A Foster Carers Introduction to Safeguarding

  • FosterWiki
  • Author:FosterWiki
  • Published:January 2023
  • Country: United Kingdom

A Foster Carers Introduction to Safeguarding

A foster carers introduction to safeguarding the children and young people in their care.

A foster carers introduction to safeguarding the children and young people in their care.

Safeguarding Introduction

Everybody has the responsibility of safeguarding children, as carers, we will already be caring for children who may have experienced harm in some way and maybe the crucial link is in providing observations and putting in place safe caring plans which ensure ongoing exposure to harm is prevented.

Foster carers are part of a team around the child and no one person has all the information to safeguard but we must ensure that as carers we recognise, report and record clearly to ensure that the child’s needs are paramount, and they are kept safe and feel safe.
It is the foster carer’s role to:

  • Understand the importance of safeguarding and actively promoting the safety and welfare of children.
  • Understand and become familiar with the processes and procedures relevant to child protection concerning the legislative framework that underpins our caring role.
  • Have a clear understanding of what abuse is and how to recognise the signs and respond.
  • Be aware that other forms of abuse have significant safeguarding implications.
  • Understand their role and duty to record and inform appropriate professionals.
  • Understand safe-care practices identify strategies to ensure safe caring to prevent abuse, reabuse and allegations and how to work in partnership with services.

The National Minimum Standards on safeguarding:

The outcome of NMS Standard 4 is that children feel safe and are safe. Children understand how to protect themselves and are protected from significant harm, including neglect, abuse and accidents.

What is safeguarding?

So, what is safeguarding? It’s probably easier to describe it as an umbrella term that covers many things and encompasses:

  • Protecting children from harm.
  • Preventing damage to a child’s development and health.
  • Making sure that children have an opportunity to grow up in safety.
  • Taking action if necessary to ensure children all have the best start in life.

Foster carer’s comments

Why is the legislation that underpins safeguarding important?

So, why is it important to understand and become familiar with the policies, processes and procedures relevant to child protection and the legislative framework which underpins safeguarding?

It’s because as foster carers our role is underpinned by this legislative framework, National Minimum Standards Standard 4 – Safeguarding Children (see above). This ‘underpinning legislation’ means we have a duty to secure the welfare and protection of our looked-after children. We are expected to make sure the children feel safe and are safe, understand how to protect themselves and are protected from significant harm, including neglect, abuse and accidents.

When we do the Government’s Training, Support and Development Standards(TSDS) we will be required to evidence our work specific to NMS Standard 4 – Safeguarding.
Further information on FosterWiki about TSDS here.

Child’s referral Team (CRT) and Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)

By the time a child has arrived in our care, they have often experienced some form of abuse and this will have involved various services such as Children’s Referral Team (CRT) and Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

Once concerns for a child have met the ‘threshold’ and every opportunity to keep a child with the family has been explored it may be considered appropriate for a child to be placed with a foster carer while investigations continue or as a longer-term plan as a result of the outcome of assessments and court proceedings. This will all form part of a safeguarding journey.

Foster carers experience

“Billy and his sisters had not been in school and Billy had ended up in the hospital with an unexplained injury. I was contacted and asked if I could look after the children while investigations were underway, as the family were already known to services they said they would like the siblings to remain together until a decision was made about whether they would go home.

Apparently, there had been reports by neighbours of concerns about how untidy the property was, the kids were often running around the garden in little more than dirty nappies and clothing. The garden wasn’t safe, with a broken greenhouse and a pond which wasn’t looked after. They also had two large dogs which barked and growled when they were left outside all day. The parents were often drunk and loud, and the police were regular visitors. The children were not in school regularly and the eldest sister had serious issues with her teeth and was in pain from an infection. The middle sister had her hair shaved off as her mum said she “couldn’t get the nits out and it was knotted”.

When the children arrived, I was shocked and had to remember that what they experienced had been ‘normal’ for them. There have been quite a few calls to services, and they had attempted to work with the family however following this injury they had no choice but to remove the children and safeguard them while they investigated further”.

As you can tell in this case, lots of people will have shared concerns, including neighbours, school, GP, health visitors, hospital and social services. All of these people had a Safeguarding responsibility, however, the police and social services have a legal responsibility to protect children and it would have been their decision to remove the children.

The police can use an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) while the Local authority would seek for a child to be ‘accommodated’ with either a Section 20 or Interim Care Order (ICO) while they complete assessments. It is often the case that the police will initially use the powers they have to protect a child at risk whether that be in a family home or a teenager who is regularly missing (absconding) and associating with risky and unsafe people or behaviours.

However, it will be up to the local authority to decide what action to take.

Often children in our care will have experienced some or many of the categories of abuse (Adverse Childhood Experiences, ACEs) and as a result with having a significant amount of trauma, which they will not be able to make sense of, after all, these are people they should be able to trust to meet their basic needs and keep them safe.

