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Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website

3.13.1 Information and Record Keeping Guidance for Foster Carers


  1. Introduction
  2. Photographs
  3. Contact Book
  4. Daily Logs and Diaries
  5. When to Record
  6. How to Record
  7. What to Record
  8. Specific Incident Sheets
  9. Control and Sanctions
  10. Bullying
  11. Accidents
  12. Storage and Retention of Records

1. Introduction

Foster carers play an enormous and valuable part in gathering information about a child. Carers often know more about a child (habits, likes and dislikes, current worries and wishes for the future) than many of the other professionals involved. Carers are in a unique position to record important milestones, like first steps, significant achievements, awards and reflect the positive and negative aspects of the child's daily life

Foster carers need to keep records as they will be required:

  • As a record of a child's life in foster care;
  • To monitor and measure change in the child; 
  • To aid assessment and reports for reviews;
  • To protect the carer and their family;
  • As a record of parental and other contacts;
  • As a record of significant events;
  • To assist in life story work.

Records can take a number of forms.

2. Photographs

Carers are also encouraged to record progress and events by taking photographs; this could be in the course of ordinary family life such as holidays or birthdays or to record special achievements or life events. Please remember to write the date on the back of the photo and perhaps where it was and who is in it. However please remember confidentiality in terms of the other children you may be caring for.

Carers are encouraged to order school photographs and pass some of these on to birth family members via the child's social worker if this is appropriate.

Photos are particularly important for very young children in the completion of a life story book. Many carers like to make up an album of photos with a few dates/captions for the child to take with them when they move; this may be to relatives or another placement or adoption. If at all possible we suggest carers keep a couple of photo's for them selves as we know that many, many years later previously looked after children contact the department/carers as adults who may have no photograph's of themselves as babies/young children. 

3. Contact Book

Where young children are having very regular contact with birth family, early in proceedings, say three or four times a week it is important to set up a line of communication between you and birth family to ensure the child receives consistent care. Sometimes due to travel arrangements or particular issues foster carers will not be seeing the birth family and information about diet, routines, likes and dislikes are best written down. For example carers will write in the contact book the time a baby was fed and changed, whether all the milk was taken, perhaps request cream for nappy rash is applied and that the cream is in the changing bag etc. Often in this situation it is best to also note down any bumps or scrapes the child may has acquired in play or by accident with a short explanation of what happened. This can avoid misunderstandings and anxiety. If the health visitor has seen the child at your home it is helpful to record this in the contact book and share with parents the comments about the child's progress/weight gain. Also for small children development/new abilities should be noted and shared with birth family via the contact book.

4. Daily Logs and Diaries

It is very important that you keep a daily record of the events in the life of the child and the rest of the household. This will help provide clear information when you contribute to making plans about a child's future. If kept properly, it might provide useful information for the child in later life. It will help to protect children in your care, and safeguard family members from false allegations. Records could be of use in a court hearing and may be requested by the courts. If you have more than one child placed, please keep a separate record on each child. Use initials.

We ask that you complete a daily diary for each child or young person in your care. Your family placement social worker may wish to see and sign these records at supervision visits. Discussing/taking a look at your diary with your worker is good practice.

We will provide each carer with a large diary in which you can record events, appointments, meetings and contact arrangements.

All written information about a child must be returned to Salford City Council when the child leaves your home. You must not store information in relation to a child on your home computer.

Children, young people and their parents should be aware that you are making written records. This can be explained by the social worker or family placement social worker.

5. When to Record

Records should ideally be made on a daily basis or as soon as possible after the event or incident, whilst things are fresh in the mind. This will help to ensure the accuracy of dates, times, conversations and incidents.

6. How to Record

  • Keep the recording simple, clear and legible;
  • Notes do not have to be lengthy, just the main points;
  • You should use language with which you are comfortable;
  • Do not worry about spelling or grammar;
  • Keep to factual information and do not be judgmental;
  • Try to be accurate when referring to specific incidents;
  • Carers who have difficulty writing should discuss alternatives such as the use of a tape recorder.

