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12.5 Guidance for Foster Carers on Personal Safety and Incident Reporting


  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding Behaviour
  3. Risk Assessments
  4. Helping to Prevent Risky Situations
  5. Specific Techniques for Risky Threatening 'One To One' Situations
  6. What to do if an incident happens - Reporting and Recording

    Appendix 1: Incident Reporting Form CH/FC/IR

1. Introduction

1.1 This guidance relates to any incident in which a foster carer or foster carer's family members is abused, threatened or assaulted by a foster child or member of the child's birth family. This may include racial abuse or sexual harassment.
1.2 Physical attacks are obviously dangerous but serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also damage a carer's health and wellbeing through anxiety and stress.

2. Understanding Behaviour

2.1 It is important to try to understand the triggers to violent behaviour. Carers should have an understanding that violence often has roots in a child's early experience and current situation as a child in care e.g. frustration, anger, sense of powerlessness, low self-esteem, rejection etc.
2.2 In relation to birth families, carers should have been informed during the risk assessment about previous violent episodes, if know.
2.3 Foster carers should take advantage of any training opportunities in order to develop their knowledge and skills, in particular the Management of Actual or Potential Aggression Courses.

3. Risk Assessments

3.1 For Placements
  3.1.a A risk assessment should be undertaken by the Child Care social worker when the child is first admitted to care. It should be available to carers on placement and be further adapted to each placement by the childcare worker in liaison with the carers and their Supervising social worker. This should identify potential risk and a strategy for dealing with this. Carers should keep a copy of the Risk Assessment for reference. The Supervising social worker may need to revise the Safe Caring Policy for the household to take into account the child's particular needs.
  3.1.b Where a foreseeable risk is identified which cannot be avoided the risk must be evaluated and a strategy for managing this agreed.
  3.1.c The risk assessment should be reviewed regularly e.g. at each Looked After Review, and Review of the Foster Carers, or more frequently.
  3.1.d A new risk assessment should be undertaken after every incident.
3.2 For Working Away from the Home
  3.2.a Risk assessment should take place in relation to the work of carers, befrienders, mentors, sitters who visit the homes of service users. There should be specific discussion in individual supervision.¬†Use should be made of information about service users with a history of violent or threatening behaviour. Consideration should be given to:
    3.2.a.i Arrangements for setting up meetings in offices or other safer settings in the light of information about the person's past behaviour or the location of his or her home.
    3.2.a.ii Arrangements for timing home visits, taking account of knowledge about the person's known behaviour patterns at different times of the day.
    3.2.a.iii Ensuring that a responsible adult or colleague know where you are or are going to be at any particular time.
    3.2.a.iv The possible use of portable alarms or telephones for members of staff making visit.
    3.2.a.v Arrangements for sharing information after visits with the supervisor Reliable arrangements whereby staff making visits outside normal working hours have access to support or advice via the telephone to a manager or colleague
    3.2.a.vii In exceptional cases, the possible need for advice or assistance from the Police.

4. Helping to Prevent Risky Situations

4.1 Potential risk situation can sometimes be avoided or defused. Controlling risk includes the use of knowledge and skills by the carers to reduce tension. This can be achieved by good practice principles, sharing information, training and regular supervision with their Supervising social worker.
4.2 The following rules may be helpful to foster carers in reducing the risk of violence:
  4.2.a Watch for 'warning signs'.
  4.2.b Know the 'triggers' for your child.
  4.2.c Allow a 'way out' and do not seek to isolate or punish the child (other person) in front of others.
  4.2.d Explain your actions.
  4.2.e Don't make promises you cannot keep.
  4.2.f Try to create and promote an atmosphere where violence is neither acceptable nor expected.
  4.2.g Talk to the child and involve them in decisions that affect them. Be thoughtful and sensitive in difficult situations.
  4.2.h Avoid having petty or inconsistent rules and sanctions that are inappropriate.
  4.2.i Make sure another responsible adult knows when to expect you back when working away from your home (particularly important for befrienders working with high-risk young people or families).

5. Specific Techniques for Risky Threatening 'One To One' Situations

  This section looks at 'one to one' situations where stress and tension has build up to such an extent that there is potential for violence.
5.1 Gaining Control: The feeling of being 'beyond' or 'out of' control can be frightening. Reassurance and regaining control of one's feelings is important as many violent people are afraid of their own violent outburst and may be looking for controls to curb their aggression. Try to reassure them that they will not be allowed

 Keeping Control: Keeping control involves sending and receiving the right messages. The appropriate use of voice, speed of movement and nature of gestures and body posture will all help to create a sense of security

