquiry remains open or on hold in order to gather statistics and data. Once a decision is made by the enquirer and/or social worker that they meet the basic potential requirements it may progress to an initial visit and the information is transferred onto mosaic.

1.3 When to close on the spread sheet held with PCFS

If after an initial information sharing conversation it is decided not to proceed then it is closed on the spreadsheet or will go one hold for an agreed period of time. If it is closed they should be informed that their contact details will be deleted in line with UK GDPR.

If they remain on hold and wish to have a ‘call back’ in a set period of time it is with their agreement and understanding that their data is held for that period.

1.4 If they do not respond to communication

If they leave their information details regarding their wish to seek information, but fail to respond to lead phone calls, emails or messages then a text should be sent in order to plan an appropriate time to speak. All attempts should be recorded on the spread sheet.

If after a few weeks no contact is made, then an email giving a few weeks’ notice of closing the enquiry should be sent. After a month if there is still no response then the enquiry will close and all contact details removed.

1.5 If they are known to Children’s Social Care

Where the enquirer or a member of the household is known to Children’s Social Care, the enquiry will be passed to the designated senior social worker for a decision on how to proceed. If necessary this will be confirmed by the service manager.

At this early stage, it may be appropriate to advise these enquirers against pursuing fostering if they clearly do not meet the basic criteria and have a history of needed support and guidance. A record of this should be made on mosaic. It does not however automatically rule them out of an enquiry, but would need further analysis and reflective discussion with them.

The decision will be communicated to the person concerned, with reasons given, and recorded on mosaic. Where the decision is not to proceed the referral will be closed. Where the decision is to proceed, the enquirer will be sent an Information Pack and the same procedure will be followed as for all other enquirers.

1.6 Fostering enquiry on mosaic

At this point the applicant/s will have an account opened on Mosaic and all information gathered will be saved.

Children living in and out of the home may also need to be added with their parents’ permission (under 18). The enquiry form will be sent to the Service Manager for their approval before the next stage.

The enquiry and initial visit stage is intended to provide the decision maker with basic information about the applicant to enable clearly unsuitable applicants to be sifted out without unnecessary bureaucracy or expenditure of time and resource by the fostering service or the applicant.

1.7 Initial Visit in Person or Skype

If the enquirer meets the department’s initial criteria to foster then they will be offered a home visit, normally within a 10 day timescale.

1.8 Senior Social Worker discretion.

There may be times that a fostering enquiry will be done and move immediately onto an initial visit via a Skype call without Service Manager approval. This is usually done by a senior social worker with experience.

The initial visit stage then is agreed by the Service Manager before it proceeds further. This may be done if the enquirer is being approached by Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA), is approved already with an IFA or other Local Authority or is an exceptionally strong fostering candidate for example.

1.9 Changing their Mind

At any point the enquirer can change their mind and decide not to proceed. The decision should be noted on mosaic and a request to close the case sent to the Service Manager for approval.

1.10 Application form prior to Skills to Foster Preparation Course

To prevent delay a family or individual maybe requested to complete an application form before they attend the Skills to Foster training. This needs to be agreed with the Service Manager.

It does not apply to all families or individuals as some feel more comfortable in getting the training first before making a decision about sharing their information on an application form.

1.11 Skills to Foster Preparation Course

The Foster Carers Preparation Course will cover in detail all aspects of the fostering Skills to Foster Preparation Course.

The Foster Carers Preparation/Training Course will cover in detail all aspects of the fostering task, including the need for approved foster carers to notify the manager of any changes in their home circumstances, for example any new relationships they have where they wish their new partners to become a member of the household. See Changes in the Foster Carer's Household or Circumstances for the procedure to be followed where such changes occur.

They can attend before or after filling out their application form.

All prospective foster carers will be required to attend this training, which is an integral part of the assessment process.

