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8.9 Guidance on the Assessment of New Partners within Fostering Households

This chapter contains guidance for workers on assessing new partners within fostering households.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and updated in July 2021.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Expectations of Carers
  3. Procedures and Guidance for Changes within the Fostering Household
  4. Initial Stages of a Relationship (no contact with foster child)
  5. New Partner is a Visitor to the Foster Home and has Contact with Foster Children
  6. The New Partner Proposes to Stay Overnight
  7. Before a New Partner Moves in
  8. Changes to the Household without Notification
  9. Children Currently Placed within the Foster Home
  10. New Placements


1. Introduction

Single foster carers may form new partnerships and significant relationships and any changes in the fostering household/circumstances need to be considered. Forming a new relationship; joining households and taking on a joint fostering role are all significant changes and require careful assessment. Forming new relationships requires the investment of energy and time and the impact of developing relationships on a fostering household need to be reviewed to ensure that the fostering role is not adversely affected.

Some carers will have applied to foster as single carers. Their assessment should consider what would happen if they form a new partnership or develop a significant relationship. Other foster carers may experience separation or divorce whilst fostering. A re-assessment should be completed as a single carer and forming new relationships covered within this assessment.

The supervising Fostering Social Worker will ensure that approved foster carer(s) are clear about their responsibility to notify the Fostering Service before any change in the composition of their household occurs or where there is any significant change in their circumstances which affects their fostering, for example any new relationship, pregnancy or bereavement.

Sharing information about personal/household changes are a key part of the supervisory relationship and rely on openness and transparency between carers and the fostering team. Foster carers need to understand the reasons why such information is required, how it may impact on their role, and consider the needs of children within placement.


2. Expectations of Carers

City of York Foster carer’s must immediately give full written notice of:

  1. Any intended change of the foster carer’s address;
  2. Any intended change in the composition of their household;
  3. Any other change in their personal circumstance and any other event affecting either their capacity to care for any child placed or the suitability of their household; and
  4. Any request or application to adopt children, or for application for child minding or day care.


3. Procedures and Guidance for Changes within the Fostering Household

The foster carer should let the SSW know they have begun a new relationship as a significant change in their personal circumstances, even if the relationship is at the initial stages. A relationship inevitably changes the circumstances of the foster carer and the SSW must explore with the carer the impact upon their fostering responsibilities.

A decision whether the partner to the relationship needs to be spoken to by the SSW and whether the foster child should be spoken to about their understanding of the situation should be sensitively and carefully discussed and should be proportionate to the likely impact of the relationship upon the carer and its development in time, status and intimacy.


4. Initial Stages of a Relationship (no contact with foster child)

  • Foster carer to inform the supervising social worker that they are beginning a relationship and whether it is the intention that the new partner will visit the foster home on a regular basis. The impact of this new relationship upon the foster carer should be addressed by the supervising social worker;
  • Supervising social worker to reiterate that an assessment will be needed as/when/if the relationship progresses and meet the new partner if the foster carer agrees;
  • DBS check to be undertaken (for the purpose of this policy, when new partners are visiting the household very regularly or staying overnight they should be treated as a member of the fostering household when completing the DBS check).


5. New Partner is a Visitor to the Foster Home and has contact with Foster Children

If it is intended that visits to the home by a partner (but not overnights) become regular then Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) background checks should be completed in the previous stage.

The child’s social worker should also talk to the child about their understanding of the situation and their views.

Where a new partner becomes a visitor to the Foster Home and the visits mean that the partner has contact with foster children, the foster carer must supervise contact between a foster child and the new partner, not leaving the foster child alone. The frequency and duration of visits to the foster home should be discussed with the SSW and the impact of visits by the partner on the dynamics within the household.


6. The New Partner Proposes to Stay Overnight

Where the foster carer wishes his/her partner to stay overnight this should be discussed with the SSW. Sleeping arrangements should also be confirmed and a risk assessment must also be completed to determine the level of additional checks required, before agreement to overnight stays can be given. The risk assessment should take account of, amongst other things, the number and ages of the children in the placement, their views about the foster carer's partner, the significance and stability of the relationship (including how long they have known each other) and the foster carer's history of fostering. The frequency of planned overnight stays should also be discussed.

The Safe Care Plan must be updated and discussion on safe care issues undertaken with the new partner by the SSW. The fostering responsibility remains with the approved carer.

  • Supervising social worker recommends that the foster carer informs the new partner of her/his fostering status and that this will lead to a future assessment;
  • Viability assessment of new partner to be undertaken;
  • A Confidentiality Statement should be signed by the new partner;
  • The supervising social worker should ensure that the new partner is aware of the  allegations/ complaint procedures;
  • The supervising social worker reviews the Safe Caring Plan for the foster household to reflect the change in household composition;
  • The child/young person’s social worker or SSW should talk to the foster child/ren about the new partner to gain their understanding and views;
  • The supervising social worker, in conjunction with the foster carer and the new partner, clarifies the involvement of the new partner in respect of child care responsibilities within the household;
  • The new partner can be offered the opportunity to attend the Skills to Foster training but this would not become compulsory until stage 3.

The viability assessment and household review paperwork should be sent the Service Managers to sign off once all the checks are completed.

The Fostering Manager should be made aware of any agreement for overnight stays.


7. Before a New Partner Moves in

Where a new relationship by a Foster Carer is planned to changed the fostering household through cohabitation, the partner must not move in until a Foster Carer Assessment has been completed and presented to the City of York Council Fostering Panel and the Agency Decision Maker. During the assessment process the foster carer remains the approved carer and responsible for the duties this entails until any changes are made by the Fostering Panel.

Foster carer(s) should inform their SSW of any planned changes of accommodation including moving to a new partner’s home/setting up a new home together. The proposed change of circumstances should be presented to the next available Fostering Panel.

  • The Safe Care Plan and Risk Assessment must be updated;
  • Supervising social worker progresses updated Form F or Connected Persons assessment to be completed within 6 months of the partner moving into the household; 
  • References are taken up during this stage in line with the usual assessment process for Form F or Connected Persons assessment; 
  • Skills to Foster training to be completed;
  • A change of circumstances review should be undertaken to include the new partner;


8. Changes to the Household without Notification

If the supervising social worker discovers that there has been a change in the foster carer's household without prior notice, the manager must be informed and an immediate review of the foster carer's approval must be convened - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure. In these circumstances, a suspension of the foster carer's approval may have to be considered at the review. The child(ren)'s social worker and IRO should be informed.


9. Children Currently Placed within the Foster Home

Children currently in placement should not be routinely moved from a foster placement that has a change in household unless it is consistent with their plan or other issues necessitate a change of placement.


10. New Placements

The National Minimum Standards for Foster Care (11.2) highlights that children are carefully matched to a foster placement. New placements should not normally be made when changes to the household are being assessed.

End