Fostering

Profile of foster carers - legislation

Law and standards

The Law and Standards sections apply to England only.

A brief indication of how the law changed upon full implementation (September 2004 and September 2005) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 is inserted in italics.

Compliance with statute and regulations is mandatory; compliance with standards is taken into account by the CSCI when registering and inspecting fostering service providers.

Fostering Services Regulations 2002

The legal restrictions on people who may become foster carers are:

  1. Regulation 20 [6] A fostering service provider may not employ to work [in any management social work or other professional position] for the purposes of the fostering service, a person who is a foster parent approved by the service or a member of the household of such a foster parent [unless that employee was already employed prior to 1/4/02].
  2. It follows that an employee of a fostering service provider cannot be approved as a foster carer by the same provider.
  3. Regulation 27 [5] Prohibits from approval [with some exceptions] those who have criminal convictions or cautions recorded against them for specified offences - A person cannot be approved as a foster carer if he or she or any member of the household aged 18 or over:
    • has been convicted of a specified offence committed at the age of 18 or over; or
    • has been cautioned by a constable in respect of any such offence which, at the time the caution was given, he admitted.
  4. The fostering service provider may regard a person to whom paragraph (5) would, apart from this paragraph apply, as suitable to act or to continue to act, as the case may be, as a foster parent in relation to a particular named child or children if the fostering service provider is satisfied that the welfare of that child or those children requires it, and either:
    • the person, or a member of his household, is a relative of the child; or
    • the person is already acting as a foster parent for the child.
  5. In this regulation 'specified offence' means: 
    • an offence against a child
    • an offence contrary to section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 in relation to goods prohibited to be imported under section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876 (prohibitions and restrictions relating to pornography) [where the prohibited goods included indecent photographs of children under the age of 16]
    • any other offence involving bodily injury to a child or young person, other than an offence of common assault or battery, and
    • the expression 'offence against a child' has the meaning given to it by section 26 (1) of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 [except that it does not include an offence contrary to sections 6, 12 or 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 (sexual intercourse with a girl aged 13 to 16, buggery, or indecency between men) in a case where the offender was under the age of 20 at the time the offence was committed.

Regulation 27 and Schedule 3 - information about prospective foster carers

The following information must be obtained about a prospective foster carer and other members of his family:

  1. his full name, address and date of birth
  2. details of his health (supported by a medical report), personality, marital status and details of his current and any previous marriage or similar relationship
  3. particulars of any other adult members of the household
  4. particulars of the children in the family, whether or not members of his or her household, and any other children in his household
  5. particulars of accommodation
  6. religious persuasion, and capacity to care for a child from any particular religious persuasion
  7. racial origin, cultural and linguistic background and capacity to care for a child from any particular origin or cultural or linguistic background
  8. past and present employment or occupation, standard of living and leisure activities and interests.
  9. previous experience (if any) of caring for his own and other children
  10. skills, competence and potential relevant to his or her capacity to care effectively for a child
  11. the outcome of any request or application made by him or her or any other member of the household to foster or adopt children, or for registration for child minding or day care, including particulars of any previous approval or refusal of approval relating to him or her or to any other member of the household
  12. the names and addresses of two persons who will provide personal references for the prospective foster parent
  13. in relation to the prospective foster parent, either: 
    • an enhanced criminal record certificate issued under section 115 of the Police Act 1997 including the matters specified in section 115 (6A) of that Act; or
    • where any certificate of information on any matters referred to in sub-paragraph (a) is not available to an individual because any provision of the Police Act 1997 has not been brought into force, details of any criminal offences:
      • of which the person has been convicted, including details of any convictions which are spent within the meaning of section 1 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and which may be disclosed by virtue of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 or
      • in respect of which he has been cautioned by a constable and which, at the time the caution was given, he admitted; and
    • in relation to each member of the household aged 18 or over, details of any criminal offences such as are mentioned in sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) of paragraph 13(b).

Assessment of foster carers - Fostering Services Regulations 2002; National Minimum Standard 6

The fostering service must make available foster carers who provide a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.