The objectives of the course are:

  • To raise awareness and understanding of the key issues which need to be addressed by all foster carers;
  • To assist enquirers to consider more thoroughly the implications of fostering;
  • To assist enquirers to determine the type of resource they can offer to the children needing foster placements;
  • To observe enquirers in a group environment and feedback on their contribution.

Those facilitating the course will provide written feedback on issues relating to the applicants for the assessing social worker which must be used in their assessment. Any issues of concern should be referred to the Service Manager.

Applicants are expected to attend the course. Attendance is generally a requirement and failure to complete must be identified in the report presented to Fostering Panel, with a clear explanation of the reasons and circumstances.

Where issues emerge during the training as a result of which the Service Manager decides that it is not appropriate to proceed with the application, the applicants should be visited by the Assessing Social Worker and notified in writing of the decision, with reasons.

Advice should be given of any steps they may take in order to meet the criteria or of how they might pursue their interest elsewhere, if appropriate.

1.12 Application form post Skills to Foster Preparation Course.

If the family or individual wishes to proceed and the assessing social worker and service manager feel they have the appropriate skills and motivation, then they can be offered an application form.

On receipt of the completed application form, consent to medical checks and authorisation for the statutory checks/references, a member of the PCFS (fostering) team will input the date of the application and details of the household members on the electronic records.


2. Assessment - Stage One

Stage One of the assessment process is intended to provide the decision maker with basic information about the applicant to enable clearly unsuitable applicants to be sifted out without unnecessary bureaucracy or expenditure of time and resource by the fostering service or the applicant. More detailed information is collected in Section 5, Assessment - Stage Two.

Where a person applies to become a foster carer and it is decided to assess their suitability to become a foster carer, the following information must be obtained as soon as reasonably practicable relating to the applicant and other members of their household and family:

  • Full family name (including any name used in the past), address and date of birth, confirmed via legal documents;
  • Details of health (supported by a medical report);
  • Particulars of any other adult members of the household (with their permission) ;
  • Particulars of the children in the family, whether or not members of the household, and any other children in the household;
  • Particulars of their accommodation and home safety check to be completed;
  • The outcome of any request or application made by them or any other member of their household to foster or adopt children, or for registration as an early years provider or later years provider under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006), including particulars of any previous approval or refusal of approval relating to them or to any other member of the household;
  • If the applicant has, in the preceding 12 months, been a foster carer approved by another fostering service provider, the name and address of that fostering service provider;
  • Names and addresses of 2 persons who will provide personal references;
  • Name and address of 1 family reference who will provide a family reference;
  • The assessing social worker will speak with the family, personal referees and ex-partner(s) reflecting on their knowledge of the applicants;
  • Name and address of previous employment for all applicants, and references requested as mandatory if they have worked with children or vulnerable adults;
  • In relation to the applicant and any other member of the applicant’s household who is aged 18 or over, an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check;
    • A risk assessment needs to be completed if anything is identified on the DBS. This then is signed off by Recommendations are made by the Service Manager before being signed off by the Group manager. This needs to be done before moving to stage 2.
  • Details of current, and any previous, marriage, civil partnership or similar relationship;
  • The views of, the local authority in whose area the applicant lives, if different;
  • Where the applicant has previous been, or is currently, approved as a foster carer by another fostering service provider, or as a prospective adopter by an adoption agency, and consents, access may be requested to the relevant records compiled by that other fostering service provider/ adoption agency in relation to the applicant. That service/agency must provide access within 15 working days of a request being received.

Records compiled by another fostering service, or an adoption agency, can be used to inform the new assessment of the applicant’s suitability to foster. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.

Where, having regard to any information obtained, it is decided (by the Service Manager) that the applicant is not suitable to become a foster carer, the applicant must be notified in writing with reasons. This notification may be given whether or not all of this information has been obtained. Such a notification may not be given more than 10 working days after all the information has been obtained. The applicant has no right to make representations about the decision or to have their case reviewed under the Independent Review Mechanism.

However, the applicant must be informed that they can complain via the fostering service’s complaints process if they are unhappy with the way in which their case has been handled. The complaints process should address whether or not the applicant’s case has been handled in a reasonable way, rather than the question of the applicant’s suitability to foster.

