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Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website

3.13.4 Safe Caring Policy and Practice Guidance


This chapter provides key day-day practice information for foster carers with regard to a range of caring issues which make an essential contribution to keeping children and carers’ safe. It should be fully read.


The Children Act 1989

National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011

Fostering Regulations 2011


Drugs and Substance Misuse (Including Smoking) Procedure

Missing from Home Service Procedure

Recording Policy

Greater Manchester Safeguarding Procedures

Self Harming Procedure

Countering Bullying Procedure


NICE Guidelines - Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth


This chapter was updated in November 2016 to add a link to NICE Guidelines: Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth (see Relevant Guidance above).


  1. Introduction
  2. Principles of Safe Care
  3. Reviewing the Safe Care Plan
  4. Practice Guidelines for Social workers compiling a Safe Care plan
  5. Foster Children Missing from Home
  6. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Safe care is a way of caring for children that recognises their vulnerability, as a consequence of pre-placement experiences, and the potential vulnerability of foster carers.

Safe care helps foster carers to look after children in a safe environment, but within a caring home. Foster care should be a positive experience of family life for foster children, and an opportunity to build good attachments with carers. Safe care should enable attachments to be built, and at the same time keep all members of the family safe from abuse and allegations of abuse.

Abuse and neglect of children includes Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Neglect. Any safe care plan should protect children and young people from all types of abuse and protect carers from allegations of physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect.

Safe care is applicable to all foster carers regardless of the specific registration details and approval status, whether they are approved to provide long-term, short-term, short-break or ‘Friends and family’ care. (See Family and Friends Care Policy.)

A policy that safeguards children in foster care from abuse and neglect is a mandatory requirement under Regulation 12 of the Fostering Services Regulations, 2011.

A booklet ‘Our Family Policy’ has been devised in Salford, and should be used in the assessment process to ensure that the family are responsible for drawing up their own safe care plan that protects all members of the family and any foster children that they may care for. The safe care plan for each family must be approved by the child’s social worker and be explained clearly, sensitively and appropriately to the child.

Advice and guidance on safe care issues will be available from professionals in order to support and guide foster carers in this aspect of their care.

In Salford these guidelines will be referred to as a ‘Safe Care Plan’.

This document should be read in conjunction with the Safe care practice guidelines and the ‘Our Family Policy’ booklet.

1.2 The Aims of a Safe Care Plan

  • To keep the foster child safe from abuse by adults;
  • To keep the children in the foster home safe from abuse by other children in the household;
  • To keep members of the foster family safe from false allegations of abuse;
  • Safe care practices enable children to receive the care, love and attention they need in order to grow and develop, and should not inhibit this.

2. Principles of Safe Care

  • The protection and welfare of children is paramount;
  • All children in public care are entitled to live in a safe, secure and nurturing environment and be protected from harm;
  • Every child/young person in foster care has the right to feel safe, and foster families also have a right to feel safe in their task as foster carers;
  • Recognition on the part of carers and Children’s Services Directorate that children are abused by adults and may be abused in foster homes. Experience has shown that those who work with children in any setting can subject them to abuse. Despite the rigour of the DBS checks, and other checks on prospective carers, there is no guarantee of who is a ‘safe’ carer;
  • Children who have been abused need the help and care of adults to overcome the effects of that abuse;
  • Children can abuse other children and carers and representatives from the Children’s Services Directorate should work together to protect children from abuse from their peers;
  • Where foster carers care for children, who have been abused, may have been abused, or who may have abused others, they have a right to be given full information, both in the interests of the child and the foster family;
  • Foster carers will need to understand themselves, their values and how they operate as a family. They need to recognise the impact on their household of children and young people who may have had different experiences of family life;
  • Children/young people vary enormously in age and ability, racial and cultural background, experiences and family circumstances. A foster family’s safe care plan will need to be reviewed regularly to ensure it meets the needs of individual placed, and changing needs as children reach maturity.

2.1 Underpinning Standards for a Safe Care Policy

Safe caring should be promoted from the point of preparing foster carers for the task ahead. Safe caring is a specific session on the Fostering Network, ‘Preparing to Foster’ course, which all general foster carers in Salford undertake, before embarking upon assessment.

