Foster carers need to keep records. It is one of the most important tasks they have as foster carers. Detailed record keeping can seem to be something of a chore but carers records are an essential information source for other child care professionals. AS the leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network states:
“Keeping clear and accurate records is a key part of a foster carer’s job. The records kept belong to the fostering service, and children can either ask to read them at the present moment, or later on, as adults. They also provide information foster carers can use in review meetings.”
All foster carers should make sure they talk to their fostering service provider to get clear guidance on how records should be kept and information stored about their fostering role – and crucially, the children in their care.
Once there is an understanding of the importance of maintaining accurate records, the question arises as to what kinds of things need to be recorded and in what way. The broad principle is that any event our circumstance which has, or might well have, a consequence on the safety or wellbeing of a child, must be recorded.
The achievements of a foster child should always be recorded These should not only relate to schoolwork or academic accomplishments, sporting achievement or something linked to activity with a scheme such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards should be recorded. It’s a good idea to include smaller accomplishments as they might when taken together, result in a changed and positive pattern of behaviour. An example might be consistently keeping a bedroom tidy. If you have your own children, it’s a good idea to record their reactions to the achievement of your foster child. Doing this provides context about wider family life and the interaction between family members. The health and well being of a foster child should always be recorded. This is very important. A note should be made of any wounds, cuts, scratches, bruises or other marks on the skin such as rashes, sores or swellings. The precise time/day/date this was noticed and reasons are given as to what caused them. A bruise might have been sustained playing football. The details of any witnesses to an injury should be noted. It should be established if an injury was accidental or the result of self-harm. Where the latter is concerned this might not be admitted to so if you have doubts, these should be recorded and immediately brought to the attention of your supervising social worker. If you are unsure this must be recorded and appropriate action taken. This is very important because if an injury worsens or self-harming becomes more serious, it can be seen that you sought help in a timely and effective manner. Without this, there could exist the appearance of negligence or abuse. Again, where a child has been injured or become unwell it is crucial an accurate record is kept. If action was taken by a foster carer such as administering first aid, this should be recorded. There may need to be an investigation under local child protection procedures and your records will be important to this. And where a foster carer might become the subject of an allegation, it is much easier to establish this might be unfounded if the carer has kept accurate detailed records of any injury or health-related issue that has caused them concern. Foster carers should appreciate the value of having established a chronology and timeline linked to an occurrence such as an injury.
The details day/date/time/outcome of medical or dental appointments should always be recorded. This should include details of medication prescribed, treatment programmes or time to be taken away from school.
The discipline of keeping detailed records is a good one for foster carers to have. This is because it makes carers alert to anything with the potential to impact their fostered child. It is the responsibility of a carer to continually observe the child or young person in their care in a low-key way. This way any subtle changes of behaviour can be noted and recorded. A child’s mood may change because they are being bullied. Any absences from school of whatever duration should always be recorded. If an older foster child absconds or starts a pattern of returning home later than they should, this should immediately be recorded and reported to the supervising social worker. Foster carers need to be aware of the risks posed by online media: a child spending too much time in their room who becomes moody or distracted bight have fallen victim to cyberbullying. If a foster carer has concerns, these should always be recorded/reported and action taken.
If visits are made by other caregivers – such as babysitters – the details; day/date/time should be recorded. Contact: where arrangements are in place for a foster child to have contact with their birth family or other relatives and friends, accurate records are important. Contact could be by text, phone, email or letter. For some foster children, this might have been judged to be the only way contact is allowed. Other looked after children will be allowed regular personal contact. In all cases, a record should be kept of contact and any effects it has on a foster child. The National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services obliges carers to record a child’s experiences of, and responses, to contact.
Any event, information, occurrence or complaint that has a serious potential impact on a foster child, you, their carer, or your immediate or wider family, or the fostering service provider, must be recorded. Routine dates and meetings such as visits/appointments by social workers or other care professionals should be recorded – along with outcomes/actions to be taken. Missed meetings and cancellations should also be recorded. Other significant dates i.e. of children’s hearings, reviews, court hearings must be included
Your records will over time create a picture that will have value to your foster child when they are older. That is why it is important their accomplishments and progress made are noted. This means recording happy occasions such as birthdays, outings, holidays or other positive experiences. A foster family is exactly that so a record should be kept of the experience of the whole family. if a planned visit to a museum or adventure park went well, that should be recorded.
This is where there can be some confusion: generally, it is a good idea to avoid giving an opinion. If you do, make sure you make it clear it is your own. It’s best to stick to the facts of a situation or occurrence. If you have received information always record its source and when it was received. Always indicate how reliable you feel it is. Always include a detail you think might be or become relevant, no matter how small. No part of a record you make as a foster carer should ever become personalised. It’s worth remembering that if a stressful situation arises and a foster carer is practised in keeping accurate objective and relevant records, this can help with de-escalating a situation and limiting stress.
Rainbow Fostering is offering rewarding fostering careers.
Please contact us on 0330 311 2845 if you think you can offer a vulnerable child or young person a secure, safe and stable home. We’re looking for new foster carers. So, if you think you’ve got what it takes please get in touch. Our foster carers come from a varied range of backgrounds and cultures.
You can also apply to foster on our Rainbow Fostering website. We can send you one of our information packs about fostering by post or email. perhaps you might like one of recent send one of our recent newsletters which will give you anode as to what it’s like being a member of our fostering community.
Rainbow is one of the leading independent fostering agencies and has been providing foster homes for over two decades. We’re rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted’. We work closely with local authorities across #london, #birmingham, #manchester and #hampshire arranging sensitively matched placements.
You can add to your general fostering knowledge by visiting the blog section on our website. We recommend:
Stay safe and well as we emerge from lockdown, it’s important to remain cautious and socially distanced: for the latest information
Rainbow putting the focus on fostering.