Where all the specified information has been obtained and notification has not been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable, then the application must proceed to Assessment - Stage Two. 

Please note that Stages One and Two of the assessment process can be carried out concurrently, but the Stage One information must be sought as soon as possible, and the decision about whether an applicant has successfully completed Stage One must be made within 10 working days of all the information required in that Stage being received.

On receipt of the completed application form, consent to medical checks and authorisations for the statutory checks/references, the administrative staff will input the date of the application and details of the household members on the electronic records.

The Fostering Panel must make its recommendation on the application within 8 months of the applicant first applying to be assessed.

2.1 New Disclosure and Barring Service Applications

Enhanced DBS checks Under Regulation 26(1A) and Schedule 3, Part 1 of the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 (as amended) - The fostering service is required to complete enhanced DBS checks for the applicant and for any other household members aged 18 or over. This check is undertaken in stage 1 of the assessment process.

There is no legal requirement to undertake DBS checks in relation to adults at other addresses, but in certain circumstances this is permitted and might be deemed good practice.

No applicant can be approved as a foster carer if the DBS records show that they have been convicted of or cautioned for a specified offence unless they were under the age of 18 at the time of the offence. What is included in the term “specified offence” is set out in Regulation 26(6) and (7). The detail of the types of offences is set out in Schedule 4. The offences in question relate to violent and sexual offences and are primarily covered by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Sexual Offences Act 1959. Similar offences covered by legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also specified in Schedule 4.

Where the DBS checks reveal that an applicant for approval as a foster carer is a disqualified person, the applicants must be advised that their application cannot proceed. This must be confirmed in writing to them, together with the reasons, and retained with their application form. 

Where the information relates to an offence which does not automatically disqualify the applicant, for example because the applicant is seeking approval in relation to a specific child only, the Service Manager must consider whether the application should still proceed.

Such convictions will not necessarily preclude an application, but this will depend on the seriousness of the offence and how long ago it was committed. In a case where the conviction would usually disqualify an applicant, the case should be referred to the Fostering Panel and the Agency Decision Maker for a preliminary decision.

In any other case where there is doubt, an early referral should be made to the Fostering Panel and / or Agency Decision Maker.

Information relevant to the application that has been obtained from the DBS may only be retained on the applicant's file for a limited period and should be destroyed when a decision is made in relation to the application. The manager should note on the file that the DBS information has been destroyed and that the information led to a particular view, without citing the information itself.

2.2 New Disclosure and Barring Service for Connected Foster Carers.

The exception to this automatic barring for approval is in Regulation 26(8), which permits the fostering service to consider for approval a “connected person” where the applicant is related to the child or any member of the household is related to the child. In these circumstances, the local authority responsible for the child will need to be satisfied that the child’s welfare requires that this applicant or household is the arrangement best able to meet the child’s welfare and safeguarding needs.

Where the applicant is a relative or friend of the child seeking approval as a foster carer for a specific child and the person would otherwise be regarded as disqualified, an application for consent to proceed with the assessment in relation to the particular child can be considered by the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) on the recommendation of the Fostering Panel.

In these circumstances, the assessing social worker responsible for carrying out the checks on the prospective foster carer should prepare a risk assessment report on the application setting out:

  1. The reasons for the application;
  2. The circumstances surrounding the conviction or caution which would result in the person being disqualified unless consent is given;
  3. An assessment of whether the placement would meet the child’s needs despite the conviction/caution; and
  4. A recommendation as to whether the application should proceed.

The assessing social worker will arrange with the Panel Administrator a date for the Panel to consider the report and the report should be sent to the Panel Administrator 10 working days before the relevant Panel meeting.

The Panel minutes will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering), who will consider the recommendation of the Fostering Panel on any such applications. 

The decision of the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will be recorded in writing and a copy placed on the case record of the applicant. A copy of the decision will also be sent to the person concerned.

