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Advice & Guides
Fostering Advice

Dealing With Allegations Against Foster Carers

While allegations against foster carers is a subject we’d prefer not to think about, it is an issue that all agencies and foster carers must be prepared for.

Becoming a foster carer is a profound commitment to provide care and support to vulnerable children. However, this journey can also come with its share of challenges, including the reality of facing allegations.

At Compass, we acknowledge the difficulty and distress that an allegation can bring and recognise the emotional impact this may have on all members of the household. In this article, we will delve into the procedures involved in handling allegations, as well as the support that is available to foster carers.

What Does the Law Say?

The most recent legislation in England – Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 – outlines protocols for managing allegations, while in Wales, the All Wales Child Protection Procedures serve a similar purpose.

There are three primary strands within Working Together:

  • Police investigation into criminal offences
  • Local authority assessments for child protection needs
  • Reviewing foster carer suitability according to fostering regulations

Fostering agencies are required to report any foster carer allegations to the Carers Local Safeguarding Board and adhere to its procedures. Each local authority appoints Designated Officers of teams (D.O/L.A.D.O) to oversee investigations into allegations against individuals in positions of trust, including foster carers. These officers then determine how investigations will proceed, who will conduct them, and ensure compliance with regulations.

What Constitutes an Allegation?

An allegation is an assertion that a foster carer or someone in their household may have harmed a child or committed a criminal offence against them. As mentioned previously, allegations made against foster carers are taken very seriously and must be reported to the Carers Local Safeguarding Board. The Designated then go on to decide whether it warrants any further action.

Foster carers may also be familiar with Practice Concerns and complaints. However, there are differences that separate them from allegations. For example, Practice Concerns relates to care standards and can involve consultation with Local Safeguarding Boards, and complaints express dissatisfaction but are not related to safeguarding.

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Managing Allegations Against Foster Carers

At Compass, whenever an allegation is made, we immediately contact the Safeguarding Board and local authorities, potentially relocating looked-after children temporarily. Referrals can also be made for non-looked after children in the household if there are any safeguarding concerns. The foster carer in question may be put on hold pending investigation, as well as face suspension with other Compass-related activities. This process is put in place to ensure swift action and appropriate responses to safeguarding concerns, protecting the welfare of children in a foster care arrangement.

Outcomes of Allegations Against Foster Carers

Following the investigation, the Operations Manager or Head of Fostering, in consultation with the Safeguarding Board, determines what information can be shared with the foster carer regarding an allegation. Once an allegation has been made, either the Supervising Social Worker or Operations Manager will visit the carer and send a subsequent letter that outlines the situation, available support and safeguarding procedures.

If the situation does not meet the Safeguarding Board’s threshold, Compass may conduct a planned enquiry independently, or jointly with the Local Authority. Alternatively, a Strategy Meeting may be convened for continued involvement, where all information about the carer will be shared. This meeting will then decide the investigation’s approach and leadership, typically with the police taking the front line with criminal offence enquiries. Following the Strategy Meeting, feedback will be provided to carers and risk assessments for children in the home will be discussed.

There are also multi-agency strategy meetings that monitor the investigation’s progress, culminating in a final meeting to determine whether or not the allegation is:

  • Substantiated
  • Unsubstantiated
  • False
  • Malicious
  • Unfounded
Allegations Against Foster Carers: Statistics

It is important to acknowledge that whilst allegations against foster carers are alarming, they are not uncommon. According to the latest fostering report, 2,600 allegations were made against foster carers between 2020 and 2021. Sixty-one percent of these were made by foster children, with a vast majority being related to abuse. While these stats are incredibly serious, 54 percent of these allegations resulted in no further action upon thorough investigation. This highlights the importance of allowing due process to unfold without prejudice or assumption.

Support and Next Steps

We understand that navigating through these allegations demands sensitivity, resilience and access to support systems. This is why Compass provides comprehensive support for foster carers facing allegations. Some of the support we offer includes:

  • Supervision Meetings with a Social Worker to identify and implement effective support strategies
  • Referral to Fostertalk for independent guidance
  • Access to a Fostertalk membership for legal advice
  • Peer support from other approved foster carers
  • Referral to Compass Therapeutic Services if needed

Financial assistance may also be considered if a child has to temporarily be removed from foster care during an allegation. Once the investigation is complete, the allegation will then be recorded in the carer’s history and they must then return to panel for evaluation, where a comprehensive report will be compiled to determine continued suitability. To ensure a thorough evaluation process, feedback from children, household members and other professionals will also be included in the report.

Reducing Risks

In order to avoid allegations entirely, foster carers are encouraged to implement a variety of measures within their households.

These include:

  •       Maintaining clear and effective communication both prior to and during allegations (e.g. daily completion of carer logs, including factual accounts of children’s experiences).
  •       Conducting and reviewing risk assessments for all foster children.
  •       Completing Household Safe Care Plans, updating any changes.
  •       Attending supervision and child progress meetings.
  •       Receiving all mandatory foster carer training, as well as completing personal development plans.

 

The Importance of Safeguarding

Though the allegation process may be tumultuous, ultimately — regardless of outcome — our number one priority should be the welfare of children in care. Foster carers must remain steadfast in their commitment to providing optimal support and care to our children, ensuring their needs are met and voices are heard.

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