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Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website

3.2.3 Family and Friends Foster Carer Assessments Practice Guidance


  1. Viability Assessment
  2. The Hybrid Assessment
  3. Issues to Address

1. Viability Assessment

Salford has devised a viability assessment which considers the likelihood of carers being able to meet the physical and emotional needs of the children now and throughout their childhoods, to provide children with stability and boundaries and to ensure their safety.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and medical checks are undertaken. The social worker conducting the viability assessment will consider information in past case files.

The purpose of the viability is to consider whether or not the applicants should be assessed as potential alternate carers for their family members. Is their anything to rule them out at the viability stage?

The social worker carrying out the viability has a lot of issues to consider. This is a guide to some of the areas to address and the implications, risk and protective factors. Again, it is not an exhaustive list. These factors can also be considered when carrying out a full assessment.

Areas to be Examined   Risk Factors Protective Factors
Family Composition Existing major relationship problems with children. Presence of household members who have a negative or potentially abusive relationship with child. Warm supportive family relationships. Positive well established relationships with the child.
Family Network Discord and divided loyalties in the network. Evidence of collusive relationship with child's parents. Understanding of parents difficulties which held to social services intervention. Awareness of the child's need to maintain links with family, significant people and an ability to manage contact.
Family history and current functioning Lack of insight into own difficulties in past. Especially those that affected parenting of own children. Ability to appreciate how personal experiences have affected themselves and their families. Resolution of past problems and evidence of this.
Health and DBS checks. Major current or chronic physical and mental health problems. Record of offences against children. Ability to maintain effective functioning through periods of stress. Evidence of having moved on from any early offending behaviour.
Housing Poor likelihood of obtaining adequate accommodation within a realistic time frame. Environmental health and safety concerns. Adequate space for the families needs, including children to be placed. Good physical standards in the home.
Employment/Income Evidence of persistent financial problems, heavy debts. Unrealistic notion of financial support available. Adequate finances and good money management.
Family's social integration - access to community resources Ability to provide the required personal references. Racial conflict and stereotyping in the family network. Ability to develop support system within community and personal networks. Ability to work with professionals and be an advocate for the child.
Parenting capacity - physical needs Carelessness about whereabouts of children and their safety. Poor standards of physical care. Difficult managing routines. Ability to provide good standard of physical care and promote healthy development through out childhood.
Capacity to protect Denial of child protection concerns and risks identified by social services. Ability to protect children from people who have abused them. Ability to recognise the vulnerability of children to abuse and discrimination.
Emotional warmth Lack of empathy for the child and persistent complaints about child's behaviour. Lack of understanding about how abuse, separation and loss affect children. Enjoyment of child's company, liking the child. Ability to promote the child's self esteem. Accept the child as they are.
Stimulation Lack of understanding of child's needs to play or learn. Inappropriate expectations, either too low or high. Creating opportunities to play and learn. Good links with schools, supportive of after school activities.
Guidance/Boundaries Rigid discipline, no time, patience. Regular use of physical punishments, threats or bribes. Ability to set appropriate boundaries to manage children's behaviour.
Stability High number of moves, or people involved in care of children. Well settled. High commitment and dependability.


'Relative Benefits - placing children in kinship care' Bob Broad and Alison Skinner - CoramBAAF 2005.

2. The Hybrid Assessment

In Salford we have devised the Hybrid assessment form, which is referred to within this policy and procedure. They Hybrid assessment brings together components of the special guardianship schedule and the Form F2 assessment. The Hybrid assessment meets the requirements of the fostering regulations and fostering panel, as well as the special guardianship schedule. (For full details see the Hybrid assessment guidance notes - to follow).

The Hybrid assessment directs the worker to provide certain information for consideration at panel. A skilled worker will consider a range of issues with the applicants. The practice guidance offers practitioners examples of issues that they may wish to raise within an assessment, or to consider with the applicants. This is not an exhaustive list, and is simply a guide to assist workers.

All assessments of prospective foster carers must be in accordance with Regulation 27 National Minimum Standards as follows:

  • All information specified in schedule 3 must be obtained on prospective carers and any other household members together with any other information that is considered relevant. (Please refer to the procedure for the assessment and approval of foster carers, the record of approval on paper file, and Hybrid checklist.);
  • Three referees must be interviewed and written reports prepared for the Panel;
  • If the prospective carer lives outside of Salford, the relevant Local authority must be consulted and their views taken into account;
  • The assessment must consider whether the friends and family carers are suitable to act as a foster parent and whether the household is suitable (see later guidance for issues to be considered);
  • A written report, the Hybrid must be prepared and presented to the relevant panel with a recommendation as to suitability and with any proposals for the terms and conditions of approval e.g. specific to a child/relative;
  • 'Specified offences' mean that a person may not be considered for a general fostering approval. A relative may be regarded as suitable if the fostering service is satisfied that this is the way to meet the needs/welfare of the child.