If you consider Billy’s experience this could have been explained that it was a single episode, a house party in the summer which got out of hand and dogs were barking, people getting rowdy which led to the Police being called. In isolation, this may be a one-off but as part of Safeguarding once the Police have been called they have a duty to inform Social Services and this contributes to a Chronology of events that may lead to further investigation, it is important to remember no one person can have a full picture of what is happening for a child and this is why it is important everyone contributes with their concerns so that decisions can be made to keep children safe.

The importance of safeguarding

Historical Serious Case Reviews following the deaths of children such as Victoria Adjo Climbié Baby P and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes along with high profile media attention of cases such as Jimmy Saville, The Bolton Paedophile Ring demonstrate that child abuse continues to happen and is often carried out in plain sight, frequently in environments we would consider are exempt from risk such as football clubs, nurseries, school.

What we need to remember is that predators of children will not be hiding down dark alleys or where we expect them to be. Often they will have infiltrated a child’s setting, befriended a family, or be in a position of power and trust which they then exploit. The Serious Case Reviews which take place following the death of a child highlight how cases such as the murders in Soham could have been avoided and this continues to be the process that informs changes within safeguarding, reflection and learning have sadly been at the cost of many young lives.

What impact can cultural and religious practice have?

We need to remember that some cultural and religious practices have significant safeguarding implications as do our own beliefs and values. Understanding that certain cultural and religious beliefs are considered abuse and local authorities are mindful of practices that may expose a child to risk.

  • A child may be at risk within their families to things such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Honour Based Violence (HBV).
  • Around 1,000 9–15-year-old girls in the UK are currently thought to be at risk of breast ironing also known as breast flattening it is a practice that is considered to protect a child from sexual harassment and rape and protect the family from disrepute.
  • More recent Honour based violence cases under UK Law are a breach of the victim’s human rights and a form of domestic abuse as is Modern Slavery, Child Trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

Not all abuse happens within the home but it is still considered a safeguarding issue and everyone’s responsibility to recognise and report. Listening to our gut instinct and responding rather than ignoring or feeling that it’s not our problem, we are overreacting or interfering could be the difference to a child being harmed.

With our own beliefs and values, we have to think about how we were parented, and how our own beliefs affect our decision-making and responses.

Children with disability

Children and young people who have disabilities are at an increased risk of being abused compared with their non-disabled peers and are also less likely to receive the protection and support they need when they have been abused, and professionals sometimes have difficulty identifying safeguarding concerns when working with disabled children.

Disabled children can include This includes children who are:

  • Deaf.
  • On the autistic spectrum.
  • Have a condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Have a learning disability.
  • Have a physical disability such as cerebral palsy.
  • Have a visual impairment.
  • Have a long-term illness.

Here is the NSPCC link on safeguarding and child protection for disabled children https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/safeguarding-child-protection/deaf-and-disabled-children

What is classed as abuse and how do we recognise the signs?

So, what is classed as abuse and how do we recognise the signs?
Abuse is classed as Neglect, Sexual, Emotional, and Physical however it is now accepted that many other forms of abuse do not fall classically into these categories but can display some or many of the same signs and indicators and are also safeguarding matters, this can include:

  • Bullying.
  • Modern Slavery.
  • FGM – Female Genital Mutilation.
  • HBV – Honour-Based Violence.
  • CSE – Child Sexual Exploitation.
  • CCE – Child Criminal Exploitation.
  • County Lines.
  • Child Trafficking.

Take a look at our Fosterwiki county lines page here.

It is not always easy to identify specific concerns as often this can be in behaviours that are also linked to past trauma however the signs for all forms of abuse can be singular or a combination of the following:

  • Physical harm:
    • Bruises, burns,
    • Swollen joints, fractures
    • Abrasions, lacerations
    • Skin, mouth and bone injuries are the most common
  • Child Neglect:
    Child neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian or other caretakers to sufficiently provide for
    the care of the child’s basic needs. Child neglect may be:

    • Physical – such as not providing food, shelter or supervision.
    • Medical – such as not providing medical or mental health treatment.
    • Educational – such as a failure to educate the child or attend to special needs.
    • Emotional – such as failure to provide psychological care or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs.

The decision to separate children from families is not one to be taken lightly, the process of decision-making can seem slow and often will mean children are exposed to further neglect, abuse, and physical and emotional harm while decisions are being considered.

Without evidence, a Court will be reluctant to make a decision that could lead to permanent separation from family such as adoption. On occasion, with older children, it can be considered necessary to protect a child by removing their liberty and placing them in a secure facility for their protection. None of these decisions can be made by a Court without a substantial amount of evidence.

Social Services will have a Chronology of events that will have arisen from calls and visits which can evidence the safeguarding concerns. CRT and MASH will discuss ongoing concerns which will inform the decisions they make to protect the child. Often this can be over quite a long time and sometimes children as a result suffer the effects of delays.