For Example:
  5.2.a BODY
    5.2.a.i Relaxed, calm
    5.2.a.ii Avoid unnecessary body movements
  5.2.b VOICE
    5.2.b.i Firm, clear
    5.2.b.ii Steady pace
    5.2.b.iii Quiet and calm
  5.2.c EYES
    5.2.c.i Keep in contact, indicating willingness to communicate
  5.2.d FACE
    5.2.d.i Relaxed appearance
  5.2.e ARMS
    5.2.e.i Open and unfolded
    5.2.e.ii Gentle movements
  5.2.f LEGS
    5.2.f.i Uncrossed
  5.2.g POSTURE
    5.2.g.i Upright, relaxed and self confident
    5.2.h.i Confident and calm
  5.2.i POSITION
    5.2.i.i Avoid getting cornered by staying near a door
  Giving a consistent message that you are relaxed and in control is important. Make simple clear statements; continue working on a 'person to person' basis whether or not the other person appears to be listening and show respect.
5.3 Sign and Signals: Carers may be able to learn the warning signs of impending trouble by recognising a combination of signs and language in their child. Examples of individual body signs are given below:
  5.3.a BODY
    5.3.a.i Appearing tense, agitated
    5.3.a.ii Increase in restless body movements
  5.3.b VOICE
    5.3.b.i Pitch and volume changes
    5.3.b.ii Shouting or muttering
    5.3.b.iii Changes in the pace of speech delivery
    5.3.b.iv Abrupt replies, especially if accompanied by gesticulations
  5.3.c EYES
    5.3.c.i Pupils become dilated
    5.3.c.ii Eye movement increases
    5.3.c.iii Eye contact becomes more intense or is broken off
    5.3.c.iv Closed eyes or looking down
  5.3.d FACE
    5.3.d.i Increase in muscular tension
    5.3.d.ii Grinding of jaw
    5.3.d.iii Sudden loss or colour
  5.3.e ARMS
    5.3.e.i Arms folded
    5.3.e.ii Arms raised
    5.3.e.iii Rapid movements or sudden change in position
  5.3.f HANDS
    5.3.f.i Closing of hands to make a fist
    5.3.f.ii Tapping fingers on surfaces with changes in rhythm Banging of fist into palm of hand
    5.3.f.iii Thumping fist or slapping hand on another object
    5.3.f.iv Picking up object near you
  5.3.g LEGS
    5.3.g.i Leg swinging
  5.3.h FEET
    5.3.h.i Foot tapping
  5.3.i POSTURE
    5.3.i.i Departure from usual or previous posture
    5.3.i.ii Moving away
    5.3.i.ii Physically moving back
  5.3.j OTHER
    5.3.j.i Attention seeking
    5.3.j.ii Jostling / pushing
    5.3.j.iii Increased noise
    5.3.j.iv Sudden or unnatural quiet
    5.3.j.v Name calling Swearing
    5.3.j.vii Deliberately provocative
    5.3.j.viii 'Atmosphere' heightened tension within an environment
5.4 It can be easy for a minor incident to escalate. Try to assess what is happening and why. It is important to remember that it's not what you do but the way you do it which will influence events. For example:
  5.4.a Your approach from the beginning will have had implications and consequences.
  5.4.b Without adequate information, you will not have been able to assess the risk.
  5.4.c Always be aware of the impact of others on the situation.
  5.4.d Be aware of your own feelings and of your own need for self-discipline.
  5.4.e Be prepared to agree if you are wrong.
  5.4.f Tolerate and accept the justified anger of others.
  5.4.g Be prepared to sit down and give space to the other person.
  5.4.h Do not make unrealistic or veiled threats.
  5.4.i Do not assail the other person with statements and questions.
  5.4.j Avoid cornering, standing too close or rapid movements.
  5.4.k Avoid having an audience of other people who the assailant may want to impress or involve.
5.5 When violence seems inevitable: If you are faced with a child/adult who seems about to lose their self control, speak calmly, and confidently and with authority using your knowledge of what works and does not work to calm them.
5.6 You should never be provoked into retaliating.
  5.6.a Make sure that all potentially harmful objects/furniture on which the child may harm themselves are moved out of the way.
  5.6.b Remove all other children from the room.

6. What to do if an incident happens - Reporting and Recording

6.1 After all incidents, foster carers should report this to their supervising social worker as soon as practicable. Urgent action could be needed in relation to medical assessment treatment, obtaining police help etc. The Supervising social worker or the fostering duty officer should fully support and advise the carers regarding further action.
6.2 If urgent action is required outside of office, carers should contact the Carer's Support Helpline, or Emergency Duty Team.
6.3 Form CH/FC/IR (Appendix 1: Incident Reporting Form CH/FC/IR) must be completed by the carer as soon as reasonably practicable and passed to their Supervising social worker/Team Manager.
6.4 This will provide a framework for a follow up meeting between the carer, Child Care social worker and Supervising social worker to discuss what has happened during and after the incident. This meeting will also enable the carer to receive support, and express their feeling about the incident.
6.5 A copy of Form CH/FC/IR must be passed via the Fostering Team Manager to the Service Manager, Fostering immediately on receipt from carer. A copy must be passed to the Child Care social worker for retention on the child's file, as well as a copy to be retained in the child's recording folder.
6.6 After every reported incident the risk factors should be reassessed by the Supervising social worker

Appendix 1: Incident Reporting Form CH/FC/IR

Click here to view Appendix 1: Incident Reporting Form CH/FC/IR.