Each family seeking approval at Salford’s Fostering panel will present a safe care plan as part of their portfolio of evidence for approval. The evidence will also include the booklet ‘Our Family Policy’ which has helped to formulate the safe care plan.

As part of the ‘Rolling Programme’ of training for foster carers a session is presented on ‘Safe Care and Allegations’, this session is open to all approved foster carers, including Friends and Family foster carers.

Training and ongoing support to foster carers will aim to help foster carers see safe care as a normal way of families operating, and not as something ‘additional’ that foster carers have to do. In order to progress through the skills levels, linked to payments, foster carers will be expected to demonstrate that they are able to provide safe care within their home.

All children being placed within a foster family will have a risk assessment completed prior to placement.

Health and Safety checklists will be done at assessment, annual reviews and regularly updated as needed.

The Safe care plan will be adapted each time a new child is placed within a foster carer’s home. Within long-term placements the safe care plan will be reviewed once a year at the annual review.

2.2 Developing a Safe Care Policy

The Fostering Service in Salford recognises that it has a responsibility to ensure that the children and young people looked after in foster care are safeguarded from abuse and neglect.

The Fostering service will endeavour to ensure that all relevant information regarding a child or young person is provided to foster carers and that appropriate training and guidance in Safe Caring is provided. Each foster family is required to produce a written policy that explains the strategies that they will use to make the home a safe place for children. This requirement is incorporated in the Foster Care Agreement.

Every family has its own individual way of working that is unique to that family. Foster families need to recognise how their family works and identify what aspects of their life may be risky to a child in placement and may make themselves and their children vulnerable.

For example, walking around the house in underwear may be acceptable to a family. However, this is not safe when caring for foster children. A child who has been sexually abused may feel unsafe and foster carers are leaving themselves open to allegations being made abut their conduct.

To help families look at how they work Salford Fostering Service has devised a booklet ‘Our Family Policy’ for foster families to work out what they do now, and what will have to change in order for them to be able to provide safe care for a child in foster care. All members of the family sign up to making the required changes.

Whilst much research shows that most allegations are made against male carers, all members of the family can be vulnerable to allegations. Therefore it is essential that all members of the family are involved in drawing up their families safe care plan.

The booklet will then form the basis of the safe care plan which will be drawn up between foster carers and their family placement worker. The plan will be shown to the social worker of the child to ensue that all areas are covered and that the social worker is satisfied with the content of the plan.

2.3 During the Assessment

Foster carers in Salford will be assessed using the Fostering Network Paperwork, and be required to demonstrate that they meet the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care. One of the standards that applicants are asked to demonstrate is the ability to provide a safe and caring environment.

A starting point is for applicants to think about how things work in their household; the day-to-day unwritten rules and unspoken agreements that have developed over time.

This exercise should draw out the practices already in place in the family and start to consider what may have to change to accommodate a looked after child in their family.

The assessing Social worker will develop this theme of safer caring through out the assessment process.

The whole family needs to be involved in drawing up an individual safe care plan. The whole family are involved in fostering.

2.4 What a Policy should cover

The safe care plan should cover the following areas, and guidance of the areas to be covered is attached.

  • Keeping a diary and recording information;
  • The names you use;
  • Showing affection;
  • The way you dress;
  • In the bathroom;
  • Record keeping;
  • Communication;
  • Education about sex and sexuality;
  • Alcohol and illegal drugs;
  • Illegal substances;
  • Children’s bedrooms;
  • The foster carers bedroom;
  • Holiday arrangements;
  • Pets;
  • Playing
  • Photos and videos;
  • Discipline;
  • Internet use;
  • Children alone in the house;
  • Public toilets/swimming baths;
  • Car safety;
  • How to respond when a child is missing from home.

3. Reviewing the Safe Care plan

The safe care plan is useless if it is not adhered to and adapted to meet a family’s changing circumstances and composition. The safe care plan is an important document, and therefore it is imperative that foster families, together with their Family placement worker ensure that this is a living document, and not one that is forgotten over time. The policy should be discussed frequently as part of supervision visits, and reviewed upon each new placement. It should also be included as part of the annual review of carers.

