Contributing to a child or young person's plan

Valuing diversity

The City of Edinburgh Council has an equal opportunities policy. Foster carers have an important role in helping children and young people develop skills to deal with all forms of discrimination. A child or young persons’ ethnic origin, gender identity, religion and cultural, linguistic heritage and sexuality are important and should be valued. This helps them to form a positive identity. Children and young people should be helped and supported to understand, take pride and feel connected to their cultural heritage and origins.

Children and young people should be supported by foster carers when they have experienced racism, sectarianism, or any bullying or hate crime. Foster carers who are asked to care for a child or young person from a different ethnic, cultural, linguistic, or religious origin from themselves will be provided with additional information and support to help them in their care. For instance, adapting the family’s diet to include dishes that the child or young people will be familiar with and taking the child or young person to a familiar place of worship. For some, extra care may be required to ensure their hair and skin are treated appropriately or to understand any health needs.

Supporting the child or young person’s plan

Each child placed with foster carers should have a written plan. All children who are looked after, including those in short break placements which last more than 24 hours, require such a plan. The child or young person’s social worker must ensure the child’s plan is in place. Whenever possible, this is completed in consultation with the child or young person, their parent’s or wider family, the carer and other important individuals or agencies in their life.

Each plan must detail the assessment of the child or young persons’ needs and care arrangements. If the plan is not completed before the child is placed, it should be drawn up within 72 hours of the child or young person coming to stay. The plan covers a range of issues usually including

  • the immediate and long-term plans for the child including assessing and supporting a child’s return home where possible,
  • details of the services to be provided to meet the child’s care, educational and health needs,
  • the role of the child’s parents or any other person in the child’s life,
  • arrangements to support brothers and sisters relationships,
  • the family time arrangements and the support which is needed to manage this,
  • the arrangements for involving those people and the child in decision making. 

We have a duty to promote a child or young person’s time with their family. Time with the child or young person’s wider family such as grandparents, aunts and uncles may also be beneficial.

Whenever statutory orders are made to remove a child or young person from the care of his or her parents, the sheriff or children’s hearing may make conditions or orders determining who the child or young person should have time with. This may stipulate the frequency, or duration. It is likely to state if this requires supervision. In most cases it would be a social work professional carrying this out.

Family time has three particularly important purposes

  1. enhance the psychological and developmental progress and wellbeing of children and young people who are away from their families,
  2. increase the likelihood of a child or young person returning to live with his or her family where that is consistent with the child or young person’s welfare,
  3. assess and test out parenting capacity.  

Family time can include

  • face to face meetings,
  • letters,
  • telephone calls,
  • exchange of photographs and
  • sending gifts and cards.  

Foster carers will have details of the family arrangements, and this will be discussed when the child or young person first becomes looked after. The need for, and benefits of appropriate family time for them, are considered when matching each foster placement. The child or young person’s social worker carries out a risk assessment before making family time arrangements for them. 

The child or young person’s social worker in consultation with the foster carer, the child or young person and their family and friends, co-ordinates family arrangements. This will include the frequency and location of this, and any supervision required. This may involve the child or young person’s family visiting at your home. This has many positive benefits, although it needs carefully considered by everyone and arrangements made to ensure everyone is comfortable and supported. There are times when foster carers may make the arrangements directly with the birth parents or siblings, in consultation with the child or young persons’ social worker. Details of all family arrangements should be contained in the placement agreement and discussed at Looked After and Accommodated (LAAC) reviews. 

It is not always easy, or even possible, to get on with parents, or vice versa and build up a working relationship with one another. Some parents can be unreliable about visits, some find delegating the care of their child or young person to another, even temporarily difficult.

Foster carers needs to ensure that the child or young person’s expectations about family time are realistic. If foster carers have concerns about the quality of the child or young person’s time with their family, they must discuss this with the child’s social worker or their FBC social worker. It is crucial that foster carers find ways of handling their own feelings on these occasions. Negative comments should not be made about a parent as this may force the child or young person into impossible choices of loyalty. It can have a significant impact on any success.

Reviewing a child or young person’s plan

All local authorities are required by legislation to review the child’s plan to ensure it is appropriate and meets the needs of the child and young person. To do this we need to listen to children, young peoples’ and their parents’ views and listen when planning is not working and to support when changes are needed. We all have a role and responsibility in this.

Reviews must be held at six weeks following the child or young person's placement, three months subsequently and then every six months thereafter. These are the minimum requirements and reviews may be held more frequently if

  • there is a major change in circumstances,
  • the plan is no longer appropriate,
  • rehabilitation to parents or wider family has failed and it is appropriate to achieve a permanent placement for the child or young person as soon as possible,
  • the child or young person no longer needs to be looked after by us.

