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12.11 Assessment of a New Partner for Single Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance details the approach to assessing a new partner of an existing single foster carer.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Fostering Services (England) 2011

Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011, Standards 13 and 19


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. When to Begin an Assessment
  3. The Four Different Stages Merit Different Assessments


1. Introduction

This guidance is provided to ensure consistency in the approach to assessing a new partner of an existing single foster carer.

This guidance is based on guidance issued by a neighbouring Local Authority.

Single foster carers will on occasion form new partnerships and significant relationships.

Definition of partner: a significant person with whom the foster carer is having/intending/expected to develop a relationship, which is committed and serious.

This guidance is not intended to cover occasional dating situations, which occur outside of the foster home.

For safe caring reasons, an 'assessment' of the new partner is required and a discussion/decision is needed around the following issues:

  • When to start an assessment;
  • What to include in an assessment.


2. When to Begin an Assessment

If a foster carer is single at the point of application their initial approval should explore what would happen should they form a new partnership or a significant relationship. For foster carers who experience separation or divorce, whilst fostering, new relationships should be covered as part of their reassessment as a single foster carer.

There is an expectation that foster carers conduct their relationships in the manner to be discussed below.

  • The foster carer would be expected to carry on any relationship within the context of a safe caring policy;
  • The supervising social worker should be informed that the foster carer is in a new relationship;
  • The carer should be aware that an assessment would be needed at some time.

The timing of such an assessment is important although it is recognised that the department may be asking the foster carer, to decide upon the 'status' of their relationship, before the 'natural course of events' has occurred.

This is a difficult position in which to place the foster carer. However, the nature of fostering and the safe caring issues involved are such that the foster carer and, the foster carer's new partner, have to accept this position.

There are different stages of a relationship and different levels of assessment should occur at different stages. For the purpose of this situation, the relationship has been defined in four different stages but it is accepted that the progress of the relationship, between the stages, will vary in each individual situation.


3. The Four Different Stages Merit Different Assessments

Stage one: Initial stages of the relationship (i.e.) no contact with foster child/home.

  • Foster carer to inform the supervising social worker that they are beginning a relationship. The impact of this new relationship, upon the foster carer, to be addressed by the supervising social worker;
  • Supervising social worker to reiterate that an assessment will be needed as/when/if the relationship progresses;
  • Supervising social worker recommends that the foster carer informs the new partner of her/his fostering status and that this will lead to a future assessment.

Stage two: New partner intends to become a visitor to the foster home.

  • The foster carer must inform the supervising social worker of the new partner's intention to visit the foster home prior to visits taking place;
  • The supervising social worker meets with the new partner to explain the assessment process and the need for statutory checks to be undertaken;
  • An application for an enhanced DBS disclosure is made. Whilst the new partner can visit the foster home, before the outcome of the DBS is known, the foster carer must supervise the new partner's contact with fostered children at all times;
  • The child's social worker should talk to the foster child/ren about the new partner to gain their understanding and views

Stage three: New partner visits and stays over at the foster home when the foster children are in placement.

  • Outcome of DBS check MUST be known for this to occur;
  • Consideration is given to the new partner making an application to foster. The views and wishes of the new partner are sought. Statutory checks and references (two personal and one paid employment) are sought. References also to be sought of former partner(s) children parented as/if applicable. New partner enrolled onto Foundation Training;
  • A Confidentiality Statement should be signed by the new partner;
  • The supervising social worker should give the new partner information about the allegations/ complaint procedures;
  • The supervising social worker reviews the Safe Caring Policy for the foster household to reflect the change in household composition;
  • The supervising social worker, in conjunction with the foster carer and the new partner, confirms the involvement of the new partner in respect of child care responsibilities within the household.

Stage four: New partner moves into foster home.

  • Supervising social worker progresses assessment of new partner;
  • The assessment will form part of the foster carer's review process as part of the requirement to consider a significant change in household membership;
  • The¬†assessment of the new partner should include the following:
    1. Individual profile/background history/ previous relationships with significant adults/children;
    2. Relationship with the foster carer, dynamics of the partnership and impact of partnership within the foster household;
    3. Relationship with the foster child/ren;
    4. Joint competence ( new partner and foster carer) to care safely for children, commitment to fostering and ability/potential to work in partnership with the department.
  • The foster carer review should be presented to the fostering panel with a recommendation as to the suitability of the new partner to act as a foster carer, the suitability of the foster carer to continue to act as a foster carer, the suitability of the partnership to act jointly as foster carers, the suitability of her/his household and the terms of approval therein for the foster household (Regulation 28 (4) Fostering Service Regulations 2011). A portfolio of evidence, to support the review process, should be submitted to the fostering panel. See Fostering Panel Procedure.

End