FOSTERTALK HOUSEHOLD MEMBERSHIP PROVIDES YOU WITH:
We know that the impact of an allegation, concern or complaint can be devastating for carers and their families, and our AST advisors are an important source of advice, guidance and emotional support, to foster carers when they need it the most.
- Our Independent advisors will provide you with advice, support and guidance about the allegations process and what to expect as well as being alongside you throughout the process.
- You can be reassured that there will be no conflict of interest all of our advisors are independent of your fostering service.
- Support is confidential and undertaken on a one-to-one basis.
- If required, an advisor can mediate with your fostering organisation and key professionals however they will only make this contact with your consent.
- If required our Independent advisors will support you to any meetings relating to the allegation, concern or complaint as required and can assist with written representation for panels and appeals.
- Your advisor will be alongside you at panel and support you with any appeal you may wish to make following the ADM determination.
- A professional service that can support carers during difficult, emotional, and conflict-fuelled times.
- Impartial objective support and guidance in line with NMS, Best Practice Guidance and Fostering Regulations.
- AST advisors will listen and help carers understand the investigation process, help carers to digest the outcome of any allegation, concern and complaint, and provide safe space for carers to evaluate and reflect.
- Cost-effective spot purchase or contracted service with a guaranteed response to carers and your service within 24 hours of receipt of referral.
WHAT IS AN ALLEGATION?
When allegations against Foster Carers are made, the local authority and the fostering organisation have a legal duty under the Children Act 1989, S47, to report this to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and carry out an investigation to decide what type of action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child that is suspected of, or likely to be suffering from significant harm.
One of the most common reasons is due to the child believing they will be returned home to their parents if they claim they are being mistreated.
Some children make allegations because they are angry about something that has been said or done, or because they are looking for an excuse for their own behaviour.
In some cases where a child has had a number of foster placements, an allegation might be made in order for them to discover whether those responsible for them truly care about them. Other children might be looking for attention and make an allegation to get this need met.
Sadly, sometimes an allegation is made because the young person in care has been abused in the past and has kept it a secret. Accusing a Foster Carer of abuse is a way of bringing this out into the open. Sometimes children who have previously been in emotionally harmful environments can misinterpret situations that have been precursors to abuse in the past, such as an offer of a cuddle or a kiss goodnight.
MYSELF FROM ALLEGATIONS?
The simple answer is that it is impossible to fully protect yourself against this eventuality. However, you can, and should, work towards avoiding investigations by taking all the necessary steps that will allow you to minimise the risk of an allegation.
Your fostering organisation should provide you with a Risk Assessment for each foster child in your care along with a Safe Care Plan both documents will outline useful strategies to help you to keep the child and everyone within the household as safe as possible.
Timely reporting of safeguarding matters is essential in helping you to avoid allegations Taking these simple precautions and letting your fostering organisation know that you are taking the safe care seriously will help you in the event that an allegation is made against you.
For example, if a child incurs bruises or other marks, it is important to consider how these might have been caused i.e. self-harm, slips, trips and falls, sports injuries or physical altercations with other children. Any injuries that are noticed on foster children should always be reported to the fostering organisation Social Worker, or duty worker in their absence, this should also be recorded in the child’s diary log.
If a child is missing you must report this to your Fostering Organisation and call the police (regardless of the time of day or night).
If you restrain a child, you must report this to your fostering organisation as soon as is reasonably practicable. Restraint can cause injury and this intervention is best avoided, unless the child is at significant risk of harming themselves or another.
Find out more about FosterTalks Allegations Support Team and the support they provide for Foster Carers faced with an allegation.
TEAM BELIEVE ME?
Many Foster Carers tell us that during an investigation they feel they are treated as though they are ‘guilty until proven innocent’. Although it is difficult, it’s important for foster carers that they try not to think this way. Local authorities and fostering organisations have a legal duty to ensure that all concerns are listened to and dealt with appropriately.
Each fostering service or organisation will have set procedures in place when it comes to dealing with allegations. National Minimum Standards state that foster carers who are under investigation should be provided with support that is independent of their fostering organisation, to help them through the process. It is also the Foster Carer’s right to have information in writing about the allegation, the outcome of the investigation and further steps to be taken once it is over.
It is not unusual for Foster Carers to feel outcast during the investigation process. Some foster carers have told us that their supervising social worker has stopped visiting them or has been told to withdraw support. This can be distressing for Foster Carers who take this lack of contact to mean that their social worker doesn’t believe them. This is usually not the case. Instead, it is usually due to policies with fostering organisations that call for supervising social workers to withdraw temporarily in order to avoid any conflicts of interest during the inquiry.
