Everyone working with looked after children and their families are involved in recording in different ways. Recording is an essential part of the service provided to children and families. However we recognise that record keeping is not an activity that is approached with enthusiasm by many carers and social workers! Nevertheless it is important to understand its importance and that recording supports positive care of children. This chapter is based on the Government’s Write Enough training pack which is used in the Children and Families training programme for foster carers.
Purposes of recording
Recording for carers and all involved in the care of a looked after child/young person has a number of important purposes including:
- maintains history for the child - a 'coherent narrative'.
- provides continuity for the child when social workers unavailable or change
- protects a foster carer from allegations
- provides an opportunity to reflect on the placement and learn from mistakes and good ideas
- highlights a carer’s training and development needs
- underlines issues for the child
- saves time and energy by providing a future reference for carers and staff
- allows analysis of patterns of behaviour and to spot improvements and problems early on.
Key issues and events to record
The following are the key issues and events you should consider recording (it is appreciated you may have others you wish to record):
- brief day-to-day record
- improvements and achievements of the child
- any changes or concerns in behaviour or mood – including details of actual behaviour observed, what was happening before it started and your or other people’s response to it
- dates and times child is away from your home – friends, away with birth family, missing ( please see entry in Handbook on Children Missing from Foster Care )
- specific incidents, events or changes in circumstances of family members
- disagreements or complaints concerning any birth family members and how you dealt with them
- accidents or injuries (even if slight) to the child
- dates of meetings, attendance and decisions ( sometimes these will be part of minutes sent out to you)
- any medical, dental and optician appointments and treatments/decisions from these – you need to inform the child’s social worker about statutory medical appointments and dental checks as s/he has to record this information on the CareFirst electronic record of the looked after child
- contacts with school, social worker, birth family
- contact visits, child’s responses or before and after
- requests for help or assistance
- times when alternative care have been given, e.g. babysitters, with detail of who they were and what they did
- details of any damage or theft by the foster child
- involvement with police – reasons and outcome.
You need to ensure you make the child’s social worker and your supervising social worker aware of the key events you are recording.
The Fostering Network advise that 5 to 10 minutes per child a day should be all the time you need to spend on recording.
You should record accidents and incidents in a separate book, which your supervising social worker on their regular home visit may ask to see.
Over time your recording should reveal trends and patterns in the child’s behaviour and development. Your recording may well underline the improvements and progress that has occurred and enhance your satisfaction in a job well done.
The strictest confidentiality of your recording should be maintained and diaries/notebooks and other documents you record in should be kept in a secure place such as a locked cabinet.
If you have difficulties with reading and writing please feel free to raise with your supervising social worker who will advise and provide you with additional support if necessary.
Separate record for each child
Many carers record in diaries. The Fostering Network strongly advise you to maintain a separate notebook for each child rather than use a diary, which should only be used as a record of dates of activities. Children and Families expects you to keep a separate record for each child in placement.
Parent and baby carers' recording has to be particularly precise, as developmental changes in the child and any change in parental care have to be charted. Parent and baby carer records are part of an assessment, which a Children's Guardian from the court may wish to read and copy for use in a hearing. Though attendance at court is rare, parent and baby carers need to be prepared for this and will receive support from the child’s social worker and their supervising social worker.
With the increased use of electronic forms of communication, we recognise that you may be in email correspondence with your child’s social worker, your supervising social worker and other professionals. Hard copies of key emails should be kept on the file you maintain for each child in placement. If you hold children’s information on a personal computer you should check with your supervising social worker to ensure it conforms to the requirements of the Data Protection Act (explained later in this chapter), is kept confidential and access to information on the child is restricted to you. Once a child moves on, the information must be removed from the computer.
Key records to keep
The following are key documents and written information about the child placed which you should be kept in a secure place:
- Background Information Record
- Placement Plan (incorporating a Behaviour Management Plan where necessary)
- Care Plan
- diary or diary sheets clearly written, dated and signed
- special reports as appropriate such as educational and psychiatric
- correspondence with social worker and supervising social worker
- copy of LAC reviews
- specific work done by the foster child and yourself (this would usually belong to the child)
- Court Orders
- contact details – arrangements and correspondence and meeting minutes
- any important certificates, awards, school reports and photos ( please see chapter on Memorabilia page 166 of the Handbook)
- health and safety – accident/injury records
- medical, dental and optical appointments and outcomes.
- Life story books do NOT need to be kept securely but should be available to children so that they can use them when they need to.
Eight tips for effective recording
- Before you start be clear about why you recording.
- Record as soon as possible after an event or observation.
- Use plain language and avoid jargon.
- Wherever possible stick to the facts.
- When you give an opinion separate it from the facts and explain why you have come to that particular opinion.
- Record in a way that you would be happy for the child or family to read what you have written.
- Don’t forget to sign and date each record.
- Completing regular summaries on younger children and with young people can be a good way of monitoring the child or young person’s progress.
What happens to records when a child moves
At the end of a placement your recording and other documents on the child have to be returned to the child’s social worker. You should keep a record of the child’s name, date s/he arrived and left and of when the information was passed to the Trust in case you need to access it later.
Data Protection Act (1998)
The Data Protection Act regulates how personal information is used and protects individuals from misuse of personal details collected about them. It provides a common-sense set of rules which prohibit the misuse of personal information collected without stopping it being used for legitimate or beneficial purposes.
The details of the Data Protection Act are quite complex, but at the heart of it are eight common-sense rules known as the Data Protection Principles. These require personal information kept to be:
- fairly and lawfully processed
- processed for limited purposes
- adequate, relevant and not excessive
- not kept longer than necessary
- processed in accordance with an individual’s rights
- kept secure
- not transferred abroad without adequate protection.
Organisations using personal information, such as Councils, must comply with these principles.
The Act provides stronger protection for sensitive information about individuals, such as health details.
The Act, with some exceptions, gives individuals the right to find out what information is held about them by organisations.
Further information and advice on recording
Advice on recording is given to prospective carers during preparation and assessment, which is built on during further training provided by the Fostering Team, Adoption and Permanence Team or the 16 Plus Support Team.
The Fostering Network has published a booklet entitled Record Keeping Information for Foster Carers, which if you have not seen your supervising social worker can obtain for you. You can also visit www.fostering.net or www.writeenough.org.uk
You should feel free to contact your supervising social worker or the child in placement’s social worker if you have any queries or concerns about recording.
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