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5.1.14 Local Delegation of Authority to Foster Carers and Residential Workers Protocol

For all London Borough of Waltham Forest Foster Carers and others who care for Looked After Children: This protocol is agreed by the London Borough of Waltham Forest and is to be used as the protocol when making Placement Plans.

RELATED GUIDANCE

The Fostering Network Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2017 with the inclusion of the link to the Fostering Network Decision Support Tool.


Contents

  1. Purpose
  2. Guidance on Consents and Areas of Decision Making
  3. Education - Choosing a School
  4. Change of School
  5. Meeting with School Staff
  6. School Day Trips
  7. Overnight School Trips Involving Hazardous Activity
  8. Accessing Other Leisure and Educational Activities
  9. Sex Education
  10. Sports Activities/Organisations - Guidance and Specialist Services
  11. Health Care
  12. Immunisations
  13. Non-Routine Medical Treatment
  14. Routine Medicals
  15. Leisure and Every Day Life in the Foster Home
  16. Babysitting
  17. Tattoos and Body Piercing
  18. Holidays in the UK
  19. Visiting Friends
  20. Overnight Stays
  21. Contact
  22. Haircuts and Special Styles etc.
  23. Mobile Telephone
  24. Photographs and Other Media Activities
  25. Areas Where Authority Cannot be Delegated

    References


1. Purpose

The intended purpose is to simplify the general “Delegation of Authority to Foster Carers and Residential Workers Protocol”. It is part of the requirement stated in the Fostering Regulations and National Minimum Standards 2011.

It is envisaged the protocol will guide the discussion had at the Placement Planning Meetings and the outcomes will be contained in every individual Looked After Child’s Placement Plan. This must take place either before a placement takes place, or in the case of emergency placements, the meeting will take place within 48 hours. The Plan can be reviewed at any stage. Placement Plans must be in place within 7 days of the commencement of every placement.

When a child is placed, the placing social worker must provide you with a Placement Plan Part 1. This will provide you with essential information regarding the foster child.


2. Guidance on Consents and Areas of Decision Making

The following are some of the main areas where decisions or consents are required and general advice which may include foster carers. Please note that in the first instance parent(s) must agree to authority being delegated unless the local authority has a Care Order in place and consider it necessary to limit or restrict the parent’s exercise of their parental responsibility in the best interest of the child’s welfare.


3. Education - Choosing a School

The school choice regarding a child in their early years should be discussed and agreed by the holders of Parental Responsibility at a LAC Review Meeting. Once the school place has been agreed and identified, the foster carer should accept the place and sign the relevant forms.


4. Change of School

Where a foster carer wishes the child to attend a different school, this will need to be discussed and agreed at a LAC Review Meeting. Careful consideration should be given to the reasons including the impact this will have on the child and the placement. Once the decision has been agreed, the foster carer should complete the necessary documentation. The placement plan should be updated to reflect the delegation of authority decision.


5. Meeting with School Staff

Where a child is in a Short term placement, the foster carers should be given the responsibility to meet with the child’s teachers to discuss their progress and to share relevant information deemed to be in the child’s best interest. It is the expectation the foster carer will inform the child’s social worker; who will ensure the parents are kept up to date regarding the child’s general progress and in particularly if there are any changes.


6. School Day Trips

The school is primarily responsible for all risk assessments and responsibilities in relation to the safety and well being of the child during school trips. Foster carers should have delegated authority to give agreements and signatures for trips. This should be clearly outlined at the Placement Planning Meeting. Where this is not delegated, the reason should be made clear and discussed at the LAC Review, the placement plan will need to be updated to reflect this.


7. Overnight School Trips Involving Hazardous Activity

The foster carer will be expected to discuss with the child’s allocated social worker all overnight school trips at home or abroad, which may involve hazardous activities. Where consent is required from the local authority or parents it is important for foster carers to request this very early on to avoid the child from missing out on a potentially positive experience. The guiding principle should be that unless the child is likely to be put at risk or harm which cannot be mitigated, he/she should be allowed to go on the trip.


8. Accessing Other Leisure and Educational Activities

Foster carers must be made aware of the importance of encouraging and supporting looked after children to take full advantage of extra - curricular activities which would normally be available to their peers. Foster carers should be delegated the task of providing agreement and signatures for such activities when this is required. It is expected that the costs of most activities will be met by foster carers from the child’s weekly allowance. Where significant additional costs would be incurred, agreement and approval of these must be obtained through the Supervising Social Worker prior to any commitment.