3.1 Review of the Policy

The safe caring policy will be reviewed on annual basis. Any relevant amendments will be made and all personnel informed of any changes made. The team manager (Fostering) will have responsibility for reviewing this document, in conjunction with the Head of Looked after Children’s Services.

4. Practice Guidelines for Social workers compiling a Safe Care plan

What the Safe Care Plan should cover

Through the preparation group process and the assessment process, and the use of the booklet ‘Our Family Policy’ the carers should have a clear idea about what they need to consider in their safe care policy.

We have drawn up this practice guidance document to assist both social workers and families in considering their safe care plan and the complicated issues that arise.

4.1 Keeping a diary and recording information

It is vital 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. If you have more than one child placed, keep a separate record on each child.

It is the expectation that you will complete a daily diary for each child or young person in your care. Your supervising social worker will wish to see and sign these records at supervision visits.

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

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 treatment given. Include dates of cancelled or rearranged appointments;
  • 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 action taken. Record the time, date and name of the social worker to;
  • Whom the incident was reported, 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;
  • 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 theft or damage caused by the child;
  • Details of any specific incidents, events or changes of circumstances of your household. Include any complaint disagreements with the child or their family;
  • 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 accident forms.

For full details please refer to the Recording Policy.

4.2 The names you use

Always consider what children should call you. Ask yourself will it confuse what their relationship is with you? Avoid young children calling you Mummy or Daddy. Foster carers are not the child’s parents and should not present as such. It can lead to confusion because it might be hard for children to distinguish between their parents and foster carers, and it is not sensitive toward birth parents. Encourage children to call you by your first name.

It may be that for some children in long-term foster care they make the choice to call you Mum and Dad. This needs to be discussed carefully with the child, the child’s Social worker and if possible the birth parents.

4.3 Showing Affection

(See Touch Guidance.)

Consider how you will give a child the choice of affection. How will you assess what the child needs?

People have different ways of showing affection, and you must be careful not to impose your ways onto others.

Be aware that if a touch has meant something other than affection to a child in the past, they might not understand that when you try and show affection that it is not intended as a prelude to a sexual activity.

A safe rule would always be that no one touches another person’s body without permission. Children should be asked whether they would like a hug or a kiss, they need to be taught by a caring adult that it is ok to say NO. It is ok to redirect physical contact from a child if it makes you uncomfortable but you will need to explain why. For example if a child touches your leg and you are uncomfortable then move their hand to your hand.

Avoid tickling and wrestling games that involve touch as that could be misinterpreted.

Many disabled children will have found themselves being kissed and cuddled simply because they are disabled. Ask your foster child if they want to be hugged or kissed, as you would with a child who is not disabled.

4.4 Playing

Keep all children within earshot when they are playing, and have a quick check when they go quiet. Do not let them play behind closed doors or in bedrooms where you cannot easily keep an eye on them.

All children need to be supervised when they play. We do not always know when a child has been sexually abused and how the abuse may impact on their play. You need to think what you can do to make sure everyone is safe. For example, you may decide to allow the children to play in your home. These decisions are harder to make when the children are older. If you are not sure, discuss it with you Family placement worker or the child’s social worker.

Always ensure that the areas where children play are safe from things left by others for example, broken glass, bottles, etc. Ensure that your child knows the boundaries of the play area.

Children need to be aware of ‘stranger danger’ and should not leave the play area without permission or without notifying an adult of their whereabouts. This applies when you are away on holiday. Be mindful that a foster child cannot be left, even for a short time in the care of adults you have only met and know nothing about.

As a foster carer you should not engage in ‘rough and tumble’/play fighting games with children in your care. A child who has been sexually abused will not necessarily understand the connotation of the games, and you may make yourself vulnerable to allegations being made.

4.5 Reading Material

Clearly children should be encouraged to enjoy reading and part of your role as foster carer will be to help a child develop reading skills, to read to young children and to encourage older children to relax by reading.

However, books can be seen as being less harmful than electronic toys but you need to keep a check on what children are reading or what may be accessible in your home.

Reading materials can contain words or imagery, which may provoke fear in children about sexual behaviour or violence.

