Being a foster carer

Your expectations of us and our expectations of you

Fostering is one of many services provided by Brighton and Hove to support families who are in crisis. Where possible we try to keep families together. However, sometimes children and young people need to be cared for outside their families, either with the authority of the Courts on a Care Order or accommodated with their parents’ consent.

Foster care means looking after someone else’s child in your home and working closely with their family. This is a difficult and demanding job which requires an ever increasing level of skill and responsibility. The following sections outline our various services.


Foster carers can take children and young people within the age range for which they are approved for periods of days, weeks, months or years. Most children will return home but for some the plan may become adoption or permanent fostering. Most prospective carers are considered for approval by the Fostering Panel.

Intensive Fostering Scheme

The Intensive Fostering scheme is part of the Fostering Support Team and provides an enhanced package of support to some carers offering permanency to harder to place children.

Long term fostering and permanent care

For some children, who maintain significant relationships with their families and/or are of an age to decide, long term fostering may be a more appropriate placement choice than adoption. Prospective carers for such placements will be considered for approval by the Adoption and Permanence Panel.

Concurrency care

A small number of carers are approved as both foster carers and adopters and care for children 0-2 on a fostering basis prior to placement for adoption. They are prepared and able to adopt the child if the rehabilitation with birth family is not possible. Prospective carers are considered for approval by the Adoption and Permanence Panel.

Family and friends care

Family and friends carers are family members or friends who agree to care for a child or young person who is already known to them. Prospective family and friends carers are mainly considered for approval by the Fostering Panel, or occasionally the Adoption and Permanence Panel, depending on the individual circumstances.

Emergency care

Emergency care is provided by specified carers who agree to take placements out of working hours. Sometimes it is necessary to make an unplanned placement during the day, and any carer may be approached who has a vacancy.

Respite care for children with disabilities

Children and Families has a contract with the Barnardo’s Link Plus Scheme whose approved carers provide respite care on a regular basis for children with disabilities.


Most children in foster placements return home but if rehabilitation is not possible, adoption will be considered. Adoption involves the permanent transfer of all the legal rights and responsibilities for the child from the birth parents to the adoptive parents. Foster carers may ask if they can offer a permanent adoptive home to a child in their care. As fostering and adoption are different tasks, foster families would need to be assessed and approved as prospective adopters.

Supported lodgings scheme

Barnardo's has won a contract to recruit and support lodgings placements for young people who live in Brighton and Hove. This goes live in 2014.

Children’s guide to fostering

The Fostering & Adoption service has developed a children's guide to fostering which should be given to all children or young people coming into care. Carers also are given a copy of Dennis Duckling which explains fostering to the under 5s. The Fostering & Adoption service has a library of books and materials that can be used with children in placement so please discuss this with your supervising social worker.

Independent Visitor

For any child fostered who has had infrequent or no contact with his/her family in the past 12 months, Brighton and Hove must consider whether it would be in the child’s best interests for an Independent Visitor to be appointed.

This is a person, unconnected to Brighton and Hove City Council, whose duty is to visit, advise and befriend a child. The person may be invited to attend reviews and other meetings if a child wishes. The child must be in agreement with the appointment being made.

When a child is in a permanent placement the appointment of an Independent Visitor is unlikely to be necessary. Although contact with the child’s family may have been reduced or terminated, the relationship with the permanent carers and their friends and relatives will usually provide enough opportunities for the child to seek friendship, advice and guidance.

Youth, Advocacy & Participation Service

The Council has a Youth, Advocacy & Participation Service to increase the say that children and young people have in the services they use. There is a Listen Up care council and a 16+ advisory group for older young people in care.

Independent Fostering Agencies

When Brighton and Hove is unable to provide an in-house foster carer for a child needing a placement, placements are made with independent fostering agencies through Brighton and Hove's Agency Placements Team.

Fostering Panel

The Brighton and Hove Fostering Panel is a joint panel between the City Council and the Barnardo’s Link Plus Scheme. Its members are drawn from a central list, and currently include local social work staff, Barnardo's representatives, a councillor, a foster carer from another authority, a representative from health and a care leaver who has experienced the care system. The Panel has an independent chairperson, an agency advisor and administrator, and access to medical and legal advisors. Panel business is conducted in strict confidence.

