All foster carers, fostering service staff and volunteers understand what they must do if they receive an allegation or have suspicions that a person may have:
- behaved in a way that has, or may have, harmed a child;
- possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or
- behaved towards a child in a way that indicates he or she is unsuitable to work with children.
The fostering service ensures that the required actions are taken, or have been taken, in any relevant situation of which it is aware.
The fostering service’s procedure is in line with Government guidance and requirements, including the duty to refer information to statutory bodies*. It is known to foster carers, fostering service staff, volunteers and children.
* Since October 2009, the duties to refer concerns regarding individuals under List 99 and the Protection of Children Act 1999 have been replaced by a duty to provide information to the Independent Safeguarding Authority.
A copy of the fostering service provider’s child protection procedures is made available to foster carers, fostering service staff, volunteers and children. Any comments on these procedures are taken into account by the provider.
The fostering service provider’s child protection procedures are submitted for consideration and comment to the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) and to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) for Child Protection** (or other senior officer responsible for child protection matters in that department). They are consistent with the local policies and procedures agreed by the LSCB relevant to the geographical area where the foster carer lives. Any conflicts between locally agreed procedures and those of other placing authorities are discussed and resolved as far as possible.
** Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010)
Each fostering service has a designated person, who is a senior manager, responsible for managing allegations. The designated person has responsibility for liaising with the LADO and for keeping the subject of the allegation informed of progress during and after the investigation.
Allegations against people that work with children or members of the fostering household are reported by the fostering service to the LADO. This includes allegations that on the face of it may appear relatively insignificant or that have also been reported directly to the police or Children and Family Services.
A clear and comprehensive summary of any allegations made against a particular member of the fostering household, or staff member, including details of how the allegation was followed up and resolved, a record of any action taken and the decisions reached, is kept on the person’s confidential file. A copy is provided to the person as soon as the investigation is concluded. The information is retained on the confidential file, even after someone leaves the organisation, until the person reaches normal retirement age, or for ten years if this is longer.
As soon as possible after an investigation into a foster carer is concluded, their approval as suitable to foster is reviewed. There is a clear policy framework which outlines the circumstances in which a foster carer should be removed as one of the fostering service provider’s approved foster carers, in the interests of the safety or welfare of children. This is available to foster carers.
Investigations into allegations or suspicions of harm are handled fairly, quickly, and consistently in a way that provides effective protection for the child, and at the same time supports the person who is the subject of the allegation. Fostering services follow the framework for managing cases of allegations of abuse against people who work with children as set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children.
Fostering services ensure that a clear distinction is made between investigation into allegations of harm and discussions over standards of care. Investigations which find no evidence of harm should not become procedures looking into poor standards of care - these should be treated separately.
There is written guidance for foster carers and staff, which makes clear how they will be supported during an investigation into an allegation including payment of allowance and any fee to foster carers while investigations are ongoing.
During an investigation the fostering service makes support, which is independent of the fostering service, available to the person subject to the allegation and, where this is a foster carer, to their household, in order to provide:
- information and advice about the process;
- emotional support; and,
- if needed, mediation between the foster carer and the fostering service and/or advocacy (including attendance at meetings and panel hearings).