- / Procedures
- / Children living away from home
- / Family Placement Service
- / Management of Foster Carers
- / Allegations of Abuse against Foster Carers
Allegations of Abuse against Foster Carers
- The Children (Guernsey and Alderney) Law 2008
- Placement of Children (Guernsey and Alderney) Regulations
- Guernsey and Alderney Child Protection Guidelines
Practice is based on and informed by best practice guidance from the United Kingdom jurisdictions including:
- Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011
- Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011
- In dealing with any allegations or complaints the Department's primary responsibility is the protection of the child. The investigation of any allegation of abuse against a foster carer is the same as for similar allegations against any professional with a duty of care to a child.
- Foster carers are made aware, through preparation training and safer caring training, of the possible implications of any allegations made against them.
- In serious cases where the allegation is considered to have substance, it may result in a criminal prosecution. Foster carers are therefore strongly recommended to seek legal advice from the outset either independently, or via their membership of The Fostering Network. Each registered foster carer is a member of the Fostering Network (as arranged by the Department) and has access to legal advice and legal protection Insurance (See Insurance and Foster Carers).
- It is clear that abuse of children may be perpetrated by all sections of the community and this includes foster carers. In dealing with any allegation it should be acknowledged that foster carers are in a particularly vulnerable situation, perhaps having children in their care who have previously been abused and may be especially challenging and testing in their behaviour. It is important for foster carers to have received appropriate guidance on acceptable methods of managing behaviour and safer care.( See Managing Behaviour and Safer Care and Health and Safety in Foster care).
- Allegations of abuse made against foster carers will be dealt with in accordance with the general principles of child protection and, if an investigation is necessary, it will be undertaken within the requirements of the Guernsey and Alderney Child Protection Guidelines. Depending on the allegation a decision will be made as to whether a Strategy Meeting is to be called and whether there is any immediate action to be taken to safeguard the child.
- In the case of children placed out of the jurisdiction of Guernsey and Alderney, the area authority where the child is placed must be informed and will be the lead authority and that area's child protection procedures will apply.
- A formal review of the foster carer's approval will be carried out following an investigation of alleged abuse or concern regarding standard of care or conduct of the carer.( See Review of Approval of Foster carers, Kinship Carers and Short Break Carers). The review will be presented to the first available Fostering Panel or Adoption and Permanence Panel (as appropriate depending on the registration of the foster carer). Where an allegation is unfounded, withdrawn or judged to be malicious, a report will be submitted to Panel and this will enable the Department and the foster carer to reflect upon events and discuss issues including the foster carers future service and safer caring practice.
- No additional children will be placed with foster carers during the process of any investigation and until a review has been held.
- Unnecessary disruption of placements will be avoided. Children in placement should not automatically be removed from a carer who is under investigation. Removal of children will occur where there is considered to be a risk of serious harm to children if they remain with the carer.
- The Service Manager, Corporate Parenting will act as the designated person responsible for managing allegations against foster carers.
- An allegation refers to information or a concern that suggests a carer has behaved in a way that harms children, has possibly committed a criminal offence against a child or behaved towards a child in a way that indicates that they are unsuitable to work with children.
- All foster carers will be made aware of this policy as part of their induction. Foster carers will be advised of the need to attend mandatory training on Child Protection and Safer Caring. All foster carers will be informed of the possibility of allegations being made against them as part of preparation training. Foster carers will be made aware of the support and advice available to them from membership of the Fostering Network and any other source of support.
- When any allegation is made which could constitute abuse, the member of staff who first becomes aware of such an allegation must ensure that it is immediately passed on to the Team Manager responsible for the supervision of the child and the Team Manager of the Family Placement Service.
- The respective Team Managers will make recommendation to their Service Managers as to whether the incident should be responded to as a child protection referral or as an inappropriate care referral. The Service Managers will take the ultimate decision and information must be gained and recorded to support this decision.
- Allegations will be dealt with thoroughly and without delay and resolved as quickly as possible. All allegations of abuse are investigated within child protection timescales. In cases where it is immediately apparent that the allegation is unfounded or malicious the matter should be resolved within one week.
- In cases were no criminal offence is involved and no formal action is required the Family Placement Service Team Manager will take responsibility for ensuring appropriate action is initiated.
- If the decision is to treat the incident as a matter of inappropriate caring, the Service Manager, Corporate Parenting together with the Child Social Worker Team Manager and the Family Placement Service Manager, will decide an action plan as to how the matter will be followed up, and the Service Manager must be informed of the action plan and outcome.The Service Manager must seek the Assistant Director's agreement to the conclusions. Any agreed action should be undertaken within 15 working days.
- In addition to 'one off' information leading to a serious concern about a foster care's practice, there may be continuing ' low level' concerns regarding a carer's practice or standard of care arising through supervision of the carer or through other means. Examples are methods of disciplining children, quality or nature of diet, clothing or routine care provided, non-compliance with contact arrangements etc. Taken individually such concerns may not be serious but over time they may accumulate or worsen to the level of a serious concern where the suitability of the foster carer is called into question. Concerns of any kind should be addressed with foster carers immediately when they arise with recorded opportunities to improve with support. However, if the quality of care does not change the department may wish to proceed with a review of approval.