The Panel considers:

  • all applications to become approved foster carers
  • any significant changes in approval criteria (which could be the result of a review, or significant change in circumstances)
  • reports submitted following an allegation of abuse in a foster home, or matters arising from the abuse
  • it makes recommendations to the Agency Decision Maker who makes the final decision. Recommendations on Barnardo’s matters are referred to an Regional Assistant Director at Barnardo’s who is their Agency Decision Maker.

Applications for approval are presented to the Panel by the supervising worker who has made the assessment, including written representations from the applicants. The report will have been shared with you prior to Panel. Applicants are encouraged to attend. All decisions will be notified to you in writing and in person.

If you disagree with the Agency Decision Maker’s intended decision you will be given details of Brighton and Hove's (or Barnardo’s) representations procedures, which include referral to the Independent Review Mechanism. Once approved, carers can only foster for Brighton and Hove (or Barnardo’s), although they can be lent to other fostering service providers with their agreement.

Foster Carer Agreement/Contract

The regulations require that the approving authority enters into a written agreement with the foster carers at the time they are approved. This contract lays out Brighton and Hove's expectations of carers, the terms and conditions of partnership between the authority and the carer. Brighton and Hove's expectations, terms and conditions can be found in the foster carer agreement.

Annual reviews

The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 require that carers are reviewed at least every year. A review is held within twelve months after initial approval, then annually. Carers attend the Fostering Panel on the first anniversary of their approval. This review considers the suitability of the carer to continue to foster. A review can also be held at any other time if there is a change in circumstance or an issue of concern. Reviews are usually carried out at home and it is a two way process where the carers can also express their views about the fostering service. The decision taken at the review will normally be approved by the Team Manager unless there is a contentious issue or a change of approval that will necessitate the review going to the Fostering Panel. Whatever the process, carers are notified of the outcome in writing. Carers are requested to sign a new foster care agreement following each annual review.

Termination of approval

If you make the decision to give up fostering your approval will be terminated. If you are considered no longer suitable, either through the review system or because of an incident which causes concern, the matter will be considered by the Fostering Panel. Panel can recommend the termination of approval of carers. Carers will be invited to this meeting and can bring a Fostering Network or other representative or a friend to support them. If carers do not agree with the intended decision to be made by the Agency Decision Maker, they have three options open to them, the first of which is to accept the proposed decision, or s/he should EITHER write to the Agency Decision Maker outlining the reasons why you disagree with the proposed course of action, together with any new information you wish to have considered by the Panel, OR you can refer youself to the Independent Review Mechanism – see leaflet at end of the Handbook for the procedure. You cannot do both of the last 2 options. In either case the final decision rests with the Agency Decision Maker.


Foster carers are managed and supervised by social workers from the fostering team. The supervising social worker’s role covers a variety of activities ranging from advice and encouragement, the practicalities of equipment and finance, to assisting carers in their task appropriately. Records are kept of visits and the supervising worker will discuss with you difficulties and problems that arise. Records and the original assessment papers are kept in the carer’s own file and held in the fostering team. These files are accessible to social work staff of Brighton and Hove. Carers may have access to their own files – by making a written request to the Service Manager responsible for Fostering and Adoption. You would then need to make a subject access request.

Information about you

The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 require us to keep the following information on you:

  1. Assessment reports (including competency and BAAF Form F) and references
  2. Record of approval and termination
  3. Record of placements
  4. Record of supervising social worker visits
  5. Reviews of your approval.
  6. Foster care agreement

This record is kept by the Fostering and Adoption teams based at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE. Social workers in the team and children’s social workers in the fieldwork teams have access to it when making placements or addressing complaints. The rules of confidentiality are maintained. You may request to see your file and this will be arranged, although third party information will probably have been removed.

Support groups

These groups give carers the opportunity to share together experiences of fostering. These groups meet bi-monthly and members of the fostering and adoption and permanence teams are present (more details on support to carers in fifth part of section one).


