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10.3 Assessment of the Suitability of a Private Foster Parent

Please see relevant section of Forms Library to access the required template.


Contents

  1. Suitability of an Arrangement
  2. Issues to Consider during the Assessment
  3. Disqualifications
  4. DBS Disclosures and Other Checks
  5. Assessment Outcomes
  6. Detailed Procedure for Assessing Suitability


1. Suitability of an Arrangement

  1. The matters which the local authority must consider in relation to the suitability of the private foster are:
    • The suitability of the accommodation
    • The standard of care which is being provided
    • ยท The suitability of the foster parent to look after the child, and the suitability of the foster parent's household.

      A private foster parent should be made aware, at the outset, of the duties of the local authority in relation to the welfare of the child, and the nature and purpose of the enquiries that must be made into their circumstances. Discussions should be frank, and allow the person to make an informed decision whether to proceed or opt out of the arrangements.
  2. The process of assessing the suitability of a private foster parent will involve making a number of checks with the Police and other statutory agencies, and of exploring with the individual their understanding of, and their ability to undertake, the responsibilities of caring for a foster child. The assessment relates to the care of the particular child who is the subject of a notification under the regulations, and should be informed by an assessment of that child's needs. The assessment should determine how far the private foster carer will be able to meet the assessed needs of the child.


2. Issues to Consider during the Assessment

  1. Matters which should be given consideration during the assessment include:
    • Lifestyle and standard of living. The financial circumstances of the foster carer should be discussed and how the costs of caring for the child will be met.
    • Household relationships (all members of the household should be seen on at least one occasion)
    • Parenting capacity including issues of discipline, education and health.
    • Religion and ethnicity.
    • Parental visits, contact and ability to work with the child's parents.

An inspection of the accommodation of the private foster carer must be made. Guidance in relation to matters that should be considered when inspecting accommodation can be found in the Children Act 1989, Guidance on Private Fostering, 2005.


3. Disqualifications

The Disqualification for Caring for Children Regulations 1991 sets out the circumstances in which an individual may not privately foster a child. Individuals who are disqualified include:

  1. Parents who have had children removed from their care, or have been prevented from having a child live with them by order of a court, such as a Care Order made under section 31(1)(a) of the Children Act. 1989.

    And anyone who:
  2. Has had a child removed from their care or has been prevented from having a child placed with them under adoption legislation.
  3. Has been involved in managing, or had a financial interest in, a voluntary or private children's home which was deregistered
  4. Has been refused registration, or had registration cancelled, in respect of nursery, day care, or childminding
  5. Has had prohibitions imposed in relation to private fostering
  6. Holds a conviction for any of the offences listed in the schedule to the regulations, including any offence involving injury or threat of injury to another person.

The detail of the regulations should be referred to for further clarification of relevant court orders and offences.

Any person wishing to foster a child who;

  • Is subject to a disqualification themselves,
  • Lives in the same household as a person who is disqualified,
  • Lives in a household where a person who is disqualified is employed,

must disclose information about the disqualification and seek the written consent of the local authority to the fostering arrangement. Careful consideration will need to be given to whether discretion should be exercised by the local authority in allowing the arrangement to proceed despite a disqualification. When discretion is not to be exercised the individual must be informed in writing of the refusal to consent, with the reasons for the refusal and information about their right to appeal against the decision.

4. DBS Disclosures and Other Checks

  1. A person proposing to privately foster a child, and all members of their household must be asked to apply for an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service. The provision of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act will not apply. If any person declines to apply for the disclosure, the local authority will not be able to satisfy itself as to the welfare of the child. See Applications to Disclosure and Barring Service for Disclosure of Information Procedure;
  2. Other checks that should be made will include our own records and those of other local authorities where the person might have previously been living. It is also good practice to seek agreement to obtain information from a range of agencies, which have knowledge of the private foster parent, to seek a medical report from their GP, and to take up personal references.


