Guide: Devon Fostering policy on managing allegations against foster carers

2. Devon Context

2.1 Definition

This guidance seeks to differentiate between allegations, serious concerns and complaints and to guide staff in the investigation and management of each type. The child in question in each case is a child who is being looked after by the local authority and is either fostered or placed for adoption.

2.1.1 An allegation  is defined[2]as an accusation of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect: for example that a carer has injured a child or that the carer or someone in the family has behaved in a sexually inappropriate way towards the child in question.

2.1.2 A fostering service or adoption agency may have serious concerns  about a carer, which may not warrant investigation under the child protection procedures – for example involving the disciplining of children, or non-cooperation with contact arrangements with the child’s family.

2.1.3 A complaint may involve a view about a carer’s approach to the care of a child or the way in which they respond to a child’s behaviour.  For example when a child complains that they are not being fed properly or a parent complains that a child’s culture or religion is being ignored.

2.1.4 Staff must be clear about whether the issue that they are dealing with falls under child protection procedures or whether it constitutes a standard of care issue. Allegations would usually be dealt with under child protection procedures. Consideration should always be given to whether serious concerns or complaints require implementation of child protection procedures. Child Protection Officers, implementing the functions of the Local Authority Designated Officer will offer consultation to staff to assist in decision making regarding the category any referral falls into. Scroll down to sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 on this page.

2.1.5 Staff should be aware that any complaint, concern or allegation has the capacity to be redefined after initial referral or part way through a procedure, depending on forthcoming information, and may therefore require to be dealt with under a different process.

2.2 Scope of this guidance

2.2.1 Devon foster carers (approved by the Local Authority or an Independent Fostering Provider) and Prospective Adopters who have children placed with them prior to an adoption order are included in the scope of this guidance in relation to allegations. In the instance of prospective adopters who are resident in Devon but were approved by another local authority or adoption agency, workers should make immediate contact with the placing and approving agencies to agree who will lead the process of responding to the allegation. Prospective adopters approved by DCC who have a child placed for adoption by (and still in the care of) another Local Authority. Any foster carer approved by an Independent Fostering Provider would also be subject to the policies and procedures relevant to that particular agency, and Devon County Council staff should make themselves aware of these.

2.2.2 Complaints and concerns raised in respect of Devon local authority foster carers and prospective adopters would also be dealt with through the relevant Devon County Council concerns and complaints procedures. Complaints and concerns regarding carers approved by Independent Fostering Providers, Voluntary Adoption Agencies and other local authorities would be dealt with under the procedures of their approving agency.

2.2.4 This guidance complies with the procedures for dealing with allegations against people who work with children. It offers additional elements which recognise the nature of fostering (and pre-order adoptive placements) where carers look after children in their own homes, often working alone, and where the consequences of an allegation may affect their home as well as work environment.

2.3 Objective

2.3.1 Every child looked after has the right to be protected and to feel safe in their foster or prospective adoptive home: their safety is of paramount importance. Foster carers, prospective adopters and members of their families who face allegations must be treated sensitively and fairly within a clear procedure. This guidance aims to ensure a clear process to take account of the law, national guidance and local safeguarding procedures.

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