This policy has been written based on the suite of documents written and produced by the Delegated Authority Project managed by the Fostering Network (2009-2011). It should be read in conjunction with Supporting Placement Planning - Handbook on Delegated Authority by the Fostering Network
The Department seeks to work in partnership with foster carers, birth family members and social workers to create a more normal experience for children in foster care.
Please note - for the purpose of this policy where the word parent is used this also includes any person who has parental responsibility
Managing the relationship between a looked after child's parent or others with parental responsibility , the Department , foster carers or the Manager of the Residential Unit is challenging, particularly as those providing the day-to-day care do not hold parental responsibility ( unless the child is living at home) .
It is essential to fulfilling the Department's duty to safeguard and promote the child's welfare that, wherever possible, the most appropriate person to take a decision about the child has the authority to do so, and that there is clarity about who has the authority to decide what.
Poor planning around delegation of authority can delay decision making and lead to children missing out on opportunities that enable them to experience a fulfilled childhood and feel part of the foster carer's family or the daily life of their children's home.
Looked After Children say that problems obtaining consent from parent's or those with parental responsibility and the Department to everyday activities make them feel different from their peers and cause them embarrassment and upset.
Failure to delegate appropriately, or to make clear who has the authority to decide what, can make it more difficult for foster carers and residential workers to carry out their caring role and form appropriate relationships with the children in their care.
Failure to address the issues arising from who makes what decisions about the care of Looked After Children can mean that children in foster care are marked out as different from their peers because decision making for their care is more complicated with carers having to seek permission from social workers for ordinary activities like school trips or overnight stays. On occasion this has led to children missing out on activities as permission cannot be sought in time, stressful experiences for children, foster carers waiting for responses and children not being able to enjoy spontaneous experiences.
Decision making around the care of Looked After Children can be an area of conflict between foster carers, social workers and those with parental responsibility and this can impact adversely on the quality of care given and the child's experience of being looked after.
Social workers are not always clear about who is responsible for which decisions. This can lead to conflict between parents, foster carers and social workers and is likely to have a negative effect on the care experience of the child. Social workers can have different styles of working, with some delegating more authority than others and this can lead to inconsistencies of practice, especially where there is a change of Social Worker.
Foster carers can feel unsure about decision making, or that they are being left to cope alone or are excessively restrained by the need to constantly seek permission to carry out basic care responsibilities.
Parents need confirmation and reassurance that they are not being excluded from decision making. They need to know about how foster care works, understand what delegated authority means and why it is important for children.
This policy has been written to ensure that the Department can comply with best practice guidance (a Statutory duty in the UK) to ensure that decisions about the care of Looked After Children are appropriately delegated to foster carers and that there is a clear understanding of when consent needs to be obtained in relation to the child's care and from whom. The policy sets out how issues arising from decision making can be resolved through the placement planning process in a manner that promotes a high standard of care for Looked After Children and good working relationships between foster carers, parents and Social Workers.It is important that at the start of every placement, everyone is clear about what authority to make decisions has been delegated to foster carers and which decisions have been retained by the Department or parents.
Best practice guidance is clear that effective delegation of decision making makes a huge difference to the lives of looked after children.
Authority for day-to-day decision making should be delegated to foster carers unless there is a valid reason not to. Every fostered child must have a Placement Plan which sets out the plan for their day-to-day care and how decisions about them will be made. This plan should include what decisions should be made by their foster carer and where decision making is not delegated to the foster carer the reasons should be clearly explained in the child's Placement Plan.
In Guernsey the BAAF Placement Plan for Foster Placements (BPPFP) and Delegated Authority Support Tool is completed for each child placed in foster care.
Foster carers should be authorised to make every day decisions about the children they foster wherever possible, whenever it is safe to do so and within the legal and policy frameworks. Foster carers being able to make such decisions will increase the likelihood of placements remaining stable, of children and young people making more positive attachments to their foster carers and will minimise the circumstances in which children who are in care feel 'different' from their peers'.
The Department aims to ensure that the most appropriate arrangements for the delegation of authority are made. In order to achieve this the Department will work sensitively with members of the birth family ensuring that they can contribute fully and freely to the planning processes for their child. Information is provided to birth family members about care planning; fostering and the management of delegated authority (see Information for Parents on Foster Care).
Decisions on delegated authority should take account of the Looked After Child's views. Consideration should be given as to whether a Looked After Child is of sufficient age and understanding to take some decisions themselves.
Definitions and Legal Framework
Foster carers act as agents for the Department. They act under its guidance, direction and authority. 'Delegated Authority' refers to the arrangement for all or some of the responsibilities held by a person or body with 'parental responsibility' ('PR') being discharged by another person acting on behalf of that person or body.
The definition of Parental responsibility and who might hold it is set out at Appendix 1.In summary, it consists of 7 duties to a child, these are:
- To safeguard and promote the child's health, education, development and welfare.
- Provide care, direction, guidance and control in a manner appropriate to the child's age and understanding.
- To determine all aspects of upbringing.
- To provide a home, directly or indirectly.
- To maintain relations or regular contact if not living with the child.
- To act as the child's legal representative, and
- To safeguard and deal with the child's property.
Foster Carers will usually be caring for a child who is either:
a) Subject to the order of a court or the Child Youth and Community Tribunal ('Tribunal').
b) has been voluntarily accommodated by a person with parental responsibility (usually the child's mother and/or father)
the Department will share parental responsibility for the child with others (usually the child's mother and father).
the Department does not share parental responsibility but a person or persons with PR agree that the Department can look after the child and give agreement for some, or all, of their PR to be discharged by the Department acting on their behalf.
Those who already hold PR for a child do not lose it when a child is looked after. When the Department shares PR, it should, wherever possible and appropriate, consult parents and others with PR for the child. The views of parents and others with PR should be complied with unless it is not consistent with the child's welfare.