2.3 Approved Foster Carers

Where information is provided or updated Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks reveal that an approved foster carer has been convicted of or cautioned for a criminal offence as a result of which they will become a disqualified person unless consent is given, an urgent review of the foster carer’s approval should be held - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure - and a written report detailing the circumstances leading to the conviction/caution, together with background information from the foster carer’s case record, must be presented to the Fostering Panel as soon as possible. The report should contain a recommendation on whether consent should be granted to allow the foster carer to continue to be approved as a foster carer for the child or children currently in placement.

The report should be sent to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the relevant Panel meeting.

Where such information is received, the social worker for any child currently in the placement must be informed and plans for the termination of the placement will also need to be considered as appropriate.

Where the report recommends the termination of approval of the foster carer, the report should be presented to the earliest possible Fostering Panel. 

The Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will consider the recommendation of the Fostering Panel on any such applications. 

The decision of the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) will be recorded in writing and a copy placed on the case record of the foster carer. 

Written notice of the decision, together with reasons, must then be sent to the foster carer as soon as practicable.

Where a decision is made to terminate the approval of the foster carer, the Representations Procedure as set out in Approval of Foster Carers will apply.

2.4 Persons Disqualified from Fostering

A person is disqualified from acting as a foster carer for the local authority (unless a relative of the child or already acting as a foster carer) if they or any adult member of the household has been cautioned for or convicted of an offence against a child which involves violence, bodily injury (other than common assault or battery), cruelty (to a child under 16), indecency, abduction, the supply of Class A drugs or the importation/possession of indecent photographs of a child under 16 or a sexual offence against a child unless the offence was contrary to sections 6, 12 or 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and the person concerned was under 20 when the offence was committed. A list of the specific offences is set out in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.

Applications to foster will not be considered from anyone who owns a pet that is registered or required to be registered under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (see Foster Carer Dog and Pets Policy and Guidance).

  • If the applicant or a household member has a conviction within the last 2 years, a serious offence or a history of offending, the application will be taken to a Fostering Panel before proceeding.

Serious offences would include:

  • Exceptions to the specified offences within the regulations i.e. teenage offenders;
  • All those specified offences where the victims were adults;
  • Murder, manslaughter, rape, CSE, armed robbery, blackmail/extortion;
  • Violent offences including GBH, ABH, wounding, assault;
  • Aggravated burglary;
  • Drug dealing/supply, possession of illegal drugs or weapons;
  • Prostitution, living off immoral earnings, child/person trafficking;
  • Racism, fraud/dishonesty;
  • Drink driving;
  • Serious motoring offences.

Panels would expect to see applications where an applicant has a conviction for any of the above offences identified. In doing so, they require information on the following factors to be available in order to consider whether to recommend that the application / assessment should proceed:

  • Age when offence committed;
  • Age now;
  • Circumstances of the offence;
  • Any supporting / corroborative information e.g. police report, probation etc;
  • Outcome of court case, i.e. custodial sentence (length), fine etc;
  • whether disclosed on application form, and if not disclosed any explanation offered;
  • Applicants attitude to offence;
  • Current circumstances;
  • Any post-conviction work undertaken with the offender to address their offending.


3. Sharing Information for the Purposes of Foster Carer Assessments

3.1 Information Sharing

Sharing information about a person that is held in their existing foster carer or adopter records is permitted for the purposes of informing a new assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the past to verify facts, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.

Information that should be shared, upon request, in order to inform a new assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt includes:

  • The report of the original assessment of the person’s suitability to foster or adopt (if it is considered by the body requesting the information to be recent enough to be relevant);
  • A copy of the report of the last review of the individual’s continuing suitability to foster or adopt and any other review report considered useful to understanding the person’s current suitability to foster or adopt;
  • Details of any concerns about standards of practice and what if anything is being done/has been done to address them;
  • Details of allegations made against the foster carer/adopter or their household members; and
  • Any other information considered to be relevant to the assessment of the person’s suitability to foster/adopt.