All foster carers are now required to undertake training designed by the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC), and to complete a handbook to achieve recognition. Other training is an integral part of a fostering career and begins during the preparation and assessment process. There are many courses run over a period of twelve months, sometimes during the day, sometimes in the evening. Sessions may last for 2 hours, 4 hours, or all day. Sometimes training is by external trainers, at other times by staff of Children and Families. Carers are required to attend mandatory courses. We have a very strong expectation that all carers will attend as much training as they can and supervising social workers will address this on their visits. Children and Families meets the cost of training carers and our expectation is that carers will take advantage of it. If you have suggestions for inclusion in the Training Programme, speak to your supervising social worker.

Moving - carers who move within the British Isles

If you are moving to a new address elsewhere it must be consistent with the care plan and in the child’s best interests to move with you. If you have a child in placement with you, you must not finalise any moving plans until you have consulted with your supervising social worker, the child’s social worker, and the child and their birth parents. If your move is of some distance, arrangements may be made for supervision of the child to be undertaken by the local authority into whose area you are moving, or Children and Families will continue to discharge its duties itself. In all cases it will be necessary for Children and Families to make arrangements for:-

  • supervision and reviewing
  • contact
  • safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare
  • ensuring that the requirements of the Regulations are met.

No move abroad with looked after children can be considered until full consultation with Children and Families and its legal advisors has been completed

Significant changes

The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 require that you must notify Brighton and Hove in writing of any significant changes in your family and household.

For your guidance listed below are examples of the sorts of changes we consider significant and need to know about:-

  • If you are planning to move house, including abroad (advance notice of your intentions must be given)
  • If you do move house
  • If any family member dies
  • If any family member, friend or relative joins your family for more than 4 weeks
  • If anyone is planning to stay or comes to stay in your household who has a criminal record involving offences against children, or violence against the person
  • If your working hours change significantly e.g. part-time to full-time or to evening or weekend work
  • Any change in your employment status, e.g. if you start or stop working
  • Any significant marital difficulties, including one partner leaving home (even temporarily)
  • A serious deterioration in the health of any family member
  • Diagnosis of a serious illness
  • The birth of a child to any family member
  • Anyone leaving the family
  • Any member of the family who is charged with a criminal offence
  • You have a dog that becomes registered under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997
  • Any other significant event which you think it is important to share.
  • Any household member begins smoking as this could result in a change in your terms of approval

Following notification your supervising social worker will arrange to visit. The supervising social worker will then discuss the change with their Practice Manager to decide whether a review would be helpful.

The fostering limit

Regulations state that the maximum number of children you may foster at any time is 3, not including your own children or children you have adopted. It is possible to exceed this limit, provided the children concerned are siblings and that approval is sought of the local authority in whose area you live.

An exemption can only be granted for named children.

Complaints and allegations against foster carers

Whilst foster carers may not expect allegations to be made against them, it is important that they acknowledge that such a possibility exists, and sadly not all allegations are unfounded. Similarly complaints may be made about other areas of your care -by the child, their family or by Brighton and Hove. The decision of Brighton and Hove in all cases is made in the best interests of the child. As carers your home and family are more open to criticism because they are exposed to regular scrutiny, and we acknowledge the stressful nature of this. Carers must minimise the risk of unfounded allegations being made. You should try to build your own safety net in the following ways:

  • ensure you attend training sessions
  • build up a support network
  • attend support groups
  • make use of your Fostering Network membership
  • make sure you are aware of the Fostering Network safe care guidance
  • keep a daily diary of events
  • keep social workers informed of events in the child’s life and your feelings
  • when dealing with young people who are sexually aware avoid situations where you are left alone and vulnerable
  • discuss safe caring with your supervising social worker when you write your safe caring agreement.

The Fostering Network booklet Safe Caring states that one in six carers will have a complaint or allegation made against them during their fostering career. We will treat all allegations seriously because some will have foundation.

A child might make an allegation against a carer because:

  • something that has happened recently reminds the child of an event that took place before the child was with the carer
  • it is a way of trying to regain control over their life
  • the child sees it as a way of getting away from the placement by making a false accusation
  • the child can misinterpret an innocent action, such as putting an arm round them to offer comfort
  • the child may have experienced abuse in the placement.