Where a child is voluntarily accommodated, delegation of authority to the Department or to the carer should, as far as is reasonably practicable, be agreed with the child's parents or those with PR. If a child is 16 or 17 it should be agreed with them. When a child is voluntarily accommodated, and the Department does not share PR, the Department cannot restrict a person's exercise of their PR.
A person with delegated authority can only make decisions and do what they are authorised to do although they do have a duty, whilst they have care of a child, to do what is reasonable in the particular circumstances of the case to safeguard or promote that child's welfare. In an emergency for example foster carers can take decisions in order to protect the child as long as the Department is notified of the event immediately after.
Foster carers need clarity about the range of their decision making authority in relation to the children they are looking after.
The Placement Plan sets out the arrangements for the child to live with and be cared for by the foster carers, including arrangements for the delegation of authority by the Department.It is important to build effective relationships between parents and others with PR so that they understand that appropriate delegation is in the best interest of the child. Where parents initially feel unable to delegate, this may change over time as trust develops, so decisions should be kept under review through the care planning process , which parents should be involved in, where reasonably practicable ( whether the child is voluntarily accommodated or subject to an order.)There are some decisions that require the agreement of all those with PR or a court order. These are:
- Naming, or changing the name of, the child,
- Subject to certain exceptions, removing the child out of the jurisdiction of Guernsey and Alderney,
- Choosing the school or other educational institution which the child is to attend,
- Choosing the religion in which the child is to be brought up,
- Granting consent to the proposed marriage of the child,
- The Children ( Guernsey and Alderney) Law 2008
- Placement of Children (Guernsey and Alderney) Regulations
- Supporting Placement Planning - Handbook on Delegated Authority by the Fostering Network
- Practice is based on and informed by best practice guidance from the United Kingdom jurisdictions, Details of guidance that informs practice is set out at Appendix 3.
- Effective delegation of authority will minimise delays in decision making and maximise the child's opportunity to enjoy their childhood and a full family life. In practice this means working out , as far as possible, the areas in which decisions can be delegated before the need to take them occurs
- Foster carers are a key part of the professional and corporate parenting team. The Department will ensure that foster carers are treated as co-professionals.
- The Department provides clear written information about the responsibilities foster carers are being asked to undertake.
- The Department will ensure that foster carers have the necessary training and understanding about the arrangements for delegated authority
- Children's views and feelings must be taken into account when discussing issues in relation to delegated authority. In some cases a child will be of sufficient age and understanding to make decisions themselves. For example, they may have strong views about the often contentious issue of haircuts, and if the child is of sufficient age and understanding it may be decided that they should be allowed to make these decisions themselves.
- Parents must be supported and kept informed so they can continue to play as full a part as possible in their children's lives.
- Foster carers must be enabled and supported to take everyday decisions about the child they are fostering wherever possible. In long term placements this is even more important.
- The balance and distribution of responsibilities should support the key relationship between the child and the foster carer and should reflect the status of the placement and the long term plan for the child as set out in the child's permanence plan. For example, where the plan is for the child to return home, the child's parents should have a significant role in decision making. When the foster carer is looking after a child on a long term the foster carers should have a significant say in the majority of decisions about the child's care including longer term decisions such as which school they will attend. Delegation should reflect the increased role in the child's life and long term foster carers would be expected to have significant delegated authority.
- Whatever the permanence plan, the carer should have delegated authority to take day-to-day parenting decisions. This enables them to provide the best possible care for the child.
- Foster carers must be provided with training and support to undertake appropriate assessment of risk in areas in which they are authorised to make decisions.
- Delegated authority will be fully discussed, agreed and recorded at the start of every placement in the Placement Plan and foster carers, parents and young people (where appropriate) will have an opportunity to contribute to this process. Each Looked After Child's Placement Plan must make clear who has authority to take decisions in key areas of the child's day-to-day life including medical and dental treatment, education, leisure and home life, faith and religious observance, use of social media and any other areas of decision making relevant to that particular child.
- Decision making will be a consistent practice that balances the need for parental involvement , the Department's oversight and flexibility for the foster carer to provide care for the child
- The Placement Planning Meeting is the forum to share information and to clearly identify who does what and agrees what when a child is placed. It should focus on ensuring the day-to-day needs of the child are met with the minimum of disruption and delay. The plan should focus on ensuring that the child can feel as normal as possible whilst living in the foster home.
- Parents, foster carers and fostered young people (subject to their age and understanding) should attend the Placement Planning Meeting before the placement begins, or, where this is not possible, within five days after the placement begins in order to discuss and ensure that there is clarity about who will have authority to make pertinent decisions.
- Parents should be provided with information they need in order to reach a decision about delegated authority (see Information for Parents leaflet). They should be given the opportunity to discuss any concerns they have with the social worker and be kept informed about decisions made about their child.
- Foster carers need full historical and current information about the child and his/her family in order to provide safe and effective placements. It is incumbent on the Child's Social Worker to provide the information.
- The Placement Plan, and therefore the arrangements for delegated authority, needs to be considered on a regular basis and as any issue arises; it must be reviewed at each LAC review and any changes to the child's circumstances, parents willingness to work in partnership in delegating appropriate authority and/or foster carers difficulties in managing any issues about delegated authority must be included in the Placement Plan by the Child's Social Worker and Supervising Social Worker
- Delegation of authority can only be agreed by those with parental responsibility. Foster carers never have parental responsibility for the fostered child thus they can only make decisions by acting on behalf of the parent or local authority. Parental authority cannot be transferred to foster carers.
Procedures - the Planning Process
The following identifies what must happen to ensure that children and young people placed with foster carers experience as normal a life as possible.
