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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 2020, this chapter was updated and should be re-read. Further amendments will be required when Nottinghamshire County Council agree on an alternative to the MAPA model of intervention.


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, including a DBS 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. Please also refer to the agreed model and training re; MAPA with regard to policy regarding ‘holding’.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, including DBS 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. If exceeding 4 nights, a joint viability assessment completed by the SSW and CSW and agreed by the Fostering Service Manager needs completing.

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 the Team Manager and the Fostering Service 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. However, preferably children should play downstairs where foster carers can closely monitor the situation.

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

Click here to view Appendix A: Appropriate Discipline and Control.

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