While this can be incredibly frustrating and distressing at times particularly when we are managing the fallout from contact with a parent who continues to mistreat a child this is all part of the evidence required for a court to decide whether it is safe for a child to be returned home.

Often there may be many situations in which we feel that our need to keep a child safe is ignored but as part of a professional team around a child, we must remember that we are already safeguarding while a child is in our care and there are limitations to our role.

How do you report?

In all cases which are considered safeguarding concerns there is a process to follow:

  • First, ensure that all recording is factual, if possible verbatim especially in the case of disclosures, and avoid any opinion or assumptions.
  • Once you have reported and recorded a disclosure or safeguarding concern will it will be shared appropriately amongst the team and wider services that need to be informed.
  • Share concerns at the earliest opportunity. If this is during normal working hours report concerns to your supervising social worker and the child’s social worker. They will then follow the protocol in place for managing disclosures or safeguarding concerns and advise you of any action you need to take which can involve the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).
  • This will on occasion involve other agencies, possibly hospitals or police. If it is outside of normal working hours contact your Out Of Hours or Duty service.

They will need to know:

  1. What is the concern? for example, a child may have shared that they have been contacted online by someone asking for nude images and threatening to blackmail them or harm someone if they don’t do as they are asked.
  2. When did it happen? Dates and times of any or all known incidents relating to this.

What can you do as a foster carer?

  • Work in a trauma-informed and therapeutic way, and remain curious especially when you notice new behaviours, emotional or physical changes, sudden wealth, unaccountable gifts, or injuries.
  • Talk to children about what is happening in their lives and make this a daily routine. Remember to listen, it’s important that children can trust that we will respond appropriately and as often this is the basis for an indirect disclosure it is important that we have regular opportunities to check on what’s happening in our young people’s lives.
  • If a child makes a disclosure make some very brief notes at the time and write them up in detail as soon as possible. Never destroy your original notes in case they are required by a court. Record the date, time, place, words used by the child and how the child appeared to you and be specific. Record the actual words used; including any swear words or slang. Record statements and observable things, not your interpretations or opinion, keep it factual.
  • Work closely with the team around you to share any safeguarding concerns in a timely manner. Remember we are part of a team around the child.
  • Standard 4 .6 of the NMS places a duty on the service to ensure all carers are trained in safer care practice and depending on your service provider this may include a safe care policy or document which clearly outlines expectations around contact, photographs, and access to bedrooms and bathrooms. Make sure you have these or access to your service’s policies.

How should I deal with a disclosure of abuse from a child?

  • React calmly.
  • Listen carefully and attentively.
  • Take the child seriously.
  • Reassure the child that they have taken the right action in talking to you.
  • Never promise you will keep it a ‘secret’.

Missing/absconding

Published statistics define a missing child as a looked-after child who is not at the placement or a place they are expected to be and whose whereabouts are unknown.

A child is often said to have ‘absconded’ when they are not where they are supposed to be, and you will hear this a lot, however ‘missing’ is our preferred term as it’s more accurate and supports the seriousness of the situation and the safeguarding risk.

FosterWiki have a page on missing children and young people and the protocol to follow here .

In conclusion

Everybody has the responsibility to safeguard children, as carers, we will already be caring for children who may have experienced harm in some way and maybe the crucial link is in providing observations and putting in place safe caring plans which ensure ongoing exposure to harm is prevented.

Foster carers are part of a team around the child and no one person has all the information to safeguard but we must ensure that as carers we recognise, report and record clearly to ensure that the child’s needs are paramount, and they are kept safe and feel safe.

As foster carers, we must ensure that:

  • Children’s safety and welfare are promoted within the fostering family setting and are protected from abuse and other forms of significant harm.
  • Foster carers actively safeguard and promote the welfare of foster children.
  • Foster carers make positive relationships with children, generate a culture of openness and trust and are aware of and alert to any signs or symptoms that might indicate a child is at risk of harm.
  • Foster carers encourage children to take appropriate risks as a normal part of growing up.
  • Children are helped to understand how to keep themselves safe, including when outside of the household or when using the internet or social media.
  • Foster carers are trained in the appropriate safer-care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children.
  • The fostering service works effectively in partnership with foster carers and other agencies concerned with child protection.

Useful Safeguarding links:

FILM/TV/DOCUMENTARY

  • Three Girls dramatised version of the Rochdale Child Sex Abuse ring (BBC)
  • Baby P The Untold Story (BBC 1)

INQUIRIES

ORGANISATIONS

FURTHER READING
The Story of Baby P https://www.amazon.co.uk/Story-Baby-Setting-record-straight/dp/1447316223 Effective safeguarding for children and young people: What next after Munro?: Amazon.co.uk: Maggie Blyth, Enver Sol.

Breast Binding Breast Ironing Bullying CCE - Child Criminal Exploitation Child Trafficking County Lines CSE - Child Sexual Exploitation
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