It is vital that delegation of authority for decision making is dealt with within the LAC planning processes. Delegation should be agreed and recorded at the Placement Planning Meeting and reviewed regularly within the statutory LAC Review Social workers should explain to parents the nature of decisions that need to be delegated to foster carers and discuss parental consent to this. This is to ensure parents are able to make informed decisions and to encourage them to engage with the process. Young people should be included in discussions subject to their age and understanding as they may have their own views regarding who should make decisions about their care.
The Placement Plan (which replaces the 'foster placement agreement') must be drawn up before the child is placed, or, if not reasonably practicable, within 5 working days of the start of the placement. The Placement Plan is an integral part of the child's Care Plan and is a requirement for every new placement. A copy of the Placement Plan must be made available to the foster carers, parents and the Independent Reviewing Officer.
The following information must be included in the Placement Plan:-
- Why the placement was chosen and how the placement will contribute to meeting the child's needs.
- How, on a day-to-day basis the child will be cared for and the child's welfare will be safeguarded and promoted by the appropriate person.
- Any arrangement for contact between the child and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility/any other connected person, including, if appropriate, reasons why contact is not reasonably practicable or not consistent with the child's welfare; details of any Contact Order, the arrangements for notifying any changes to contact arrangements.
- Arrangements for the child's heath (physical, emotional and mental) and dental care, including the name and address of registered medical and dental practitioners; arrangements for giving/withholding consent to medical/dental examination/treatment.
- Arrangements for the child's education, including the name and address of the child's school/other educational institution/and designated teacher;
- The arrangements for and frequency of visits by the child's social worker and the supervising social worker; and for advice, support and assistance between visits.
- The Placement Plan must make clear who has the authority to take decisions in key areas of the child's day-to-day life , including medical or dental treatment, education, leisure and home life, faith and religious observance , use of social media and any other areas of decision making considered relevant with respect to the child
Decisions about the care of Looked After Children fall into 3 broad areas
- Day-to- day parenting, e.g. routine decisions about health/hygiene, education, leisure activities
- Routine but longer term decisions e.g. school choice
- Significant events, e.g. surgery
All decisions in the first category should be delegated to the child's carer ( and/or the child if they can take any of these decisions themselves). Where day-to-day parenting decisions are not delegated to the carers, any exceptions and reasons for this should be set out in the child's Placement Plan.
Decisions about activities where risk assessments have been routinely carried out by those organising /supervising the activity e.g. school trips or activity breaks, should be delegated to the child's carer.
There is no expectation that the Department should duplicate risk assessments.
Reasons not to delegate to the carer may include the child's welfare, if the child's individual needs, past experiences or behaviour are such that some day to day decisions require particular expertise and judgement. For example, where a child is especially vulnerable to exploitation by peers or adults, where overnight stays may need to be limited, the foster carer may need the Department to manage this.
The second category of decisions will need skilled partnership work to involve the relevant people. The child's permanence plan will be an important factor in determining who should be involved in the decision.
The third category of decisions is likely to be more serious and far reaching. Where the child is voluntarily accommodated the child's birth parents or others with PR should make these decisions. Where the child is subject to a legal order decisions may be made by birth parents or others with PR, which includes the Department, depending on the decision and the circumstances. Such decisions should however always take account of the wishes and feelings of the child and their carer.
The expectation must be that the assessment and approval of foster carers, their training and previous experiences of , for example, caring for their own children, will equip them with the skills and competences to undertake the day-to-day caring task, including taking day-to-day decisions about the child in the their care. Any skill gaps should be addressed so that foster carers are able to carry out their parenting role effectively.
For some decisions that are made by a person other than the child's carer it may be expected that the carer will implement the decision. For example, parents or the Department may agree to the provision of CAMHS but ask the carer to take the child to appointments. This is not delegation of decision making to the carer as the decision has been taken by those with PR and a medical professional, but it will enable the delivery of the service to continue without the need for ongoing support from social workers. The child's Placement Plan should make it clear what the expectations of the carer's are in such circumstances.
The person with the authority to take a particular decision or give a particular consent must be clearly named on the Placement Plan and any associated actions (e.g. a requirement for the carer to notify the Department that a particular decision has been made) should be clearly set out in the plan. It is vital that the Placement Plan is explicit about the distribution of tasks, consents and responsibilities between parents, social workers and foster carers; in other words there should be clarity about who does what under what circumstances. It is important that time is taken to anticipate consents and agreements that may be needed in the weeks and months ahead in order to avoid problems later on in the placement.
Where a decision is not delegated to the child's carer, but can be predicted in advance, the agreement of those with PR to the decision should be sought in advance and recorded in the Placement Plan, so that when the decision arises, delay can be avoided.
Where a particular decision is not delegated to a child's carer and rests with the Department, there must be a clear system in place for ensuring that decisions can be made by the appropriate person in a timely way, with arrangements in place to cover sickness and annual leave. Details of these arrangements must be given to parents, carers and children (subject to age and understanding).
The plan should include as much detail as possible, including the name and role of the lead person with respect to each consent and task. Where authority is delegated and there are two foster carers in the household, the Placement Plan must be clear about the joint nature of their responsibilities or clearly define which foster carer has the delegated authority, if for any reason this is not shared.
A 'Decision Support Tool' is included for use by social workers in the Placement Plan.
The Department should seek agreement to the Placement Plan from all those responsible for implementing the Plan - the parents (whenever possible; this may not always be feasible but every effort must be made to work in partnership with parents) the Child's Social Worker, the foster carer and the foster carers Supervising Social Worker.
All parties should sign the Placement Plan.
Where both parents have PR, consultation should take place with both of them whenever possible about the decisions and consents with regard to the delegated authority.