9. Sex Education

It is envisaged that children will receive education about sex and relationships at school, unless the parents have requested the children be withdrawn from such lessons. In cases where the local authority has a care order in respect of that child, the decision will be discussed at the Looked after Child’s Review taking into consideration the wishes of the parent and the arrangements differ in each school as to how sex education is delivered. The child’s participation in the school’s sex education curriculum should be discussed at the placement planning meetings. The placement planning meetings minutes should clearly record the parents wishes and feelings and the outcome decision including whether or not the child is allowed to attend or participate. There will also be times when issues around sex and relationships may arise in the foster carer’s home. The foster carer should be sufficiently confident and comfortable about having such discussions with the child or young person. However, it would be advisable for the foster carer to discuss how this should be done with the child’s social worker and the allocated supervising social worker.


10. Sports Activities/Organisations - Guidance and Specialist Services

All looked after children in foster care will be expected to take part in physical education in school and as such will not require the foster carers to give consent. However foster carers should be able to give consent to extra - curricular sports and activities such as after school clubs, boy scouts and girl guides. Delegated authority to give the foster carers such consent should be discussed at the onset of the placement and the decision recorded in the Placement Plan.


11. Health Care

The child’s health plan should clearly identify all the known health needs and how these are to be met. Therefore foster carers must be made aware from the onset about the local authority expectation and their responsibilities if children in placement require emergency medical treatment. The placement plan should clearly outline where and when foster carers have delegated authority to make decisions or give consent in relation to children’s health especially in emergency situations. The Placement Plan can then be used by foster carers to demonstrate evidence of their decision making authority in cases of emergency when proof may be required. Foster carers must inform the looked after child social worker or their supervising social worker of any medical emergency treatment or advice given by such professionals as soon as possible and always within 48 hours. The foster carer is expected to participate in the annual Strengths & Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for each child as this is a statutory return.


12. Immunisations

Foster carers should be given delegated responsibility to consent to a child in placement having immunisations as recommended by the relevant professional bodies. Where it is known or recorded that parents have concerns about particular immunisations this should be revisited with them at the onset of any placement and brought to the attention of foster carers. In situations where the local authority has a care order in respect of a particular child this should be discussed at the looked after child’s review and the decision recorded and updated in the child’s placement plan.


13. Non-Routine Medical Treatment

Situations may arise in a placement where a child may receive a minor injury or require emergency treatment. Children should never have to wait for minor pain relief or emergency treatment in the absence of clear delegated authority. The Placement Plan should always include the situations where foster cares can give consent to treatment and under what circumstances in order to avoid any delay in the child receiving emergency treatment. Therefore it is the expectation especially in out of hours situations, even if delegated authority have not be given, that the foster carers can do what is reasonable in an emergency to keep a child safe or in life threatening situations. However in such cases foster carers should notify the “out of hours duty service” as soon as possible and notify the child’s social worker and their supervising social worker within 48 hours.

Foster Carers should not be automatically barred from having delegated responsibilities in cases where children may require invasive medical procedures whether planned or unplanned e.g., where a child has a long-standing medical condition that may result in frequent unplanned surgery. Delegated authority should be discussed at the onset of placements and the placement plan should be updated according with clear decisions.


14. Routine Medicals

Foster carers should be delegated responsibility to sign consents for children in placement who require routine eye sight tests and routine medicals when required such as looked after children’s health assessments. Foster Carers should inform the child’s social worker when these are taking place and notify them of any outcome or recommendations made/suggested.


15. Leisure and Every Day Life in the Foster Home

The importance of looked after children in placement needing consistency and stability in placements must be emphasised strongly to foster carers. Therefore careful consideration will be given to any request for baby sitting arrangements. Foster carers should be encouraged from the onset to identify one or two persons from within their support network who can fulfil baby sitting duties. Although not legislative, it would be good practice to ensure that the named persons have a cleared DBS check.


