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5.2.5 Allegations Against Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies where allegations are made or suspicions are raised that an approved foster carer has caused, or poses a potential risk of, significant harm to a child.This may be in their role as a foster carer or some other aspect of their life. It should be read in conjunction with the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Procedures.

AMENDMENT

In May 2018 this chapter was extensively revised and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Policy
  2. Introduction
  3. Procedure


1. Policy

All children are entitled to the same level and standard of protection from harm and all enquiries and investigations must be undertaken according to the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Procedures.

Allegations or suspicions that a foster carer has caused harm to a child will be investigated thoroughly, speedily and sensitively and will involve open and honest communication with, and support to, all those affected.

It is important to note that, although there may be insufficient evidence to support a Police prosecution, this does not mean that action cannot be taken to protect a child nor that the termination of, or changes to the terms of, a foster carer's approval cannot be considered.

Any investigation must consider what action, if any, should be taken with regard to other children with whom foster carers have contact, including any other children in placement (both current and previously) and their own children.


2. Introduction

The expectation is that:

  • At the time of a child's placement, foster carers will be provided with detailed information as to the child's background and in particular the context of any abusive experiences of and/or previous allegations made by the child;
  • All foster carers will receive preparation, training and guidance to ensure they understand their role in safeguarding children and help them provide a safe environment for the child and all members of the foster family;
  • All foster carers will have received information about this procedure and the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Procedures;
  • All foster carers will record on a daily basis the progress of children placed with them, including any incidents or complaints, and understand the importance of this process in supporting the child’s care plan, but also in giving them a contemporary record of events to refer to should the need arise;
  • The Team Manager within the Fostering Service is identified to be the ‘Designated Person’ who liaises with the LADO in all cases to which this procedure applies and manages the allegations process;
  • All staff within the Fostering Service must be aware of the requirements of this procedure, including the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service.


3. Procedure

3.1 Initial Action

Any person who receives information or suspects that a child has suffered or is suffering significant harm in a foster placement, or through contact with someone who is a foster carer, must immediately inform the child's social worker (or their manager) and the LADO. The social worker must immediately liaise with the LADO.

If an allegation has been made against a foster carer (an adult in a position of trust) it is vital that the LADO is informed of this information as soon as possible. It is the LADO’s responsibility to ensure immediate steps are taken to safeguard any children who have contact with the foster carer whom the allegation has been made against.

The LADO will immediately make contact with the Fostering Team/Provider and/or the supervising social worker to ascertain whether any other Looked After Children are in this placement. If it is established that there are, the LADO will make contact with the relevant Social Workers. Information will be shared by the LADO to enable the Social Worker and their manager to make an informed decision as to what action is needed to safeguard the child.

If it is established that an allegation has been made by a Looked After Child LADO will take responsibility for managing this information.

LADO will make contact with Cambridgeshire Police based at MASH for a case discussion. During this discussion agreement will be made as to whether the threshold has been met for LADO to convene a LADO Allegations Management Meeting.

LADO will take responsibility for convening and chairing the Allegations Management Meeting. Cambridgeshire Police, the child’s Social Worker, fostering Supervising Social Worker and the manager of the Fostering Team would be invited and expected to attend. Ofsted would not normally be invited, though could attend at their request.

Information will be shared at the LADO Allegations Management Meeting and appropriate actions agreed.

If there is a Police investigation it is likely that the foster carers against whom the allegation has been made will be suspended.

At the end of the Police investigation the Fostering Team will be asked to undertake an internal investigation. At the end of the internal investigation an appointment at the Foster Panel will be requested to enable decision making as to whether approval of the foster carers is continued, changed or terminated.

LADO will convene a further LADO Allegation Management Meeting following the conclusion of the Police investigation and conclusion of the internal investigation.

Where an allegation relates to the birth child of a foster carer MASH will take the lead on arranging a strategy discussion though must invite LADO to attend.

Other investigative routes may be identified as more appropriate at this stage, for example the complaints process, and should be considered as an alternative to a Section 47 Enquiry.

In exceptional cases, immediate action may be necessary to safeguard the child and the child's social worker in discussion with their manager may decide to request an alternative placement, either temporarily or as a permanent move.

3.2 Allegations Management Meeting

The meeting will normally take place on the same day as, and always within 2 working days of, the referral and involve a face-to-face meeting. The purpose of the meeting will be to decide if an investigation is necessary and, if so, how it should be carried out.

