To receive the Fostering and Permanence Panel Annual Report.
The Corporate Parenting Board received the Annual Report from Fran Thompson, Independent Panel Chair, Fostering and Permanence Panel.
She informed the Board since 2007, there had been a requirement on all local authorities to have a fostering panel chair. A stable membership panel had built up and met 4 times a month on concurrent Tuesdays and Wednesdays hearing approximately 5 or 6 cases each day. A total of 167 cases had been heard between April 2018 and March 2019, out of those 21 mainstream foster carers and 19 connected persons were recommended for approval. The Annual Household Review of foster carers had been carried out and improved upon during the year due to the appointment of two Reviewing Officers to assist in the process following the Modernising Fostering review in 2017.
After 2017, the Fostering Panel undertook the role of recommending matches for those children in care who required long-term fostering.
The Chairman asked what the challenges were for the fostering panel and what the Board could do to make things better. The Panel Chair explained that when a child has been placed with a family member, they went through the same assessment process with references taken up. There was a huge variance in the way the family responded to the assessment as quite often they did not feel they should be assessed. Statistics showed there was great benefit if a child stayed with the family, the Panel had to weigh that up with the standards expected of foster carers. If the family member was not recommended as a foster carer the courts may recommend a Special Guardianship Order (SGO). The biggest challenge was administration, the panels tend to be lengthy and they had to be minuted and with blue print for change administration was not being completed. The courts were also setting dates that were unreasonable by not allowing adequate time for the assessment process to be completed.
The Interim Executive Director of People – Children thanked the Panel Chair for her report emphasising it was necessary to provide the right support for the Authority’s carers as they were looking after children who had been traumatised. She felt it was important to get the connected support on board. Regarding administrative support sometimes there was an over-approval of minutes and perhaps there was a way of getting them agreed quicker. She wanted to limit the amount of recording that people carried out and training support would be provided on that.
The CLiCC representative asked the Board if it was found to be safe for a child to be with a family member were they asked straight away, and if the foster panel thought the child was safe with other family members would you ask those family members. The Independent Panel Chair explained the child would already be placed with a family member, if possible, as an emergency. The Fostering Panel had to weigh up the consequence of not placing the child with the family. If approval was refused the child would have to move again. If it was thought other family members would be able to look after the child, they would be asked to do so.
One member enquired how many family members, for example, grandparents refused to have a DBS check and what proportion were turned down. The Panel Chair confirmed that some family members were turned down although it was not a large proportion and would estimate somewhere in the region of 15% were not recommended for approval. It might be the parenting the grandparents had provided for their own children was not acceptable for them to look after a grandchild. Sometimes they were unable to accept that.
One member commented that Foster Panel members produced a fair report even when they turned down a foster parent. The loss of administrative support would mean case reports would not be provided in a timely fashion and it would be difficult if the case files were not produced on time.
The Chairman hoped to have teased out where there were difficulties by the time the next Fostering and Permanence Panel Annual Report was presented to the Board when it was hoped things would have improved.
That where there were administrative difficulties these would have been resolved by the time the next Fostering and Permanence Panel Annual Report was presented to the Board.