National Minimum Standards For Fostering Services
SUMMARY – This is a summary of the national minimum standards for Fostering Services (Agencies).
They apply to local authority fostering services, independent fostering agencies, and voluntary organisations providing fostering services under the Children’s Act 1989.
They are minimum standards rather than best possible practices. They focus on achievable outcomes for children. The fostering service providers and Ofsted should use them to secure positive welfare, health, and education outcomes for children and young people as well as reducing risks to their welfare and safety.
All providers and staff of fostering services should aim to provide the best care possible for the children using their service. Meeting these standards is an essential part of their responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of each individual child.
Fostering Services Regulations
1. Managing the service.
Statement of purpose.
The service must provide information about its aims and objectives and what facilities and services it provides. The information is produced as a report called the statement of purpose (SoP). The SoP
should also include things like:
- Number, qualifications, and experience of staff
- Number of foster carers and how they recruit, approve, train and support those carers
- Number of children placed with carers
- Number of complaints and their outcome
The service should also produce a version that children are able to understand. This is called the ‘Children’s Guide’.
There should be procedures in place for monitoring how the service is running and making sure that children are being provided with a quality service.
2. Securing welfare
Providing suitable foster carers.
Carers homes should be able to house all who live there and be of a good standard. It should be inspected every year by the service to make sure it meets the needs of the foster children. Foster children should have their own bed. Foster carers might be interviewed or visited as part of Ofsted’s inspection process.
Valuing diversity. The fostering service should ensure that children and their families are provided with a foster care service, which values diversity and promotes equality.
Matching. Fostering services must ensure that each child in foster care is carefully matched with a carer capable of meeting the child’s needs. Where possible each child should be introduced to the carer and have a chance to have their say about the placement before moving in.
Protection from abuse. The fostering service must protect children from all types of abuse, neglect, mistreatment and deprivation. Carers should receive training in:
- caring for children who have been abused
- safe caring skills
- managing behaviour
- recognising signs of abuse
- boosting and maintaining self-esteem
3. Promoting welfare
Contact. Children in foster care should keep in and develop contact with family and friends as set out in their care plan and placement plan. Carer’s should get financial support for ensuring contact takes place.
Consultation. Children and their families should have their say about issues that are likely to affect their lives. Children must know how to make a complaint. All complaints should be dealt with quickly and children told what is happening.
Health. Carers must be given information about the health needs of the child and clear procedures about what consent is necessary for the child can receive medical treatment before a placement begins.
Education. Foster carers should provide children with a home in which education and learning is valued. The carer’s role in contact with the school should be clear e.g. attending parents evenings etc. Children in foster care should be encouraged to reach their full potential.
Preparing for adulthood. Children should be helped to develop skills, abilities, and knowledge needed for adult living and leaving care. Foster carers should have written plans of what they are expected to do in helping a young person prepare for independent or semi-independent living.
4. Foster carers
There should be a range of carers to meet the varying needs of children.
Supervision. The fostering service provides supervision for carers and helps them to develop their skills. On approval carers are given a handbook, detailing policies, procedures, guidance, legal information and insurance details. This is updated regularly. Each carer has a Foster Care Agreement.
The carer’s files contain details of the supervisory meetings. Carer’s receive at least one unannounced visit each year.
Training. Carers should be trained in the skills needed to provide a high quality service and meet the needs of the children placed in their care. Carers should keep a training portfolio. Their annual review should look at their training and development needs.
Records. Carers should store information in a secure manner and understand what information they are required to keep and what information needs to be passed on to the fostering service. Carers should record significant life events for a child. They should encourage children to also make such recordings, including photograph albums.
Payments. Each carer receives an allowance and agreed expenses, which cover the full cost of caring for each child placed with them. Details of allowances should be publicised.
5. Records kept by the service
Children’s case records.
The fostering service makes sure there is an up to date case records for each young person in foster care, which details what care is to be provided. This information should help the child understand more about their life events. Relevant information from the case records must be made available to the child and anyone else involved in their care.
Administrative records. The service must also make sure separate record
are kept for:
- Staff – employed, independent or sessional
There should be a system in place to monitor these records and take action on the information where necessary. All confidential records are stored securely at all times. Children and carers are encouraged to look at their records and make comments about the information including any disagreements or personal statements.
Records are kept of the checks and references obtained for staff.
6. Fostering panels
A fostering panel must not have more than 10 members, except where it is a panel for 2 or 3 fostering services, when there can be 11 members.
The panel members should include:
- Social workers: 1 from the fostering service and 1 with child care experience
- The registered provider, director, or an elected member in a local authority
- 4 independent people including 1 person who has been a carer within the last 2 years, but not for the service that is establishing the panel;
Someone who has been in foster care or their child has; someone with expertise in education or health
The panel can’t carry out any business unless at least 5 of its members are present including:
- the chairperson or vice-chair
- at least one of the social workers employed by the service
- at least two of the independent members
What do panels do?
- Look at applications for people to become carers and make recommendations about the approval including terms
- Recommend whether someone should remain as a carer
- Carry out a carer’s first review
7. Other types of fostering placements
This is where arrangements have been made for a child to stay with the same foster carer but:
- No single stay lasts for more than 4 weeks, and
- The total amount of time spent with the carer does not exceed 120 days in a 12 month period
Where foster care is provided as a short-term break for a child, the arrangements should recognise that the parents remain the main carers for the child.
Family and friends as carers. If a local authority feels there is a situation where a child needs to be placed immediately with someone, they can place a child with a person who is not an approved foster carer, as long as:
- The person is a relative or friend of the child
- They have interviewed the person
- Checked the accommodation
- Checked about other people living in the house
- The placement is for no longer than 6 weeks
- The person has made a written agreement with the authority setting out certain duties they will follow.
National Minimum Standards are crucial regulations for all fostering agencies, that are providing fostering resources for children in the UK. The Standards have to be adhered to by all fostering agencies and these are regulated by Ofsted inspections, whose inspectors inspect the fostering service on a regular basis.