The Placement Plan must be used as a working tool rather than a one off product. It must be kept up-dated and reviewed at each statutory review chaired by the Independent Reviewing Officer. The first review will be particularly important and the time for participants in the meeting to pay attention to how the delegated authority is working in practice and to any areas of consent and decision making which were not anticipated or detailed sufficiently at the initial Placement Planning meeting. Subsequent review meetings provide opportunities to evaluate how the arrangements for delegated authority are working, to agree what changes need to be made, if any, to ensure that the arrangements are having the maximum positive impact on the child's life.
Good communication between the Child's Social Worker, the Supervising Social Worker and foster carers is essential. This group must function as a 'core team' and must work together to optimise the impact and opportunities within the placement, to resolve conflict and solve any problems. Time and attention must be paid to the functioning of the core team in order to support successful placements.
When there is a change of the Child's Social Worker or Supervising Social Worker, it is vital that a meeting is co-ordinated with the new 'core team' member so that the new relationship can be established and the Placement Plan discussed. This should enable positive and productive working relationships and reduce difficulties in managing differences of opinion that can arise during a placement. Where there are differing views about how the placement should be managed, how a child is cared for or about an aspect of delegated authority, these must be discussed with the relevant team manager and with the involvement and assistance of the Independent Reviewing Officer, if relevant.
Liabilities and legal indemnity
Good parenting includes managing risk. Children in foster care are entitled to be provided with, and may expect to be subject to, similar levels of care as would be expected to be provided by reasonable parents. In order to increase foster carers' confidence and competence in making more decisions and managing risk, the fostering service will provide support, advice and training.
Foster carers need appropriate information and support in order to look after someone else's child safely and effectively. They need to have good quality and full information at the point of placement and be consulted and clear about the decision making responsibilities they are being asked to undertake. Supervising social workers must ensure that foster carers are sufficiently trained, supported and confidant to take on the responsibilities and provide regular opportunities for foster carers to discuss how the delegated authority is working in practice.
However, no matter how competent and supported a carer is the possibility that something may go wrong cannot be eliminated entirely.
If harm comes to a child while in their care, the foster carers might be liable for that harm. Accordingly, the Department has legal indemnity insurance in place which provides insurance cover to all the approved in-house foster carers.
Supervising social workers must check that all the foster carers they are allocated to, have signed Foster Care Agreements and that signed copies of this document are on the foster carers' electronic case file. Furthermore, they should ensure that foster carers are satisfied and comfortable with the arrangements the Department has in place to deal with any potential liabilities and how the fostering service will meet claims by or against foster carers in respect of damage, loss or injury, or legal defence costs.
Guidance on Consents and Areas of Decision Making (Education) The following are some of the key areas where decisions or consents are required, with advice about who may be best placed to lead on them.
Choosing a school and change of school Decisions on what school the child attends and whether a child can change school can only be taken within the statutory care planning process. The choice of a pre-school setting or school should be discussed and agreed by the holders of parental responsibility at a statutory review meeting. If the foster carer decides to move house or is caring for a child on a long term basis and wants the child to attend a different school, this will need to be agreed at a statutory review meeting. The impact a move of school will have on the child must be a key focus in the discussion.
Meeting with school staff and involvement with school Foster carers should be able to engage fully with the child's school and take routine daily decisions in order to make the child's education as normal as possible. Carers should maintain contact with the school and discuss the child's progress. They should attend meetings and sign home/school agreements and homework planners. In a medium to long-term placement, the foster carers should usually be the people to meet school staff to discuss progress and share information that the school needs to know in order to help the child succeed. Between reviews, the foster carer should ensure that the social worker and, if appropriate, those with parental responsibility are kept informed about the child's progress at school, particularly if there are any problems.
In short term placements those with parental responsibility should be consulted with regard to their wish to attend parents meetings and they may choose to attend alongside the foster carer or separately.
Accessing educational and leisure activities Looked-after children should have the same opportunities as any child to take full advantage of extra-curricular education initiatives.
Foster carers should be delegated the task of providing agreements and signatures for these from the outset of a placement, wherever possible.
Children will receive education about sex and relationships at school, unless parents have decided to withdraw their children from such lessons. However, the arrangements in schools for how sex education is delivered in the curriculum may differ. A child's participation in the school's provision for sex and relationship education should be discussed at the placement planning meeting and parents' wishes identified and recorded. If it is agreed beforehand that the child attends, the foster carer should be able to consent on any school documentation. There will also be occasions when issues around sex and relationships arise in the foster home. Unless parents have expressed particular wishes about what they want their child to be told, and how, foster carers should respond as any reasonable parent would.
Sports activities/ outside activities and organisations
All children who go to school will participate in physical education - this does not require consent. Foster carers should be able to give consent to children participating in extra-curricular sports activities and activities, such as scouts or guides. This will need to be discussed with parents where a child is in short term foster placement to ascertain their support for this on an ongoing basis where possible.
Delegated authority to give such consents should be discussed at the start of the placement and the decision recorded in the Placement Plan.
Guidance on Consents and Areas of Decision Making (Health)
Foster carers should be absolutely clear from the outset about their responsibilities in relation to medical treatment. The child's health plan must set out the details of the child's health needs and how they will be met. The Placement Plan should clearly show where and when the foster carers have delegated authority to take decisions or give consents in relation to a child's health. The Placement Plan can be used by the foster carer as evidence of their delegated authority - should they need to present this to a health professional, for example. Foster carers should be given a copy of the signed consent form (completed by those with parental responsibility) for routine medicals, immunisations, dental, optician and general treatment.
If the child is subject to a legal order giving the Department PR then the Department can give consent (usually not below the level of Service Manager subject to consultation with those who share PR . Social Workers should ensure that issues of consent are dealt with in accordance with the Departments Policy on Consent (G307).
