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6.1.19 Safe Care Policy

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

See also Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 Regulations 12, 15, 17, and Fostering National Minimum Standards 2011, 3, 4, 6, 15, 20, 21, 22, 28, 30.

RELATED INFORMATION

Child Safety Online – a practical guide for parents and carers whose children are using social media

RELATED CHAPTERS

Health and Safety in the Home Procedure

Please also see Standard 4 of the National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011

AMENDMENT

In August 2016, a link was added to Child Safety Online – a practical guide for parents and carers whose children are using social media.


Contents 

  Introduction


 

Section 1: General

1. Home Matters
2. Bedrooms
3. Physical Contact
4. Intimate Care
5. Peer Group Abuse/Bullying
6. Enuresis and Encopresis
7. Guidance in Relation to Personal Care and Relationships
8. Appropriate Language
9. Friendship and Support
10. Telephones/correspondence
11. Serious Incidents


 

Section 2: Ten Plus Years

12. Menstruation
13. Puberty and Sexual Identity
14. Sexual Activity in Homes
15. Contraception and Pregnancy
16. Pornography
17. Sexual Exploitation
18. Sexually Transmitted Infections
19. Body Piercing and Tattoos
  Appendix 1: Agreement and Risk Assessment - Sharing of a Bedroom
  Appendix 2: Safe Care Agreement
  Appendix 3: Safe Care Statement


Introduction

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council is committed to providing the highest standard of care to children and young people Looked After in foster care.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council recognises the complexity and demands of the foster care task, and staff will provide the highest standard of support to the foster carers.

Every effort will be made to ensure the safety of children and young people in foster care, including the safety of foster carers’ own children.

Foster carers will be provided with all known information relating to children and young people placed with them.

All foster carers will promote the safety of children placed in their care with regard to physical, emotional, educational, moral and general well being.

Every foster carer will adhere to Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council's Safe Care Policy and Guidance. Additional safe care arrangements may be required for some children and young people to take into account their individual needs. For these reasons this Safe Care Policy has general guidelines, for example; Section 1, Home Matters applies to all carers. There are more specific matters relating to teenagers.

Actions when child is placed

Foster carers should be provided with full information about the foster child and his/her family, including details of abuse or possible abuse, both in the interests of the child and of the foster family.

Foster carers should have a Safe Care Policy in place for each child placed.

Foster carers should monitor the whereabouts of their foster children, their patterns of absence and contacts. Foster carers should follow the recognised procedure for whenever a foster child is missing from their home. This will involve notifying the placing authority and, where necessary the Police, of any unauthorised absence by a child.

Children who are Looked After away from their own homes must be kept safe and their wellbeing promoted, however the history of a child who is Looked After away from home may make them more vulnerable to harm and those people caring for them may be at risk of complaints or allegations.

Safe Care policies are about good practice. The objectives of safe care policies are to minimise the risk of harm to children Looked After and ensure that the child and the foster families caring for them are looked after in a safe environment.

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • Keep foster children safe from abuse by adults;
  • Keep children in the foster home safe from abuse by other children in the household;
  • Keep members of the foster family safe from false allegations;
  • Ensure that the foster home is a safe environment for children.


Section 1: General


1. Home Matters

Foster carers will ensure children and young people enjoy a hazard free environment in relation to abuse and physical safety.

Foster carers will provide an environment where the child is valued and supported and his or her emotional development is promoted.

Everyone should respect each others privacy and not touch each other’s property without permission.

All family members should dress appropriately at all times.

Children and young people should be self sufficient as much as possible, especially in respect of personal care.

Children to be closely supervised whilst playing. Frequent checks will be made and room doors remain open.

Photographs and videos of children should not be taken without their permission and the permission of the Local Authority social worker. All such photographs/videos will be sensitive and discreet and will not be taken of naked children (e.g. in the bath.)

Carers will keep children safe from abuse including teaching them how to protect themselves.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council must be notified of any changes in the composition of the household including people who join or leave the household either permanently or temporarily.

A police check will be undertaken on all persons over the age of 16 years who have unsupervised access to a child or young person.

No person will offer sole/unsupervised care to a child or young person unless they are over the age of 21 years, have been cleared by the DBS and have gained prior consent from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and Social Worker.