3.2 Consent

Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with Parental Responsibility would need to be obtained). This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.

If consent is refused, the current fostering service or adoption agency should consider whether there is any information in the records that is a cause for concern. Any information about an applicant’s conduct or suitability to foster/adopt that has caused concern should be shared even if the individual has refused consent. If there are no such concerns, and the individual has refused consent, information should not be shared. This may require documents to be redacted to remove information relating to individuals who have refused consent.

Requests for access to information should be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant to the sharing of their information.

3.3 Timescales

The receiving service should acknowledged the request within two working days, seek consent from all others referred to in the information within five working days and the information, redacted where necessary, should be provided within 15 working days.


4. Checks and References

4.1 Checks

Where the applicants live or have lived outside the local authority area, the checks must be made with the local authority where the applicants live/have lived within the last 10 years.

Where the applicant or any member of the household has been known to Children and Families Services, information should be obtained from the relevant social worker in any local authority.

Where applicants have lived abroad, members of the household aged 18 and over may also be subject to checks. The application process for criminal records checks or ‘Certificates of Good Character’ for someone from overseas varies from country to country. For further information,GOV.UK - Criminal records checks for overseas applicants.

If the applicant/s are unable to gain clear evidence from the relevant country that they are 'not known' to the authorities then they must be willing to provide an additional character reference to vouch for their conduct while abroad, preferable someone who was with them or visited them.

The Assessing Social Worker will make a home visit referral to North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure the applicants home is fit to foster and the applicants have received appropriate information regarding smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

In addition, where the applicant has school age children, the relevant school(s) will be contacted, with the permission of the applicant, for information regarding the applicant's ability to promote the child's education.

On receipt of the statutory checks, the administrative staff will update the electronic records.

Where there are concerns about an applicant's circumstances as a result of the information obtained from the above checks, this should be referred to the Service Manager and the applicant may be advised to withdraw from the fostering process.

Fostering services should seek to identify, as part of the approval process for a potential carer, any individuals who may play a significant role in providing support for those carers. These may be back-up carers, regular baby-sitters, or family.

There is no requirement to assess or approve these people as foster carers. However, DBS checks may be carried out but there is no requirement to do so and professional judgement should be used in order for a disclosure check to be requested. The fostering service would need to be aware of such arrangements, and so the individual’s involvement would need to be agreed by the fostering service.

4.2 References 

When references are decided upon, and consent given, a letter or email will need to be sent to them explaining the purpose of the reference, usually accompanied by a reference form setting out a series of questions.

Once written reference has been received, it will be for the assessing social worker to interview the referee and write a report. While the legislation in England requires references in Stage 1 of the process, there are strong practice arguments to suggest that interviews are most usefully undertaken towards the end of the assessment when the assessing worker has an understanding of the applicants and is clear about what evidence remains outstanding, or where there might be questions about suitability in certain areas. This might mean that references that were seen early on in the process also need to be contacted again at a later stage.

On receipt of the references, the administrative staff will update the electronic records and notify the assessing social worker that they have been received.

Ex-partners - The assessing Social Worker may also contact the previous partners of the applicants (taking care not to disclose confidential personal information about the applicant). Where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the Social Worker will arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable.

Personal - Regulation 26(1A) and Schedule 3, Part 1, para 8 of Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 (as amended), require that the assessor interviews at least two persons nominated by the prospective foster carer and prepares a written report based on the information gathered.

  • Otherwise each applicant will be asked to provide the names of two personal referees, who are adults, have known the applicant for at least 2 years and are not related to the applicant;
  • A family member reference would be treated as an additional ‘character reference’. All referees should be people who know the applicants well in a personal capacity.

Where there is a joint application, referees should know both applicants, or additional referees will be required.

Other Agencies - Regulation 26(1A) (c ) of those same regulations, where an applicant has been a foster carer in the previous 12 months, and a written reference from their previous fostering service is obtained, there is no requirement to also interview personal referees.