A person reaches maturity for the purposes of consent to medical treatment at the age of 16. However, the ability to give legally valid consent to medical treatment is not determined solely according to chronological age. A child below the age of 16 may be regarded as competent to consent to treatment if he / she have attained a level of maturity that the doctor believes enables him / her to make an informed decision. In this situation, the child may be described as Gillick competent .
Gillick competence = children under 16 can consent to treatment only if they truly understand its nature, purpose and hazards.
"Children below the age of 16 can lawfully receive medical advice and treatment, in the absence of consent of a person with PR, provided that the particular child has achieved a degree of maturity which enables him / her to fully comprehend the implications of the treatment being proposed.
Foster carers should be able to consent to routine examinations and treatment wherever possible. It is important that it is made clear in the Placement Plan whether or not foster carers have delegated authority to take the child to the Dentist. The Children's Dental Service should be used.
Foster carers should be given delegated authority, whenever possible, to consent to immunisations. Parents may have concerns about particular immunisations, and this should be explored with them at the beginning of the placement and any issues detailed in the Placement Plan.
Non-routine medical treatment
Children should not normally have to wait for pain relief or emergency treatment as a result of confusion about who has authority to give consent. Situations may arise where children sustain an injury or require emergency treatment. The Placement Plan should include who can give consent to treatment and in what circumstances so that undue delay is avoided, for example by foster carers having to contact the emergency duty team out-of-hours or a manager having to go to the hospital to sign a consent form. It should be noted that even where authority has not been delegated, foster carers can do what is reasonable in an emergency to keep a child safe.
Foster carers may consent to emergency medical treatment as the person who has care of the child but must try to gain consent in advance if possible by contacting the Department and others with PR (either directly or via the Department) and must inform the Department and others with PR (directly or indirectly) of any consent given immediately after where this has had to be exercised. Delegated authority should be discussed at the outset of the placement and the Placement Plan should make clear what has been delegated.
Foster carers should be able to sign consent for routine eye and sight tests and the provision of glasses.
Foster carers should be able to sign consents for routine medicals whenever possible, for example at school or looked-after children medicals. They should inform the child's social worker when these are taking place and of the outcome. They should provide the medical practitioner with sight of the signed consent form from those with PR where applicable which sets out the authority delegated to foster carers.
Guidance on Consents and Areas of Decision Making (Leisure and everyday life, A to H)
Children who are being looked after need consistency and stability, therefore careful consideration needs to be given to any babysitting arrangements.
Arrangements for child sitting of children in foster placement should be consistent with the attributes of good parenting. Children should only be left with sitters known to and trusted by the foster carer and who the child knows themselves. Generally adults in the foster carer's own support network will be used as child sitters and identified as part of the foster carer's initial assessment and annual review in recognition that this is a standard form of support for most placements. Such adults could provide a range of support from babysitting to covering short periods of continuous care including overnight care, for example in long term foster placements. Child sitters should not be under 18 years of age unless in exceptional circumstances this has been explicitly agreed with the Department.
Use of the adult sons and daughters of the foster carer to provide babysitting should be agreed as part of the Placement Planning Meeting at the beginning of the placement and reviewed subsequently. This decision would therefore include input from those with PR, child (if old enough to express their wishes and feelings), carer, child's social worker and supervising social worker.
A balance will need to be struck between normalising family experience for the child in placement with a requirement to take an informed decision as to the ability of the proposed babysitter to meet the needs of the individual looked after child together with their awareness of safer caring practice
Body Piercings and Tattoos T
his is unlawful in Guernsey in relation to those under 18 years of age.
The principles and arrangements for contact need to be established and formalised in the Placement Plan and then reviewed at each statutory review. It may be possible for foster carers, particularly in well-established placements, to undertake a degree of decision making in respect of some contact arrangements if the parameters for this are clear, agreed beforehand and detailed in the Placement Plan. It is not normal practice for foster carers to supervise contact or for this to occur within their own home. In exceptional circumstances where this is agreed the foster carer must have received adequate training for these tasks and risk assessment undertaken
This is often not straightforward and can be a fraught area for foster carers and children. It is an important issue which can require sensitive attention, as hair care and style may have cultural or religious significance for families. Decisions about the timing of, and arrangements for, haircuts should be delegated to foster carers, wherever possible. However, the issues need to be fully explored with those with PR at the outset. Arrangements should be agreed at the Placement Planning Meeting and recorded in the Placement Plan; arrangements should be revisited, as necessary, in statutory reviews.
Guidance on Consents and Areas of Decision Making (Holidays)
Holidays outside Guernsey and Alderney and School Trips
There are quite complicated rules on whether the consent of those with parental responsibility is required for a child placed with foster carers to go on holiday.
The position is summarised below:
A: Child is voluntarily accommodated When a child is voluntarily accommodated the consent of a person with parental responsibility will be required for any trips/holidays of any duration including trips within the jurisdiction of Guernsey and Alderney (e.g. a camping trip to Herm or a day trip to Alderney).
All those with parental responsibility should be consulted and ideally the consent of all obtained. It will be important to check there are no existing restrictions on the child leaving the jurisdiction.
B: Child is subject to a community parenting order or a care requirement When the child is:
- subject to a community parenting order or a care requirement (including interim orders); and
- the Department has arranged or consents to the trip; and
- the trip is for no longer than 28 days
- the consent of a person with parental responsibility is not required. However, the Department should consult all those with parental responsibility (as far as is reasonably practicable) and have regard to any objections they may have to the proposed trip. It is important to note the distinction between seeking consent of those with PR and consulting those with PR.
Where the grounds above are satisfied you do not need consent but you should still consult.
Whenever the Department consults on proposed trips, it is reasonable to provide those with PR sufficient details about the proposed trip for them to take an informed view (e.g. destination/ nature of accommodation/ any activities etc).
