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12.14 Safe Caring

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter relates to children placed in foster care, including those placed with family and friends under Regulation 24. This policy is relevant to foster carers and social workers

RELEVANT LEGISLATION, GUIDANCE AND INFORMATION

Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 - Regulation 12

Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011, Standard 4 and 6

Child Safety Online: A practical guide for parents and carers whose children are using social media

See also Behaviour Management Procedure

AMENDMENT

In January 2017, this chapter was extensively updated and should be read throughout.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. At Point of Placement
  3. General
  4. In the Home
  5. Outside the Home

    Appendix A: Appropriate Discipline and Control


1. Introduction

The fostering service must protect each child from all forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and deprivation and foster carers from false allegations.

This is a Safe Caring Policy for use by the supervising social workers and a written policy for each foster home, needs to be drawn up in consultation with carers and all household members. Training for the foster carer should be provided as soon as possible after approval and all new foster carers are required to attend Fostering Induction Training within the first year of their registration.

For each foster child, a risk assessment needs to be prepared prior to placement or at least at the 72 hours planning meeting with an individual safe caring policy to keep both the foster carers and the child safe. This should be done in consultation with the child's social worker. Consideration should be given to the previous experiences of a child which may have involved physical/sexual abuse. It is also important to consider the age and gender of the child/young person, the child's cultural background and the child's level of understanding.

The individual policy, together with the general safe caring policy for the foster home must be explained clearly to the child, age appropriately and their views and level of understanding noted in writing.


2. At Point of Placement

All known facts about a child and their family is to be shared with carers and with regard to other members of the household on a 'need to know' basis to enable carers to protect the foster child, their own children, other children for whom they have responsibility and themselves.

Statutory checks should be completed on all household members aged 18 years and over and considered to be satisfactory. They should be renewed every 3 years and a Declaration of Suitability and a Health Declaration signed annually at the time of the foster carer review. You should always inform your supervising social worker if any visitors move into your household or if one of your adult children return to live at home. They should not be allowed to share a bedroom with the foster child without prior agreement from the department.


3. General

Supervision

All children must be provided with an adequate level of supervision appropriate to their age and development.

Recording

Foster carers should keep a record of all incidents of inappropriate behaviour, speech and anything else which gives rise to concern e.g. worrying phone calls or a personal feeling of unease. Foster carers should also record any sanctions, punishments or restraints that they have used. These should be discussed with the supervising social worker or children's social worker as soon as possible and recorded in the child's recording file.

Foster carers should refer to the Written Records (Including Retention) Policy for further guidance.

Babysitters

A fostered child should not have more than two regular babysitters wherever possible. Statutory checks have to be completed for babysitters and have to be satisfactory in outcome before the "babysitting" can start. Babysitters are required to be 18 years of age and preferably be close friends, neighbours or family members. Any other arrangement must be agreed by a foster child's social worker in conjunction with the supervising social worker for the foster carers. This includes foster children who should not be given responsibility for the sole care of other children without previous consultation, as above.

Overnight

It is recommended that all regular babysitters and families where children are to stay overnight unsupervised by the foster carers, again on a regular basis, are Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked and identified in the Placement Plan at the 72 hour planning meeting.

If carers intend to be away overnight and a non-regular babysitter left to care, or if the child is to stay overnight in another household which is not part of an existing plan, the child's social worker should be informed. With regard to the latter, a 'cover-all' arrangement could be made in the child's Care Plan and individual Safe Caring Policy, or at a subsequent statutory review to allow more freedom in this matter.

The guiding principle is that foster carers should have the delegated authority to decide overnight stays with their friends, unless there are exceptional reasons to have other measures in place e.g. if the child is particularly vulnerable; and that social activities for children looked after are not unnecessarily restricted. This should be checked out by the carer as any responsible parent would do, and details of any proposed arrangements should be known but there is no requirement to undertake DBS checks.

Photographs/Videos

Carers should always ask a child's permission before taking a photograph or videoing them. Pre-verbal children should not be photographed or videoed if seen to be causing distress. Carers should never take photographs of children who are naked or only partially dressed.