4.6 Discipline

(See also Sanctions Procedure and Restrictive Physical Intervention and Restraint Procedure.)

It is important that children learn that there are consequences to their behaviour.

Carers must be realistic in their expectations of children placed with them.

If a child is functioning as a younger child then the expectations must be age appropriate.

Always try to give small achievable challenges and give plenty of praise and encouragement for small achievements. Make allowances and give leeway for mistakes and failures.

Children need to have clear information about what is expected of them and what the outcome will be if they do not behave as requested.

When a child needs a consequence for unacceptable behaviour he/she will benefit from seeing a connection between the unacceptable behaviour and the consequence/sanction e.g. not coming in on time and being kept in for an evening.

Do not:

  • Use corporal punishment - hitting or smacking;
  • Handle a child roughly;
  • Verbally abuse, name call or threaten a child;
  • Withhold food;
  • Isolate a child for a long period of time;
  • Stop contact with a family member/important person;
  • Send a child to their bedroom as a punishment (for a child who has been sexually abused the bedroom may not be a safe place);
  • Withhold spending money, unless the young person is paying for damages to property;
  • Humiliate, use sarcasm, withhold affection or use racist or abusive language.

Physical restraint is not a sanction and must not be used as such.

Different children respond to different forms of discipline, find one that works for your child. You may wish to consider using a star chart, ignoring behaviour, and rewarding good behaviour, grounding children, discuss with your family placement worker if you have any concerns.

4.7 Car safety

Legislation came into force in September 2006 (see Child Car Seats website) regarding the use of car seats. Family placement will ensure that you are provided with the correct car seat for each child that you are fostering.

Never use a second hand car seat; the seat may have been in a car that was involved in an accident, and therefore unsafe.

The legislation for the use of car seats is summarised as follows, further information can be obtained from the GOV.UK website.

Children under 3 years must use the child restraint appropriate for their weight in any vehicle.

Children aged 3 years to 135 cms in height (or 12th birthday, whichever they reach first), must use the appropriate child restraint.

It is the weight of the child that decides the restraint that must be used.

Baby seats, rear facing and for children up to 13kgs (approx age birth to 9-12 months.

Child seats - forward facing and for children 9kgs to 18 kgs (approx 9 months to 4 years).

Booster seat for children 15 kgs to 25 kgs (approx 4-6 years).

Booster cushions for children 22kg and upwards (approx 6 years).

If you are travelling in a coach with your foster child then you need to ensure that their car seat is fitted to the coach for the journey.

4.8 Language

Be careful about your use of language and the language of people known to you with whom a child may come into contact.

It is important to present a positive role model in choice of language avoiding racist and sexist comments, swearing, sexualised language and jokes.

Carers can help to deal with inappropriate language, jokes etc by explaining its potential impact to young people in their care.

4.9 Internet Use

You need to be aware of how long your foster child is spending on the Internet and supervise what they are doing. Ideally the computer should be in the living area. However you need to be aware of not just the computer but of all devices which can connect to the internet such as TV’s, mobile phones, games systems etc. The Internet is potentially a wonderful tool to assist a child’s learning! However, in addition to using the Internet for homework purposes children may use it to visit chat rooms and to view pornography. In a survey (2005) of 8-16 year olds, 90% said they viewed pornography on line, mostly when doing their homework.

Carers need to prepare children for what they might accidentally find on ‘innocent’ sites and talk to them about what to do about it.

Salford city council is aware of the risks of Internet use, but keen to promote technology within the foster home. To this end ‘Safe net’ is now being used in all foster homes to prevent young people and children from accessing inappropriate websites. No foster carer in Salford can be provided with a computer from the Local Authority without ‘Safe net’ being installed.

If you download photographs from a digital camera via a computer give the child a clear explanation of what will happen to them and who will see them. If having their photos downloaded has been part of their pre-placement experience you will need to avoid this.

There are a number of leaflets available on line relating to young people and the Internet, for example:

CBBC Stay Safe
BBC Webwise
CEOP, Thinkuknow Parents Online Safety

4.10 Use of TV and DVD

Watching TV and DVD’s can be a really positive way of spending time together as a family. However, foster carers have a responsibility to ensure that the material that their children are viewing is suitable for their age, stage of development and that the carer is aware of a child’s pre-placement experiences and considers that when selecting viewing.