16. Babysitting

It should not be assumed the foster carers’ children living at home age 18 and over will undertake babysitting duties for their parents. This should be discussed at the Placement Planning meeting and recorded on the Plan. The process should include consultation with such children and a risk assessment carried out by the social worker. Foster carer’s children who are sixteen + should only be expected to undertake very short periods of babysitting no more than 2 hours. If this is discussed and accepted at the placement planning meeting, this should be regularly reviewed and assessed on an individual family basis. It would be very good practice if foster carers children are encouraged to complete a babysitting course such as is offered by the Red Cross society. This is suggested because relevant research indicates when children are supervised by their parent’s risks of accidents are reduced. However, when a teenager supervises younger children there is an increased risk of injury.


17. Tattoos and Body Piercing

The Law (England) is clear that only young people aged 18 years of age are permitted to get a tattoo. Therefore the issue of delegated authority to foster carers is not necessary or even parental consent. However, the Law is clear it is illegal for young people under sixteen to have their genitals pierced; it is also illegal for females under sixteen to have their breasts pierced, although this does not apply to males under 16.

The decision making process of the foster carer should generally happen after thorough discussion with the child’s social worker and the supervising social worker. The foster carer should take account of the child’s wishes and feelings (age appropriate) should consider the arguments for and against giving permission and be confident to make decisions which the child or young person may not agree with. The discussion should include and be made on the child’s understanding and the health and aesthetic implications associated with body piercing. There will be times when the foster carers, social workers and or parents disagree; but will have to accept that the young person is of an age to make such a decision for themselves.


18. Holidays in the UK

Any plans for taking a child on holiday should be discussed with the birth parents (if appropriate) and the child’s social worker. The issue about funding and contact arrangement should be discussed at the earliest opportunity and before the child is made aware that there is the opportunity of going on holiday with the foster carers. It is important that all holidays are arranged during school holidays and essential that the child’s social worker, parents and supervising social worker know the child’s whereabouts and the contact details of the intended holiday destinations. Sometimes it may become necessary for a risk assessment to be undertaken by the social worker e.g. caravan holidays and camping holidays. As it is unlawful to remove children from school during term time, foster carers will plan and take holidays during designated school holiday periods.


19. Visiting Friends

Foster carers should be assigned delegated authority to make decisions concerning the child in placement visiting his/her friends unless there is clearly recorded reasons why this area of responsibly should not be delegated to the foster carer. This is in line with statutory guidance which is clear in this area. The expectation is that foster carers will take all of the steps that a reasonable parent would to ensure that the friends and their families are suitable and safe places for the child to visit. This would include liaising directly with the parents or carers of the friend(s).


20. Overnight Stays

The Government good practice guidance suggests that foster carers should be able to make decisions about overnight stays as if foster children were their own children and therefore act and make the decision as any parent would. The authority delegated to foster carers to make decisions about overnight stays should be discussed and set on in the placement plan, along with any restrictions on overnight stays that may be necessary in exceptional circumstances as outlined in Volume 2, chapter 3, of the Children Act 1989 Statutory guidance in the section “Shared Responsibilities and Consents”. The expectation is that foster carers will take all of the steps that a reasonable parent would to ensure that the friends and their families are suitable and safe places for the child to visit. This would include liaising directly with the parents or carers of the friend(s) and possibly visiting the address where the child will stay.


21. Contact

The principle and arrangement for contact should be discussed, finalised and clearly set out in the Placement Plan and then reviewed at each LAC Review. Foster carers should be clear and any decision making in respect of flexibility the foster carer may have especially if the child is in a long term placement or section 20 and if the parents have agreed. Where the plan is that the foster carer will supervise contact or facilitate such in their home it is important the appropriate training is provided and undertaken by the foster carer in order to undertake this task. In all situations where contact is to be facilitated in the foster carer’s home a RISK ASSESSMENT MUST BE UNDERTAKEN by the Supervising Social Worker which must be attached to the placement plan and placed on the foster carer’s file.


22. Haircuts & Special Styles etc.

This is recognised as a difficult area of decision making for foster carers according to the age of the child. Foster carers must understand and appreciate this can be a sensitive matter particular for some children of certain faiths, cultures and religious backgrounds. Apart from these exceptions decisions about the timing and arrangement should be delegated to foster carers wherever possible. However it is the responsibility of the child’s social worker to have discussed and attained the wishes and feelings of the birth parents/person with parental responsibility from the onset. This should be clearly addressed and recorded in the Placement Plan. All arrangements should be regularly revisited in LAC Reviews as necessary.