Foster carers should not leave children alone or place them in the care of adults who are not police checked without prior written permission from the local authority social worker.

When a nominated person cares for a child or young person they will follow the Safe Care Policy. Visitors to the house also need to be aware of the Safe Care Policy.

Foster Carers will observe and protect confidentiality relating to the child or young person. All information will be retained safely and securely.

Foster carers should be a signatory to a child’s bank account.

Children should not be taken on holiday or stay away from the foster home overnight without prior permission from the local authority social worker.

Medical consent agreements must be retained by the foster carers when any distance away from home on holidays, day trips etc. in case of emergency.

Foster carers should identify and agree appropriate disciplinary measures appropriate to the age of the child/young person. Corporal punishment is not allowed including smacking, slapping, shaking or any other form of humiliation.

Foster carers will ensure the home is warm, adequately furnished and decorated and is maintained to a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene.

Health and safety in the home must be given the highest priority; Foster carers are responsible for ensuring the home is free of avoidable hazards that might expose a child to risk of injury or harm. Care must be taken to ensure dangerous materials, equipment cannot be accessed by children and young people, Children and young people should be made aware of the routine/escape route in the event of a fire in the home.

Daily records will be maintained in line with the guidance in the Foster Carers Handbook.


2. Bedrooms

Each child over the age of 3 will have their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom will have been agreed by the foster carers’ supervising social worker. A risk assessment and any arrangements must be outlined in the Proforma (Agreement and Risk Assessment – Sharing of a Bedroom) and signed by all parties.

Children should be encouraged to personalise their bedrooms, with posters, pictures and personal items of their choice.

Children of an appropriate age and level of understanding should be encouraged and supported to purchase furniture, equipment or decorations. For older children this should be part of a plan to prepare the child for independence.

Children's rooms should be kept in good structural repair and be clean and tidy. The furniture should conform to standards of flame retardant materials as advised by trading standards.

Children's privacy should be respected. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, carers should knock on the door before entering children's bedrooms; and then only enter with their permission. The exceptional circumstances where carers may have to enter a child's bedroom without asking permission include:

  • To wake a heavy sleeper, undertake cleaning, return clean or remove soiled clothing; though, in these circumstances, the child should have been told/warned that this may be necessary;
  • To take necessary action, including forcing entry, to protect the child or others from injury or to prevent likely damage to property. NB The taking of such action is a form of Physical Intervention;
  • If child is ill or frightened at night then carers may sit by their bed.

Care will be taken when children have access to computers. Ideally, computers must not be placed in a bedroom to avoid children gaining access to inappropriate material. Care will be taken when children have access to a television in their bedroom particularly after 9pm.


3. Physical Contact

Carers must provide a level of care, including physical contact, which is designed to demonstrate warmth, friendliness and positive regard for children.

Children may receive physical affection but their permission should be sought before giving them a hug or cuddle. Children's wishes will be respected on this matter. Physical contact via play fighting for example tickling or wrestling games is unacceptable.


4. Intimate Care

Physical contact should be given in a manner, which is safe, protective and avoids the arousal of sexual expectations, feelings or in any way which reinforces sexual stereotypes.

If possible, children should be supported and encouraged to undertake bathing, showers and other intimate care of themselves without relying on carers. If children are too young or are unable to bathe, use the toilet or undertake other hygiene routines, arrangements should be made for carers to assist them.

Unless otherwise agreed, children will be given intimate care by adults of the same gender.

These arrangements must emphasise that children's dignity and their right to be consulted and involved will be protected and promoted; and, where necessary, Carers will be provided with specialist training and support.

These arrangements are dependent on the age and gender of the child, assistance may be given with toileting bathing, washing, dressing and undressing. During these times a bathroom/bedroom door may be left slightly open and in the case of dual carers the other carer will remain in the vicinity. Care must be taken to avoid touching the genitalia. The level of personal care required should be agreed at the placement planning meeting and recorded in the Placement Plan.


5. Peer Group Abuse/Bullying

The possibility of peer abuse will always be taken seriously but we recognise it is equally important not to label or stigmatise normal sexual exploration and experimentation between children.

