Delegation of Authority to Foster Carers

This chapter identifies the importance of ensuring Foster Carers have appropriate delegated authority for the day-day care of the child to ensure that Children in Care do not 'feel different' from their peers and to ensure that there is no delay over certain decisions that can be reasonably made by the carer. The chapter contains a 'decision-making tool' to enable this process.

This chapter was added to the manual in April 2014.

1. Introduction

An important principle of the Foster Carers' Charter is to:

"Treat foster carers with openness, fairness and respect as a core member of the team around the child and support them in making reasonable and appropriate decisions on behalf of their foster child".

Foster carers should be treated as full members of the team implementing children's care plans. Delegated authority is the term used when the responsibility for making day to day decisions about children has been passed to foster carers. This can include decisions around activities, haircuts and overnight stays. Important principles for ensuring appropriate delegated authority are:

1.1 Listen to what children want

The people who look after children on a daily basis are usually the ones who make day-to-day decisions such as whether to agree sleepovers and school trips. This should be no different for foster carers. Children do not want social workers making these decisions - it makes them feel different from their peers, can result in missed opportunities and gets in the way of them enjoying a full childhood and family life.

1.2 Involve birth families in care planning

Children's relationships with their birth families vary. Some birth families will be very involved in making decisions about their child's care, particularly where the child is likely to return home. It is essential wherever possible, and always where children are voluntarily accommodated, to involve birth families in discussions about delegating decision making to foster carers, helping them understand how beneficial this can be to the life of their child.

1.3 Set out clearly what decision making is delegated

Authority for day-to-day decision making should be delegated to foster carers unless there is a good reason not to. This should be set out in the child's Placement Plan which sets out the plan for their day-to-day care and how decisions about them will be made. This plan should include what decisions can be made by their foster carer and where decision making is not delegated to the foster carer the reasons should be clearly explained in the child's placement plan.

1.4 Help promote placement stability and good outcomes for children

Ensuring that foster carers are supported to make day-to-day decisions helps the children in their care to have confidence in these relationships and supports the development of trusting and secure attachments to their foster carers.

1.5 Work together in the best interests of the child

Effective partnership working is core to good quality foster care. Where the foster carer, supervising social worker and child's social worker are clear about how day-to-day decisions are to be made, decisions are more likely to be on time with everyone working in the best interests of the child.

1.6 Support foster carers to develop the skills and confidence they need

Through appropriate training and supervision, fostering services should support their foster carers to develop the skills and confidence to take day-to-day decisions, empowering them to make these decisions within a strong framework of support.

1.7 Understand and support appropriate delegation of authority to foster carers

Everyone at every level should understand how authority should be delegated to foster carers. The delegated authority tool should be used at placement planning meetings to clearly outline the decision making that is given to foster carers and can be shared with birth parents. This should be regularly reviewed at children's Statutory Reviews to ensure that appropriate delegation is maintained.

Appendix 1: Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool

Click here to see Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool.