The Assessment Process
A guide to the foster carer assessment and approval process.
Introduction to the assessment and approval process for foster carers
When anyone applies to be a foster carer there is a rigorous assessment and approval process, this can take up to 8 months and will involve the person applying, their family, extended family, friends, workplace and household.
This page is an easy guide to the process a person(s) goes through to become a foster carer.
From initial stages through to approval.
The assessment and approval of foster carers are set out in the Government Department for Education’s statutory guidance for local authorities on the assessment and approval process of foster carers for looked after children.
What does the process involve?
When a person applies to a fostering service to become a foster carer, the fostering service will assess their suitability to foster. The approval process will determine whether a person is suitable to be a foster carer.
A person will make an initial enquiry to a fostering provider (either a Local Authority or an Independent Fostering agency), this will usually be followed by an initial visit to the person’s home to establish whether they are suitable to begin the approval process.
The approval process then begins, as set out below, when the assessment process is complete it is presented to a Panel to approve or not approve the applicant. The decision of the Panel will be forwarded to the Agency Decision Maker for a final decision (The Agency Decision Maker will be a senior manager within fostering services or the agency).
The Regulations only allow for the approval of individuals as suitable to foster. However, where two people will be sharing the care of a looked after child, whether they be a couple or any other partnership, the assessment of their suitability should be done jointly.
The Assessment process
Stage 1 of the assessment process is to gather information about the applicant to decide on the suitability before proceeding to stage two.
The following information will be gathered in stage one.
- Applicants’ full names, address, and DOB.
- Details of the applicant’s health will be supported by a medical and subsequent report from the applicant’s GP.
- Particulars of all other members of the household.
- Particulars of the applicants’ children, including those that are not members of the household.
- Particulars of the household’s accommodation details.
- Checks on any previous applications to foster or adopt and the outcome.
- The name and address of any provider if the carer is transferring.
- Names and addresses of two people who will provide a reference for the applicant.
- A DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service Certificate) for all members of the household over 18yrs.
- Details of any current or previous marriage, civil partnerships or similar relationships.
- Contact the local authority where the applicant lives if different to the fostering provider.
- Interviews with a minimum of two personal referees, or if the carer is transferring a request to the previous provider for a written reference (If the previous fostering service does not provide a reference, for whatever reason, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted).
- If transferring the new provider can contact the one they are transferring from and request records held about the applicant. That agency/council must respond to that request within 15 days. This information can form part of the new application where appropriate and the new assessing social worker satisfies themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information.
This information should be gathered as soon as possible, if the provider decides that the applicant is not suitable to foster they must write and let them know, detailing the reasons for this decision. This must happen within 10 days of the stage one information being received.
Stage two involves more detailed information pertaining to the applicant:
- Details of personality.
- The applicants’ religion, and their capacity to care for a child from any religious persuasion.
- Racial origin, culture, language and capacity to care for a child from any background.
- Present and past occupations, standards of living, activities and interests.
- Previous parenting and child care experience.
- Skills, qualifications, competence and other things relevant to effectively caring for a looked after child.
All this information about the applicant must be taken into account, including the suitability of the applicant and the suitability of their household. This will be included in a written report to the Panel along with recommendations as to terms of approval (ie age ranges, short/long term/respite care etc).
As before, if the applicant is not deemed suitable after this stage services must write and let them know, detailing the reasons for this decision. This must happen within 10 days of the stage two information being received.
When stage 2 is completed, a written report of both stages should have been compiled, it will contain all the recommendations and terms of approval.
The applicant must be notified that this report is going to be sent to the panel and provided with a copy of the report themselves, they must then be given 10 working days to send any observations they have to the fostering provider.
Upon completion of stage 2
A written report covering both stages 1 and 2 of the assessment should be compiled, with recommendations about the applicant’s suitability to foster and any terms of approval. The applicant must be notified that the full assessment report is to be sent to the panel, provided with a copy of the report and given 10 working days from the date of the notification to send their observations to the fostering service provider, this will then be forwarded to the panel.
The assessment should be done within eight months of the applicant’s first application.
The panel then meet and make a recommendation and the Agency Decision Maker makes the final decision taking the panel’s recommendation into account.
Things to take into account
If the person is applying to be approved as a connected/family & friends/kinship carer for a specific child or children, there is no need to consider their suitability to care for other children.
Once a person has been approved as a foster carer with one fostering provider they can not be approved or work for another provider until they have been de-registered by the provider they work for and that original approval is terminated.
In the case of an application by someone who is employed by the fostering services, this must be taken into account to make sure there is no conflict of interest.
Upon approval, foster carers should be issued with an agreed form of identification by the fostering service to enable their role as a foster carer to be verified.
There are specified offences that a person convicted of or cautioned for prevents them from being approved as a foster carer. The Fostering Regulations (England) cover these as do their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and NI.
Information sharing with other fostering services or adoptions agencies
Information that may be shared about a person that is held by their existing provider, is to ensure that the new provider or adoption agency has all the information they need to avoid unnecessary delays in the process.
- Personal information.
- Racial/ethnic origin, political opinions, religion/beliefs.
- Whether they are members of a trade union.
- Physical and mental health conditions.