Plans for taking a child on holiday should be discussed with the child's social worker at the earliest opportunity as they will need to decide if it is in the child's best interest and discuss with others, including those with parental responsibility for the child.
Any issues about the impact on contact arrangements should be raised before the child is aware that there is the opportunity to go on holiday. It is essential that the child's social worker knows the details of the holiday destination.The possibility of a child accompanying their foster carer on a family holiday abroad should be discussed sensitively with those persons with parental responsibility for the child and their agreement sought 'in principle'. This is best done when the child or young person becomes looked after. Those individual's views and concerns should be known at the outset. In all cases, there should be clarity at the outset about consents, passports and the possibility that arrangements can be made at short notice so that foster carers can take advantage of holiday deals or a trip at short notice due to an offer or for personal reasons. It would be best practice for the child's social worker to arrange to obtain a passport by the second LAC Review wherever possible.
Consents and passports are also relevant in relation to school trips abroad. In all cases where a foster carer is taking a child on holiday they should ensure that adequate travel insurance is in place to cover the child concerned.
Foster carers will also require a letter of authorisation from the Department which they take with them to provide explanation to border officials, for example, of why foster carers have a child with a different surname in their care. In order to seek the letter of authorisation the child's social worker will require certain information from the foster carer including
- destination and dates
- travel details eg airline, ferry
- addresses of accommodation
- sleeping arrangements and any safe care issues including discussion of how to manage issues should bedrooms/family rooms be shared
- Insurance details including cover for the child concerned
C: School Trips The position in relation to seeking consent for School Trips is governed by the above principles.
Where a child is voluntarily accommodated the school may liaise directly with those with parental responsibility, although they should be encouraged to liaise with the Department. Risk assessments for school trips and outings are the responsibility of schools.
Foster carers should be delegated the task of providing agreements and signatures for local school trips from the outset of a placement, wherever possible. Where this is not delegated the reason should be made clear in the Placement Plan.
Guidance on Consents and Areas of Decision Making (Leisure and everyday life, M to V)
This is an issue that can cause considerable disagreement. There needs to be clarity about what foster carers can decide in relation to the ownership and use of mobile telephones and for this to be detailed in the Placement Plan. As a general principle, foster carers with young people in long-term placements should be responsible for making decisions regarding the possession and use of mobile phones. For children placed on a short term basis this requires consultation with those with parental responsibility. Any restrictions should be specified at the time of placement or discussed in statutory reviews. Persons with parental responsibility may need help to understand that foster carers who are caring for other children in the household need to be able to operate as consistently as possible with all the children. Foster carers and social workers may wish to refer to the Fostering Network Pathways through Fostering book Safer Caring , or to check other resources available from www.fostering.net or www.ceop.police.uk on this topic.
Photographs and other media activity
There should be no restrictions on foster carers taking family pictures of the fostered child, or the child and their friends. The foster carer does not need consent for this. It is important that fostered children have a record and memories of their childhood and photographs can be a helpful way for fostered children to make sense of their history.
Decisions on whether the foster carer can consent to other types of photographs or media activity can be more problematic due to issues of confidentiality and safeguarding. Foster carers may also need to limit a child's use of mobile phones or social networking sites in order to implement house rules or due to safeguarding concerns. The issue of the age and competency of a young person to make informed decisions also has to be factored into the considerations of 'who decides what'. It should be assumed that young people over 16 would be the 'lead' in these decisions.
- School photographs - foster carers should be enabled to give consent for formal school photographs. They should be encouraged to ensure children have school and group photographs taken as part of their life history.
- Other types of photographs/wider media activity - many children love to be able to take part in activities that may lead to publicity in the media. Others wish to engage in paid or voluntary activities which drive improvements in foster care and that may attract media attention. While this should be normally encouraged and celebrated, the issues of 'who consents', needs to be judged in relation to particular known risks to the safety of an individual child.
Young people and foster carers often feel they are struggling with blanket policies in these areas so individual consideration of each case is important. Any restrictions on a child's photograph or name appearing in the media should be based on good explanations and clearly specified in the Placement Plan.
Participating in hazardous activities
Early anticipation and discussion about a child taking part in hazardous activities can save much distress and disappointment. Views will vary on what activity may be considered 'hazardous' or 'risky'. Recent best practice advice seeks to challenge the risk-averse culture.. Foster carers should be able to act more often as 'any good parent would'. However, prior consultation with parents and collaboration over these types of decisions are necessary and it is important that foster carers work within the Department's policies in relation to any restrictions on certain activities and in ensuring any necessary insurance is in place.
If authorised to take decisions for a range of anticipated activities that can cause injury, for example, skating, riding, sailing, wall climbing and karting, the foster carer would need to ensure that the child or young person had the correct safety equipment, adequate preparation and, where applicable, is supervised by a recognised instructor or supervising organisation. More unusual requests should be discussed at a statutory review meeting and a decision on delegated authority agreed.
Difficulties obtaining permission for sleepovers is often highlighted as a particular concern by looked after children. Looked after children should as far as possible be granted the same permissions to take part in normal and acceptable age appropriate peer activities as would normally be granted by the parents of their peers. The Government's intention is that foster carers should be able to make decisions about overnight stays and visits to friends as if the fostered child was their own child, and act as any protective parent would. The authority delegated to the foster carer to make decisions on overnight stays should be set out in the Placement Plan in consultation with parents. Parents make judgements about whether or not there are known risks to staying in a particular household or visiting relatives and similar judgements should be made for children in foster care by their responsible carers. Judgement should be based on a reasonable assessment of risks.