3. Issues to Address

The assessment will need to focus on the child's needs and the capacity of the carer to meet them, with particular emphasis on the family and environmental factors in relation to the carer. The attached guidance is not exclusive but offers some areas which will need to be specifically addressed.

As with general foster carers, friends and family carers must meet the CDWC standards for fostering. A personal development plan must be completed and attached to the Hybrid assessment presented to panel. Salford friends and family carers do not have to demonstrate how they contribute to the fostering task in Salford as they are not paid a payment for skills reward. Many of the issues detailed below can be included within the initial portfolio.

  1. Health
    • Capacity to meet child's needs - including annual medicals, dental and optician checks as appropriate;
    • Any health needs of carer and how this will impact?
    • Health and safety issues in the home - home check;
    • Healthy lifestyle issues - diet, exercise, effects of smoke if appropriate - explain smoking policy.
  2. Education
    • Carers' view of education and how will they intend to support child;
    • What encouragement will they give - contact with school;
    • What importance do the applicants place on educational achievement? What were their own experiences of education?
  3. Emotional and Behavioural
    • Knowledge of how children develop and how to communicate with them. Evidenced by an observation would be helpful;
    • How will carer help the child come to terms with their past. Do they have the capacity to be non-judgmental? Will their feelings about the parent's impact upon how they help the child come to term with past and reasons why they cannot live with birth parents;
    • Do they understand the child's family history and life story? Do not assume that because they are family they have a good understanding;
    • How they will cope with children expressing their feelings through difficult behaviour. Give examples, what is their attitude to caring role;
    • Understanding of the complexities of looking after someone else's child;
    • Understanding of the effects of abuse, disrupted attachments;
    • If possible, observe contact between the child and potential carer.
  4. Identity
    • Can they help a child come to terms with an abusive past?
    • Can they explain in non-judgmental terms why the child cannot live with birth family?
    • Do they understand what has led to the child being looked after?
  5. Family and Social Relationships
    • How able to support child's contact with family - any issues that would make act as a barrier. Approach to resolving this;
    • Ability to consider helping the child move back with own family if appropriate;
    • A good understanding of what the potential carers view is of birth parents. How will they cope if birth parents turn up at their house? How will they cope with a chance meeting?
    • Can they appreciate child protection concerns and prioritise the needs of the child above those of the parents?
    • Will they isolate the parent not related to them?
  6. Social Presentation
    • How will carers cope with a child who has had caring responsibilities previously?
    • How will they cope with a timid or withdrawn child? A boisterous child who is hard to manage;
    • Use examples of the children they are being assessed to care for.
  7. Self Care Skills
    • Do the carers understand that the children may have been affected developmentally by their abusive experiences?
    • If the child has a disability can they assist with self care?
  8. Family History
    • Relationship with child's birth family - how this will affect their capacity to care safely;
    • Include information about carers' own childhood experiences - what influences have there been - what does carer do the same and what differently;
    • Include information on the family's decision to foster - who will be affected by this decision - own children, wider family? What is their motivation? In a couple consider carefully whether or not motivation comes from both potential carers?
    • How will they be affected and are they aware of the decision?
    • What sacrifices have they made in order to care?
    • Ex-partners must be contacted and interviewed when children have been cared for, and the couple have lived together. The application is not considered complete without doing this;
    • All adult children, and children living at home must be interviewed and their views clearly ascertained;
    • What is the child's view?
    • What is the parent's view?
    • Explore issues of legal permanence.
  9. Family Functioning
    • How will decisions be made - who has PR;
    • Personal relationships - past and present;
    • Carers' experience of parenting;
    • How they will deal with children's behaviour;
    • What forms of discipline are used - what family thinks about smacking, can they bring up child without it as law says foster carers cannot smack or use physical discipline?
    • How does family/couple deal with stress?
    • Openness to learning - understand the need for report writing, attending meetings, following policies?
    • Issues of safe caring. The family must compile their own safe care plan with the guidance of the assessing social worker;
    • With the Foster Carers consent, contact the schools which their previous children have attended, to provide an additional safeguarding tool;
    • Analyse capacity to change.
  10. Wider Family
    • Other caring responsibilities;
    • Support network - who will support - what will that be? How realistic is the support that is offered? Look at both formal and informal support networks.
  11. Employment
    • Details of both carers and how this will impact on the care of the child - how they will manage their working hours to meet the child's needs;
    • Will one applicant give up work?  If so, how will they family manage financially.
  12. Income/Housing
    • Inform carers of fostering payments and special guardianship support;
    • Does the house provide enough physical space? If not, how can the family realistically resolve this?
  13. Family's Social Integration
    • Links with community/social networks;
    • Interests;
    • Ability to work as part of a team and others, will they access training and support?
    • Confidentiality issues - capacity to keep information confidential/how will these affect family relationships?
  14. Community Resources
    • What support is available to them in the community?
    • Are they actively involved in the community or are they isolated?


'Prepared to care' - a resource book for family and friend carers (Fostering Network 2006).