Foster carers will be fully consulted and involved in the review process. You will be expected to provide a Carer’s Report and attend the meeting. Your report should detail the child’s progress in placement and highlight any concerns. This should be discussed and completed with your FBC social worker beforehand. 

Supporting children and young people’s education

Children and young people who have experienced trauma or disruption often do not achieve their full educational potential. Foster carers have a major role to play in helping children and young people achieve their full potential. Ensuring attendance at school and encouraging children and young people to value learning and their contribution to the school community builds success and resilience. We always want to limit disruptions and transitions in a child or young persons’ life. Where we can, we will always want them to remain at their own school when they come to live in foster care.  Where this cannot be achieved, either because of their welfare, or it is not realistic, this will be discussed with their social worker and wider educational professionals.

 The educational needs of the child or young person are reviewed on a regular basis as part of their child’s plan.  Additional supports will be identified and supports considered to meet any needs. There will be discussions at child placement agreement meetings and LAAC Reviews about who should receive report cards and other information, and who should attend parent evenings and other meetings. Parents may wish to be involved in these and an agreement needs to be reached about the carer’s responsibility and if/how this is to be shared.  It is likely that any school will try accommodating foster carers and birth family’s involvement.

Foster carers should keep in close contact with the school as any other good parent would. They should read to, or with, children and encourage older children to join a library. They should take an active interest in the child and young person’s homework. Foster carers should see learning opportunities in usual daily events and support a child or young persons’ learning in the wider sense. Foster carers should keep the child or young persons’ social worker informed of their progress and celebrate successes.

For some children and young people additional support is put in place, this requires a multi-disciplinary approach.  All schools have a nominated teacher who has a specific responsibility for care experienced children and young people who will be able to help and support in a range of circumstances. There should be immediate, clear communication between the school, the child or young persons’ social worker and foster carers. This ensures any alternative arrangements are in place. Except in an emergency, the child or young person should not be excluded unless their circumstances and alternatives have been discussed at the pupil support group. 

Foster carers can give consent for children to attend school trips and outings, if the child is placed in permanent care. If the child is placed in interim care, it is the child’s social worker who must give consent. Foster carers should keep the child or young person’s social worker informed of this and must consult if overnight stays are involved. In some situations, where a child has to travel to school or to previous activities out with the immediate area, it is possible that an older child will be issued with a bus travel pass. This should be discussed with the child’s social worker. 

LAAC nurses

The LAAC Nurses work with children, young people, foster carers, residential staff and others to improve the health of children and young people who are care experienced. They carry out an initial health assessment on each care experienced child or young person and should be advised when a child or young person moves placement or returns home. LAAC nurses will also provide foster carers and young people with advice on health-related issues and can be contacted by phone. 

Children and young people who become care experienced may have a very poor history of healthcare and little recorded medical history. A comprehensive initial health assessment, undertaken by an LAAC nurse, provides a solid base from which to plan and implement the appropriate care and support children and young people need to achieve their potential. The objectives of the health assessment are to

  • collate health information from various sources within the health system and produce an up-to-date picture of the child or young person’s health,
  • identify any areas where health care has been neglected, e.g. missed appointments, missed immunisations,
  • recommend and develop a healthcare plan,
  • develop the child or young person’s own health awareness through discussion of the health assessment recommendations,
  • encourage the promotion of a healthy lifestyle for the child or young person, eg dental care, healthy eating and safe sex,
  • initiate any referrals for further treatment.

Foster carers have a crucial role not only in preventing ill health but also in promoting positive health by following through recommendations made in the health assessment, ensuring health appointments are kept and helping the child or young person to take an interest in achieving good health.

Consent and confidentiality considerations regarding health

Sharing health information is often necessary for the care of children and young people who are care experienced. Children and young people have a right, like anyone else, to expect that personal information learned during a health consultation will not be discussed without their prior consent or, in the case of young children, without the consent of the person with parental responsibilities (PR).

The following is good practice in relation to confidentiality in health assessment reports

  • ask a young person/person with PR if their consent has been obtained for the sharing of information. Let them know if there is anything that cannot be kept confidential (e.g. if there is any issue of child protection, danger to themselves or others)
  • if a medical report is to be discussed at a meeting, it is good practice to check with the young person/ person with PR, prior to the meeting, that this is acceptable  
  • if a report on a young person has been copied to others, contrary to the expressed wishes of the young person/person with PR, this contravenes the principles of medical confidentiality, even when it is done with the best of intentions. It may be beneficial to have a discussion with the young person/person with PR on the pros and cons of sharing health information. If a young person wishes to keep their own health record, they need to have a secure place in which to keep it 
  • if a young person refuses to share health information, foster carers should be reassured by health professionals that any health issues are being dealt with and that there are no areas of concern regarding the safety of the child or others.