Permission should also be sought from any person who has parental responsibility before any child's photograph is featured in any media e.g. newspaper, magazine, TV, internet, school publications, unless this has been agreed through the delegated authority process. See Use of Telephone/Internet/Social Media.

Sex Education

Carers should take their lead in introducing sexual issues to a child/young person and should use only appropriate language and should reinforce the message of a child’s/young person’s body being their own and that they have a right to say ‘no’ to adults and other children/young people.

Carers should keep control of the conversation/discussion when talking about sexual issues and if necessary suggest an outside agency that might help. Carers should not ask ‘leading’ questions if a child/young person discloses sexual abuse, but inform the child’s/young person’s Social Worker as soon as possible.

Carers should be able to prepare a young person for his/her emerging sexuality and sexual relationships. Carers should know when extra help is needed in this task e.g. when this is made more difficult by previous sexual abuse.

Showing affection

Foster carers should feel able to express appropriate physical affection towards young people in their care and provide comfort for a child in distress. For under fives especially there is a need for plenty of physical contact - cuddles, hugs etc., especially at stressful times such as when separating from their parents. While exercising safe caring, common sense should prevail. Where children seek and need an excessive amount of comforting or affection, carers should discuss with their social worker how this is given.

Carers should always check out if a child in their care wants a kiss or cuddle and teach children that they can say 'no' to anyone in this respect including themselves. Kissing a non-related child on the lips is not acceptable and the carer must always bear in mind that the child in their care may have been sexually abused or exposed to inappropriate sexual behaviour. They may well therefore misinterpret innocent touches, cuddles and kisses as being sexual advances and the carer could leave themselves wide open to allegations, if the child believes the gesture is associated with other motives e.g. a hug with the child by your side and an arm round their shoulder is far less open to misinterpretation, than a full frontal embrace.

Carers should endeavour to give affection when other people are present and avoid using bedrooms as a place to show affection e.g. goodnight story and kiss should take place downstairs. Time necessarily spent in the bedroom with a child should be with the door open.

Significant incidents should be recorded e.g. 'Child awoke at night, very distressed and needed cuddling for... minutes before falling asleep'. It would also be useful to record if the need for reassurance diminishes.

Bullying

Foster carers should be aware of the particular vulnerability of looked after children and their susceptibility to bullying and they should address any instance of bullying in consultation with the child's social worker. The views of a child who has been bullied should be sought and a plan made prior to any action being taken e.g. contact with school if bullying is school associated. However children should be made aware that, if it is school associated bullying, the school will be contacted with the minimum of delay. Communication in the home should raise the issue and literature is available from supervising social workers.

All incidents of bullying must be recorded.

Use of Telephone/Internet/Social Media

Carers should ensure that young people in their care are able to contact home or a named person in an emergency by use of a telephone card or mobile phone.

Where possible, all devices should be located in communal areas so that adult supervision can be provided. Devices should be discouraged from use in the bedrooms. The use of mobile phones and televisions in the bedroom after ‘bedtime’ should be monitored. Foster carers should ensure that children/young people only have access to age appropriate material including video games, magazines, DVDs and websites etc.

Before approval carers should be confident all appropriate parental locks are on all devices such as computers, laptops, iPads, phones, game consoles and television. This includes turning off location settings. Guidance on this should be sought from providers. These locks should be regularly checked to ensure they have not been altered.

Carers have a responsibility to ensure they themselves have privacy settings on all forms of their social media accounts for their own protection.

Information about looked after children should not be shared on social media. The sharing of photographs of looked after children may occur in long term placements with the agreement of the children and through the delegated authority process.

Carers should ensure young people should not be able to access social media under the age of the sites guidelines. Meeting the age criteria is only one aspect to be considered, children’s abilities and vulnerabilities should be taken into consideration. Discussions should take place prior to this with the team around the child and decisions made through delegated authority.

If young people have social media accounts carers have a responsibility to educate the children on the benefits and the risks associated with this, and regularly check the history on the devices. Carers should keep up to date with the current most popular apps children/young people are using and their functioning’s. This can be accessed through the NSPPC share aware website.

