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8.8 Foster Carer Recording

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

STANDARD 26 - Records

Outcome - Records are clear, up to date, stored securely and contribute to an understanding of the child’s life.

26.2: Staff, volunteers, panel members and fostering households understand the nature of records maintained and follow the service’s policy for the keeping and retention of files, managing confidential information and access to files (including files removed from the premises). There is a system in place to monitor the quality and adequacy of record keeping and take action when needed.

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Why do we need this policy?

The Fostering Services National Minimum Standards require that City of York Council Fostering Service has and implements a written policy that clarifies the purpose, format and content of information to be kept on the fostering services’ files, on the child’s files, and on case files relating to foster carers. This policy sets out our expectations in relation to foster carer recordings.

AMENDMENT

In July 2021, Section 3, Foster Carer’s Case Recording was updated in relation to the action to take (and associated recording requirements) when a foster child is missing, or there is a concern for their welfare. See Section 8: Missing from foster home.


Contents

  1. The Purpose of Recordings
  2. The Content and Style of Recordings
  3. Foster Carer's Case Recording
  4. Responsibilities in Relation to Storage and Confidentiality
  5. Responsibilities of Your Supervising social worker
  6. End of Placement
  7. Further Information and Advice on Recording


1. The Purpose of Recordings

Everyone who works with looked after children will be involved in recording. As a foster carer, you play a key role in the care of Children in Care, and you are uniquely placed to record important information during a child’s placement with you.

It is essential that you keep accurate records, because:

  • Records can offer children and young people an opportunity to look back at what has happened during the placement, and to understand why decisions were made, clarify what your role was in the child’s life and improve a child’s identity;
  • Recordings can provide an opportunity to reflect, and allow analysis of behaviour; it also allows sharing of information with other professionals to enhance the child’s life, it also assists in continuity when there are changes in care;
  • Records can provide accurate information that can be used in plans and assessments about your fostered child;
  • The information may be required in court;
  • Recording can be useful if allegations are made against a foster carer. It also forms part of ensuring you as foster carers are meeting the accountability and standards expected of your role. Recording also supports your supervision and professional development as a foster carer.


2. The Content and Style of Recordings

You are expected to keep a record of all significant events and incidents during the child’s placement with you. Include anything that you think is important, even if it seems a small detail. However, there is an expectation of a pen picture of a child’s week regardless of the length of placement.

You should ensure that all records are relevant, accurate, up to date, and stored securely in line with the UK General Data Protection Regulations (UK GDPR) and by Caldicott which both reinforce the importance of confidentiality. There are 8 Caldicott principles for handling personal information.

The handling of personal information is governed by the UK General Data Protection Regulations (UK GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 and by Caldicott which both reinforce the importance of confidentiality. There are six Caldicott principles for handling personal information.

Personal information held about children and young people and their families is subject to a legal duty of confidence and should not be disclosed without the consent of the subject except in exceptional circumstances such as the protection of the child, the investigation of criminal offences or the exercise of a statutory right of access. Those working with children and young people must make it clear that confidentiality may not be maintained if the disclosure of information is necessary in these circumstances. Even in these circumstances, disclosure should be appropriate for the purpose and only to the extent necessary to achieve that purpose.

Staff should only access files when they have a legitimate, work-related purpose for doing so. Accessing files in other circumstances is likely to constitute a disciplinary offence. Where a member of staff becomes aware that there is a file held in relation to any individual who they know outside of a work context, they should immediately inform their line manager who will secure the file.

Consent to information sharing should be obtained as part of the assessment process in order to share information with colleagues, other professionals or agencies that may have a role to play in the delivery of services to the child or family.

Recordings need to be clear and legible, and the language should be kept simple and free of jargon. Remember, these records should be useful to the child or young person now and in the future and you should be writing in a way that you would be happy for the child or young person to read what you have written. Recordings should offer a balanced view of the child’s life and include the good points as well as the more difficult points.

Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards
26.5) Entries in records, decisions and reasons for them, are legible, clearly expressed, non-stigmatising, distinguish between fact, opinion and third party information and are signed and dated.

Records should be signed and kept in date order, in the file provided by The Fostering Service, with a separate file for each child placed with you. Electronic recordings should be anonymised before sending via email. You should avoid recording opinion and stick to the facts wherever possible, however, if you feel you need to record opinion make sure you clearly state that this is your opinion.

Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards
26.6) Information is recorded clearly in a way which will be helpful to the child when they access their files now or in the future. Children are actively encouraged to read their files, other than necessary confidential or third party information, and to correct errors and add personal statements.