Where the applicant has been a foster carer within the preceding 12 months and was approved as such by another fostering service provider, a reference must be requested from that other fostering service provider.

There is no requirement to also interview personal referees. However, additional verbal and/or written references may be sought from personal referees. If the previous fostering service, for whatever reason, does not provide a reference, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.

Current Employer - A written reference must be obtained from each applicant's current employer regardless of the applicant's occupation. This may be one of the four references provided. In addition, where the applicant has frequently changed jobs, written references should also be obtained from past employers. Self-employed applicants can provide co-workers / co-owners or a regular client.

Previous applications to foster or adopt - Where the prospective applicant has made a previous application to foster or adopt, the relevant agency must be asked to confirm in writing the outcome of the application and provide a written reference. If the applicants were previously in assessment with another agency the Service Manager may direct the assessing Social Worker to visit the relevant agency to read the archived files

Where foster carers are approved by other agencies and elect to transfer to City of York social care, please see our internal transfer protocol. The majority of applicants would require a full assessment and statutory checks.

Interviews with adult children who are no longer household members will be undertaken, as will interviews with ex-partners or spouses particularly if they have cared for children together

Children in the household - Where there are existing children in the household, contact with health visitor, nursery or school.

4.3 Health

Regulation 26(1A) and schedule 3, Part 1 para 2 of the Fostering Service (England) Regulations 2011 (as amended) require details of the prospective foster carer’s health, supported by a medical report.

The applicants will be provided with the relevant medical form to fill in with their details and send to their GP with a covering letter requesting that the GP complete the Form and send it to the manager. On receipt the Administrator will pass the information to the Medical Adviser for comment.

The process:

Form AH uses health history, a medical examination and medical records to obtain an up-to-date, comprehensive and accurate report on the applicant’s individual and family health history.

Part A should be completed by the agency or service and the entire given to the applicant.

Part B should be completed by the applicant and the entire form given to their GP. (York get reference checks admin workers to send this and the commissioning letter to the GP)

Part C should be completed by the applicants own GP, unless special circumstances indicate that another doctor has better knowledge, and the entire completed form should be sent to the medical advisor. 

Where the medical information suggests that the applicant may not be suitable for health reasons, this should be discussed in detail with the applicant(s) and withdrawal may be advisable at this stage. Additional advice may be sought from the Medical Adviser or the Medical Adviser may raise questions with the GP where this is appropriate. It may be necessary for reports from other health professionals also to be obtained and presented to the Medical Adviser and the Fostering Panel.

4.4 Home Safety Checks:

Regulation 26(1A) and schedule 3, Part 1, para 5 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 (as amended) require an assessment of prospective foster carers to consider the ‘particulars of their accommodation’, and for this information to be considered as part of Stage 1 of the process. The associated guidance (para 3.30) notes that the physical environment of the home should allow children to have their own private space, with places to keep their own belongings, do homework, and see family and friends.

The Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011, although technically not a legal requirement, provide more detail. Standard 10 – Providing a suitable physical environment for the foster child- requires that foster homes ‘provide adequate space to a suitable standard’:

10.1 The foster home can comfortably accommodate all who live there.

10.2 The foster home is warm, adequately furnished and decorated, is maintained to a good standard of cleanliness and hygiene and is in good order throughout. Outdoor spaces which are part of the premises are safe, secure and well maintained.

The process:

The CoramBAAF Home Safety Checklist serves two main purposes.

  • It is a tool to help prospective foster carers to consider safety issues and to take any action necessary to address any identified shortcomings.
  • It serves as a mechanism for the assessing social worker, and others in the fostering service, to be assured that the safety standards in that home are acceptable, and comply with their stated policy.
  • If the home is part of a farm or small holding then the CoramBAAF Small Holding risk assessment is applicable.
  • If the applicants own a dog, reference should be made to the Dogs and Pets Policy and Guidance.

