Foster carers need to keep records. It is a key part of the fostering task. And much like any other job, detailed record-keeping can seem to be a chore. A carers records are an essential information source for other professionals. This includes their own fostered child. This makes them an extremely important part of the fostering task. Keeping an accurate record of the daily events in the life of a foster child is important as carers are part of a wider team tasked with supporting and meeting a child’s needs. A foster carers insights are invaluable because they form a unique record of the life of a child. Carers are custodians of information that children may want to access in their future. This is an important point because, in later years, a child will not get much from records that are just a long list of dates and times. They should be able to get a sense of an event, outing or experience such as a holiday. It is perfectly possible to combine this with capturing important detail relating to day-to-day life. Striking the right balance is what counts.
Records are not simply a running ‘commentary’ about daily life in a fostering household. Foster carers need to be trained in record keeping as they need to provide clear, concise information. This will assist a carer in being able to contribute to the plans and decisions made about the child in their care. Clarity and accuracy can be seen to be important when it is appreciated that records detail events that may become contentious or significant in the future. Records can be instrumental in protecting a foster child by detailing reactions to contact, their patterns of behaviour, or reactions to people they are meeting. Written records may be required at court hearings. They can also be extremely valuable in protecting foster carers and their family members in the event of allegations being made. Sadly, some foster carers will experience this, and it can be an upsetting and worrying experience. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of foster carers having to attend court and case conferences. Foster carers will also have to attend general meetings – including a child’s statutory review. On such occasions, they will be expected to provide their own written records.
It is important to establish a set routine around record keeping. Records should always be kept in the same place – easier now as it is usual to keep them electronically and access password protected. Fostering service providers will provide guidance and training about how and where records will be kept. The role of the supervising social worker is important. They will provide advice and should regularly read and countersign foster carers’ records. The date should always be captured at the same time as this will confirm a record has not been re-written or altered later. It’s important for foster carers to understand that as well as providing specific details, a record is capturing the chronology of the fostering experience over time. What this means is that at a certain stage an event might appear inconsequential, but was the precursor to a series of events leading to an allegation. Providing an accurate historic context can put an allegation in a very different light and exonerate the carer. Where records are patchy, a very different impression of a serious event might be given to the detriment of a foster carer and their family. Recalling with accuracy events that might have occurred weeks, or even months before is not realistic. This means record keeping must be done on a regular basis.
The records that are kept about a foster child fall under the governance of the Data Protection Act 1998 which protects the key interests of individuals: information recorded by a foster carer should avoid being excessive but must be accurate, relevant, written only by the carer and always kept up-to-date. Foster carers keep the information recorded on children and young people but this is held on behalf of the fostering service provider that employs them. When a placement comes to an end, recorded information must be returned to the service provider. It should be noted that if records fall into the possession of a third party, this constitutes a breach of the Act and the record keeper will be liable.
Some fostering service providers will give their carers a diary in which to make entries to help with time management. That might include noting the day of a child’s medical or dental appointment. Or an approaching school holiday. It should always be made clear by the provider that such entries do not constitute accurate detailed records. These will always be kept separately and securely. Supervising social workers will advise recently Approved carers on keeping records. If a carer is uncertain as to how to keep proper records they should always seek guidance.
If you can provide a safe and stable home environment for a vulnerable child, then Rainbow Fostering has plenty of opportunities for you. We’re now actively seeking new foster carers. So, if you think you’ve got what it takes to help a child build their essential life skills and fulfill their potential, please contact us. Call 0330 311 2845 and we can start your application today. We are arranging initial interviews over Skype. These are easy to arrange and a member of our recruitment team will provide assistance. When possible we will arrange to make what is called an initial home visit. That’s when we advise on home safety guidelines as well as finding out more about an applicant’s motivations.
People considering fostering can sometimes worry about whether they are the ‘right sort’ to become carers. We tell our applicants there is no such thing as the ‘perfect carer’. Our carers come from a rich and varied range of backgrounds. And we celebrate that along with the diversity of our foster carers.
If you have a spare room and are really motivated to support a child to achieve their ambitions, we’ll be glad to welcome you into our family of foster carers. Please take time and explore our website to find out more. You can also apply to foster on our website. We can also email you one of our information packs about fostering, or send one of our recent newsletters. This will give you a picture of what it’s like to be a Rainbow foster carer.
Remember Rainbow has been rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted’ and we have been one of the leading independent fostering agencies for over two decades. We work closely with local authorities across London, Birmingham, Manchester and the Hampshire area arranging sensitively matched placements.
Build your fostering knowledge by visiting the blog section on our web site:
Stay safe and well, follow the advice as lockdown eases: for the latest information
Rainbow putting the focus on fostering.