If in doubt about the appropriate decision or if there is reason to consider that a child may be at specific risk staying in a particular household, the foster carer should consult the social worker for advice. In making decisions about whether or not to permit a looked after child to stay overnight with a friend or have a holiday with friends or relatives of the foster carers, foster carers and the Department should consider the following -
- whether there are any restrictions contained for exceptional reasons in the care plan, including the placement plan,
- whether any court orders restrict the child from making a particular overnight stay, visit or holiday,
- whether any factors in the child's past experience or behaviour would preclude an overnight stay, visit or holiday
- whether there are any grounds for concern that the child may be at significant risk in the household concerned or from the activity proposed,
- the age and level of understanding of the child concerned,
- what is known about the reason for the overnight stay, visit or holiday
- the length of stay.
- In all cases foster carers should be made urgently aware of any individuals, addresses or areas which may place a child at risk and this information should be included in the Placement Plan There is no duty for an Enhanced DBS check to be sought in relation to adults in a private household where a child may stay overnight or visit or who the child may accompany on a holiday or school trip. Enhanced DBS checks should not normally be sought and will not be required for children to visit friends or go on overnight stays. Children may also stay overnight or go on holiday in certain circumstances (e.g. long term foster carer) with friends and relatives of foster carers as a form of child sitting and as a normal part of everyday life and there is no requirement to approve that person as a foster carer as the child will remain formally placed with their usual foster carer Foster carers should always have contact details for the household in which the child will be staying. They should make contact with the household beforehand as would any good parent to assist in assessing the request and to confirm arrangements and to ensure the household where the child will be staying has, in turn, the contact details of the foster carer.
As with overnight stays, the statutory guidance concerning visiting friends is clear. Unless there is a reason for not delegating authority, the foster carer should be authorised to act as a good parent in decisions regarding visits to friends.
Guidance on Consents and Areas of Decision Making Tasks
|No||Task||Responsible officer||Record required||Performance standard|
|1||Once a placement has been identified arrangements are made to hold a Placement Planning Meeting to complete BAAF Form Placement Plan for Foster Placements (PPFP) and Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool. SSW, CSW, Foster carer, Parent/s or others with PR ( every effort should be made to include Parent/s wherever possible)and young person ( subject to age and understanding ) to attend||Supervising Social Worker(SSW)Child Social Worker (CSW)||BAAF PPFP and Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool||Prior to placement wherever possible or within 5 working days of start of placement|
|2||Information for Parents of Children in Foster Care to be provided to parents||SSW ( either direct or via CSW)||Information for Parents of Children in Foster Care||Prior to Placement Planning Meeting|
|3||BAAF Form PPFP to be pre populated with some information where possible.||CSW||BAAF PPFP and Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool||Prior to Placement Planning Meeting|
|4||Meeting to take place- chaired by SSW. Any outstanding LAC paperwork to also be completed. Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool to be discussed and agreed (In UK it is the CSW responsibility to complete the Placement Plan but in Guernsey SSW will assist in this and record the information at the meeting on the form||SSWCSW||BAAF PPFP and Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool||Prior to placement or within 5 working days of start of placement|
|5||Completed BAAF Form PPFP and Delegated Authority decision Support Tool to be disseminated to all parties and to the IRO||SSW||BAAF PPFP and Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool||Within 5 days of meeting|
|6||BAAF PPFP to be formally reviewed at every LAC Review. In addition it can be updated and reviewed when there are difficulties, change of placement status, e.g. short term to long term, where siblings are separated.||IROCSWSSW||BAAF PPFP and Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool||LAC Review and as necessary|
Frequently Asked (Legal) Questions about delegated authority
What is parental responsibility?
Parental Responsibility was a new concept introduced by the Children (Guernsey and Alderney) Law 2008. It broadly replaced 'custody': the parental rights and obligations involved in the raising of children. Parental Responsibility places an emphasis on responsibility as well as rights.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
Where a child's mother and father are married when their child is born or they subsequently marry, they will both have Parental Responsibility. They can only lose their Parental Responsibility if the child is adopted. Parents who separate or divorce continue to have Parental Responsibility.
Parental Responsibility consists of 7 duties to a child, these are:
- To safeguard and promote the child's health, education, development and welfare.
- Provide care, direction, guidance and control in a manner appropriate to the child's age and understanding.
- To determine all aspects of upbringing.
- To provide a home, directly or indirectly.
- To maintain relations or regular contact if not living with the child.
- To act as the child's legal representative, and
- To safeguard and deal with the child's property.
Do unmarried fathers have Parental Responsibility?
If a child's father is not married to the mother when their child is born only the mother has Parental Responsibility. Unmarried fathers may acquire Parental Responsibility by...
- Marrying the mother;
- Being registered on the birth certificate (but only if registered after the Law comes into effect);
- Entering into a Parental Responsibility agreement with the mother in the prescribed for
- If the court makes a Parental Responsibility Order or Residence Order in his favour.
Can anyone else get Parental Responsibility?
- Through Residence or Parental Responsibility Orders, people such as grandparents, family relatives and an adult who has lived with the child for a specified period of time.
- Guardians appointed on the death of a parent acquire Parental Responsibility in certain circumstances e.g. on the death of any surviving parent.
- Health and Social Services Department due to a Community Parenting Order, an Emergency Child Protection Order, a Secure Accommodation Order or a Care Requirement.
Sharing Parental Responsibility...
When more than one person holds Parental Responsibility at the same time, one may act independently of the others (with some exceptions set out below).
However, there is a clear concept of co-operation and partnership under the new Law. For example: One person with Parental Responsibility could consent to the child receiving medical treatment without seeking the agreement of the other holders of Parental Responsibility, but in practice they should consult and try to seek such agreement.
Holders of Parental Responsibility must agree on the following...
- Naming the child, or changing the name.
- Removing the child from the jurisdiction of Guernsey and Alderney.
- Choosing the child's school or religion.
- Consent to marriage.
If agreement cannot be obtained, an application can be made to the Court.