4.5 Financial Assessment

Regulation 26(1A) and schedule 3, Part 2, para 14 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 (as amended) make clear that the assessment report needs to address “standard of living” and a financial assessment might be seen as one aspect of that.

In undertaking an assessment, it will first be helpful to speak with the applicants about their financial circumstances and ask a number of fairly standard questions that apply in both fostering and adoption.

  • How would you describe your present financial situation?
  • Is your accommodation secure?
  • Do you have any debts, including on credit cards or store cards? If so how are you managing these?
  • What is your general attitude towards money? How do you manage your finances?
  • Have you ever had financial difficulties, had a county court judgement made against you, or been declared bankrupt?
  • Do you have savings and could you quickly and easily access these for unforeseen situations?

Alongside these questions it would be appropriate to look at bank statements for the applicant (or both, if a couple) that give an indication of ongoing income, expenditure and balance. The assessor should also see documentation relating to savings, credit cards and store card statements and, if necessary, pay slips, a rent book or a mortgage statement. For self-employed applicants, it will be useful to look at the most recent tax statement to tax return that will show total earnings for the year.

4.6 Child bedroom and appropriate space.

City of York is working towards no room sharing for looked after children unless the children involved are related. The aim is to accommodate all our fostered children safely and in comfort, helping to ensure that they have sufficient privacy, personal space and room for play or study.

Children of differing genders may generally only share a room up to the age of 3 years unless they are siblings, if this was the case at home or if the arrangement would enable them to stay together.

Babies / infants may only share the foster carer’s room if they are up to 24 months of age.

A room share assessment form needs completing and approving to ensure any shared arrangements are appropriate.


5. Assessment - Stage Two

Where the Assessment - Stage One information has been obtained, and no notification has been given within 10 working days that the applicant is not suitable to be a foster carer, or in the case where it has been agreed by the manager for Stage One and Stage Two to be assessed concurrently, the following must be undertaken.

  • Obtain the following information relating to the applicant and other members of the household, together with any other relevant information:
    • Details of personality;
    • Religious persuasion, and capacity to care for a child from any particular religious persuasion;
    • Racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and capacity to care for a child from any particular racial origin or cultural or linguistic background;
    • Past and present employment or occupation, standard of living, leisure activities and interests;
    • Previous experience (if any) of caring for their own and other children;
    • Skills, competence and potential relevant to their capacity to care effectively for a child placed with them.
  • Consider whether the applicant is suitable to be a foster carer and whether the applicant’s household is suitable for any child or has potential for particular specialist skills or limits to specific types of foster care;
  • Prepare a written report on the applicant which includes the following matters:
    • The information required to be obtained, as set out above;
    • Any other relevant information;
    • An assessment of the applicant’s suitability to be a foster carer;
    • Proposals about any terms of approval.

(There are no specific regulatory requirements about the way in which assessment information must be collected or presented to panel.)

The assessing social worker will:

  • Review the information in the application form;
  • Contact the applicant(s) and arrange a visit;
  • Draw up a written agreement setting out the dates for the assessment visits and the date for the presentation to the Fostering Panel;
  • Interview couples individually and together and ensure the children of the applicant or other significant members of the family/household are seen alone;
  • Contact ex partners (see below);
  • Inform the applicant(s) of any revised timescales if there are delays.

The assessing social worker will complete all parts of the assessment on mosaic (which is based on the CoramBAAF Form F paperwork), which will record all appropriate factual information and address issues including the applicants' understanding of the following areas:

  • Child rearing;
  • Caring for children born to someone else;
  • Contact between children and their families;
  • Helping children to make sense of their past;
  • Sexual boundaries and attitudes;
  • Awareness of sexual and other forms of abuse;
  • Health and health promotion;
  • Promotion of education;
  • Approaches to discipline;
  • Awareness of how to promote secure attachments between children and appropriate adults;
  • Religion;
  • Standards of living and lifestyles;
  • Racial, cultural and linguistic issues;
  • Experiences of disability and attitudes to disability;
  • Awareness of equal opportunities;
  • Understanding and dealing with young people's behaviour including encouraging children to take responsibility for their behaviour and helping them to learn how to resolve conflict.

