ONRECORD will assist carers and agencies to meet one of the most important requirements of fostering agencies – keeping good records. National Minimum Standard number 26 requires that records be clear, up to date, stored securely and contribute to an understanding of the child’s life. They must be kept for 15 years. The records kept belong to the fostering service, and children can ask to read them either now, or later on, as adults (Minimum Standard 26 is given in full below).
Keeping good records is increasingly important because:
- Foster carers are regularly asked to undertake detailed assessments of children placed with them and to participate in the planning of services for those in their care.
- There has also been a significant increase in the number of foster carers who are asked to attend court and case conferences, and who participate in children’s statutory reviews and other meetings. There is an expectation that foster carers provide their own written reports for these occasions.
- There is also an increase in and great concern about allegations of abuse and complaints made against foster carers or family members which is a traumatic and difficult process.
There is a clear need for a method of recording day-to-day events in the home that:
- Makes good quality records easier;
- Ensures standardisation as far as possible;
- Ensures that records are stored securely;
- Makes foster carer records immediately available to supervising staff and other key individuals
- Ensures that records can be searched quickly; and
- Facilitates the inclusion of data from foster carer records in reports and statements.
Good records will assist foster carers in recalling events accurately at a later date if they are required to give evidence. Although some fostering services provide guidelines for record keeping, some foster carers are asked to record information without any guidelines about what they need to recall. ONRECORD will help foster carers and fostering agencies by providing a secure, simple to use and readily accessible framework that resolves the issues around:
- How to keep records
- When to record
- What to record
- The access by the supervising social worker
- Records of both children and parents
- Storing records securely and confidentially
- Who owns the records
- Who has access to the records
- Data protection
ONRECORD is a highly flexible combination of a mobile app and web application which uploads data from mobile device, in encrypted form, to a highly secure central database where it can be accessed by authorised individuals, and searched, analysed and downloaded to reports and statements. The number and choice of headings (‘labels’) the carer or agency finds helpful to define a child’s or a family’s issues is entirely optional and can be individually tailored to the child’s needs. Choice of labels may be made by the carer, the agency or by the carer’s supervisor or the local authority social worker, as appropriate. The records of each individual looked after child are stored securely, accessible only to permitted individuals, while also feeding, as required, into a central database, which can bring together the case files of many children.
Assessment of foster carers
The guidance from Coram BAAF says that:
Although Form F does not use a competency structure, it does aim to cover all those competencies that are important to being an effective foster carer. In providing evidence in the report, it is essential that assessing social workers understand the principles of a competency approach as set out in BAAF Practice Note 40: Undertaking Competence Assessments (2000). This Practice Note defines competence as a concept combining values, skills and knowledge in a ‘directly observable and measurable way’. Evidence can take a number of forms, such as direct observation, direct questions, references and testimonials of others, specific written tasks or focused discussions, or case studies.
Completing Form F assessments is a challenge and requires good analytical skills as well as good organisation and planning. ONRECORD will assist by making it very simple for the assessors to develop practical, standardised assessment tasks which are readily understood and achieved by foster carers whose performance is then easily reviewed. Records, input by the foster carer on a mobile device, can be reviewed by the assessor and exported/downloaded to inform the analysis and reporting.
ONRECORD, by providing a simple, structured method of making and reviewing foster carer records over time, which are then immediately available to the assessor, can quickly generate evidence of competencies and complement other approaches to enhance the overall assessment.
Minimum Standard 26:
26.1 The fostering service has and implements a written policy that clarifies the purpose, format and content of information to be kept on the fostering service’s files, on the child’s files and on case files relating to foster carers.
26.2 Staff, volunteers, panel members and fostering households understand the nature of records maintained and follow the service’s policy for the keeping and retention of files, managing confidential information and access to files (including files removed from the premises). There is a system in place to monitor the quality and adequacy of record keeping and take action when needed.
26.3 Children and their parents understand the nature of records maintained and how to access them.
26.4 Information about individual children is kept confidential and only shared with those who have a legitimate and current need to know the information, and to those parts of a child’s record or other information that they need to know.
26.5 Entries in records, decisions and reasons for them, are legible, clearly expressed, non-stigmatising, distinguish between fact, opinion and third party information and are signed and dated.
26.6 Information about the child is recorded clearly and in a way which will be helpful to the child when they access their files now or in the future. Children are actively encouraged to read their files, other than necessarily confidential or third party information, and to correct errors and add personal statements.
26.7 The foster carer understands the important supporting role they play in encouraging the child to reflect on and understand their history. The child, subject to age and understanding, is encouraged to keep appropriate memorabilia (including photographs) of their time in the placement. The fostering service makes this role clear to their foster carers and ensures they can record, and help children make a record of (subject to age and understanding), significant life events.
26.8 Where there is an agency placement, the agency works with the responsible authority to ensure effective integration of information held in the agency’s case files and those of the responsible authority. On receipt of a written request by a child’s responsible authority, the agency immediately provides copies of records and documents in relation to the child.
26.9 When a foster carer seeks to move to a new provider, the new provider seeks information from the previous provider about the prospective foster carer, and the previous provider complies with such a request within one month of receipt of the written request.
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