Foster Carer Reviews
Foster Carer Reviews
An introduction to Foster Carer Reviews
Reviews are an integral part of the foster carer’s role, they are held for a variety of reasons.
The purpose is to review the foster carer’s approval and check the fostering household and foster carers continue to be suitable to foster.
They consider the work of the foster carer over the previous year and gather and check all the necessary information in order to write up a report.
Reviews can be held for a variety of reasons, there are the standard yearly household reviews but can also be called for by services in other circumstances, such as changes of circumstances or allegations.
When do reviews take place?
What the regulations say: Fostering Services Regulations 2002 (Reg.29)
- The service provider must review the approval of each foster parent in accordance with Regulation 29 (Reg.29 (1)
- The annual foster care review must take place no more than a year after approval and thereafter whenever the service provider considers it necessary but at intervals of not more than a year (Reg.29(2)
Following the foster carer’s approval by the fostering panel there must be a review within the first year, this first review goes back to the panel. After this, the reviews should be held annually but these do not routinely go to the panel.
The fostering services can review a foster carer’s approval at any time if there has been any major change to the fostering household like separation or divorce or new partner, health issues or any other major changes.
A new review is part of the allegation process, so if you have an allegation it will trigger a household review.
Preparing the review report:
Each local authority and agency will have its own policies on reviews, and how they are carried out will vary quite a bit, however, they must all fall within the framework of the National Minimum Standards and Statutory Regulations.
On the whole, it is the foster carer’s social worker who does the report and works with the foster carer, although this can vary.
It will cover the foster carer’s work over the year, it will check that you are reaching the National Minimum Standards (NMS), and it will reflect on your practice, what went well, and what could be improved.
The supervising social workers will collect and collate all the relevant information, including the number and types of placements, with any approval exemptions or changes, all the supervision records, post-placement reports, records of any allegations or standards of care and any major changes to the fostering household, health and safety checks of homes and all necessary up to date documentation.
The review will contain:
- Reflective feedback on your practice for the year, what went well, what not so well, what you have learned and reflected on.
- Reports and feedback from the carer’s supervising social worker and any other social workers and professionals involved in the past year.
- Feedback forms from the foster carer on the level and quality of the support they’ve received – these will vary across providers.
- Health and safety check of your home, they will need things like gas/oil/electric certificates, chimney sweep certificates, car documents, fire alarm and carbon monoxide tests, show that toxic substances, medicines and records are kept safely, gardens checked etc.
- Your fostering family policies, safer caring, fire and smoking policies, pets policies.
- An up-to-date medical (sometimes 2 yearly, sometimes 3 yearly).
- Current DBS certificates (needs to be done every 3yrs).
- The carers’ personal development plan, list and appraisal of training over the past year.
- Reports from social workers, IROs, other professionals and people working with the fostering family.
- Feedback forms from any foster children in the home in the past year.
- Feedback from birth children, birth family, where appropriate.
Every fostering home should have a minimum of one unannounced visit per year. If you haven’t had one throughout the year they will get one in before the review report is written up.
Here’s how one foster carer describes her experience of a review:
- It’s been Teams for the last 3 years rather than at home.
- Every year I have annual assessments regarding; health and safety checks, pet assessments, fire policies, safer care policies, car documents, gas/oil certificates, chimney swept, garden tools/toxic substances etc, fire alarms and carbon monoxide tests.
- I collate all cards/notes emails of appreciation sent to me over the review period to the evidence I am professional in my conduct, a team player and most of all acknowledged by the young people. The local authority sends requests to all social workers for feedback but this does not always get sent to my fostering social worker.
- I write a structured report based on my experience, including a section on my own family needs and the impact fostering, has had. I have to record names/dates of all emergencies, all social worker visits, how many bedroom checks have been carried out and how many support visits I’ve had from my fostering social worker.
- I then write a 500-word Reflective Journey (always more) on a subject that is relevant and of interest to me which I use as an educational piece.
- I have an annual training programme with a target of achieving 8 training sessions related to my age group. If you don’t meet the target you lose your level 4 banding.
- My fostering social worker sends me her report prior to my review to peruse so I can challenge any anomalies prior to the date. I’ve had the same IRO for about 9 years so I’m very lucky.
Again it’s important to remember that, much like all things in fostering, all agencies and authorities have their own way of doing reviews. It will also depend on what kind of review it is as to whether there is a formal review meeting or not, sometimes when you’ve been fostering for a while your social worker will simply do the work with you and others, and that will be it.
As a guide here are the types of reviews:
- The first one a year after approval – This one goes back to the panel (as per regulations).
- Yearly reviews after the first one – don’t always go to the panel, often if it does you don’t always have to be there if the recommendation is for continued approval. Varies across providers.
- A review due to a major change in your household (separation, divorce, new partner, illness etc) – mostly back to panel.
- Part of the allegation process – always back to panel.
A review will often be conducted in the fostering home and be attended by the carer’s social worker, sometimes an IRO and/or manager.
What will be discussed
A foster carer’s review should be a chance to reflect on the previous year’s fostering in a positive manner, for carers to highlight the good practice and what could be improved, also for them to reflect and feedback on the level and quality of support they have had from the service over the year.
- The contents of the social worker’s report.