Sanctions

Carers should be aware that corporal punishment is not acceptable and this includes smacking, slapping, shaking and all other humiliating forms of treatment or punishment.

Carers are not to use threats of physical punishment, nor seek to control a child's behaviour by physical intimidation. (See Appendix A: Appropriate discipline and control).

Carers should not take part in intimate physical searching beyond a child’s/young person’s clothing. Any search should be with a child’s/young person’s permission. Sometimes it may be necessary to search a child’s/young person’s room or possessions, if their personal safety or that of others is at risk e.g. If you have good reason to believe that they may be hiding drugs. In these circumstances the child/young person still needs to be informed that this will take place and if possible accompany you.

Carers should not deprive a child/young person of food and drink, withhold medication or dental treatment, intentionally deprive a child/young person of sleep, use disrespectful or abusive language towards a child or young person, require a child or young person to wear distinctive or inappropriate clothing, restrict or refuse contact with people significant to the child, unless it is part of a plan to promote the welfare of the young person, use accommodation to physically restrict the liberty of a child or young person or impose fines. (see: Appendix A: Appropriate discipline and control).

Carers should lead by example and be clearly in a position of authority. Children and young people need to understand clear family rules and expectations if they are to feel secure.

Any incident where a carer has used inappropriate punishment must be reported as soon as possible. A carer who has lost control and used an inappropriate punishment on a child/young person must report to the child's/young person’s social worker or duty officer in the Social Work Team responsible for that child/young person immediately. In the event of this happening out of office hours, then the Emergency Duty Team should be informed. The child/young person on the receiving end of an inappropriate punishment must be interviewed by his/her social worker as soon as possible.

Managing actual and potential aggression

The Children and Young People's Department, together with foster carers, have a legal and moral duty to protect children in their care and to promote their welfare. However, in some situations behaviour presents a degree of risk which a foster carer is required to manage. These circumstances are:

  • Where there is a clear or perceived risk that a child is likely to harm themselves or others;
  • Where there is a likelihood of serious damage to property and from that a risk to the safety of the child and/or others.

The term 'physical restraint' is used throughout this policy and means intervention that applies physical force to another, to prevent injury or harm.

Nationally, there is work being undertaken to establish some foster carer standards for managing actual and potential aggression but until those standards are forthcoming, here are some guidelines for you to follow:

  • Holding a child/young person to prevent harm to themselves is dangerous and should only be used as a last resort and if the carer is alone physical restraint should be avoided. We would also advocate that other children in the home should not become involved in restraint. If indeed you are alone and you feel the risks are high you are advised to seek advice from the Fostering Out of Hours Service, the Emergency Duty Team or the Police;
  • Foster carers should avoid wherever possible being drawn into situations where a child/young person is being verbally or physically aggressive and it is advised wherever possible to remove yourself as a target from situations where children/young people are being physically or verbally threatening;
  • Marking or bruising a child will result in a Safeguarding Investigation taking place;
  • If carers feel that they should hold a child who is presenting high risk behaviour they should never:- hold around the neck, apply pressure to the chest or back, squeeze flesh, move and hold limbs in directions outside of the normal range of movement, keep children in degrading situations;
  • If carers consider that it is necessary to hold some children who are presenting high risk behaviour they should always: ensure that what they are doing is part of the agreed care plan and risk assessment; there are two people present where possible; that actions taken are respectful, necessary and proportionate; that minimum force is being used and all other alternative methods have been tried and failed;
  • Children/young people with certain medical conditions e.g. Asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, pregnancy, heart conditions and smokers should never be the subject of holding techniques. If a Foster Carer is not aware of a child/young person’s medical history they should assume that they are vulnerable, but as a rule medical conditions should be identified in the referral form and child’s Risk Assessment;
  • Carers should retain a sense of control but acknowledge also, that children need to feel safe and not feel out of control themselves;
  • All incidents of holding/disengagement should be recorded, reported to the department on the same day. As soon as possible the Risk Assessment will need to be revisited and if necessary revised. Any injuries should be noted and, if swelling occurs a further record should be made. As soon as an incident has occurred and the child/young person has calmed down, the Foster Carer should talk to the child/young person about the incident. This should be repeated 24-48 hours later and the views and feelings of the child/young person recorded;
It is strongly recommended that all Foster Carers attend training events regarding managing behaviour.