Behaviour is not a cause for concern unless it is compulsive, coercive, age-inappropriate or between children of significantly different ages, maturity or mental abilities.

If at any time carers suspect children are engaged in abusive sexual relationships as perpetrators and/or victims, they must immediately inform their supervising social worker and the child’s social worker and make a referral under the Safeguarding Children Procedures - see Pan Lancashire Safeguarding Children Procedure, Making a Referral, Making a Referral to Children's Social Care Procedure.

Bullying is defined as behaviour or actions of a person, group of people or a whole organisation designed to cause distress or to hurt a person or group of people.

Bullying can be overt and plain for all to see. It can be subtle and insidious.

Bullying can become part of the culture, recognised or believed by all or a significant number of people as 'acceptable'; it can even be encouraged and rewarded.

Bullying can include:

  1. Name calling, being sarcastic and spreading hurtful rumours;
  2. Assault or physical violence;
  3. Threats and intimidation;
  4. Spitting;
  5. Incitement of others to harass and intimidate;
  6. Destroying or taking property without permission;
  7. Extortion or undue pressure;
  8. Emotional aggression like tormenting and excluding people;
  9. Racial harassment, taunts, graffiti and gestures;
  10. Sexual aggression or harassment, unwanted physical contact or comments;
  11. Comments, threats or actions relating to people's disability;
  12. Comments, threats or actions relating to people's sexual orientation.

Staff and children are capable of bullying; and of being bullied.

If there is a risk that a child is likely to be bullied or may be the perpetrator of bullying behaviour, Carers should notify/consult relevant social worker(s) and the Supervising Social Worker with a view to developing a strategy for managing and reducing the risks. The arrangements/strategies should be outlined in a Placement Plan/Placement Information Record.

If bullying is persistent or serious, consideration should be given to making a Child Protection Referral.


6. Enuresis and Encopresis

If it is known or suspected that a child is likely to experience enuresis, encopresis or may be prone to smearing it should be discussed openly, with the child if possible, and strategies adopted for managing it; these strategies should be outlined in the child's Placement Plan.

Carers their supervising social worker and the child's social worker should consider the reasons for enuresis and encopresis there may be a variety of reasons but it is likely that such behaviour is symptomatic of anxiety and worries about previous experiences including abuse and neglect.

It may be appropriate to consult a Continence Nurse or other specialist, who may advise on the most appropriate strategy to adopt. In the absence of such advice, the following should be adopted:

  1. Talk to the child in private, openly but sympathetically;
  2. Do not treat it as the fault of the child, or apply any form of sanction;
  3. Do not require the child to clear up; arrange for the child to be cleaned and remove then wash any soiled bedding and clothes;
  4. Keep a record, either on a dedicated form or in the child's Daily Record with detail, if necessary, in a Detailed Record;
  5. Consider making arrangements for the child to have any supper in good time before retiring, and arranging for the child to use the toilet before retiring; also consider arranging for the child to be woken to use the toilet during the night;
  6. Consider using mattresses or bedding that can withstand being soiled or wet.


7. Guidance in Relation to Personal Care and Relationships

The term 'Touch' is used throughout this policy in two different contexts.

'Touch' as a form of physical intervention designed to prevent a child or others from being injured or to protect property from being damaged; and the use of 'Touch' to enable carers to demonstrate affection, acceptance and reassurance.

This section provides guidance relating to the demonstration of affection, acceptance and reassurance.

It is acknowledged that touch raises particular issues for those working with children. Some people have views about applying a "hands off" or "hands on" policy with children resulting from scandals of child abuse, or fear of violence from children. Carers may be anxious about allegations of inappropriate physical contact with children.

However, touch is acceptable; but carers should consider the following:

The child’s background and previous experiences

The child may have had particular experiences which make it difficult to accept touch from an adult; or the child's experiences may lead to a need for more touch than is acceptable.

It is therefore important for carers to obtain information about the child's background before acting, in any way not just in terms of the use of touch.

If there are particular needs that the child has or if it appears that the child may respond more or less favourably to touch, this must be reflected in the planning process.

Dependent on the age and level of understanding of the child, s/he should be involved in this assessment and planning; and should be encouraged to consent to being touched; or to place conditions on it.

