Allegations against foster carers
Being a foster carer for Sunbeam Fostering can be a truly rewarding career, but it is not without its challenges.
Because of the nature of fostering, the welfare and safeguarding of children is a priority. Many children in the looked-after system have experienced abuse and neglect; because of their damaging life experiences they may display behaviours that can sometimes put foster carers at risk of facing allegations at some time during their fostering career.
If an allegation is made, an investigation must be commenced (in line with the local authorities and Sunbeam’s Child Protection Policies) to ensure the safety of the child in question. Although this is a necessary process, it can put the foster carer under considerable emotional strain.
While many allegations may prove unfounded, or are not upheld, the impact of the investigation may leave carers feeling unable to continue to foster. Continuation of the foster parent’s career can depend on the level of support and help they receive from their fostering service throughout this process, so Sunbeam does all they can to support their foster carers through this challenging time.
Reasons for allegations against foster carers
Foster care is by definition an activity that takes place in the home.
It means devoting a great deal of time and attention to young people who may display a range of challenging behaviours or have extremely complex needs. In this close and often delicate environment, allegations against carers can be made at any time and for any number of reasons.
The reasons for such allegations can vary. Sometimes, birth parents make allegations as they believe this may cause the child to be returned home. On other occasions, the child in foster care may make an allegation because they also believe that this will enable them to go home.
Other times, it is because they are unhappy with their placement and want to move, or it could be for another reason entirely. The motives behind allegations are often complex and it is only in a minority of cases that they are found to be true.
Sadly, children do not always realise the consequences for them and for their foster family when they make false allegations. They may do this on the spur of the moment because they are angry about something that has been said or done.
Types of Allegations
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
National Minimum Standards (NMS) seek to ensure that carers are provided with independent support throughout the process of the investigation and in dealing with the aftermath. Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards (2011)
NMS 22.12 states:
“During an investigation, the fostering service makes support, which is independent of the fostering service, available to the person subject to the allegation and, where this is a foster carer, to their household, in order to provide:
A. Information and advice about the process
B. Emotional support, and
C. If needed, mediation between the foster carer and the fostering service and/or advocacy (including attendance at meetings and panel hearings)”
Support for Foster Carers facing allegations
Due to the nature of the allegation process, your supervising social worker may not be able to give you the support you feel you will need during the investigation, which may leave you feeling isolated and frustrated. It is very difficult for a supporting social worker to fulfil a supporting role during these situations. They will, however, endeavour to continue to communicate effectively with you and will signpost you to additional Independent Support.
Sunbeam has commissioned the Fostering Network to provide Independent Support to all their foster carers as we believe that providing the best possible support during these difficult times can make the process clearer and more manageable for everyone involved. They provide help, information and support to foster carers who find themselves in this situation, enabling them to feel more in control and to identify their options for further action.
If you have had an allegation made against you and would like to speak to one of the Fostering Networks Independent Fostering Advisors, please call the Fostering Network’s Advice & Mediation Service on Tel: 020 7620 6400, they will put you in touch with your local Advice & Mediation worker.
Glossary of Terms
a meeting between child protection staff and other relevant bodies such as the police, school, healthcare staff and any professional involved in the initial referral.
Children’s Social Care must hold a Strategy Meeting whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm.
This may be following a Referral and Child in Need Assessment or at any time during an assessment or where a child is receiving support services if concerns about Significant Harm to the child emerge.
The purpose of the Strategy Meeting is to decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry under the Children Act 1989 is required and if so, to develop a plan of action.
More than one Strategy Meeting may be necessary.
Professionals Only Meetings:-
There are occasions when professionals need to come together to discuss a case of concern which does not meet the threshold or is outside the scope of Child Protection/Child in Need Policy and Procedures. Aimed at professionals to share information whilst participating in professional meetings of concern.
A professional’s only meeting differs from a multi-agency meeting as it does not involve the family members.
Where the question of whether harm suffered by a child is significant turns on the child’s health and development, his health or development shall be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child.
harm’ means ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development (including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another),
‘development’ meant physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development;
‘health’ means physical or mental health; and
‘ill-treatment’ includes sexual abuse and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical.
A plan should be set-up from the start of the young person’s placement. This will begin with examining the background of the child who will be in your care. This will answer questions such as:
- What was the reason the child came into care?
- Have they been physically or sexually abused in the past?
- Do they have a history of making allegations about foster parents or their families?
- Do they self-harm? If so, how long for? Is this related to a previous allegation?
- Do they have attachment disorder or any behavioural issues which are likely to impact on the placement?
Ensure all relevant information is recorded in the placement plan, including information which answers further questions such as:
- Does the parent or extended family or friends feel animosity towards you?
- Is there any on-going action in the courts?
- Is everyone happy with the contact arrangement?
- Where will the contact take place?
Following the completion of the placement plan, ensure that there are methods and procedures set in place to deal with any issues that might arise.
Safer Caring Plan
Every foster home will have a safer caring policy in place whereby the foster carer will be required to:
- Attend all safer caring training offered by Sunbeam. It is vital for both partners to attend this as male carers can be particularly vulnerable to allegations.
- Have a written agreement about sleeping arrangements, living arrangements and clothing etc. These could include: offering hugs appropriately, closing the bathroom door, wearing appropriate night clothes and dressing gowns and respecting personal space.
- Discuss your safer care plan with your supervising social worker and update it regularly.
- Be aware of the issues and worries that the child or young person in your care might have, and encourage them to take the time to talk to you about anything that is bothering them.
- Monitor their use of the internet, particularly social networking sites to prevent cyber bullying or grooming. Think about keeping any computers downstairs where time online can be supervised.
- Keep a record of any concerns you have and speak to your placing or supervising social worker.