4. In the Home

Bedroom

All bedroom sharing will be subject to a bedroom sharing assessment, involving the carers, supervising social worker and social worker. The form will be signed by a manager. This includes accommodation while on holidays.

Bedrooms should only be entered by others by invitation or in the case of carers where permission is withheld – on a health and safety basis – in full knowledge of child/young person.

Bedrooms should not be routinely used for play with other children/young persons. If bedrooms have to be used for activities with others then doors should be left open at all times.

Bedroom doors should not have locks on them.

Carers will not allow children in bed with them.

Bathroom

A lock should be placed out of the reach of small children on the bathroom door - such that it affords privacy but can be broken open from the outside if necessary.

All children should be taught and encouraged to wash themselves as young as possible and those who are old enough to bath themselves should have privacy in the bathroom.

Where a child/young person needs supervision, discussion needs to take place with the supervising social worker and child's social worker when specific safe caring policy is written up at the beginning of placement.

Nightwear and/or dressing gowns should be worn by all members of the household at bedtime and bath-time and the body should not be visible through them.

Playing

Carers should encourage play where they can hear or see what is happening. Touch is an important part of caring for your foster child, but please use caution when play becomes aggressive or unwelcome by the child.


5. Outside the Home

Carers should check out, age appropriately, how a child/young person feels about travelling alone in a car with a carer or designated driver. Carers should routinely ensure that they comply with the law regarding travel arrangements in a car. Cars should be roadworthy, insured, taxed and fitted with appropriate safety restraints. Children should use restraints car seats or booster seats appropriate to their size. Carers should be aware of the situation regarding air bags in their car and place children/young people accordingly. 

Carers should report any suspicions of an abusive situation occurring or developing within their family or social network.

Carers will not engage foster children, young persons in their outside business interests or expect a foster child to support the home in order that carers can pursue those interests. Where a foster child/young person wishes to become involved in a carers business for example for work experience, this must be discussed with the child’s/young person’s social worker and conditions/rewards agreed in writing also having regard for all health and safety issues connected to that work.

Measures for promoting safety for foster child/young person outside the home without a carer:

  • Carers should transport children to outside activities, age appropriately;
  • Carers should give children strategies for keeping themselves safe and summoning help;
  • Carers should encourage use of a telephone with named people to contact (phonecard, mobile phone).

Carers should familiarise themselves with the Department's written procedure for use if their foster child is missing from home within the foster carers handbook. (see “Children missing from care”.)

Carer Signature:…………………………………………………………………...

Carer Signature:…………………………………………………………………...

Supervising Social Worker’s Signature:……………………………………….

Team Manager’s Signature:……………………………………………………..

Date:…………………………………………………………………………………


Appendix A: Appropriate Discipline and Control

The National Minimum Standards state that foster carers may not use physical punishment on children.

Nottinghamshire County Council entrusts its foster carers to use only appropriate discipline with the vulnerable children and young people for whom they care. Foster carers are also required to sign a Foster Carer Agreement stating that they do not use any form of physical punishment.

We believe children should not be physically chastised because:

  • Children may be 'looked after' as a result of physical abuse and any form of physical punishment may remind them of this abuse;
  • Hitting a child for inappropriate behaviour, teaches them that it is acceptable for adults to use violence against children. It does not teach a child to behave in a more acceptable way;
  • A policy of no physical punishment protects carers from unfounded allegations of abuse.

N.B. In the event of a breach of this policy, it is imperative that foster carers notify the Children and Young People Services immediately (child's social worker, supervising social worker or emergency duty team). This will ensure that an investigation can be followed immediately, ensuring support and protection to all involved.

It should be remembered that a child coming to your home will not know your house rules and these should be explained clearly and appropriately with regard to the child's age and level of understanding. House rules need to be established at the beginning of a placement to help a child feel secure and should include practical matters as well as routines and expectations.