Records should include the following:

  • Details of the improvements and achievements of your fostered child;
  • Details of all medical appointments;
  • Records of all medication, prescribed and non- prescribed, including details of any medication given in error;
  • Details of any injuries or illnesses, include how they were acquired, the details of any witnesses and the details of any emergency actions taken; A body map and incident report should also be completed;
  • Physical intervention - record what happened before, when it happened, and how it was dealt with;
  • Quotes or comments from the fostered child or young person - these can useful for the child or young person to look back on, and can provide important evidence for assessments;
  • Details of delegated authority and how you reach decisions;
  • Significant changes in behaviour (positive and negative changes), and how this was dealt with;
  • Contact with other agencies and professionals;
  • Details of any times that the child is away from the foster home, with friends, birth family, or missing;
  • Details of contact visits, including how the child or young person responded, and any reasons for failed visits;
  • Disagreements and complaints, and how they were dealt with;
  • Details of visits by the child’s social worker and the supervising social worker, including details of any missed meetings and any agreed actions;
  • Details of any theft by the foster child, or damage caused by the foster child;
  • Details of any specific events or changes in the foster carer household that may have an impact on the foster child.


3. Foster Carer's Case Recording

You will receive a file for each child or young person placed with you. You must use separate files for each child. The file is divided into sections for you to record significant events. Do not worry about recording the ‘wrong’ information in the ‘wrong’ section, as long as all significant information is recorded. You can cross reference information in sections to avoid duplicating information, for example, if you were recording an incident that took place at school this could be recorded in the section labelled Incidents and Injuries, with a cross reference in Education, or vice versa.

Recording can be done electronically please read guidance with regard to electronic recording elsewhere within this policy.

Foster carers are expected to keep records about children placed with them, in much the same way that records are kept in residential care services. Foster Carers will be provided with a Child Placement File, in which they will also be asked to collate and provide the following information:

  • Written contribution to children’s Children and Young People in Care Reviews;
  • Written contribution to Child Protection Conferences;
  • Daily records;
  • Medication records;
  • Contact records;
  • Education records;
  • Reports of accidents or incidents and missing periods.

The reasons these records are required are:

  • To accurately recall behaviour or incidents and provide a balanced picture of events;
  • To assist in looking at the progress of a placement over time and developing a picture of the child’s pattern of behaviour;
  • To inform decision-making at reviews, planning meetings and conferences;
  • To help the foster carer to review and develop practice;
  • To provide information needed for court proceedings;
  • To support an application for additional help e.g. therapy;
  • To reduce the risk to foster carers and their families while the child is placed, and, in some cases, after the child has moved on;
  • To provide information in the event of an investigation, allegation or serious incident;
  • To provide information to children and young people in later life should they wish to access them.

At the Placement Planning Meeting, there should be a decision as to:

  • What recording is required;
  • Who the information shall be shared with;
  • By what means the information will be shared;
  • How frequently the information will be distributed.

In terms of writing records, foster carers should follow some basic guidelines:

  • The language should be simple and jargon free;
  • The record should be concise and factual with enough information to accurately report and recall the event;
  • The records are designed to provide a picture of the young person’s life, experiences and events and also to be used to provide a picture of family life for the child to help them recall interesting, amusing and even sad events;
  • Record facts;
  • If opinion is recorded then say this is your view and why you think it;
  • The record should be made contemporaneously, signed and dated. If any information is changed or added later this should be clear from the record.

The sorts of things that should be recorded are:

  • Dates and brief details of meetings/visits by social workers and other professionals;
  • Dates of reviews or any other meeting concerning the child, list the participants and the key decisions;
  • Dates of any school or education meetings, list the participants and key decisions. Keep a record of achievements, schools attended;
  • Dates of any health appointments, list the participants and key decisions. Keep a record of any treatment, immunisations and illnesses;
  • Details of any contact visits or telephone calls, letters etc. Name the person who has contacted the child. Note any reaction the child may have to the contact. Keep a record of where the child’s family is living;
  • Details when the child is away from home, visiting family or friends, or if they are missing and any relevant details;
  • Details of times, when alternative care is given – baby/child sitting arrangements, delegated support or short breaks and please note: your supervising social worker will require prior notice of these events unless the agreement has been given through the planning process etc;
  • Details of any specific incidents or complaints or disagreements;
  • Details of any behaviour or comments from the child that give rise to concern. Make a note of your actions and any observers or witnesses. This may help to identify what triggers such behaviour and what stops it and provide essential information and evidence in the event of any concerns raised;
  • Details of any accidents or injuries. Describe what, when, where and how the accident happened and what follow up action was taken. Record when the incident was reported to which social worker;
  • Detail any theft or wilful damage caused by the foster child. This will be required for any claims;
  • Detail any involvement with the police, noting the date, which officer was involved and the reason for the involvement;
  • Detail any request made to the agency for support or resources and any difficulties reported, note the date of the request, the response and when it was received.