Monitoring children’s viewing is an essential for all parents.

Young people in foster care should not view films that have a rating higher than their chronological age. This may have an impact on the foster carers own children and may mean that there are some things that a foster carers own children can no longer watch. (Remember to consider the age that a child functions at when considering appropriate viewing. A child who is 12 years of age, may not be ready emotionally, to watch a film that has a 12 certificate).

It may be advisable for foster carers to view certain films prior to children watching. Children should not be viewing films with sexual and violent content. This is because it is important to be mindful of a child’s pre-placement experiences and the impact that such viewing may have on the child.

4.11 Taking photos and videos

(See also Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership, Photographing Children)

Although it may seem natural to you to take photos of children in your care, you need to remember that photography and videos are often used by paedophiles in the process of grooming children for abuse and then as part of sexual or physical abuse. Think carefully about taking videos or photos.

Never take photos of children in the bath or in their underwear or nightwear.

4.12 Mobile Phones

There are many benefits for children when owning a mobile phone and parents/carers can certainly keep better contact with their children when they are ‘out and about’.

However, you need to think very carefully about the implications of any child in their care having a mobile phone and about the associated risks.

If a child has a mobile phone it will mean that it is more difficult to monitor the phone calls that children receive. This may not be a problem; however, in certain circumstances social workers and other professionals may feel that it is appropriate to limit contact with particular family members.

Foster carers will need to be clear with the children in their care about who is paying for top up cards and when, or this may be a source of some upset!

Young people with mobile phones can be at risk on the streets, as they may be mugged for their phone. Advice should be offered about being discreet with the phone on the streets.

4.13 The foster carer’s bedroom

Some parents may allow their own young children to get in to bed with them to talk, play and listen to stories or comfort when they are not well. However, you need to be aware of the dangers of doing this with a foster child. This is one of the dilemmas created for you and your family. You need to avoid doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Children and young children need comfort and affection but sharing your bed can trigger the memory of experiences of abuse and give the wrong messages about what might happen. It would be advisable not to allow foster children in your bed.

It will be safer to provide all foster children with time; warmth and affection outside your bedroom by telling them stories and having a hot drink together.

You will need to think about how the foster children respect your privacy and the privacy of this in the household. For example, foster children should be encouraged to knock on the bedroom door and wait to be invited in before entering.

This is important as you may be getting dressed or undressed or even having an intimate moment!

4.14 Holiday arrangements

Foster carers who take children abroad on holiday may be sharing a hotel room with children in their care. This may be necessary if children are too young to have their own room.

Foster carers should be very careful in this situation to ensure that they dress appropriately for bed, and ensure that they do not have sex in front of the children, even when they think that they may be asleep. Holidays should be a relaxing time for everyone, but don’t put yourself at risk of allegations unnecessarily.

4.15 Children’s bedrooms

(See also Children's Bedrooms Procedure)

Although the ideal might be for every child to have their own room, many foster carers do not have enough space to make this possible. However, every child must have a bed of their own and not share a bed. If your foster child is sharing a bedroom with another child, you should be speaking to your family placement worker about what is acceptable behaviour. It is important for everyone to be clear about what has happened to the chid in the past, what they need now and how this can be provided.

Some children may have been abused and need their own space so they can learn they have a right to be safe and private. They might have their own room, or share a room that is divided by a partition or furniture.

For most children it is important to have somewhere to keep their possessions safe.

You will need to think about your family policy with regard to bedroom rules. For example, children should not share beds or be allowed to touch each other’s bodies. As children grow older, they should be given increasing control over who goes into their room. Depending upon age and ability should knock and say, “I’m coming in” before entering a child’s room. Their bedroom door should always be left ajar whilst you are with the chid in their bedroom. Foster carers must understand how threatening it can be for a child who has been abused to have their privacy invaded.

Foster carer’s often ask where they should read a child’s bedtime story. It can be just as cosy to read a story downstairs on the settee before bedtime and foster carer’s should not sit on a child’s bed. However, when a child is comfortable with you and settled in your home it may be appropriate to sit next to the bed to read a story at night time. Why not ask your child what they would prefer?