Regulation 27

  1. The fostering service provider shall carry out an assessment of any person whom it considers may be suitable to become a foster parent, in accordance with this regulation.
  2. If the fostering service provider considers that a person may be suitable to act as a foster parent it shall:
    • obtain the information specified in Schedule 3 relating to the prospective foster parent and other members of his household and family, and any other information it considers relevant
    • interview at least two persons nominated by the prospective foster parent to provide personal references for him, and prepare written reports of the interviews
    • subject to paragraph (3), consult with, and take into account the views of, the local authority in whose area the prospective foster parent lives
    • having regard to these matters consider whether the prospective foster parent is suitable to act as a foster parent and whether his household is suitable for any child in respect of whom approval may be given
    • prepare a written report on him which includes the matters set out in paragraph (4)
    • refer the report to the fostering panel and notify the prospective foster parent accordingly.
  3. Paragraph (2)(c) does not apply where the fostering service provider is a local authority and the applicant lives in the area of that authority.
  4. The report referred to in paragraph (2)(e) shall include the following matters in relation to the prospective foster parent:
    • the information required by Schedule 3 and any other information the fostering service provider considers relevant
    • the fostering service provider's assessment of his suitability to act as a foster parent
    • the fostering service provider's proposals about the terms and conditions of any approval.

Approval of foster carers - Fostering Service Regulations 2002

Assessments of prospective foster carers must be considered, and recommendations made about approval or not, by fostering panels established by the fostering service providers. The decision about approval or not is then made by the fostering service provider decision maker.

Regulation 28

  1. A fostering service provider shall not approve a person who has been approved as a foster parent by another fostering service provider, and whose approval has not been terminated.
  2. A fostering service provider shall not approve a person as a foster parent unless: 
    • it has completed its assessment of his suitability
    • its fostering panel has considered the application.
  3. A fostering service provider shall in deciding whether to approve a person as a foster parent and as to the terms of any approval, take into account the recommendation of its fostering panel.
  4. No member of its fostering panel shall take part in any decision made by a fostering service provider under paragraph (3).
  5. If a fostering service provider decides to approve a person as a foster parent it shall:
    • give him or her notice in writing specifying the terms of the approval, for example, whether it is in respect of a particular named child or children, or number and age range of children, or of placements of any particular kind, or in any particular circumstances
    • enter into a written agreement with him or her covering the matters specified in Schedule 5 (in these Regulations referred to as the 'foster care agreement')
  6. If a fostering service provider considers that a person is not suitable to act as a foster parent it shall:
    • given him or her written notice that it proposes not to approve, together with its reasons and a copy of the fostering panel's recommendation
    • invite any written representations within 28 days of the date of the notice.
  7. If the fostering service provider does not receive any representations within the period referred to in paragraph (6)(b), it may proceed to make its decision.

    If the fostering service provider receives any written representations within the period referred to in paragraph (6)(b), it shall refer the case to the fostering panel for further consideration make its decision, taking into account any fresh recommendation made by the fostering panel.

  8. As soon as practicable after making the decision referred to in paragraph (7) or (8)(b) as the case may be, the fostering service provider shall notify the prospective foster parent in writing and
    • if the decision is to approve the person as a foster parent, comply with paragraph (5) in relation to him or her
    • if the decision is not to approve the person, provide written reasons for its decision.