- In circumstances where it is clear that child protection procedures should be instigated these procedures will be followed within child protection timescales and the following will apply:
o Team Managers inform respective Service Managers.
o Service Manager, Corporate Parenting informs Assistant Director, Children and Maternity Services
o The Assistant Director will inform the Director, Children and Maternity Services
- Any allegations of abuse should be dealt with by a Service Manager, Team Manager and social work staff independent of the responsibility to supervise the placement of any children concerned, usually the Assessment and Intervention Team will lead the investigation or in the case of a child placed outside Guernsey and Alderney the Child Protection Services for the Area Authority. Where possible, the investigating team should be free of significant previous involvement with the foster carer concerned.
- Consideration should be given to using an independent agency where necessary.
- The investigating Team Manager (Assessment and Intervention Team) is responsible for informing their own Service Manager (if that person is not already aware).
- The investigating Team Manager will ensure that a strategy discussion is co-ordinated and child protection procedures are followed. This must include liaison with the Team Manager who has responsibility for the supervision of the child and any other children in placement, the Child's Social Worker, the Family Placement Service Manager and Supervising Social Worker.
- Depending upon the circumstances, legal advice may need to be sought at this stage.
- There may be occasions when a child living in a foster home is involved in allegations of abuse against another child either within or outside of the foster home. In such cases the principles for investigation will be no different to those already outlined, irrespective of whether the child is a foster child or a child of the foster carers. However if the foster carers live outside of Guernsey or Alderney the social services for the area in which they live will be involved.
- In situations where it is alleged that any child within the foster home has been abused by a child or adult who is not a member of the foster home, the same principles of independent investigation outlined previously will also apply to the children within the foster home.
Investigations into Allegations of Abuse
Following the strategy discussion if the independent Service Manager/Team Manager confirms that an investigation is required, then such an investigation should be conducted as agreed during the strategy discussion.
Where it has been decided that a full investigation is necessary, a strategy discussion will have included consideration of:
a) Whether there are any reasons for asking another agency to investigate.
b) Who will investigate.
c) Who should be interviewed and where the interview should take place.
d) Whether the child and any other children should remain in the placement whilst the investigation takes place.
e) How the investigation process will be recorded and who will receive copies.
f) How the child's parent(s) will be informed.
g) How previous history of the child and foster carers will be collated.
h) Gathering information about the context of previous allegations made by the child or allegations made against any person within the foster home concerning current or previous placements.
i) The process and outcome of any previous enquiry or investigations about any person within the foster home or allegations made by the child.
j) Details of the investigation process and plan for informing foster carers and those with PR about the decisions of the meeting and process of the investigation, verbally and in writing.
k) Arrangements for considering the outcome of the investigation.
During an investigation, a decision will need to be made as to whether there are grounds for interviewing any children who have previously lived in the foster home.
When the investigation is complete, a written report should be submitted by the investigating Social Worker to their Team Manager and Service Manager and the Service Manager, Corporate Parenting.
The Service Manager, Corporate Parenting will ensure that this information has also been shared with the Child Social Worker Team Manager, Child's Social Worker, Family Placement Service Manager, Supervising Social Worker, Service Manager Assessment and Youth, Assistant Director and Director.
A child in foster care should not automatically be removed following an allegation of abuse. Removal is, however, always necessary where the child is considered to be at risk of suffering significant harm. The prime purpose of any investigation is to protect children within the household in accordance with the child protection procedures and to progress the investigation of possible criminal offences.
Following the investigation and agreement of the staff identified, the investigating Social Worker will inform the foster carers of the outcome of the investigation and provide them with a written report regarding the allegations, investigation report's conclusions and outcome.
A Foster Care Review will be conducted, chaired by an independent chairperson. The Supervising Social Worker will submit a report to the Review and a copy will be sent to the foster carers. The independent chair will prepare a Summary Report for the Panel with recommendations about the foster carer's suitability and competence to foster, any variations in the terms of their approval, any need for further training and development or support they may require and any learning for the carer and the Department. A copy will be sent to the foster carers. The Supervising Social Worker will present their reports and outcome to the next available Fostering Panel or Adoption and Permanence Panel as appropriate. Foster carers will be invited to contribute their views in writing to the Review and to attend the Review and Panel.
Review reports and Minutes of Panel will be sent to the Assistant Director and Service Manager, Corporate Parenting by the Team Manager, Family Placement Service for their information.
If the foster carer submits their resignation during the investigation or Review their approval will be terminated after 28 days. The Panel cannot make a recommendation but will consider the Review and minute the recommendation they would have made had the carer not attended.
Where a child has been removed as a result of an allegation of abuse, and the foster carers are being paid a fee in respect of that child, the fee will continue to be paid until a formal decision has been taken that the child will not return. Any such decision must be notified immediately to the foster carers in writing by the Family Placement Service Manager.