The child’s culture and boundaries

The culture or values of the household should be such that touch is encouraged; as a positive and safe way of communicating affection, warmth, acceptance and reassurance.

Carers and children should be encouraged to use touch, positively and safely.

However, it is important for carers and children to know which boundaries exist within the home or for individual children.

If boundaries or expectations exist for individual children they should be set out in their Care Plan and Placement Plan.

Boundaries or expectations that exist for the home, should be clear. For example, if carers are not expected to allow children to sit on their laps, or to carry children, this should be stated, preferably in writing.

In the absence of any plan or expectation, the following should be taking into consideration:

  1. When thinking about who is an appropriate person to touch a child, it is vital to consider what the adult represents to the particular child. Personal likes and dislikes will play a part in any relationship;
  2. In addition, many factors influence the power relationship between adult and child, including gender, race, disability, age, sexual identity and role status;
  3. The background of the child will also influence any decision about who represents a 'safe' adult in the eyes of the child;
  4. Children from ethnic minority backgrounds may be used to different types of touch as part of the culture;
  5. Children who have been subject to physical or Sexual Abuse may be suspicious or fearful of touch. This is not to say that children who have experienced abuse should not be touched, it may be beneficial for the child to know different, safer and more reliable adults who will not use touch as a form of abuse;
  6. For each child, what constitutes an intimate part of the body will vary; but generally speaking it is acceptable to touch children's hands, arms, shoulders. It may be appropriate to hug or cuddle children, or carry or give them 'piggy backs';
  7. Other parts of the body are less appropriate to be touched, by degrees. Some parts of the body are 'no go areas';
  8. Therefore, it may be appropriate to touch a child's back, ears or stroke their hair or knees - if the child indicates such touch is acceptable. To go beyond this would be unacceptable, even if the child appeared to accept it;
  9. In any case, no part of the body should be touched if it were likely to generate sexualised feelings on the part of the adult or child;
  10. Also, no part of the body should be touched in a way which appeared patronising or otherwise intrusive;
  11. Therefore, the context in which touch takes place is usually a decisive factor in determining the emotional and physical safety for both parties;
  12. What message is being sent out to the child? If the intention is to positively and safely communicate affection, warmth, acceptance and reassurance it is likely to be acceptable;
  13. A fleeting or clumsy touch may confuse a child or may feel uncomfortable or even cause distress. Carers should touch with confidence, and should verbalise their affection, reassurance and acceptance; by touching and making positive comments. For example, by touching a child's arm and saying "Well Done";
  14. Where children indicate that touch is unwelcome carers should back off and apologise if necessary;
  15. Carers should talk to colleagues and record their interactions with children. If particular strategies work, or not, colleagues should be informed so they can build on them or avoid making the same mistake;
  16. Touch of an equally positive and safe nature is acceptable between carers; demonstrating positive role models for children. Showing that adults can get along and use touch in non abusive or threatening ways;
  17. It is also acceptable to talk about how touch feels, about acceptable boundaries and expectations;
  18. Play fighting is no alternative for this. It is unacceptable;
  19. The key is for carers to help children experience and benefit from touch, positively and safely; as a way of communicating affection, warmth, acceptance and reassurance.


8. Appropriate Language

It is essential that all carers are aware that the use of foul and abusive language directed towards children is totally inappropriate and unnecessary. This will only have the effect of demeaning children, have a negative effect on the child/carer relationship and lead to an escalation of disruptive and challenging behaviour.

All carers need to be aware that any complaints relating to foul and abusive language will be treated seriously and may lead to a complaint which will need to be investigated.


9. Friendship and Support

Confidence in and good rapport with particular adults is a fundamental element in good care practices. While children are in foster care a variety of problems will arise, at times of stress or crisis every child needs an adult to turn to.

Warmth and understanding are essential, but everyone needs to know and understand when a relationship is inappropriate. The fine line between what is "proper" warmth and understanding and what is regarded as "improper" is likely to vary depending on the needs and experiences of the individual child.

Where it is known that a child has been a victim of Sexual Abuse and it is likely he or she will behave towards carers in a sexual manner, particular rules will have to be drawn up for carers. This may involve the need to avoid being alone with the child, by always having a third person present.

