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10.2 Assessment of the Suitability of a Private Fostering Arrangement

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


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Child
  3. The Private Foster Parent
  4. The Child's Parent (or person with Parental Responsibility)
  5. Procedure for Assessment of Suitability of Arrangements


1. Introduction

  1. The Local Authority has a duty to be satisfied that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within their area is being safeguarded and promoted. If the Local Authority is not satisfied, they must:
    • Take whatever reasonable action is necessary to enable the care of the child to be undertaken by the parent, a person with Parental Responsibility for the child, or a relative, unless they consider this would not be in the child's best interests.
    • Consider whether they should take any action in respect of the child, in accordance with the provisions of the Children Act 1989. This could include providing services under section 17 or invoking the child protection procedures.
  2. The private fostering regulations require that a local authority, in carrying out its duty to be satisfied with regard to the welfare of a privately fostered child, must consider a range of matters. Some of these relate to the suitability of the foster parent to provide care, some relate to how specific needs of the child will be met, and some relate to how the parent or person with Parental Responsibility will exercise their parental responsibilities.
  3. It should be kept in mind that the task is to assess the suitability of the private fostering arrangement and not to "approve" or "register" the private foster parent. The assessment therefore must involve work with the child and his/her parent (or person with parental responsibility) as well as the private foster parent.


2. The Child

  1. The local authority must consider the child's physical, intellectual, emotional and behavioural development, and be satisfied with regard to how the child's needs will be met, with particular reference to:
    • The child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background
    • The arrangements for the child's medical and dental care and treatment and, in particular, the child's registration with a GP
    • Contact arrangements between the child and his/her parents and any other person with Parental Responsibility.

      The wishes and feelings of the child regarding the fostering arrangement must be obtained.
  2. A child who is, or may be, privately fostered is quite likely to meet the definition of a "child in need", as defined in section 17(10) of the Children Act 1989. Consideration should always be given, therefore to whether their needs might best be met by the provision of services under section 17 of the Children Act instead of, or in addition to, the private fostering arrangement.
  3. Undertaking an assessment, using the Children in Need Assessment Framework, will be the most effective way of ensuring that the Council's duties in respect of a child who is the subject of a notification under the private fostering regulations are fully met. It will:
    • Enable the requirements outlined in key point 5 to be met
    • Enable an informed decision to be made in respect of any action required as detailed in key point 1
    • Inform the assessment of the foster parents' ability to provide a satisfactory standard of care.

3. The Private Foster Parent

  1. An assessment of the suitability of the foster parent will need to take place alongside the assessment of the child's needs. (See Assessment of the Suitability of a Private Foster Carer Procedure).
  2. Schedule 7 to the Children Act 1989, which prohibits a person from fostering more than three children ("the usual fostering limit"), is applicable to private fostering arrangements. The prohibition does not apply if all the children fostered are siblings with respect to each other. Local authorities have powers under paragraph 4 of Schedule 7 to grant exemption from the usual fostering limit. A number of factors must be taken into account in considering whether to grant exemption. These are:
    • The number, ages and circumstances of children whom the person proposes to foster;
    • The arrangements which the person proposes for the care and accommodation of the fostered child/ren;
    • The intended and likely relationships between the person and the fostered children;
    • The period of time for, which they propose to foster the children;
    • Whether the welfare of the fostered children (and any other children who are or will be living in the accommodation) will be safeguarded and promoted;
    • Whether there are within the foster home any other childcare activities (e.g. childminding), which might influence the person's capacity to provide sufficient care for the children fostered.

The decision whether to grant a private foster parent an exemption from the usual fostering limit will be made by the Strategic Development Manager when considering the overall suitability of the private fostering arrangement.


4. The Child's Parent (or person with Parental Responsibility)

  1. In assessing whether the child's welfare is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted, the local authority must consider whether the child's parents are exercising Parental Responsibility. In particular the parent's intentions with regard to the following matters should be explored:
    • The financial arrangements for the care and maintenance of the child. The parent continues to be responsible for maintaining their child and making any payments to the foster parent. The foster parent is not entitled to receive a boarding out allowance, or any other financial assistance towards the maintenance of the child, from the council. The child's parent should be approached in the first instance to provide for any need identified by the foster parents which they are unable or unwilling to provide for the child themselves. Children's Social Care can provide limited assistance to the child, subject to the usual procedures being followed for the provision of services to a child in need.
    • How the parent will communicate with the foster parent in relation to decisions about the child which they alone have the authority to make, e.g. permission for medical treatment or in respect of the child's education.
    • How the parent will keep in contact with their child.
    • The purpose and intended duration of the fostering arrangement. What longer term plans does the parent have for resuming the care of their child.
All these matters should be covered during the process of undertaking the Children in Need Assessment.


5. Procedure for Assessment of Suitability of Arrangements

  1. The social worker must arrange to visit the parent or person with parental responsibility as soon as possible to explain the purpose of, and seek agreement, to the commencement of an assessment of the child's needs.
  2. The social worker should complete the assessment of the child's needs, following the procedure "Children in Need - Criteria and Assessment for Services Procedure".

    The assessment will ascertain whether services should be provided to:
    • Assist the child to remain at, or return home,

      or
    • Support the private fostering arrangement so that any identified needs can be satisfactorily met.
  3. If at any time it appears that the child is at risk of suffering Significant Harm the East Riding Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures and Guidance should be followed.
  4. The social worker should arrange to visit the private foster parent (within 7 days of receipt of a notification if the child is already in placement) to commence the assessment of their suitability to care for the child. See Assessment of the Suitability of a Private Fostering Arrangement Procedure.
  5. The outcome of the children in need assessment should inform the assessment of the suitability of the private foster parent to care for the child, and be reflected in the written agreement made between the parent and the foster parent.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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. 
  9. The Area Manager must complete section V, the Decision Record, and forward it to the Strategic Development Manager.
  10. The Strategic Development Manager will countersign the Decision Record and return it to the Social Worker.
  11. If the Strategic Development Manager authorises the arrangements the social worker will send a written notification to the foster parent with details of any conditions or requirements.

End