The Supervising Social Worker Role
Within these procedures, the primary duty of the Department is to address the welfare and safety of children in foster care and any other child in the household. There is also a responsibility to any foster carers against whom allegations of abuse have been made.
It is the role of the Supervising Social Worker to provide any appropriate support to a foster carer who is the subject of an allegation.
The Supervising Social Worker has a duty to ensure that carers understand child protection procedures and that this includes:
- what carers must do if they receive an allegation or disclosure from a child or have suspicions that abuse may have occurred
- how allegations concerning poor care practice or concerns about significant harm to children in foster care are investigated by the Department
- the circumstances in which carers approval could be terminated due to concerns regarding the welfare or safety of a child.
- what allowances and fees may be payable while an allegation is being investigated.
The Supervising Social Worker should ensure that carers and children placed with them have, for the purposes of referring any concern about child welfare or safety, the address (including email address), and telephone number of the team responsible for investigating child protection referrals (if they live out of Guernsey or Alderney this should be a child protection team for their area authority).
While the Supervising Social Worker's role is one of support and guidance, he/she is a member of staff of the Department and is not in a position to advocate on behalf of the carer. The Supervising Social Worker must be clear with the foster carer that they cannot keep information confidential which is relevant to any enquiry or investigation and this must be shared with the investigating Social Worker. In addition, the Supervising Social Worker may have information which cannot be shared with the foster carer.
It is the role of the Supervising Social Worker to advise carers with regard to where and how the carer can access independent advice, advocacy and support during investigation against them. This may include support via foster care membership of The Fostering Network (legal advice and helpline) and the Guernsey Foster Care and Adoption Association. The Supervising social worker should ensure that the carers have a copy of the procedure on allegations against foster carers.
The Supervising Social Worker or the Team Manager of the Family Placement Service should normally be responsible for communication with the foster carer about the decisions of the strategy meeting (unless there are restrictions imposed by the Police or due to timing of interviews) and information regarding the process and interviews including when, where and by whom interviews will be conducted.
When a Supervising Social Worker receives information that could constitute child abuse it is not their role to investigate the matter. The information should be immediately passed on to the Team Manager responsible for the supervision of the child and the Family Placement Service Manager.
It is the role of the Supervising Social Worker to support carers to ensure their homes are free of avoidable hazards and that they follow a sound Safer Caring Policy within their family.
It is the Supervising Social Worker's duty to make at least one unannounced visit to the foster home annually as a check on the standard of care provided. The Supervising Social Worker along with the Child's Social Worker should check that the carer provides children placed with an opportunity to report concerns and contact their Social Worker or another appropriate person i.e. via phone calls in private or access to appropriate websites for help and advice.
Following investigation of an allegation consideration will be given to the measures necessary to protect children placed with the foster carer. The Supervising Social Worker will ensure that these measures are applied and reflected in the carer's Safer Caring Policy.
The Supervising Social Worker shall conduct a review of the foster carer following any allegation or complaint or concern regarding conduct or standard of care by the foster carer and this will be presented to the Fostering Panel or Adoption and Permanence Panel as appropriate. The foster carer's approval may be terminated in circumstances where there are concerns regarding the welfare or safety of a child in their care.
A summary of any allegations made against foster carers, together with a summary of the enquiry or investigation and decisions made and a copy of all documentation should be placed on the foster carer's file. A copy of the reports for the Foster Care Review and the Summary Report will also be placed on file together with Minutes of the Panel and decision
The foster carers should have a copy of the Review reports, summary and findings concerning any allegations against them.
The record will be retained in line with the HSSD Policy Retention and Destruction of Records.
The allegation and outcome will be added to the chronology on the carers contact record on file.
Where complaint or allegation is made against Foster Carer or member of household pass on the information to the Child Social Worker's Team Manager and Family Placement Service Team Manager.
Child's Social Worker (CSW)/
Family Placement Service Supervising Social Worker(SSW)
Carer contact record
Immediately on receipt of complaint
Team Managers refer information to respective Service Managers .The Team Managers make a recommendation to Service Managers as to whether incident response should be inappropriate care referral or child protection referral. Service Manager makes decision.
Supervising child and Family Placement Service Manager (FPS TM)
Service Managers A&Y and CP
Carer's contact record
If decision is to treat the incident as abuse, then refer to Child Protection Procedures.
Team Manager Investigating Team
Carer's contact record
If decision is to treat as child protection, provide appropriate support to foster carer
Carer's contact record
If complaint does not warrant investigation under child protection procedures it will be considered as inappropriate care or under the Departments complaints procedure.
Team Manager Supervising child
Carer's contact record
If decision to treat as inappropriate care agree action plan and implement
Service Manager CP
Team Manager Supervising child
Carer's contact record
Within 15 days of agreed plan
Undertake Review of foster carer as appropriate and present to appropriate panel for recommendation or for information as necessary
Carer's contact record
Next available Panel following review
Where it is immediately apparent that the allegation is unfounded or malicious the matter to be resolved quickly. Panel to be update with Report at next Panel .
Carer's contact record
Within one week
- Child protection
- Youth Offending
- Children with Disabilities