23. Mobile Telephone

This is an area of potential disagreement in the placement depending on the age of the child or young person in placement. Some discussion must be reached /negotiated with the young person and the foster carer at the placement meeting (age appropriate) and updated in the placement plan. As a general principle, foster carers with children or young persons in placement should be responsible for making decisions regarding the possession and use of mobile phones. However where age appropriate a discussion should be had with the young person, their social worker and the foster carer to agree areas such as frequency, times and consequences. This should also include the area where the foster carers have birth children or other children in placement the need to operate as consistently as possible with all children in the household. It is preferable that Pay as You Go mobile telephones are used as no additional local authority finance is available to cover the cost of mobile telephone contracts.


24. Photographs and Other Media Activities

There should be no restrictions on foster carers taking pictures of children in placement especially for life story work, family photos etc as it is good way in which foster children can make sense of their history and foster carers who have played a significant part in their lives.

Decisions about whether the foster carer can consent to other types of photographs or media activity such as Facebook, Twitter etc. can be more problematic due to confidentiality and safeguarding issues. Equally, the age and competency of a young person to make informed decisions has to be taken into consideration of who decides what, how and when? Given the guiding law principle relating to sixteen year olds, it would be recommended that they be supported and guided in making such decisions by the foster carer but ultimately the foster carer must respect the wishes and rights of the sixteen year old.

Foster carers should be given delegated responsibility for the decision to give consent for school photographs. They should be encouraged to ensure children have school and group photographs taken regularly; again because of the value contribution of such to assist in enabling the foster child to make sense of his/her history.

Some children love to be able to take part in activities which may lead to publicity in the media, such as representing the school or participating in voluntary related activities, such as publications, foster care related publication or such that may be published in the media. The guiding principle is every case should be discussed and the implications of any potential known risks. This should always be in consultation with the child’s social worker and their parents. The discussion should also be had at the Placement Planning Meeting and recorded in the placement plan.


25. Areas Where Authority Cannot be Delegated

Religion

A child looked after by the London Borough of Waltham Forest cannot be brought up in a religion that is different to the one they would have otherwise been brought up in. This does not mean a child cannot be placed with a foster family with a different faith, if the family is appropriate to meet the child’s wider needs. Where a child or young person in foster care decides to change his /her religion their age and decision making ability must be taken into consideration. All other instances must be discussed with the child’s social worker and at the LAC Review and appropriately updated in the Placement Plan.

Passports

Passports often become a problem when foster carers wish to take a child abroad for a holiday. In order to avoid this, it is imperative discussion is had at the Placement Planning meeting and at the child’s first LAC Review where a decision can be made regarding when the passport application process (if applicable) can commence, which should be as early as possible.

Applications for passport for a child under 16 can be signed by anyone who holds parental responsibility or where the London Borough of Waltham Forest holds a Care Order in regards to the child any such designated officer of the council. A foster carer can be delegated authority to undertake some of the preparation of the application form or to collect a passport with a written letter of consent from a designated officer of Waltham Forest Council.

Taking the Child Abroad

All foster carers must have written consent from someone holding parental responsibility before taking a child abroad. This is usually obtained by the child’s social worker if on a Care Order; otherwise parental consent will need to be obtained.

It is important a letter is given to the foster carers from the local authority giving permission for the foster carer to take the child abroad which should clearly state what will be the decision making powers the foster carer has especially in emergency situations. It would be good practice for a risk assessment (age appropriate) of behaviour management issues to be addressed (including risk of absconding, accommodation sharing and risk of exploitation).

Foster carers and supervising social workers must appreciate and be sensitive to the birth parents reactions when consulting with them as it is may often be difficult for birth parents to accept their children are being taking abroad by the foster carer. Equally, foster carers and social workers should not raise a child’s hope about going abroad before they have obtained written consent from a parent or a senior manager.


References

Legislation

  • The Legal Framework for Parental Responsibility in the Children Act 1989;
  • Department of Health reference guide to consent for examinations or treatment;
  • The Care Planning. Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010;
  • The Children Act 1989;
  • Fostering Services Regulation 2011;
  • National Minimum Standards 2011 amended 2013;
  • The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous amendments) Regulation 2013.

End