Parental Responsibility lasts until...
- The child is 18, or the child's marriage before that.
- Court Orders ending Parental Responsibility.
- When Parental Responsibility is an integral part of a court order which comes to an end (e.g. a Residence Order).
Other issues on Parental Responsibility...
- Parental Responsibility may be delegated but not surrendered or transferred.
- Any person aged 16 or over who does not have parental responsibility but has the child in their care, has the right and duty to take whatever action necessary to safeguard the child.
- Having, or not having, Parental Responsibility, does not affect any other duty a person might have towards a child (e.g. to pay maintenance).
- When a child is subject to a care requirement, the Department and any other named person in a care requirement condition may exercise Parental Responsibility only to the extent necessary to fulfil the care requirement and any conditions.
- The rights of holders of Parental Responsibility to exercise this on behalf of their children diminish as the child increases in age and maturity. Under the Law, a child aged 12 is presumed capable of forming a considered view about matters affecting them unless shown otherwise.
Who informs who and when?
Important questions for foster carers who are authorised to take decisions and undertake key tasks
Everyone has a responsibility to make the Placement Plan work as well as possible in order to ensure the child in placement has increased opportunities to have a normal life. It can, however, be helpful for foster carers to have some key questions ready to make absolutely sure that they and the social workers and parents are communicating clearly about the basis of decisions and their expectations of each other.
Communication is at the heart of good practice, and this includes delegated authority. It is imperative that parents feel as fully involved as possible in their child's life and the planning process. As well as being a legal duty, it increased the chances of building confidence and trust with foster carers and social workers and helps parents to think about delegated authority in a way that meets the needs of their child without them feeling disempowered or side-lined. Sometimes foster carers can talk directly to parents to keep them up to date and to advise them of actions they have undertaken on their behalf. In other situations, parents may need to receive information about their child's care and welfare from the social worker, who needs to be kept informed of developments by the foster carer.
Communication is also crucial in order to build confidence and trust between the professionals. There may be agreement about what responsibilities are delegated to foster carers, but there can still be scope for misunderstandings about who is informed about what has taken place and when. It is easy to assume that all parties have the same expectations in relation to this and only find out later, when it has become a problem that they did not.
The pressures of time also mean that some actions and decisions, and the basis upon which these are made, are not always as clear as they need to be. Foster carers and social workers have a responsibility to ensure that there is clarity of understanding.
Finally, things rarely run to plan: problems crop up at the worst moment; the foster carer needs something resolved quickly; the social worker is ill; the manager is out. What is in place to deal with these scenarios and what principles should guide the foster carer in making 'the best possible' decision in the circumstances?
Assumptions are risky things to make. Checking what another person is expecting of us, exactly what has been agreed (and why) is rarely a wasted effort. What follows are some questions which may help foster carers in these situations
1. Expectations regarding how foster carers involve parents in their fostered child's life
How can the fostered child's parents receive the information that they want from me between reviews about how I am caring for their child/making everyday decisions?
- directly or via the social worker
- phone calls/texts/email
- a diary
2. Expectations about when foster carers should communicate with social workers or parents over decisions they have taken.
Is this consent, decision or task something I need to advise the social worker/parent/out-of-hours service about:
- Immediately - as soon as I have made it?
- Next time I see them?
- At the next review when the Placement Plan is reviewed as part of the Care Plan?
- I just record that is has happened.
3. Expectations about what informs social workers' decisions
Is the social worker's advice about a consent or decision based upon:
- The legal position?
- Departmental policy and procedure?
- A risk assessment?
- A discussion with a manager or IRO?
- A personal view?
Foster carers can use the Decision Support Tool to record notes and questions about these things to discuss with their fostered child's social worker or in reviews.
Best practice guidance informing local practice
- Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011( England)
- Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011
- Delegation of Authority: Amendments to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review
- Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010
- Regulation 9 and schedule 2 provide details in relation to the Placement Plan
- Children Act 1989 Statutory Guidance Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2010)
- Chapter 3 focuses on the placement and has sections about the Placement Plan, shared responsibilities and consents.
- Children Act 1989 Statutory Guidance Volume 4: Fostering Services (2010)
- Chapter 3 contains sections on delegated authority for foster carers. Delegated authority is also referred to in the sections about contact with family and friends, achieving healthy outcomes and educational achievement.
- National Minimum Standards 2011
- NMS 1 outlines what is expected in relation to the child's wishes and feelings and the views of those significant to them being taken into account.
- NMS 2 'Promoting a positive identity, potential and valuing diversity through individualised care' states 'Foster carers meet children's individual needs as set out in the child's placement plan as part of the wider family context.' (NMS 2.3)
- NMS 4 'Safeguarding children' identifies the need for 'foster carers to take appropriate risks as a normal part of growing up' (NMS 4.4) and that 'the service implements a proportionate approach to any risk assessment.' (NMS 4.5)
- NMS 6 'Promoting good health and wellbeing' states 'children's health is promoted in accordance with their placement plan and foster carers are clear about what responsibilities and decisions are delegated to them and where consent for medical treatment needs to be obtained.' (NMS 6.5)
- NMS 7 'Leisure activities' refers to foster carers understanding 'what is in the child's placement plan and have clarity about decisions they can make about the day to day arrangements for the child, including such matters as education, leisure activities, overnight stays, holidays, and personal issues such as hair cuts' (NMS 7.3) and 'foster carers are supported to make reasonable and appropriate decisions within the authority delegated to them, without having to seek consent unnecessarily' (NMS 7.4).
- NMS 9 'Duty to promote contact' expects that 'foster carers understand what decisions about contact are delegated to them, in line with the child's care plan, and make those decisions in the child's best interest' (NMS 9.7).
- Child protection
- Youth Offending
- Children with Disabilities