What is important is that carers need to put the children's interests first and always considering what is appropriate in any given situation with a particular child.

Interaction on a One To One Basis

Carers must have knowledge and understanding of the child and his or her background, and be able to recognise and respect any emotional 'barriers' the child has 'erected'.

Carers should be sufficiently aware of their own feelings, so that they can recognise the dangers of a relationship with a child becoming sexualised and stop to consider what is happening and what they are doing.

The feelings and views of others, of both adults and children, need to be taken into account. If there is any indication that a relationship could be viewed as inappropriate, the carers should discuss the issues with their supervising social worker and the child's social worker.

It is not a matter of carers never becoming involved in close one to one relationships with a child, it is a vital part of the 'caring' task, however, carers must be aware of the dangers, which might arise in fostering and be clear where the boundaries in such relationships lie.

Additional Support

Consideration should be given to the need for each child to have an Advocate or Independent Visitor – this should be discussed at the CIOC review.

Appropriate support must be provided to all children including those who are refugees or asylum seekers, and those who are disabled children and with communication difficulties.


10. Telephones/correspondence

This applies to all phones, including mobiles.

Children should not be permitted to carry/use mobile 'phones unless agreed with social workers and the Supervising Social Worker, with arrangements/conditions outlined in the child's Placement Plan/Placement Information Record.

Children should be permitted to use 'land line' telephones at reasonable times. Carers should not withdraw or prevent use unless there are exceptional circumstances, e.g. to protect the child or another person from injury, to protect property from being damaged or an offence from being committed. If a child is prevented from using a telephone, the social worker and Supervising Social Worker must be notified.

Children must be supported and encouraged to send and receive letters to family members and friends. Restrictions may only be placed upon the sending or receipt of letters with the authorisation of the social worker in consultation with the Supervising Social Worker. Such restrictions can only be placed upon a child where it is necessary to do so to safeguard or promote the child's welfare, to protect another person from harm, injury or to protect property from being damaged. Any restrictions/arrangements must be outlined in the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record.


11. Serious Incidents

In the event of any serious incident (e.g. accident, violence or assault, damage to property), Carers should take what actions they deem to be necessary to protect children/themselves from immediate harm or injury; and then notify the social worker/Supervising Social Worker (EDT out of hours).

If there is a risk of serious injury/harm or damage to property, Carers should notify the police, then inform the social worker/Supervising Social Worker.


Section 2: Ten Plus Years


12. Menstruation

Young women should be supported and encouraged to keep their own supply of sanitary protection without having to request it from carers.

There should also be adequate provision for the private disposal of used sanitary protection.


13. Puberty and Sexual Identity

Carers must adopt a non-judgemental attitude towards children, particularly as they mature and develop an awareness of their bodies and sexuality.

Carers must adopt the same approach to children who explore or are confused about their sexual identity or who have decided to embrace a particular lifestyle so long as it is not abusive or illegal.

Children who are confused about their sexual identity or indicate they have a preference must be afforded equal access to accurate information, education and support to enable them to move forward positively. As necessary this must be addressed in the Placement Plans.


14. Sexual Activity in Homes

Children under the age of 13 are deemed to be incapable of giving consent to sexual activity. Therefore, children of this age who engage in sexual activity must be referred under Safeguarding Children Procedures (see Pan Lancashire Safeguarding Children Procedures, Making a Referral, Making a Referral to Children's Social Care Procedure) (as a Child Protection Referral) as potentially suffering from Significant Harm.

Children’s social workers, supervising social workers and care providers must be alert to such relationships when considering the placement of children under 13. Children of this age who are likely to be at risk from each other (or from older children) should not be placed together.

When considering the placement (or ongoing placement) of children over the age of 13, managers must assess the risk of sexual relationships developing and should ensure strategies are in place to reduce or prevent these risks if they are likely to be exploitative or abusive.

Where children aged 13 - 18 are placed together with no identified risk of exploitative or abusive behaviour, carers must monitor any developing relationships, sensitively but positively discourage children from engaging in under age sexual relationships.