While FosterTalk is not there to replace your supervising social worker, we can provide you with all the necessary advice, information, and support that you will need to cope throughout the process. And if your fostering organisation agrees, FosterTalk can also provide an independent advisor through our Allegations Support Team.
REMOVED FROM MY CARE?
When an allegation has been made, the foster child and any other foster children within the household may be removed pending an investigation. This decision is made by the child’s social worker in conjunction with advice from the LADO, decisions to remove children are not taken lightly, professionals will consider the welfare of the children and make an assessment of potential risks to children remaining in the foster home whilst the investigation is undertaken. In some circumstances, it may be suggested that the alleged party leave the house until further investigations can take place.
CHILDREN BE REMOVED?
When carrying out an investigation into allegations of abuse against a foster child, the local authority has a legal duty to consider the welfare of any other children in the household – including the foster carer’s own children. This includes birth children, adopted children or children on Special Guardianship Orders.
If the Foster Carer’s children are deemed to be at risk of “significant harm” they would be subject to the same safeguarding procedures as any other child in the community. In these circumstances, foster carers are advised to seek independent legal advice.
Whenever there are concerns of a child protection nature, the Fostering Organisation has a duty to inform the Children’s Services Team and if necessary, the police. Each Local Authority will have designated person that will lead on any investigation where a carer is alleged to have harmed a child.
The designated person(s) is usually called the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) they will convene an initial strategy meeting of all the relevant professionals including the police and discuss the allegation and decide the next steps take.
WANT TO INTERVIEW ME?
If the police want to speak to you, they are likely to do this under caution as they try and establish the facts relating to an allegation, this will help them decide whether any further action/intervention will be required. In the event that the police want to speak to you it is always advisable to seek independent legal advice. Download our Interview Under Caution FAQ’s here
It should be stressed that not all matters result in formal intervention by the Police, and indeed those that do, do not automatically progress beyond an initial interview.
The fundamental objective of the police, social care professionals and governing bodies is to ensure that the welfare of the child is protected.
If the police want to speak to you, they are likely to do this under caution as they try and establish the facts relating to an allegation, this will help them decide whether any further action/intervention will be required. In the event that the police want to speak to you it is always advisable to seek independent legal advice.
CONTINUE TO FOSTER?
This depends on the outcome of the investigation as well as on the recommendations made at the final strategy meeting and by the fostering panel.
Once a Foster Carers allegation is concluded it is best practice for fostering organisations to notify panel of the investigation. The fostering organisation will carry out a review of approval and compile a report outlining the allegations, complaint, or concern along with the outcome of the investigations and make a recommendation to panel, taking into account any actions and recommendations from the investigation process.
You should be given the opportunity to provide verbal and written information for your review and to see the report before it goes to the panel.
You should also be invited to attend the panel whilst your approval is being considered.
With FosterTalk Membership, we will be able to advise you about the allegations process and talk you through each step. If you have an AST Advisor, he or she will be able to help you prepare the report and accompany you to the fostering panel.
BEEN TO PANEL?
After the fostering panel has made a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM), you will receive a letter advising you of the proposed terms of your approval i.e. re-approval or de-registration.
DECISION MAKERS DECISION?
Yes, you can challenge the decision made by your fostering organisation. You will have 28 days from the receipt of the ADM qualifying determination letter to decide whether or not to accept the terms of this, or to appeal the decision.
You can challenge the decision made by your fostering organisation and make an appeal through your fostering organisations internal process for appeals alternatively you can apply to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) an independent review panel. *Please note that you can only do one or the other and not both.
Further information about the Independent Review Mechanism and how to ask for your case to be reconsidered can be found below:
The Independent Review Mechanism: England
Telephone: 0845 450 3956 (charged at local rate)
Telephone: 0113 202 2080
IRM website www.gov.uk/government/organisations/independent-review-mechanism
The Independent Review Mechanism: Wales
Telephone: (029) 2034 2434
IRM Cymru Website: https://irm.cymru/
There is no IRM in Scotland. There is no IRM in Northern Ireland.
HOW TO MAKE A REFERRAL FOR ALLEGATIONS SUPPORT
To make a referral for one of your foster carers, please complete our referral form for independent allegations support here
We will provide a response within 24 hours from receipt of referral.
If you have any questions regarding Allegations Support please contact our friendly team on 0121 758 5013 or email AllegationsAdmin@fostertalk.org