5. Assessment Outcomes

On completion of the assessment the local authority must decide whether they are satisfied that the welfare of the child being privately fostered will be adequately safeguarded and promoted or whether they should exercise any of their powers to prohibit the person from privately fostering altogether or impose requirements on the person. A prohibition can be imposed if the local authority considers that any of the following apply:

  • The foster parent is not a suitable person
  • The premises are not suitable
  • Neither the person or the premises are suitable

Requirements which can be imposed are:

  • The number, age and sex of the children who may be privately fostered
  • The standard of accommodation and equipment which must be provided for the child
  • The arrangements which must be made with respect to the provision of care to the child

A decision to impose a prohibition or restriction will be made by the Strategic Development Manager, on the recommendation of the Area Manager.


6. Detailed Procedure for Assessing Suitability

  1. The social worker should make an initial visit to the foster parent within 7 days of receipt of notification of a private fostering arrangement. The social worker should check that the foster parent has received a copy of the information sheet. Preliminary discussion should focus on the foster parent's understanding of the responsibilities they are proposing to take on. If the foster parent has any doubts about the process, or there is any indication that they would be considered unsuitable to care for a child, withdrawal at an early stage should be encouraged.
  2. The social worker should talk to all members of the household over 16 years and ensure that they have completed a declaration and agree to apply for an enhanced disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service. The procedure Applications to Disclosure and Barring Service for Disclosure of Information must be completed in respect of everyone who needs to apply for a disclosure.

    Any adult who will have a significant role in caring for the child should also be asked to apply for an enhanced disclosure.
  3. SSID must be checked to determine whether any member of the household is, or was previously known to Children;s Social Care Services, and information obtained about the nature of any involvement.

    If any adult member of the household has lived in the area of another local authority, checks must be made for disqualification under the Disqualification from Caring for Children Regulations or other indications of unsuitability for caring for children.
  4. Enquiries of the following agencies should be made, and their views sought, regarding the proposed private fostering arrangement:
    • Area Health Trust
    • Probation
    • Education
    • NSPCC
  5. A report should be obtained from the foster parent(s)'s General Practitioner(s).
  6. Two written personal references should be obtained, and a visit made to the referees. A referee should feel free to express any reservations whatsoever about the suitability of the foster parent and should, therefore, be assured that their comments will be treated in confidence and not discussed with the foster parent without further consultation.

    A difficulty in contacting two referees should not delay the completion of the assessment, but the reasons for this should be discussed with the foster parent(s) and recorded on the file.
  7. The social worker should discuss with the foster parent the facts and significance of any adverse information or concerns which have arisen from any of the checks/enquiries that have been made.
  8. The social worker should inspect the accommodation (see key point 8)
  9. A sufficient number of visits should be made to the home to ensure that all the relevant matters as above are discussed, as well as the foster parent'(s) understanding and ability to meet any specific needs the foster child may have which have been identified from the CiN assessment.
  10. Every member of the household needs to be separately interviewed, and a visit must be made on at least one occasion at a time when the entire household can be met and relationships of all members explored. In addition, the extent to which other members of the household may participate in the care and daily life of a foster child should be discussed and the demands which are made on the foster parents by other members of the household e.g. elderly relatives requiring care.
  11. The social worker should provide a summary of their assessment of the foster parent(s) and the accommodation in sections I and II of their report on the overall suitability of the private fostering arrangements.
  12. Following completion of the Children in Need Assessment, and the assessment of the suitability of the private foster parents and their accommodation, the social worker must complete a written report on the overall suitability of the private fostering arrangements, with recommendations for any further action.
  13. The social worker must discuss and agree the recommendations made in the report with their Team Manager, who should also sign the report before it is submitted to the Area Manager.
  14. If an exemption from the usual fostering limit is required, an application must be made on the appropriate form, and this must be attached to the social worker's report.
  15. The Area Manager must complete section V, the Decision Record, and forward it to the Strategic Development Manager.
  16. If consent to the private fostering arrangement is being refused as a consequence of the foster parent, or another member of the household, being disqualified from caring for children, written notification of this should be sent to him/her.
  17. If a decision is made that the private foster parent should be prohibited from privately fostering a child, she/he must be sent written notification of this.

End