What can carers do to help prevent accusations being made against them:

Fostering Network’s Safe Caring recommends:

  • introduce a safe rule - no-one touches another person’s body without that person’s permission
  • help children learn to say NO if they don’t want to be touched
  • older children may need extra help to work out how to seek comfort from an adult without clinging to them
  • avoid tickling and wrestling games
  • children who are old enough should be able to bath and wash themselves
  • young children should be helped by carers of the same sex
  • carers should not walk around in their underwear or nightwear
  • all children in the house should have dressing gowns and slippers and should wear them when walking around the house in their night clothes
  • carers should not share their bed with a child even if the child is ill
  • provide children with a time of warmth and affection outside the bedroom, telling stories, reading, talking or having a hot drink together
  • children should not share beds. If children share bedrooms, clear rules should apply.
  • a child should travel in the back of a carer’s car to avoid any suggestion of the child saying they were ‘touched’.

What happens if a child makes accusations of abuse against foster carers?

It is a dangerous idea for a foster carer to believe “this can’t happen to me”. Unfortunately on rare occasions foster carers do abuse children. It is possible that greater publicity, leading to higher public awareness, has led to more cases being reported than before, but whatever the cause, proven abuse of all types by foster carers has increased. If you are complained about, ensure that you get immediate support from an independent source – either from the Fostering Network or friends or other supports.

Whatever the cause or reason behind the accusations, Brighton and Hove has no option but to investigate immediately. This may lead to the child being removed very quickly if he or she is considered to be at risk. The foster carer may be suspended pending the outcome of investigation, depending on the nature of the allegation. It is then that the carer’s support network needs to be contacted, to provide support and advice. Where allegations of sexual abuse are made it is likely that the police will be involved in the investigation. At this stage you should seek legal advice.

Make sure you know your rights and more importantly the duties and responsibilities of the police and social workers. It is also important to keep written records at this stage, it is very easy to forget details when you are anxious and distressed.

When the investigation is concluded, decisions will have to be made regarding whether there was any cause for concern and, if there is some concern, was it sufficient to warrant removal of the child. The possibility of prosecution and whether you continue fostering will also be considered.

The most difficult situation occurs when there is no clear conclusion either way. The foster carer is then left in a very unsatisfactory position, neither accused, found guilty, or completely exonerated. (Unless completely cleared it is unlikely that future placements will be made. There is not a clear view on this issue).

What is vitally important is that foster carers are told how Brighton and Hove views their case. Clear unambiguous information about what informed the conclusions and what decisions have been reached is the foster carer’s right. If this is not made available there is a Complaints Procedure which should be used to ensure that the information you seek is made available.

Even where allegations are completely dismissed you must make certain that this is clearly recorded on your foster carer’s file, which is kept by Brighton and Hove. (Please also see the section on allegations against foster carers – guidance for foster carers.)

Complaints by children and young people in placement

Children who are old enough to want to make a complaint may need a lot of help to do so. Carers should understand that helping a child to complain is a positive step. It means that the child has:

  • thought about the situation
  • decided that something is not right
  • and is willing to do something about it.

There are two different types of complaints:

  1. The really serious ones which must be handled formally.
  2. Those which can be handled within the home, such as moans, suggestions and problems.

What may seem unimportant to you may be very serious to a child.

Complaints about sexual or racial harassment or racial discrimination are extremely important. You may be able to help or you may have to take the matter further.

If a complaint is made, an investigating officer will be appointed.

Everyone should know what the Complaints Procedure is and how to go about making a complaint. If the information is not available the child should be helped to find out about the procedure.


As well as taking complaints seriously, Brighton and Hove also gives due regard to compliments and positive comments made by children, birth parents and other agencies about care given by foster carers. You are made aware of commendations received, which are recorded in your file. Long service and outstanding dedication to the care of children is celebrated at award events and in the newsletter for carers.

Impossibility of guaranteeing placements for 52 weeks a year

We will try our utmost to ensure that children needing foster care are placed as soon as possible with foster carers who have vacancies, but unfortunately we cannot guarantee this as sometimes our duty service is waiting for a referral from a child’s social worker or for a suitable match. Obviously it would not be in a child’s or a foster carer’s interests to make a placement which did not meet a child’s needs or a carer’s approval conditions. Nevertheless we will try to ensure that a foster care vacancy is filled as soon as possible unless the carer is needing respite or a break.




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