Skip to main content


View NSCB Procedures View NSCB Procedures

12.10 Fostering Support Care


Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure.


In January 2016, this chapter was extensively updated and should be re-read throughout.


  1. Statutory Basis
  2. Introduction
  3. The The Value of Support Care for Children Placed With Foster Carers
  4. Implications for Practice
  5. Governance of Support Care Arrangements
  6. Supervision and Review of Support Foster Carers
  7. Visits by Child’s social worker
  8. Payments to Support Carers
  9. Payments to Main Foster Carers

    Appendix A: Support Care - Views of Children

    Appendix B: Authorising Services

1. Statutory Basis

Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review

The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011: Regulation 17 Support Training and Information for Foster Carers

National Minimum Fostering Standards 2011: Standard 4 Safeguarding Children, Standard 21 Supervision & Support of Foster Carers, Standard 26 Records

Short breaks for carers of disabled children Departmental advice for Local Authorities (March 2011) (In line with Nottinghamshire Pathway to Provision level 4).

2. Introduction

Under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 Local Authorities can provide a series of planned short breaks with foster carers, to help safeguard or promote the welfare of children.

See Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.

The majority of such placements are used to support disabled children and their families, providing opportunities for children to spend time away from their primary carers. For disabled children and their families, such arrangements are likely to be regular and long-term. (Aldgate and Bradley, 1999).

Support Care takes this concept and applies it to supporting other vulnerable children and their families, where stress within the family could result in breakdown and the need for children to be accommodated. Support Care takes us back to the core principle of the Children Act 1989, emphasising that wherever possible children should be supported to remain with their own families (Howard, 2005).

The key difference from services provided for disabled children is the expectation that Support Care is generally time-limited and focussed on promoting change within a family. Support Care sits at the interface of fostering services and Family Support Services. It is a voluntary provision designed to empower families to find their own solutions to difficulties – i.e. families have to be in agreement with a placement and can choose not to send their child to support care.

A planned, time-limited series of short breaks away from home is combined with family support work to promote change. Support Care offers a preventative intervention that avoids families becoming separated long-term. Resources offered are flexible and tailor-made to suit family circumstances, providing day, evening, overnight or weekend breaks that meet the needs of individual families.

Taken from ‘Support Care: The Preventative Face of Foster Care 2008’,in Support Care Policy and Procedures Guidelines the Fostering Network.

Nottinghamshire County Council also provides support carer to foster carers and adopters to help support placements and prevent placement breakdown.

This policy and procedural guidance clarifies the arrangements for providing support foster care.

3. The Value of Support Care for Children Placed With Foster Carers

Standard 21:5 (National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011) requires foster carers to be provided with breaks from caring, if appropriate. These breaks should be planned to take into account the needs of any children placed.

’The term support care describes a service that offers support carers in order for them to have a break. This service has proven important in preventing placement disruption and promoting placement stability.’

  • Support care can provide an additional social and learning opportunity for a fostered child as s/he can enjoy their time in a different family situation with new activities and experiences;
  • Support carers can establish a significant supportive relationship with fostered children. These relationships can be established over a period of years. Support carers can take on the role of an extended foster family network to/for the fostered child;
  • Support carers can also become an important source of support to the main carers, in reducing family stress;
  • Support carers can also act as an additional safeguarding measure in the evaluation of the fostered child’s main placement arrangements;
  • Support care can be of particular value to single carers;
  • Support care when offered by a foster carer’s family member;
  • May provide more flexibility can offer a child an enhanced sense of security and belonging to the foster family.

4. Implications for Practice

Attachment theory emphasises that in order to help a child to form secure relationships, and develop trust in the adult world, consistency is a key factor. The implications of this for support care are apparent. Parenting style and behaviour management approaches need to be consistent between the main foster carer and the support foster carer e.g. where possible the same support carer to be used.

The need for support care will require an assessment of a child’s emotional resilience and how support care is presented to a child is important. Support care should not be felt by a child to be a rejection by her/his main carer. Support care should not be presented as a threat or a punishment. Support care should be presented as a normalising feature of extended family life. Support care must be a positive experience for children. The child’s needs are of paramount significance and have primacy above those needs of the main foster carer.

Therefore at the point of the placement planning meeting:

  • Mainstream foster carers are entitled to 28 days support care in financial year;
  • The need for support care should be determined by an assessment of a child’s needs and include risk assessment in consultation with the child’s social worker;
  • Assessment of the child’s main carer’s level of needs; this may exceed the 28 days, but must be agreed by the fostering team manager in conjunction with the children’s team manager;
  • If the child is a disabled child, the request for support care should, in the first instance be made to the fostering team manager for Short breaks and Fostering (Disabled Children). The potential support carer will require an assessment by a specialist nurse and an individual training plan will be produced as necessary prior to the child being placed

The assessment will also state the amount of support to be provided for a disabled child. An up to date health and safety assessment of the identified support carer needs to be completed prior to the child being placed. In addition an addendum specific for each ‘linked’ child’s needs if multiple links are made. Assessment may need to include input from a nurse specialist and or occupational therapist.

