Overnight stays, visits to friends or relatives
Overnight stays, visits to friends or relatives
Introduction to Overnight stays, visits to friends or relatives for foster Children
It is often said that we must treat our foster children just as we do our own, we are just a ‘normal’ family, and often called ‘parents’, however, this can sometimes lead to misinterpretation and foster carers believing they can make decisions about things when they actually can’t.
Like many things in fostering we have policies, procedures and safeguarding to follow, overnight stays and visits to friends and relatives are no different.
It requires planning, it involves permissions, PR, adherence to care plans, court orders, sections the child’s placed under, following policies, safeguarding, risk assessments, ensuring you have delegated authority and more.
Getting things wrong with overnight stays, visits to friends or relatives can lead to safeguarding concerns and in some cases standards of care investigations or allegations.
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Day visits with friends or relatives
Where possible get as much delegated authority (to make decisions without contacting services) organised at placement planning and care review meetings, this helps keep the child’s experience as close to their non looked after peers as possible.
Where and if the foster carer is happy to make these decisions and has the signed delegated authority to do so they can go ahead based on;
- If they would be equally happy for their own child to visit.
- That there is always an adult present and they have agreed to the visit.
- The adult present is aware of any medical conditions or behavioural issues.
- The adult has the carers contact details.
- The foster carer is on standby should the visit end prematurely for any reason.
Remember: Every single child or young person in care is different, they have their own unique placement and care plans, and each fostering provider has their own policies and procedures.
So FosterWiki recommend you make yourself familiar with these and participate fully in all placement planning and care review meetings, and get as much agreed to as possible in advance so you can endeavour to give your child or young person a normal family experience.
If you have any doubt whatsoever about a decision it is best not to make it, and to check as soon as you are able with the child’s and your own social worker.
You should only give agreement for overnight stays if it has been agreed that you have delegated authority to make such decisions and agreed as part of the Placement Plan.
It is your responsibility to find out all that you can about the people the child wishes to visit or stay with.
You should meet the adults, have an address and telephone number and be confident the child will not be at risk of harm.
You should also have a clear idea of how the child is getting there; sleeping arrangements and how and when the child will return.
Wherever possible overnight stays should be planned to ensure arrangements are made appropriately.
Permission for overnight stays will usually be discussed when the child is placed and recorded in the Placement Plan as part of your delegated responsibilities.
You should base your decision on the following:
- What does the Placement Plan say about baby sitters, visits and overnight stays?
- Would the child struggle with an overnight stays because of their background?
- Are you worried about the people or the activities they may be taking part in?
- The age and understanding of the child/young person.
- Whose idea was the overnight stay and what is the purpose?
- How well is the friend or family known to the child?
All the above apply plus:
- Ensure you have written permission for the overnight stay from the child’s social worker.
- Children’s services may want to do checks on the home they are staying at, in some situations it may include DBS checks.
- If the overnight stay is with relatives or friends of the birth family the social workers must give express approval and in line with the child’s care plan.
- If the overnight stay is not permitted the child’s social worker must explain to the child the reasons why, appropriate to age.
- Decisions must be made in a timely manner so the child does not miss out on important social developmental opportunities.
- The child or young person has the right to make a complaint if they feel consent has been unreasonably withheld to the Children’s Rights Officer or an independent advocate.
- Any information given out should be on a need to know basis, and this should be recorded in your logs.
The child should also have your contact details; know the plan for their return and what to do if they decide to come home early.
Depending on the needs of the child, you should discuss with the child if they are old enough what they can tell the people they will be visiting.
You should only give information on a ‘need to know’ basis and record what information you have given in the child’s daily record.
You may tell them about health care needs of the child, routines and any behaviour issues.
If the child does not want information to be shared, then they need to be told that this could affect whether they can stay overnight. Record any decisions and the arrangements in the child’s daily record.
Even if it has been agreed that the child’s social worker does not have to be consulted, you should still inform them as soon as possible afterwards (within 1 working day) and the social worker should inform the parents as appropriate.
If as part of contact arrangements, the child/young person is due to stay away from placement with family members, the child’s social worker will make all appropriate arrangements.
Teens and overnight stays can be quite a challenging and complex area. How, when and who can make these decisions should be agreed in the Care Plan. https://fosterwiki.com/wiki/a-foster-carers-guide-to-the-care-plan/
Everything must be agreed with the young person’s social worker and team managers. Teens staying out at night is also unique to each family setting and young person’s circumstances.
Before the child reaches 16yrs they are very much classed as children, although they may start to feel independent make sure you have all the permissions or delegated authority in advance and where they are staying, and who they are staying with have been checked out and approved.
16yrs – 18yrs is more of a grey area as the young person becomes more independent and generally afforded more freedoms and can also often ‘vote with their feet’.
At this stage carers are often left to make more decisions, ensuring they have spoken to an adult at the house the young person is staying, knows the exact address, has all the phone contact numbers and is confident that it is a genuine and safe sleepover.
Often young people in care will make new friends and you will find yourself speaking to a different adult in another household that may not be known to you.
It also difficult to make sure that’s where they will stay all night, but as long as you have done what you need to and feel confident about it there is not much more you can do. Ask the adult in charge to contact you should there be any concerns at all and be on standby in case you need to pick up the young person.
Sometimes young people will vote with their feet and leave the house to stay with a friend, if you have not approved it or feel its unsafe or unsuitable and have asked them not to go, then this will be classed as a missing episode and you will need to call out of hours or duty, they will then advise you on what to do next.
Here is the FosterWiki page on “Missing ” which gives you all the information you need if a young person goes missing.
As always the key is preparation, information and knowledge, know your local authority/agency policy’s and procedures, know the protocol you need to follow.
Get everything written up and agreed to in Care Plans and the Delegated Authority Tool to ensure you know exactly what you can agree to and what you can’t.
Teenagers vote with their feet. We need to get permission but try explaining that to them.
The time it takes for the social worker to come back, the disagreements around this with the child. It does feel different and unfair.”
When the stay is longer than overnight, unless express written permission is obtained, it is more likely services will need to do a family check and DBS check.
Longer stays and how they are managed will depend on who those stays are with, are they with friends or family of the foster carer or of the child’s, which will both be managed in different ways.
It will depend on whether they are care order or section they are placed under and what the care plan says.
These are discussions to be had with the child’s and your own supervising social worker, they will then make the necessary checks and decisions. Make sure you get it in writing via email.
Longer stays may also include friends and family that are providing a break/respite for the foster carer, these people will be part of the foster carer’s support network and will undergo assessments and DBS checks.
Reporting and Recording
Keep a good up to date detailed but succinct record of overnight or day visits.
The date and times of visits, any incidents, or how the child was on return to the fostering family. It’s all important to record as it impacts on the care plan and the understanding of that child’s development, their needs, wishes and feelings.
Here is the FosterWiki guide to reporting and recording; https://fosterwiki.com/wiki/fostering-reporting-and-recording/
Information, Help and Support
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