Overall, carers should be mindful of their duty to consider the overall welfare of children and this may mean recognising that illegal activity is taking place and working to minimise risks and consequences. If there is any suspicion that a child is engaging in illegal behaviour it must be discussed with the child’s social worker who will consider what further action is required under the Safeguarding Children Procedures.

Any actions taken in this respect will be subject to consultation and must be addressed in the Placement Information Record.

Should carers suspect children are engaging in sexual relationships, they should:

  1. Ensure the basic safety of all the children concerned;
  2. Inform the child’s social worker and their supervising social worker;
  3. Record the concerns in the children's daily diary log and/where appropriate, in the specific incident book.


15. Contraception and Pregnancy

Access to contraceptives will not be conditional on children giving information about their lifestyles and contraception will never be withdrawn as a punitive measure.

Whilst not encouraging it, it is understood that children may engage in sexual activity; some before they reach the age of consent.

In such circumstances the carers' Supervising Social Worker should consult the social worker to agree what reasonable steps can be taken to minimise risk of pregnancy or infection, including facilitating contact with relevant agencies providing contraceptive advice; such as the Brook Advisory Service.

If a child is suspected or known to be pregnant the carers should notify their supervising social worker and the child's social worker to decide on the actions that should be taken.


16. Pornography

All materials published, circulated or available to children (including the internet) must promote and encourage healthy lifestyles and images of men and women that are positive and encouraging.

Children must be positively discouraged from obtaining material that is potentially offensive or pornographic.

If they obtain such material that is suspected to be illegal it must be confiscated. This should be discussed by the carers with the child's social worker and their supervising social worker. If there are concerns that the child has been exposed to extreme pornography, the concerns should be shared by the carers with the child's social worker and their supervising social worker. who will consider with their managers what additional action is required.

If children obtain material legally they should be required to keep it private.


17. Sexual Exploitation

Children may have previously exchanged sex for rewards, gifts, drugs, accommodation and money. Some maintain this lifestyle whilst continuing to be Accommodated by the authority. Such situations must be reported by the carers to their supervising social worker and the child's social worker to decide on the actions that should be taken.

Carers must be alert to such behaviours and should do all they can to create an environment which encourages children to be open about their past or present attitudes and behaviours and which demonstrates they will be supported to guide them away from such lifestyles.

Where there is any suspicion that a child is engaged in such behaviour it should be addressed in the child's Placement Plan together with strategies identified to help the child adopt alternative lifestyles need to be identified.

In addressing these behaviours consideration must be given to the extent to which the child is suffering Significant Harm and whether it is necessary to refer the child under Safeguarding Children Procedures in the area where the child is living.

If there is any suspicion that a child is involved in prostitution, Ofsted must be notified.

Advice and support with regard to sexual exploitation can be accessed through the Engage team.


18. Sexually Transmitted Infections

If it is known or suspected that a child has a sexually transmitted infection (including HIV and AIDS), carers must notify their supervising social worker and the child's social worker, who will decide what measures to take.


19. Body Piercing and Tattoos

It is illegal for tattooists to tattoo anyone under 18 years old, even with Parental Consent. Children can have their bodies pierced at any age.

Children who express an interest in body piercing or tattoos should be treated on a case by case basis depending on their age and level of understanding, but in principle, carers should discourage them, pointing out the possible implications and health care risks; for example, from unsafe materials, needles etc.

Under no circumstances may carers encourage or give consent to children to have their bodies pierced or tattooed.

If children appear determined to have their bodies pierced, they should be asked to discuss the matter with their parent(s) and social worker beforehand.

Whether consent is given or not, children cannot be prevented from having their bodies pierced.

If children continue to be determined, carers should endeavour to ensure that measures used for piercing are as safe and hygienic as possible; preferably undertaken by a reputable person.

Piercings may not be undertaken or in any way supported by carers.

If a child does allow their body to be pierced or tattooed, the social worker must be informed and asked to decide whether to notify the parents.

If carers have any queries, they should consult their supervising social worker.


Appendix 1: Agreement and Risk Assessment - Sharing of a Bedroom

Click here to view 'Agreement and Risk Assessment - Sharing of a Bedroom'


Appendix 2: Safe Care Agreement

Click here to view 'Safe Care Agreement'


Appendix 3: Safe Care Statement

Click here to view 'Safe Care Statement'

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