The list is not exhaustive - other issues relevant to the individual applicant and their family may need to be addressed. The skills and personal qualities that need to be evidenced will be different according to the type of fostering the applicants want to do, e.g. babies and toddlers, or teenagers.

The assessing social worker may contact the previous partners of the applicants (taking care not to disclose confidential personal information about the applicant). Where there were any children of the relationship or where children were cared for jointly, the social worker will arrange to interview them face-to-face wherever practicable. All adult children of the applicant(s) living away from home may also be contacted.

Applicants will be encouraged to be actively involved in contributing towards the assessment, and supported to provide their own written contribution to the report for Panel to evidence their capabilities and to support their application.

The foster carer home will also be thoroughly checked to ensure it provides appropriate accommodation and is safe for any fostered child, as well as safe transport. Each child over three should have their own bedroom or, where this is not possible; the sharing of the bedroom will have to be agreed by the relevant children's social workers.

Where, having regard to the information obtained during Stage Two, it is decided that the applicant is unlikely to be considered suitable to become a foster carer, notwithstanding that not all the Stage Two information has yet been obtained, a Brief Report may be prepared and submitted to the Fostering Panel in the same way as for a full assessment report.

The applicant must be notified that the case is to be referred to the Fostering Panel, be given a copy of the report and be invited to send any observations in writing within 10 working days beginning with the date on which the notification is sent.

At the end of the 10 working days, (or when the applicant’s observations are received, whichever is sooner), the report, the applicant’s observations on that report, if any, and any other relevant information obtained, must be sent to the Fostering Panel.

Applicants will be assisted by their assessing social worker to produce a Safe Caring Policy and Fire Plan and a Health and Safety report on the home environment.

Where there are concerns about the suitability of the applicant that arise at any point during the assessment, the assessing social worker should discuss these with the applicants and consult the Service Manager. Where the issues cannot be addressed by training and the applicants should be advised of the recommendation to be made to the foster panel and Agency Decision Maker and offered the opportunity to withdraw. The withdrawal should be received in writing, and placed on the records.

Applicants will be encouraged to be actively involved in contributing towards the assessment, and supported to provide their own written report/portfolio for panel to evidence their capabilities and to support their application.

The safety of the accommodation will be checked via a health and safety inspection completed by the assessing social worker.

A pet questionnaire will be completed for all pets. Should the assessing social worker have any concerns regarding the safety of a pet then a vet assessment and check will be completed.

A safe care plan will also be completed by the carer in partnership with the assessing social worker as part of the assessment.

The family will be encouraged to produce a family tree that will be shared with the assessing social worker.

The applicant must be notified that the case is to be referred to the Fostering Panel, be given a copy of the report and be invited to send any observations in writing within 10 working days beginning with the date on which the notification itself is sent.

At the end of the 10 working days, (or when the applicant's observations are received, whichever is sooner), the report, the applicant's observations on that report, if any, and any other relevant information obtained, must be sent to the Fostering Panel.

Brief Report – (There is no prescribed length or format for a brief report).

Under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, if, during an assessment as to the suitability of a prospective foster carer, but before the assessment is complete, information comes to light indicating that the applicant is unlikely to be suitable to foster, a Brief Report can be compiled setting out details of the assessment done and the reasons for considering the applicant unsuitable.

The Brief Report can be submitted to the Fostering Panel without the need to complete a full assessment. The prospective foster carer must be notified that the Brief Report is to be sent to the panel, provided with a copy and given 10 working days from the date of the notification to send their observations to the fostering service provider. The Brief Report should then be presented to the Fostering Panel for a recommendation, along with any observations submitted by the applicant and any other relevant information. Taking into account the Fostering Panel’s recommendation, the Agency Decision Maker must then make a determination about whether to terminate the assessment or whether the full assessment should be completed.

End