The meeting must consider:

  • The nature of the allegation, its source and reliability;
  • Background information relating to the foster family, how long the family has been known, how many children have been placed there, the family's known strengths and weaknesses and any exceptional features about the child and the placement;
  • The involvement of other agencies, for example if the child was placed by another local authority;
  • The need to inform other agencies who use the foster home;
  • Who will notify Ofsted of the outcome of the meeting, if a representative is not present;
  • The safety of all children in the household including the foster carer's own children and whether any action is necessary to protect the children including the removal of all or any of the children while the investigation is conducted;
  • How the needs of any child who has to leave the placement will be met including contact with other children in the placement;
  • How, and by whom, the investigation is to be conducted. It is important that careful consideration is given to the planning of criteria when a joint investigation is recommended;
  • Where the Police or Crown Prosecution Service recommend no further action then the Supervising Social Worker must interview the foster carers about all allegations and concerns. It is likely that, at this stage they will be aware of the allegations from the Police. A comprehensive record must be kept and made available to future meetings and/or the Fostering Panel;
  • The timescales for the investigation (see below) and any contingencies should timescales not be met;
  • How the child should be informed of the procedure to be followed and supported through the process;
  • Whether the alleged perpetrator should be asked to leave the home while the investigation is conducted and confirmation that the Chair will inform the carers of the allegation verbally and then in writing;
  • How to inform the child's parents of the allegation;
  • Once informed of the allegations/investigation, what support to offer the foster carers; the role of the Supervising Social Worker;
  • How reports on the investigation will be shared with the foster carers and the child or children in the placement;
  • Whether further placements should be suspended in the meantime;
  • Arrangements for reconvening the Allegations Management Meeting.

Whether or not the meeting considers that the allegation or suspicion has any foundation, the matter should be investigated unless there are exceptional circumstances and Ofsted must be notified of the decision and the outcome.

The minutes of the meeting must contain clear action points and clear timescales for each action and must be circulated immediately after the meeting. Agreed actions must be recorded as the responsibility of named individuals.

Due to the extremely confidential nature of these meetings LADO Allegation Management Meeting notes must not be held on the child’s record. LADO will add a case note to the child’s record on ICS. There is a drop down box for LADO information which is deliberately brief stating a safeguarding concern has been raised and to contact the LADO for further information.

Any decision to take no further action following the meeting must be clearly recorded on the child's and the foster carer's records, and reported to Ofsted.

3.3 Investigation and Action

Unless there are circumstances when the details or nature of the allegation cannot be shared immediately, the foster carers should be advised of the allegation as agreed at the Allegations Management Meeting and of the process to be followed in the investigation, including the possibility that an Initial Child Protection Conference may be convened in relation to their own children.

Where considered appropriate by the meeting, the foster carers should be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations before any final decision is made about necessary action to protect the child and other children in the household. Such protective action may include asking the person against whom the allegation has been made to leave the household while the investigation is conducted.

Any decision to suspend making further placements with the foster carer while the investigation is being conducted should be communicated in writing to the foster carer by the manager of the fostering service.

Those supporting the foster carers (normally the supervising social worker) must contact the foster carers as soon as practicable after the foster carers are made aware of the allegation, and explain their role. They must make clear their responsibility to report to the local authority, the Police and in some circumstances to the Court if any information relevant to the investigation comes to their attention. They must inform foster carers as to how they will be supported and paid whilst the investigation proceeds.

They should confirm that the foster carers are aware of the following.

If an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, the Conference Chair must be consulted in advance to discuss whether the foster carers should be invited to attend. In any event, the foster carers' views must be obtained for and communicated to the Conference.

The social worker undertaking the investigation will prepare a report for the Conference and a copy will be provided to the foster carers and their representatives.

3.4 Concluding the Investigation

The Allegations Management Meeting would normally be reconvened to conclude the investigation. The same people will be invited and the same person should chair the meeting.

The purpose of the final meeting is to agree the outcome of the investigation and responsibilities for any further action including reporting on the matter to the Fostering Panel and/or discussing with the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) whether it may be appropriate to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service for inclusion of the foster carers on the Children's Barred List. It is the responsibility of the local authority or Independent Fostering Agency to make this referral.

Although this will always be envisaged as the final meeting, should new information come to light further actions/meetings may be required.

The meeting will agree who will notify the foster carers the child, the parents, other children in the placement or involved, other relevant agencies and Ofsted (if not present) of the recommendations made at the meeting.

A report will be presented to the next available Fostering Panel. The social worker preparing the report should consult with the Chair of the Fostering Panel who will advise on who should attend the Panel meeting (usually the child's social worker and the supervising social worker for the foster carers) and whether or not a special Panel meeting should be convened.

Prior to Fostering Panel, the foster carers and their representative should have seen, and had time to comment on, the report being presented to the Panel. The procedure to be adopted for the Fostering Panel will be the same as for any other foster carer review - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

End