Good Practice Tips

  • Be accurate;
  • Be concise;
  • Avoid personal views;
  • Record child’s comments in the child’s words;
  • Keep records separate for different children;
  • Record in date order;
  • Keep all information secure and confidential;
  • Write in a way that you would be happy for the child or young person to read what you have written.

Talk to your supervising social worker if you are unsure of what you should be recording, and remember, the information that you record may be invaluable to your fostered child.

Child/Young Person’s Placement File

The Child/Young Person’s Placement File needs to be stored in a safe, secure and lockable place to prevent unwarranted access. If you do not have suitable secure storage, a lockable container can be purchased by the fostering team. Confirmation of storage will be discussed by your Fostering Supervising Social Worker.

Section 1: Key Information

Section 2: Placement Forms

Section 3: Review Minutes

Section 4: Daily Records - Record anything about family life that is significant or important

  • Record family events, religious events, family celebrations, the child’s achievements, rewards and sanctions that were given and any staying visitors to the household;
  • Record any difficult behaviour that child displays, how you managed the behaviour, what worked, what did not work, what the possible ‘triggers’ might have been.

Support carers will be provided with recording sheets to be completed for each episode of support care. You should give these sheets to your supervising social worker who will ensure they are uploaded to the child ‘s electronic file and the support carers electronic file (mosaic) and any pertinent information forwarded to the main carers SSW to share with the main carers.

Section 5 : Social Worker and other Professional Visits

  • All visits and telephone calls from Children’s Social Care staff, including your supervising social worker, and professionals other than Health and Education;
  • The record of all appointments to YOU should be kept separately.

Contact

  • Details of all forms of contact between the child or young person and their birth family;
  • Include details of all telephone calls, text messages, emails and visits;
  • Complete the contact record if planned contact did not go ahead, recording the reason why the contact did not go ahead;
  • Record your child or young person’s responses and reactions to any contact arrangements.

Section 6: Consent Forms

Section 7: Medical records

  • Record details of how the incident/ injury took place and the injuries sustained, and who was present;
  • Record actions taken and by whom;
  • Always inform your child’s social worker and your supervising social worker verbally, followed by an email of all significant incidents and injuries. A body map and incident report should also follow;
  • Details of any incidents of self-harming and what action was taken and by whom;
  • Details of any incident that involves you or a member of your household being harmed or injured by the child or young person;
  • Details of any incidents which involve physically restraining the child or young person. You should always inform the child’s social worker and your supervising social worker and outside of office hours please contact EDT. Record the context of the incident and the outcome.

Health and Development Records

  • Details of appointments and telephone calls with medical practitioners;
  • Details of developmental milestones and achievements - a developmental chart is available from your health visitor, or for younger children the information you record should complement the ‘Red Book’
  • Patterns to allergic reactions, or asthma attacks
  • Symptoms and progress of any illnesses.

Medication

  • Record all medication that you give to the child or young person, prescribed and non-prescribed;
  • Record details of any chemical treatments for head lice;
  • Record the child’s response and any reactions;
  • Record any self administered medication for young people assessed as being of the age and understanding to self administer;
  • Please refer to the medication risk assessment.

Section 8: Missing from foster home

See Children who go Missing from Home or Care – Joint Protocol (2021).

When a child or young person is not at a location they are expected to be at, the reporting Foster Carer must take proactive steps to trace the child or young person’s whereabouts prior to contacting the Police and keep a record of the enquiries that they have made.

Proactive attempts to locate the child or young person should include:

  • Physical checks of the residence, including the child’s bedroom and any other location the child may be hiding within the house/building;
  • Physical checks of any garden, garage, sheds, grounds and surrounding area(s);
  • Attempting to contact the missing person directly, via mobile phone, text, or social networking sites (e.g. Twitter/ Facebook/WhatsApp etc.);
  • Contacting the missing child or young person’s wider family and friends to ascertain if the child or young person is with them or has made contact.

Where such enquiries do not establish the whereabouts of the child or young person, the Foster Carer should report the incident to the Police at the point where concern for the child develops.

Premature reporting can lead to unnecessary contact between the child and the police that is not in the child’s best interests.

When reporting a missing child in the care of the Local Authority to the police, the reporting person should also:

  • Make reference to any risk assessments, Care Plans, Placement Plans or any other planning documents that refer to the needs of the child and in particular, those documents that detail the risk management, should the child or young person go missing.