Relationship building

Shared experiences are the building blocks for the relationships, through which we are able to influence the young people in our care. This requires spending time with children and enjoying activities and play. It is also important that children have the opportunity to participate and enjoy activities outside the home to help socialisation and build self-esteem. Concentrating on the 'fun end' and letting go a little of the 'discipline end' i.e. not 'policing' children prevents resentment and is usually more effective. Early on in a placement, a positive way forward for good relationships is to offer a few clear expectations on which a child can build.

Praise for even the smallest achievement is one of the most effective ways of ensuring repetition of acceptable behaviour. This can be done verbally or with a smile or cuddle.

Family meetings

This is a particularly useful method of finding out children's views and is a particularly useful method of controlling behaviour for teenagers in foster homes. All family members should be present and have their contribution to the meeting valued. Where the behaviour of one member is particularly under 'attack', it is important the foster carers are able to give that member a way forward and the meeting should concentrate on finding solutions, not get 'stuck' on criticising. Giving positives to all members where possible at the end of the meeting, also produces good results.

Ignoring behaviour

Ignoring or 'playing down' attention seeking behaviour, can lead to a decrease in that behaviour, in that it does not produce it's desired affect i.e. to 'wind up' the foster carer or other family member.

Giving space

Giving space or time-out in a safe environment can often prevent inappropriate behaviour getting out of hand. It means either the foster carer withdrawing from the scene of a situation, or allowing the child to leave the scene. Following a 'cooling off' period, where there is space to reflect, an adjustment in behaviour can often be achieved. The advice now is to avoid using the term 'naughty' chair/step but rather 'cooling off' as naughty implies the child is bad. The rule should be one minute of space per year of the child's life i.e. a five year old should have no more than 5 minutes. If you use the garden as a "cooling off "area you must fully supervise the child, as an angry upset child may well run off or hurt themselves. They should never be put outside in the cold or wet weather.

Telling Off

Telling off is an immediate feedback for inappropriate behaviour and shows disapproval. It is most effective when delivered within the context of a positive relationship and care is taken not to make the telling off public - rather done by taking the child to one side.

Incentives and rewards

Foster carers may well find offering an incentive to a child is an effective method of altering a specific behaviour. A child will often make a special effort if they can see they will gain in return.

Amongst other incentives, foster carers should also consider ways in which a sanction might be shortened, in recognition of appropriate behaviour. An extension of the incentive system is the points reward system designed for the individual child. Appropriate behaviour earns points which can be exchanged for a reward.

Rewards for good behaviour are very important to help promote a child's' self-esteem. Foster carers need to give particular thought to the type of reward system best suited to their family.

Rules behind the individual system need to be agreed by all in advance and observed for an agreed period of time.

Withdrawal of activities

Temporary withholding of activities outside the home could be an option as a sanction, but may cause escalation in undesirable behaviour through lack of something else to do. It is also important not to withhold activities normally encouraged to build a child's self-esteem. Outside activities involving contact with family should never be withdrawn as a sanction.

Suspension of pocket money

Using suspension of pocket money as a sanction, needs to carry with it the possibility of earning back that which has been suspended.

A positive way to handle this sanction, is to allow a child a small base amount of pocket money, which is given no matter what they do. The foster child should then have the scope to earn further amounts on top of that for good behaviour etc. Where this extra amount is suspended, negotiation should take place as to how it can be earned back.

Where a foster carer believes the unsupervised spending of pocket money could carry a risk to a child, (e.g. purchase of drugs) then foster carers may think it advisable to accompany where practicable, the child when they are spending their pocket money.

Foster carers should be mindful that money holds an emotional value as well as economic value, e.g. some children associate the receiving of money and gifts as the receiving of love - this may have been the only indication to them that people cared about them. Also children who have adequate pocket money are less likely to take it from others!

Grounding

That is, not allowing children to spend leisure time outside the foster home for a given period of time.

Foster carers often consider grounding an appropriate sanction, but where this is being used on a regular basis and for longer than one day, discussion must take place with the child's social worker.

Early bedtime

This can be used as a sanction but a child should not be asked to go to bed more than an hour before their usual bedtime. This can be particularly appropriate when a child refuses to get up on time, when they are disruptive after bedtime or where a child has returned home late the previous night.

