A carers guide to fostering panels
A carer’s guide to fostering panels
An introduction to fostering panels
Panels are an integral part of the fostering system, they are held for a variety of reasons and foster carers will attend a minimum of two but likely more throughout their fostering careers.
They are held to consider the suitability of a person/s to foster, although they do not make the final decision, this is made by the fostering service’s Agency Decision Maker (ADM) who will take the panel’s recommendation into account when making their decision.
When are they held
The first panel a foster carer will attend is the approval panel. After approval, the fostering regulations state that the first foster carer’s review (a year after the carer’s approval) has to go back to the panel. After that, the local authority or agency has no legal requirement for a foster carer’s annual review to go back to the panel, consequently, this varies between fostering services as to whether they chose to do so.
Panels are also held to consider suitability after major changes in the household, changes in approval or an after an allegation.
The panel is made up of people chosen from a central list of panel members held at the provider’s offices. Some of the panel members are employed by your provider whilst others should be independent.
There are usually about 6 or so that attend panels (and not more than 10) including a chair or vice chair, a social worker, there might be a foster carer from another area, maybe a care leaver, and others with an understanding of children’s care.
It’s good practice for the foster carer to know in advance who is sitting on the panel.
Foster carers attend along with their supervising social worker, carers are also entitled to independent representation to attend the panel.
The panel report
This is the report that the panel are given beforehand, they should all have it at least 2 weeks prior to the panel to read and examine.
The report is normally written by the foster carer’s supervising social worker and is generally the outcome of a foster carer’s review. See our FosterWiki page on reviews here.
The foster carers should have the panel report 2 weeks prior to the panel date, this gives them time to write a response, should they choose to do so, and check it for facts, evidence and accuracy.
What do you do if you feel the panel report is not accurate
If you believe the report contains inaccurate, false or incorrect information then it is vital for you that you get it rectified. You have a right to rectify this information and personal data, organisations have a duty to rectify any inaccurate data that relates to the individual.
You also have a right to have the report rectified before the panel as this is your personal data being shared with others and if it is incorrect this is not appropriate.
The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) say the organisation has a duty (in law) to “rectify any inaccurate personal data that relates to the individual without undue delay and in any event within one month.”
Here is the FosterWiki page on how to address false or inaccurate information
Fostering services are entitled to keep your records for a minimum of 10yrs after you have left.
Foster Carer’s representation at the fostering panel
You have the right to be represented at the panel by your choice of someone that is independent of the fostering service, this may be the foster carer’s union (NUPFC), another support organisation or support person.
The panel can feel formal and intimidating, right from sitting in the reception waiting area to being called in, to walking into a room full of others professionals sitting around a large boardroom table. However many panels are now online, but can still be daunting.
At the panel meeting, introductions will be done then the chair will introduce the meeting and sum up its purpose of it and summarise the report.
Each of the panel will then ask the foster carer questions and at the end, the foster carer will be asked if they would like to ask any questions.
What kind of questions might come up?
Normally the panel members will pick parts of the review to question a carer on, they will ask questions on what you’ve learned or what you have reflected on, and may question you about specific incidents or issues, on how you might do things differently next time, and what you have learned from the experience.
What kind of questions might the carer ask?
It’s good to have a list of questions at the ready and to write them down, as you may not remember them on the day, and sometimes you won’t feel that you do have any questions.
- There is advice and help in the FosterWiki’s members area, and a panel statement sample.
- You could also watch our Founder Sarah Anderson’s top tips for panels on the FosterWIki YouTube channel, reviews and difficult conversations on our FosterWiki Youtube channel Outcome of the panel Sometimes you do not know the result of the panel for a few days, sometimes they will break the meeting then come back and tell you their decision. You will get a full written report in due course.
Remember this is just a recommendation, the final decision remains with the Agency Decision Maker (ADM).
There are several possible outcomes, continued approval, de-registration, changes of approval, age range, number of children, and type of fostering, there may be a probationary period and a return to the panel in 6 months. They may suggest additional training.
The Agency Decision Maker (ADM)
The panel’s recommendation is just that, a recommendation, the actual final decision rests with the Agency Decision Maker. This must be a qualified social worker with at least 3 years of experience.
They will have the same report as the panel and will make their own decision, taking into account the panel’s recommendation, however, they may make a different decision from the panel.
Decisions from the ADM can take up to 6 weeks, although most are sooner.
The final decision
You should receive a written report and recommendation after the ADM has made their final decision although the time scales on this can vary.
There are several possible outcomes of a review, continued approval, de-registration, and changes of approval.
Changes to terms of approval
Sometimes an outcome of a review, if things have changed in the household or there’s been an allegation, will be to change the terms of approval of the foster carer, this may be the number of children, the age range, gender or the type of foster care they are able to provide.
It may also be that the foster carer has asked for changes to their approval, this would be discussed previously with their fostering supervising social beforehand and sometimes a review is a good time to discuss this too.
Termination of approval can happen for many reasons, including an allegation, a carer retiring, resigning or transferring to another provider.
Appealing against a decision
If a foster carer is not happy with the decision they can appeal it at the IRM, the Independent Reviewing Mechanism, this is available in England and Wales, and in Scotland, the foster carer can request a review of the decision within 28 days of the decision.
Information, Help and Support
Help and support created for foster carers, by foster carers, we are the experts by experience. We have the first foster carers knowledge bank.
Access both the open pages and members area. Both are free to access and footprint-free. The member’s area gives you privileged confidential access to FosterWiki’s experts by experience for advice and guidance. You will also find short courses and guides from the foster carer’s perspective, top tips, allegation help, templates, and the ability to add to FosterWiki. With more content being uploaded regularly.
Please let us know what information or advice pages you would find useful and we will put them in place. https://fosterwiki.com/register/