If you are caring for a child with disabilities, you should take into consideration the child’s dignity when giving personal care to prevent other children observing.

4.16 In the Bathroom

How do you respect privacy? Who needs supervising and how is this done?

Young children should always be supervised in the bath. You would be advised to leave the bathroom door ajar, so that you are not bathing a child behind a closed door, and therefore become vulnerable to allegations.

All children who are old enough and able to wash themselves should have privacy in the bathroom. If a child should need supervision, it is preferable for the female carer to undertake this, or for both carers to do it together.

There should be locks fitted on the bathroom door, but they should be fitted high up, so that young children cannot lock themselves in the bathroom. Locks allow older children and adults to have privacy in the bathroom.

It is never ok for an adult to bathe with a child, and foster carers should not take photographs of children in the bath.

4.17 Public Toilets/Swimming Pools

As a general rule boys less than 8 years of age should go into the toilet/changing rooms with a female carer. However, for gay male carers this is not possible, or for male carers taking the child out on their own.

Very young children will need help to undress or go to the toilet, so the male carer should help the child to do this. Just be mindful of not placing yourself in a vulnerable position.

4.18 Pets

You will need to be aware if a foster child has a fear of animals and how this will be managed. Foster children will need to be shown how to approach pets.

You will also need to ensure the pet’s eating/toilet area is kept clean and hygienic especially when young children are around.

Sometimes children can taunt pets and if we know this about a child on placement we may not consider you for that child.

Your Family placement worker will use the ‘Assessing dangerous dogs’ form when she/he completes your assessment, or if you take on responsibility for a dog.

4.19 The way you dress

It is important that you and your family think carefully about how you all dress around the home. All members of the household will need to be fully dressed when walking around the home. Don’t walk around in underwear or nightwear; it could trigger a response or memory for a child that is confusing for them.

All members of your household should have and wear a dressing gown, pyjamas and slippers. Even when you go to the bathroom at night you should cover up with a dressing gown.

It is advisable for foster carers to get dressed in the bedroom or bathroom.

Think about the clothes that you buy for the foster children in your care. Be careful not to buy provocative clothing for young girls or boys. This may be clothing with a sexual or violent message, or clothes in which a child looks older than their years.

4.20 Education about sex and sexuality

This is your responsibility as a foster carer! Many carers find this subject uncomfortable to discuss, but try hard to find relaxing ways to talk about sex. There are a number of child friendly books available to help carers talk about bodies, sex and sexuality. These may help. These can be found in large bookstores, or ask your social worker/family placement worker for advice. You may prefer to talk to a young person in casual settings, e.g. when washing up, when the situation does not feel too contrived!

Sex education is important and needs to be geared to a child’s age.

Sex education should be about changes in a child’s body and about relationships and feelings that young people may experience.

You need to try and keep communication open, and answer children’s questions about sex as openly as you can, and try not to be embarrassed! For younger children keep your answers simple and straightforward, they will be satisfied with little bits of information as and when they need it!

With older children, try and find out what they are being taught at school and when this is happening. You can then fill in any gaps for the children and help clear up any misunderstandings.

Young people should be taught about having respect for their bodies, and be taught how to say ‘no’ to abuse and that it is ok to say ‘no’ within a loving relationship. Young people should be encouraged to say no to anything that does not feel comfortable.

Carers need to know how to explain the difference between what is and is not acceptable sexual behaviour, and how to help children change behaviour that is not appropriate for their age. Children who have been abused might need to understand that you are talking to them to make them safer and not to abuse them further. Always remember that we may not know whether or not a child has been abused when they are placed with you, so you should make all children feel safe in these discussions.

There are wide variations in family traditions that will mean that people will have different approaches to how children are told about sex and sexuality and what they are told. Seek advice about this from your child’s social worker if unsure about a particular child that you are caring for.

Your own children need to understand that any sexual contact in the household with a foster child is as unacceptable as with a biological brother or sister.

Young people should be aware that people have different forms of sexuality and you should not allow discrimination, or humour to be used to in respect of a person’s sexuality.