Withholding lie-in

That is, not allowing a child to stay in bed beyond the normal school day getting-up time.

This could be used if the child does not settle at their usual bedtime. By getting them up early you would hope that they are then tired enough the next night to settle. If a young person deliberately returns home after their usual bedtime without permission, you may decide that their punishment is to ask them to get up early the next day.

N.B. Physical force to remove a child from their bed is not permitted.

Extra household chores

Children should only be given chores age appropriately and with regard to their background. Such chores should be part of a plan to develop independence skills. At the beginning of any placement, children should be made aware of the expectations on them to carry out household chores.

Extra household chores can be used as a sanction, where a child has failed to do their share of chores or where they have deliberately created a 'mess' that needs cleaning up.

Holding

Sometimes children in foster care may require minimal physical restraint, e.g. holding a child's hand to cross the road, or lead them safely in a given direction. Similarly a child may be diverted from a difficult situation by means of an arm around the shoulder, or being led away by the hand. This would discourage a behaviour, but not prevent it and is therefore, not technically restraint.

Inappropriate discipline and control

Corporal punishment

This is defined as any intentional application of force as punishment including slapping, smacking, shaking, rough handling or throwing missiles. It would also include punching or pushing in the heat of the moment, in response to violence from children or young people.

Deprivation of food or drink

Eating and drinking are fundamental to a child's health and development. Meal times are important social occasions and it would be inappropriate to refuse a child a meal. Deprivation of food and drink should be taken to include the denial of access to the amounts and range of food and drink, normally available in the home. Obviously some children are not allowed certain foods due to religious observances, allergic reactions or for other health reasons.

Intentional sleep deprivation

Apart from the grave psychological damage deprivation of sleep could inflict, it could seriously affect the physical health of the child.

Making a child wear distinctive or inappropriate clothing

Children 'looked after' already have a negative self-image. Requiring them to wear distinctive or inappropriate clothing for the time of day or activity, would only further undermine their self-esteem and damage their self-confidence.

A child's appearance is an important way of building self-esteem. Clothes should be well fitting and clothing that can be construed as sexually provocative or poor, second-hand clothing should be avoided.

Insulting, swearing at or otherwise ridiculing

Children may already have been damaged and have low self-esteem or lack confidence through previous experiences of being insulted, sworn at or ridiculed. Insulting or ridiculing children with reference to their colour, ethnicity, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any disability or special need they may have, is not allowed.

Restriction or refusal of contact with their families and friends

The value to children of maintaining contact with their family and friends cannot be overstated. The restriction or refusal of contact as a punishment is not permitted. It is recognised that contact may be restricted as part of the care plan. Carers should advise the social worker and not change plans without prior consultation.

Physically depriving a child of their liberty

It is not appropriate to lock a child in any place as a form of punishment. Children may be sent to their rooms or other safe places, as a 'time-out' measure, but doors must not be locked. However, this needs to be discussed with the child's social worker to check appropriateness, i.e. a child may associate their bedroom with past abuse and be further traumatised.

Locking external doors and windows at night, as part of normal domestic security is of course, permitted providing the key is easily accessible in the case of fire.

Withholding medication, medical or dental treatment

This would be a dangerous and utterly unacceptable practice. It is totally forbidden in all circumstances. If you have problems accessing a dentist please inform your child's social worker.

Restriction or refusal to allow the practice of religion

It is not acceptable to refuse or restrict a child's wish to practice or follow their chosen religious beliefs. Any issues or difficulties should be discussed with their social worker.

Imposition of fines

Fines imposed by the courts must be paid, but it is not generally appropriate for carers to impose fines. In cases of damage caused on purpose or stealing from you or others, it would be appropriate to ask the child to make at least some contribution towards the loss. However, no more than a third of the child's pocket money should be withheld at any one time. Children can also pay back the loss in kind, with extra chores.

Intimate physical searches

These are totally unacceptable. If a carer suspects a child has secreted drugs or other illegal items on their person, the Children and Young People Services should be notified immediately.

End