  • Once a support carer link is identified they need to be provided with full information about the child and a summary of their attachment behaviours including any risk assessments;
  • Delegated Authority will be required for any support care period that is agreed;
  • The supervising social worker for the child’s main foster carer should take the lead responsibility in organising the initial assessment and planning process for support care. The child’s Independent Reviewing Officer should be included from the outset of the planning process;
  • Support care arrangements should be reviewed as part of the looked after review process. The child’s wishes and feelings about support care should be routinely sought;
  • Placement support meetings can also be arranged to identify and review the child’s support needs (see Placements in Foster Care Procedure);
  • Support carers must be included in the planning and review processes for the child;
  • Support carers need to understand the behaviour management routine as outlined in the Safe Caring Policy which operates in the main foster home and how this can be transferred to their own setting; or their own safer caring policy e.g. addendum reflecting the needs of individual children joining their household;
  • Support placements should take place within a positive context in which it is presented to the child as an opportunity to make new relationships and new experiences. The child should be helped to feel involved with the planning via being introduced to the support carers, initially via the foster family’s “Book About Us” or photographs and via a process of introductions;
  • The main foster carer should be encouraged to liaise with the support carer to ensure that they are kept up to date as regards events in the child’s life. It is also important to model a relationship between the carers for the child so as to promote a sense of personal links. A good communication link between carers can also model a message of containment and thereby enhance a child’s sense of safety and security;
  • Where possible, the support carer should encourage the child to put up photographs/personal objects so as to personalise and “claim” the fact that they are a regular visitor to the support foster household;
  • Recording – support carers must be provided with a recording folder to enable their contribution to child’s LAC reviews etc. Support carers recording to be checked, copied and uploaded to carers/child’s framework episode.

5. Governance of Support Care Arrangements

The Department for Education’s Statutory Guidance (Volume 4: 3.23) states that “there is no requirement that where a Looked After Child visits or spends a holiday with their foster carer's friends or relative that the individual must be approved as a Local Authority foster carer, as the child will remain formally placed with their usual foster carers.

" It is this authority’s policy that such arrangements should be subject to safeguarding governance and that all support care arrangements will fall into one of three categories.

Support care will be provided in one of three ways'

  1. With a foster carer who is not connected to the main foster carer and who has been approved by the fostering panel for the task of support care (Regulation 26 Fostering Services Regulations 2011);
  2. With a temporary foster carer who is connected to the child/main foster carer and whose temporary approval has been approved by the child’s Service Manager and the Fostering Service Manager (Regulation 24 Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010). If the intention is for this temporary foster carer to provide care, on an on-going basis, Regulation 25 (Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010) may apply or Regulation 26 (Fostering Services Regulations 2011) will apply;
  3. With an extended family member of the main foster carer, for a period of up to 4 days, and as approved by the Fostering Team Manager (Nottinghamshire County Council’s Policy on Social Visits (Including Overnight Stays)).

6. Supervision and Review of Support Foster Carers

Approved support foster carers are subject to the same supervisory arrangements and foster carer review processes as any other approved foster carer. This includes the need for at least one unannounced visit per annum whilst the child is in place, the maintenance of statutory checks/ references and the collation of placement feedback reports from the child (see Appendix A: Support Care - Views of Children), the child’s main foster carers and the child’s social worker.

There should be monthly minimum contact between a supervising social worker and a support foster carer. The pattern and frequency of the support care being provided will determine the need for monthly contact to be of a direct visiting nature. Individual circumstances will warrant individual decision making by the Fostering Team Manager. The Fostering Team Manager’s decision, regarding the visiting frequency by the supervising social worker, must be clearly recorded on the support foster carer’s records. The frequency should be proportionate to the amount of care being provided.

If two partners are jointly providing the support care, both partners must be included in the supervisory and review processes. Both partners must also evidence compliance with Training, Support and Development Standards (Nov 2012).

A supervising social worker should visit, when a child is in placement, at a level that is proportionate to the amount of care being provided and compliant with Standard 4.1 (National Minimum Fostering Standards 2011). One of these occasions could be the unannounced visit as required by Standard 21.8 National Minimum Fostering Standards 2011). The Fostering Team Manager’s decision, regarding the level of visiting by the supervising social worker (when a child is in placement), must be clearly recorded on the support carer’s records.

7. Visits by Child’s social worker

A child should be visited by her/his social worker, when in placement with an approved support carer, in accordance with Regulation 28, Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010.

The regulatory framework requires that visits take place within the first week of the support care placement having been made and, thereafter, at intervals of not more than six weeks for the first year of the placement and, thereafter, at intervals of not more than three monthly.

This visiting frequency should be equally applied to arrangements for disabled children who receive Support Care that is provided by Short breaks and Fostering (Disabled Children) service.

8. Payments to Support Carers

Payments to support carers will be authorised by the support carer’s supervising social worker. This is a changed business practice within this authority. Refer to Appendix B: Authorising Services.

9. Payments to Main Foster Carers

Payments to main carers (allowances and fee) are unaffected for the first full 28 days in each financial year (April to March) when a child is away from his or her main foster carers for a period of support care. A day is defined as 24 hours or the greater part of 24 hours i.e. more than 12 hours. For example,: if a child leaves his or her main placement on a Friday at 4pm and returns on a Sunday at 6pm he/she is classed as being away for two full days. If a child leaves his or her main placement on a Friday at 4pm and returns on a Saturday at 6pm, he/she is classed as being away for one day.

It is the responsibility of the main foster carer’s supervising social worker to record the number of full days affected by support care arrangements. Payments to foster carers will be affected (allowances and fee) if the 28 day period is exceeded. For each full day of support care, above the limit of 28 days, a deduction will be made to the main foster carer’s receipt of allowances and fee).

Appendix A: Support Care - Views of Children

Click here to see Appendix A: Support Care - Views of Children.

Appendix B: Authorising Services

Click here to see Appendix B: Authorising Services.