Young people are likely to offered sex education classes in school, as a foster carer you should not sign consent for this, but pass the forms to the Social worker who will seek consent.

Teenagers may wish to discuss contraception with you as their carer, and issues of safe sex. You should not discourage a young person from doing this, as education is so important, and any young person choosing to talk to an adult is doing the responsible thing! A doctor will decide if a young person is 'Gillick’ Competent and able to give consent to contraception, and understand the implications.

Speak to the ‘Looked After children’s Health Advisor if you have any concerns or require guidance. Your Family placement worker will know where the worker is based.

Also speak to your family placement worker about the ‘Speakeasy’ course that is run in Salford for foster carers. The course helps foster carers in talking to young people about sex and sexuality.

4.21 Alcohol and illegal drugs

(See also Drugs and Substance Misuse (Including Smoking) Procedure.)

When you are a foster carer your social life and lifestyle must be within safe boundaries.

It is therefore unsafe for any member of the family to engage in substance misuse.

No one is saying that foster carers cannot drink alcohol, but this must be done within safe limits. Foster carers being very drunk or people visiting their home drinking to excess is not acceptable. Many of the children who are placed in foster care come from backgrounds where parents have problems with alcohol. This can lead to violence and as such excessive drinking could be very frightening to watch for a child from such a background. Equally foster carer’s ability to provide good enough care will be impaired through excessive drinking.

Foster carers must never drive a car when they have consumed alcohol, as is the law, and is the case for the general population.

If foster carers have alcohol within their home this should be kept in a safe place away so that children cannot gain access to it.

Young people experiment with alcohol. They may drink socially with friends when they are under 18 years of age. Foster carers need to think carefully about educating young people about the dangers of drinking to excess. This will include not only health risks but risks to physical safety when under the influence of alcohol. There is little point in foster carers telling young people not to drink, without educating them to understand the risks involved and to make informed choices. As a foster carer you are a role model to young people and they will need to learn about safe and sociable drinking. Advice and guidance in this area can be obtained from the Community Alcohol Team, they are based at Acton Square on 745 7227.

4.22 Illegal substances

(See also Drugs and Substance Misuse (Including Smoking) Procedure)

There is a ‘Substance Misuse’ policy for looked after children, operating in Salford. This policy covers a whole range of issues from child protection concerns, to discovering illegal substances and how to respond. All persons responsible for caring for ‘looked after’ children need to be aware of the contents of this policy and how to respond in any given situation. (See Salford Services for Young People).

Salford City Council does not condone the use of substances (including alcohol and tobacco) by young people for whom it has full or shared responsibility.

Foster carers have a responsibility to educate the young people in their care about drugs. This is a difficult task and requires the foster carers keeping up to date on current information about drugs; this should be done through training and keeping informed through the Internet and reading materials. Educating young people should include consideration of substances on a young person’s health, finances, employment prospects and criminality. Many foster carers may lack confidence in talking about drugs. Practice guidelines are included in ‘Substance misuse’ policy. Alternatively, for further reassurance carers may wish to consult with a specialist in this area. The Community drugs team can be contacted on 793 2379.

Young people cannot buy cigarettes under the age of 18 years. Foster carers should not buy cigarettes for young people in their care. However, many young people do smoke, and foster carers should offer young people support to give up, and agree the rules for smoking in their house. It is probably sensible for young people to smoke outside the house in the garden. Smoking inside the house and trying to hide it is a serious fire risk.

Under the smoking policy in Salford foster carers are not to smoke within their own home.

4.23 Young people alone in the house

There is no law in this country about the age at which a child can be left in the house alone. For foster carers this can be a difficult issue. The decision should be made in consultation with the child’s Social worker, and with the young person themselves depending upon their age, maturity, how responsible they are and how well you know the child.

4.24 Occasional carers

Any person who will be providing care for your foster child in your absence will need to have an enhanced DBS check completed. This will be discussed with you during your assessment, when the family placement worker will ask you to nominate an occasional carer or babysitter. If this person changes in the future you need to make sure that your family placement worker is aware.