7. What to Record

Remember to include positive as well as negative events. The following list is not exhaustive but is meant to give some ideas about the sort of information that you should record:

  • Details of contact visits with child's family, child's reaction to contact (be factual and avoid opinion) and any observations about the quality of contact, such as interaction between the child and their parent - did they talk or play together? Also include anyone's failure to visit and any reason given;
  • Details of any other form of contact - telephone calls, letters, birthday cards, etc;
  • Details of visits, meetings with social workers or other professionals and the child's reaction if any;
  • Dates for reviews, case conferences, etc and decisions made;
  • Dates of medical or dental appointments and any treatment given. Include dates of cancelled or rearranged appointments;
  • Dates and details of all medication given, both prescribed and over the counter medication like paracetamol or Calpol;
  • Dates and types of immunisation;
  • Date, type and length of any illnesses;
  • Details of any accidents or injuries, however slight. Describe what, when, where and how it occurred. Name any witnesses and any action taken. Record the time, date and name of the social worker to whom the incident was reported;
  • Any comments the child makes that give you cause for concern. Always record using the child's own words;
  • Details of the child's behaviour if it is causing concern. Note their actual behaviour, what happened before it started and how it was dealt with;
  • Any positive improvements, achievements and happy events for the child;
  • Dates when the child is away from the foster home - with family, friends, school trips, introductions to new carers or if they are missing from home;
  • Details of times when the child is with alternative care givers such as babysitters and who they were;
  • Any significant contact with the school or nursery such as comments about the child's behaviour or parent's evenings;
  • Any involvement with the police;
  • Details of any specific incidents, events or changes of circumstances of your household;
  • Any significant milestones in the child's development such as their first word or first steps. Some of these details may be recorded separately, for example on parent held medical records, school reports, assessment and action records or life story books;
  • Any other significant event or information.

Remember you are uniquely placed to make observations about the child's day to day behaviour and provide valuable information that will assist in assessment and planning for the child/young person.

The amount of recording needed will vary from placement to placement. As a minimum, you should maintain a daily log in which you not only record appointments but also significant events or incidents for the child on that day. Obviously if there aren't any events or incidents as above you don't need to record anything.

Some carers may use the daily log for more detailed observations on the child while others will use it as an aide for their memory when preparing for meetings such as statutory reviews. Please discuss how to record and when regularly with your family placement social worker. Certain incidents may require some detail. These should be recorded on a Specific Incident Sheet. These sheets should be handed to the family placement worker as soon as possible.

8. Specific Incident Sheets

These sheets are for incidents that require more detail are more concerning or serious in nature and where it is important that detail is not lost. If you are in any doubt seek advice from your family placement worker, but if you are thinking the incident might need this then you are probably right!

They should definitely be completed to record:

  • Accident/injury/Illness - where the child needs to attend hospital or urgently see a doctor. This would also apply if the injury is self inflicted. The social worker for the child should be informed as soon as possible if an accident has occurred;
  • Involvement with the police;
  • Behaviour or conversation of concern - This would include where a child does or says something that worries or concerns you, feels unusual, is out of character or mentions events that seem odd. Similarly if a child tells you of physical/sexual abuse occurring now or from the past. Whenever possible record the actual words used. If abuse is disclosed listen carefully, reassure the child and seek advice from the social worker or family placement worker as soon as possible. Do not probe or ask lots of questions;
  • Child missing from home - this includes where missing and reported to the police and missing for a concerning period of time;
  • Incidents involving physical restraint.

9. Control and Sanctions

You must record all incidents involving physical restraint. You will need to exercise your own judgment as to when other forms of control and discipline warrant recording.

Some of the issues you need to take into account include:

  • Did the child view the action taken as fair and appropriate?
  • Was the action taken discussed with and/or witnessed by others?
  • Was the action taken agreed by the child's social worker and/or birth parents?
  • Could any other party misconstrue the action taken or view it as inappropriate?

If you are in any doubt about whether any action taken should be recorded or not, this is probably an indication that it should. In such circumstances you should record the incident and bring it to the attention of the child's social worker at the earliest possible opportunity.

10. Bullying

You should record all suspected and actual incidents of bullying against or by any child in your care. These should be reported to the child's social worker as soon as possible. You should also ensure that your family placement social worker is made aware of the incident. For further information please see Anti-Bullying Policy.

11. Accidents

All accidents experienced by foster children must be fully recorded as soon after the accident as possible. We encourage foster carers to keep a record of all accidents in your daily log and complete specific incident sheets for something serious. If you are concerned please discuss it with your family placement social worker. The child's social worker must be informed of the accident verbally as soon as possible.

12. Storage and Retention of Records

During the course of a placement, you should ensure that information is kept secure and cannot be accessed by anyone else. Ideally this should be in a locked file or cabinet.

At the end of a placement, any reports or other records provided to you or kept in respect of the child should be returned to the child's social worker or your family placement worker.

Other information, such as diaries, should be retained securely by you, and then passed to Salford City Council via either your Family placement social worker or the child's social worker. If you cease to foster and wish to dispose of any retained confidential information, you should first discuss this with your family placement social worker.