Establishment of fostering panels - Fostering Service Regulations 2002

Regulation 24

  1. Subject to paragraph (5), the fostering service provider shall establish at least one panel, to be known as a fostering panel, in accordance with this regulation.
  2. The fostering service provider shall appoint to chair the panel either:
    • a senior member of staff of the fostering service provider who is not responsible for the day to day management of any person carrying out assessments of prospective foster parents
    • such other person not being an employee, member, partner or director of the fostering service provider, who has the skills and experience necessary for chairing a fostering panel.
  3. Subject to paragraph (5), the fostering panel shall consist of no more than 10 members including the person appointed under paragraph (2) and shall include:
    • two social workers employed by the fostering service provider, one of whom has child care expertise and the other of whom has expertise in the provision of a fostering service
    • in the case of a fostering agency:
      • if the registered provider is an individual, that individual
      • if the registered provider is an organisation, at least one of its directors or the responsible individual
      • if the registered provider is a partnership, at least one of the partners
    • in the case of a local authority fostering service, at least one elected member of the local authority
    • at least four other persons (in this regulation referred to as 'independent members'), including at least one person who is, or within the previous two years has been, a foster parent for a fostering service provider other than the one whose fostering panel is being established.
  4. will act as chair if the person appointed to chair the panel is absent or his office is vacant ('the vice chair').
  5. A fostering panel may be established jointly by any two but not more than three fostering service providers, and if such a fostering panel is established:
    • the maximum number of members who may be appointed to that panel is 11
    • each fostering service provider shall appoint two persons to the panel, one of whom falls within paragraph (3)(a), and the other of whom falls within paragraph (3)(b) or (c), as the case may be
    • by agreement between the fostering service providers there shall be appointed:
      • a person to chair the panel
      • at least four independent members including at least one person who is, or within the previous two years has been, a foster parent for a fostering service provider other than any of those whose fostering panel is being established
      • a member of the panel who will act as chair if the person appointed to chair the panel is absent or his office is vacant ('the vice chair').
  6. A fostering panel member shall hold office for a term not exceeding three years, and may not hold office for the panel of the same fostering service provider for more than two consecutive terms.
  7. Any panel member may resign his office at any time by giving one month's notice in writing to the fostering service provider.
  8. Where a fostering service provider is of the opinion that any member of the fostering panel is unsuitable or unable to remain in office, it may terminate his office at any time by giving him notice in writing.
  9. A person shall not be appointed as an independent member of a fostering panel if:
    • he or she is a foster parent approved by the fostering service provider
    • he or she is employed by the fostering service provider
    • he or she is concerned in the management of the fostering service provider
    • in the case of a local authority fostering service, he or she is an elected member of the local authority; or
    • in the case of a fostering agency, he or she is related to an employee of the registered provider, or to any person concerned in the management of the fostering agency.
  10. For the purposes of paragraph (9)(e), a person ('person A') is related to another person ('person B') if he is:
    • a member of the household of, or married to person B;
    • the son, daughter, mother, father, sister or brother of person B; or
    • the son, daughter, mother, father, sister or brother of the person to whom person B is married.

Meetings of fostering panel - Regulation 25

  1. Subject to paragraph (3), no business shall be conducted by a fostering panel unless at least five of its members, including the person appointed to chair the panel, or the vice chair, at least one of the social workers employed by the fostering service and at least two of the independent members, meet as a panel.
  2. A fostering panel shall make a written record of its proceedings and the reasons for its recommendations.
  3. In the case of a joint fostering panel, no business shall be conducted unless at least six of its members, including the person appointed to chair the panel, or the vice chair, and one social worker from each fostering service, meet as a panel.

Functions of fostering panel - Regulation 26

  1. The functions of the fostering panel in respect of cases referred to it by the fostering service provider are:
    • to consider each application for approval and to recommend whether or not a person is suitable to act as a foster parent
    • where it recommends approval of an application, to recommend the terms on which the approval is to be given
    • to recommend whether or not a person remains suitable to act as a foster parent, and whether or not the terms of his approval remain appropriate:
      • on the first review carried out in accordance with regulation 29 (1); and
      • on the occasion of any other review when requested to do so by the fostering service provider in accordance with regulation 29 (5)
    • to consider any case referred to it under regulation 28 (8) or 29 (9).
  2. The fostering panel shall also:
    • advise on the procedures under which reviews in accordance with regulation 29 are carried out by the fostering service provider and periodically monitor their effectiveness
    • oversee the conduct of assessments carried out by the fostering service provider
    • give advice and make recommendations on such other matters or cases as the fostering service provider may refer to it.
    • In this regulation 'recommend' means recommend to the fostering service provider.