- Sexual life.
- Any proceedings for a criminal offence.
Sharing information with another fostering service or adoption agency
Regulation 32(6) of the 2011 states that:
“Requires fostering services, and regulation 42(1) of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 requires adoption agencies, to share information to support the assessment of a person’s suitability to foster or adopt if requested to do so by the fostering service or adoption agency undertaking the assessment.As the information is being requested to support the individual’s application to foster or adopt, only information about the individual and other relevant household members should be provided.
Information should only be shared with the informed, explicit consent of all parties referred to in the information, including young people where they have sufficient understanding to consent to the sharing of their information (if they do not have sufficient understanding, the consent of a person with parental responsibility would need to be obtained).
This means that the person giving consent needs to understand why their information is to be shared, what will be shared, who will see their information, the purpose to which it will be put and the implications of sharing that information.”
The GDPR policies and implications of the sharing of an applicant’s details can be found in detail here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/275764/20130522statutory_guidanceassessment_and_approval_of_foster_carers_final.pdf
If consent is refused then the new service or agency must consider why and if there is any cause for concern. If there is any information that brings into question that person’s suitability to foster this must be shared. If there are no concerns but the person has refused consent then the information should not be shared.
Information that should be shared
- The original assessment of the person’s suitability to foster (Form F).
- The last household review/review of individuals’ suitability to foster and any other relevant reviews.
- Details of any concerns about standards of practice and what is being done to address them.
- Details of any allegations.
- Any other information considered to be relevant.
Foster carers have the right to access all of this information (via a SAR – Subject Access Request) and could do so in order to obtain records to inform their new assessment.
Some providers may charge a fee for this, but it is minimal and set out by the ICO (Information Commissioners Office).
There may be some things that the provider may not have to supply, where the information relates to another person who has not given permission for their information to be shared. However, services and agencies should try to comply with as much of the request as they can, redacting where necessary so the information can be shared.
Appealing – The IRM – Independent Review Mechanism
Decisions made by the panel and Agency Decision Makers can be appealed to the IRM, services or agencies must provide the IRM with all the panel documents, the outcome and any relevant information received after this, within 10 days of being notified regarding the application to the IRM. However the original Agency Decision Maker has the final decision, and they will take the recommendation by the IRM and the panel into account.
Terms of approval
The Children’s Act limits the number of children who may be fostered by a foster carer to three.
The exemptions to this are:
- The foster children are siblings.
- The local authority exempts the foster carer from the usual limit in relation to specific placements.
- The foster carer’s terms of approval allow (under certain circumstances and if the placement is an emergency for less than 6 days).
- A local authority cannot grant an exemption to the usual fostering limit to a foster carer living outside of its area.
- When considering exemptions the local authority has to take into account the number of children the person proposes to foster, the arrangements which the person proposes for the care and accommodation of the fostered children, the intended and likely relationship between the person and the fostered children, the period of time for which the carer proposes to foster the children and whether the welfare of the fostered children (and of any other children who are or will be living in the accommodation) will be safeguarded and promoted.
- The local authority should have a designated officer with delegated powers to grant exemptions from the usual fostering limit and ensure that fostering services are aware of the policies and procedures around exemptions.
- Any foster carer who either exceeds the usual fostering limit or if exempted from the limit fosters another child who is not named in the exemption is regarded as a ‘children’s home’ and so needs to be registered as such with Ofsted.
Reviews and terminations of approval of foster carers
- Foster carers can give written notice, at any point, that they wish to resign from the role, in which case their approval is automatically terminated 28 days after receipt of the notice.
- The Agency Decision Maker can not, nor has any powers, decline a resignation. However, the fostering service can form a view about the persons’ future suitability to foster.
- Once a foster carer has resigned this goes ahead after 28 days regardless of whether the foster carer withdraws their notice, if they change their mind they have to be assessed again.
- Once a foster carer has resigned the fostering service has no responsibility to confirm resignation through the panel, although it may be helpful to notify the panel to inform its monitoring role.
- Foster carers must be reviewed within one year of approval and then every 12 months (less if a review is deemed necessary, for instance in allegations or standards of care).
- The review covers the household, the suitability to continue, checks in relation to any new members of the household, the views of the children in placement, the foster carer and the social workers.
- A written report of the review must be prepared, and in the case of the first review, this must be presented to the fostering panel for a recommendation.
- Any changes to approval or recommendation to de-register must follow the same process through the panel and the Agency Decision Maker (called the ‘qualifying determination’) and the foster carer must be notified in writing and can then appeal to the IRM.
- So you want to be a foster carer
- Top tips on Information & Data
- Data Protection Act
- Medicals and your medical data
- Incorrect or false information
- Foster carer’s mental health
- Social workers’ professional standards
- Transferring providers
- Top tips for transferring agencies
- So you want to be a foster carer
- Government guidance on assessment and approval of foster carers
- The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, Volume 4: Fostering Services
- The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, Volume 2: Care Planning
- The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010
- The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013
- Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards
- The Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005
- The Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013
- Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities
- Information Commissioner’s Office’s quick reference guide ‘What is personal data?
- Advice from the Information Commissioner’s Office about Subject Access Requests
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