All foster carers are required to keep accurate records concerning the children and young people they look after. Record keeping is one of the most important aspects of a foster carers job. Carers will have the day to day knowledge of a child’s experiences and are best placed to observe the many and varied events in a young person’s life. For a child in placement, these events can have great significance often far more than for a child growing up with their birth family. Foster carers play a key role in assisting all the professionals involved to make well informed decisions about the care of a child. The decisions based around the needs of a child, can make a huge difference to the life of that child. Consequently, the most important thing is to always have the very best information available. This means regular and accurate record keeping in the form of a log. This will detail significant events which could have a bearing on the planning and decision making process for a foster child. Examples of key events are –
- statutory meetings
- case meetings
- review meetings
- court conferences
- school meetings
- contact sessions
- medical meetings
The importance of keeping records
At Rainbow Fostering we provide the training and guidance to help our carers keep effective records of the foster children and young people in their care. Our supervising social workers are experts at demonstrating how best to keep records and they are there to provide ongoing advice and support. We have found that our carers take a real pride in the quality of their records; it is a good way of showing a child that their carer takes a real interest in them, the decisions that affect their lives and their long term future.
Fostering children is a rewarding job, but things can go wrong. Keeping good records keeps the risks to foster carers and their family members to a minimum – especially regarding complaints and allegations. When these happen, an investigation follows so the records (logs)* kept will be very important if they are used as evidence. The number of foster carers who are asked to be present at court and case conferences, as well as statutory reviews, is increasing significantly. It is expected of foster carers that they will be able to provide records on such occasions. At Rainbow Fostering, we provide help and guidance covering:
- where to record as well as what to record
- how records should be kept
- record keeping with children and parents
- the role of the supervising social worker
- record storage and confidentially
- who owns the records and who may see them
- data protection
NOTE:* the type of log kept can depend on the type of placement. With short term placements the log is kept on a daily basis. For long term placements, the log is usually kept on a weekly basis.
A Foster carer’s log is useful in another important way. By reading back over the records that are kept, a picture emerges of the experiences of a child and the progress, or otherwise, that they are making. Key events – school reports/meetings, contacts with the birth family, medical visits and even trips or holidays are important to record. They can reveal changes or patterns in behaviour which can be valuable in addressing or anticipating potential problems before they arise.
What should be recorded
Logs should not become overly time consuming. Keeping simply to the facts is all that is
required and it is always important to record the dates and times of occurrences. For Rainbow daily log recordings: these must be completed every day and require the following details:
- any activities that the child/young person has been doing on that day - this could relate to school events, educational meeting, care planning meetings family contacts or recreational activities;
- how the child presents-general mood and behaviour;
- all appointments - children services, medical or dental
Foster carers have a responsibility to respect and safeguard the interests of the child or young person in their care. Information can be sensitive and a carer needs to be aware of what can be shared within the foster family and what may not. Confidentiality always needs to be maintained and a child or young person will have the right to access the information that has been kept about them. For many, when they reach adulthood, this can give them an understanding of their background and life story.
Remember good record keeping shows the involvement of a foster carer in the life of a child: it is a record of a relationship, the unfolding of a story and a demonstration of the love, care and interest shown by a carer in that child’s life.