Where a missing episode involving a Child in Care does not necessitate a report to the police, details of the incident should be recorded in full and managed as part of the existing Care Plan and any other social care policies should be followed.

Concern for Welfare

Where a child is not where they’re expected to be but their location is known, they should not be reported as missing. However, where the child’s location places them at risk of harm, it may be appropriate to report the child to the police as being “at risk of harm” but the Foster Carer still has a responsibility to remove the child from harm themselves, where it is safe to do so.

Section 9: Education

  • Record details of all visits and telephone calls regarding education, including PEP meetings, parents evening etc;
  • Record achievements and attainment at school, or school related activities;
  • Record details of extracurricular activities (social/ leisure/ play activities) in and out of school;
  • Keep a copy of your child’s PEP in this section.

Section 10: Personal Items Inventory and Confidential Section

  • Stories, materials, photographs etc which form part of a child/young person’s record of time spent in your foster home, belong to the child/young person and as such are not covered by these guidance notes. However, protecting the information is very important and it therefore should be treated in a similar way.


4. Responsibilities in Relation to Storage and Confidentiality

Whilst you record and hold information on looked after children and young people, this is on behalf of The Fostering Service. All information provided about a child, who is or has been placed with a foster carer is confidential and governed by the Data Protection Act 2018. Information about a child, young person, or their family should only be provided to another person if it is for the purpose of the child or young person’s protection or welfare. Whilst the child is in placement with you, you are expected to keep the file in a safe, secure and confidential manner in your home, as agreed in your Foster Care Agreement.

Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards
26.4) Information about individual children is kept confidential and only shared with those who have a legitimate and current need to know the information, and to those parts of a child’s record or other information that they need to know.

Records can be kept electronically and your supervising social worker can provide templates upon request. If you use a computer to record information, make sure the computer and the files are password protected with a secure password. Documents will need to be printed off as required to ‘travel’ with the child’s file. If documentation is emailed to The Department, the information must be made anonymous, by using the child or young person’s initials throughout the documentation. Do not send confidential information as part of the email message itself, as non City of York email addresses will not be secure.

We recognise that issues of confidentiality relate not only to record keeping, but in a wider sense to conversations you may have with family and friends and in the community. There are situations where there is a legitimate need to share information relating to the background of your fostered child with family or friends who are involved in their care, for the purpose of the child’s protection and welfare. However, seemingly innocent conversations within the community could lead to accidental breaches of the child’s confidentiality.

A breach of confidentiality could lead to a review, at panel, of your suitability as a foster carer. If you have any concerns about confidentiality, or if you are worried you may have accidentally breached confidentiality, please talk to your supervising social worker.


5. Responsibilities of Your Supervising social worker

Your supervising social worker should regularly read and countersign records, and place a copy of the records on the child or young person’s file and the carer’s file within the children’s social care electronic recording system. Supervising social workers should ensure that the child’s social worker receives a copy of the foster carer’s recordings, as appropriate.

For support carers, your supervising social worker will ensure that your recording sheets are sent to the primary foster carer to be included in the child’s file where appropriate or uploaded electronically to the child (and support carers) electronic file.


6. End of Placement

At the end of a placement the file should be returned to your supervising social worker and the social worker informed the file has been collected. This will then be added onto the case recording system.

The only exceptions are if the foster carers secure the child’s placement with a Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order or Adoption Order or with the young person's permission (for example, the child may reach 18 but remain with the family informally and wish for the information to be available ‘at home’).

Foster carers may have access, at a later stage, to anything that they have written, should they wish. As such, on returning any information, foster carers may and should keep a record of:

  • The name of the child in placement (first name only);
  • Date he/she arrived and left and when the information was returned;
  • What was included in the information (list of documents).

Foster carers should obtain a receipt for them, dating when and to whom the information or documents were given.

Foster carer files are kept for a minimum of 10 years after they cease to be foster carers. Information kept on Children in Care’s files is kept for 75 years after their 18th birthday.


7. Further Information and Advice on Recording

The Fostering Network

Fostering Regulations and National Minimum Standards

UK GDPR Principles (ICO Website)

Write Enough - an interactive training pack commissioned by the Children's Services Division, Department of Health and Social Care (now Department of Education and Skills), to support good practice in recording.

Reporting and recording training is available from the department please discuss with your supervising social worker.

Department for Education Statutory Guidance on Children Who Run Away or Go Missing from Home or Care (2014)

Working Together to Safeguard Children and related statutory guidance (2018)

Child Sexual Exploitation – definition and guide for practitioners Department for Education (2017)

End