- How the foster carer has demonstrated meeting the National Minimum Standards.
- Any areas of difficulty, and areas of good practice.
- Ongoing appraisal of placements, appropriateness in terms of approval, skills and capacity.
- An evaluation of the carer’s training and development.
- The foster carers’ feedback and assessment of the quality of support they are receiving and any suggestions for improvements.
- Assessing the accommodation/fostering home and that it continues to meet the needs of foster children.
Whilst we would recommend being as accommodating as possible we often know that this may not be the best option for you for many reasons, in which case request that it is held in the provider’s offices.
When all the submissions, reports, feedback and evidence that has been collected and the health and safety, medicals, DBS etc completed, the foster carer’s supervising social worker will write up a report.
The review is going to the panel the foster carer must have a copy of the report no less than 2 weeks before the panel date, so they have time to respond.
A fostering panel is to consider a request to become a foster carer (the first panel) and continue approval after their first year of fostering. They are also held to consider suitability after major changes in the household, changes in approval or as a result of an allegation.
The fostering regulations state that the first review (a year after the carers’ approval) has to go back to the panel. After that the local authority or agency has no legal requirement for a standard annual review to go back to the panel, consequently, this varies between fostering services as to whether they chose to do so.
Major changes in the household, changes of approval or allegations will generally go to the panel.
The panel is made up of people chosen from a central list of panel members and will be 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. The panel members must have a copy of the report 2 weeks before the panel date.
Foster carers attend along with their supervising social worker, carers are also entitled to the independent representation of their choice, who will also attend the panel.
What happens in the meeting?
At the panel meeting, introductions will be done then the chair, will introduce the meeting, sum up its purpose of it and summarise the report.
The panel then ask the foster carer questions and at the end, the foster carer may ask their own 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, on how you might do things differently next time, and what you have learned from the experience.
What questions should you ask?
It’s quite a good idea to have these ready in advance, write some down as on the day you may forget. Good questions to ask are maybe how they thought their support of you went over the year, or if you feel you’ve not had the right quality and level of support what they might put in place to facilitate it. There may be things written in the review that has left you with questions.
Remember at all times to be calm, professional and measured.
So remember that preparation is key, if you feel you will forget everything you want to say then make notes in bullet point form or write a prepared statement in advance, it’s your panel so you will be able to read it out, this way you may feel more able to give a better account of yourself and be calmer in your delivery, sometimes when we are bombarded with questions it can make us defensive and forget to stay on track.
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 FosterWiki YouTube channel, reviews and difficult conversations on our FosterWiki Youtube channel
You should receive a written report and recommendation after the review, the time scales on this can vary.
Sometimes you do not know the result of the panel for a few days, but sometimes they will break the meeting and then come back and tell you their decision. You should get the written report in due course.
There are several possible outcomes, continued approval, de-registration, and changes in terms of approval.
The Agency Decision Maker (ADM)
The panel’s recommendation is just that, a recommendation, the actual final decision rests with the Agency Decision Maker (ADM). This must be a qualified social worker with at least 3 years of experience.
They receive the same report panel get, and will make their own decision, taking into account the panel’s recommendation, however, they may make a different decision from the panel.
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 worker beforehand and sometimes a review is a good time to discuss this too.
Very often extra training is also recommended.
Termination of approval can happen for many reasons, including an allegation, a carer retiring, resigning or transferring to another provider.
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.
IRM – England – https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/independent-reviewmechanism/
IRM – Wales: https://irm.childreninwales.org.uk/fostering/fostering-apply/
What to do if you feel the panel report is not accurate?
If you believe the panel report contains inaccurate, false or incorrect information then it is vital for you that you get it rectified. You have a right to have this information and personal data rectified and organisations have a duty to rectify any inaccurate data that relates to the individual.
You have a right to do this before it is presented to the panel as it is your personal data and should be correct and accurate, especially when being presented to others, otherwise this may constitute a breach of GDPR.
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 deal with false and inaccurate information “Fosterwiki page on false or inaccurate information“.
Fostering services are entitled to keep your records for a minimum of 10yrs after you have left.
Opinions, facts and evidence
Any opinions in reports must be named as such, they can not be put forward as fact. So an opinion must state “It is my opinion that…” and the person whose opinion it is should back this opinion up with the facts and evidence that led to it.
Foster carer’s comments.
Given that foster carers are probably one of the most continually supervised, monitored and regulated workforces with an intensive in-depth and lengthy approval process, it may be that 3yr household reviews could be more appropriate.
Foster carers have regular supervision and household checks, they constantly report and record, and reflect on their work in supervision sessions. A review can be called at any time should there be concerns, changes in circumstances or allegations, so it seems unnecessary and an extra burden on everyone to have them every year.
In practice, it would seem that timescales on ‘annual’ reviews are often not always adhered to anyway (some can be years out) and it puts a huge burden on overstretched fostering social workers and services when this time could be better appropriated in the support of fostering families and the children they care for.
We also feel there is work to be done around the quality and integrity of review reports, most, of course, are good, however, there is a good deal of unrest amongst foster carers over the number of opinions presented as facts, especially when not backed up by evidence and actual facts. There are also concerns over the quantity of inaccurate data and statements on foster carers’ records and reports, something that should be also reviewed.
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.
Please find our help and support page here.
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/