4.25 Visitors to your home

No person should be caring for any foster child without having an enhanced DBS check. However, foster carers will have visitors to their home, either family members or friends. Family members and friends should be made aware that they must not be alone in the house with foster children, unless they are the nominated babysitter for that carer.

They should also be informed that they should not enter your home when you are not present if there is a foster child in the house. They would be putting themselves in a vulnerable position, and as a local authority we would be failing to protect a child in our care.

On occasions foster carers are approved as single carers but have a relationship with another adult. An enhanced DBS check must be carried out on the carers’ partner. All foster carers must inform their family placement worker if they start a relationship and their partner will be visiting their home. The family placement worker must meet with the new partner, complete an enhanced DBS check, and before a new partner moves into the foster carers’ home they must undertake foster carer preparation training, and the foster carers assessment must be updated and approved at Fostering panel.

4.26 Clubs and community organisations

Joining a club, such as Brownies, Guides, Cubs, or sporting clubs provides a child with an interest outside the home that can be very positive, both socially and in terms of a child’s fitness and it can be a way of keeping children occupied in a positive way.

Children in foster care should be encouraged to join such organisations if they wish to. As foster carers it is important to make appropriate arrangements for children joining these clubs. Go along to the club, see how it operates, meet the people in charge and do not be afraid of asking questions about the way

that they club is run. Ask the leader if they have a DBS check. The more questions that you ask the less vulnerable the child in your care is.

Any decisions about a child spending time away from home with any organisation must be made in conjunction with the child’s social worker.

5. Foster Children Missing from Home

See also: Statutory Guidance On Children Who Run Away Or Go Missing From Home Or Care (January 2014).

Occasionally foster children may abscond from their foster home. There is a detailed protocol in Salford Safeguarding Children Partnership ‘regarding children missing from home’ which highlights the issues related to missing children and how carers should respond when a child goes missing.

A missing person is someone whose whereabouts are unknown, whatever the circumstances of disappearing. They will be considered as missing until located, and his or her well being is established.

Any child missing from home should be treated seriously. Any child running away faces significant risk, whether they run away once or on a number of occasions. There are many reasons why young people run away, and they can be complex. These may include arguments and conflict, poor family relationships and issues around boundaries and control.

As a foster carer you need to be clear about what to do should a child in your care is missing.

Foster carers are expected to take the following basic measures if safe to do so:

  • Check bedrooms/house/outbuildings/vehicles;
  • Ring round friends and family to establish if the child is there;
  • Visit locations that the child is known to frequent regularly. if safe to do so.

If the foster carer cannot locate the child, a decision must be made by the foster carer to report the child as missing to the police. Equally if the child has gone out with permission and has failed to return at an agreed time, they again should report the child to the police as missing from home. This response and any agreed leeway after the time that the child should have returned has elapsed, should be spelt out in the missing from home plan.

EDT should also be informed when a child is reported missing from home and again on their return.

Once classed as missing the foster carer must ring the Police and provide the Police with the following information:

  • Child’s name;
  • Child’s date of birth;
  • When they went missing, who were they with;
  • What the child was wearing;
  • Description;
  • Recent photo (may not ask for this until the MFH discussion/strategy details it a necessity);
  • Medical history and legal status.

Once a child is found or returns to the foster home, the foster carer should, provide a welcoming, non judgemental approach, check the child is fit and healthy, and provide warm food and someone to talk to.

The foster carer should alert the child’s social worker and the family placement worker when a child returns. The Police will interview the child. The Police will want to establish if the child was a victim of crime or abuse whilst missing from home. The social worker will also talk to the child and refer to the ‘Missing from home Project’ within 24 hours.

The Missing from Home Coordinator  will provide a worker for the child to talk to who is independent and undertake a return interview, they may see the child at school or within the child’s residence.

A strategy meeting may be convened dependent upon the frequency of episodes of missing from home.

It would be helpful for all foster carers to familiarise themselves with the Protocol for children missing from home (see Salford Safeguarding Children Partnership).

(See also Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership, A Standardised approach to dealing with missing and absent people of all ages across Greater Manchester.)

6. Conclusion

Having read this document there may be other issues related to safe care that concern you. Please address these with your family placement worker/manager, who will seek advice.