To guide child protection workers in the process of foster care reviews for general, relative and significant other foster carers.
Providing support to foster carers should be part of an ongoing process, through regular visits with the carer and de-briefing. The foster carer review is an additional annual event, with information gathered throughout the year contributing to the review process. The foster carer review should be a two way process between the foster carer and child protection worker.
A WWC check is required for foster carers and any other person who is carrying out “child-related work”, for example the child’s tutor. If the foster carer has a spouse or de-facto partner residing in the home, they will need to be screened and assessed as a carer, and will require a WWC Card. Details of the screening process are outlined in Chapter 2: Record Checks and the Working With Children Card.
In addition, any new adults that have entered the foster carer’s home or have contact with the child on a regular basis will need to complete a Record Check Consent form (Form 395).
It is important that the child protection worker and senior child protection worker placement services (SCPWPS) monitor any practical safety concerns throughout the year.
2. The 11 month planning cycle
A review of every foster carer must be completed, at a minimum, at least once every 12 months. To assist forward planning and to ensure reviews of approved foster carers are completed within the required timeframe, districts must implement a rolling 11 month planning cycle. This cycle is designed to support a sustainable and systematic approach to ensuring all foster carers have an annual review.
Using this model, all planning requirements are scheduled to occur between January and November of each calendar year. This should be documented in a letter to the foster carer(s) at the beginning of the cycle, detailing the future meeting date for the annual review.
To help with management and tracking of the foster carer review processes, staff can use the following related resource document: 11 Month Care Planning Guide.
3. Foster carer participation
The foster carer review provides an opportunity for the foster carer and their family to give feedback on what providing care has been like for them, what has gone well, what challenges have been encountered, and to comment on the adequacy of the support received.
Prior to the review, the child protection worker should discuss the format of the review with the foster carer. The child protection worker should forward a copy of the Carer Review (Form 565) to the foster carer to look at in preparation.
4. Child protection worker preparation
Before each review, the child protection worker should go over the foster carer’s file and read the record of placements and relevant notes in relation to each placement.
Information gathered by workers during the course of the year, from routine contact and de-briefing, will also contribute to the review.
Prior to undertaking the review with the foster carer, the child protection worker should also conduct a thorough examination of all previous assessments and reviews undertaken. Any previous individual foster carer learning plans should also be considered. The child protection worker should consult with the SCPWPS and team leader to discuss any previous identified or potential issues.
Inpreparation for the review, child protection workers should refer to the related resource Guide to preparing for a foster carer review, the Carer Review form (Form 565), and the Practical Checklist for Carer Applicants form (715).
5. Practical considerations
Most foster carer reviews will take about one hour. The review should be at a time convenient for the foster carer and cause minimum disruption to their daily routine. Ideally, the review should be carried out at the foster carer’s home and involve all relevant members of the household.
Where this is not possible, the review can be undertaken in a private room at the district office to ensure confidentiality. The atmosphere should be as informal as possible.
The child protection worker should contact the foster carer to confirm the day and time that the review will be conducted. The child protection worker will then send a letter to the foster carer confirming the date, time and location, along with the review format and any other relevant material.
6. Purpose and format of the review
The review should be a discussion of what is working well, what the Department and the foster carer might be worried about, and what needs to happen.
The review is the opportunity for the foster carer and the child protection worker to take stock and look ahead to developing the partnership and learning.
Most importantly, this is the foster carer’s time to reflect with the child protection worker and have the space to raise questions and concerns but also to highlight achievement and successes.
The review may include identification of changes the foster carer may wish to make, for example, participating in particular learning. It may also include changes for the child protection worker, such as how they are meeting their responsibilities under the Foster Care Partnership Practice Framework.
The review formally affirms that the foster carer is maintaining their competencies as a carer. It is not however a reassessment of their competencies. If there have been concerns about whether the foster carer is meeting the competencies, these should have been raised earlier as the concerns arose; refer to Chapter 9: Revocation of a Foster Carer's Approval.
The carer competencies should be in view during the discussion and referred to as required:
- Ability to provide care for the child in a way that promotes the wellbeing of the child, the child’s family and interpersonal relationships, and protects the child from harm.
- Ability to provide a safe living environment for the child.
- Ability to work cooperatively with officers, the child’s family and other people when providing care for the child.
- Ability to take responsibility for the development of his or her competency and skills as a carer.
- Is a person of good character and repute.
The review also presents an opportunity for the foster carer to change his or her care status, such as care type and the number and/or age of children they are able to care for.
A summary of the discussion should be completed by the child protection worker on the Carer Review form (Form 565) - this is available in related resources.
7. Relative and significant other foster carer reviews
Relative and significant other foster carer reviews follow the same procedures as those for general foster carer reviews.
The review must consider any amendments to the previously agreed conditions for care, particularly when the Department is asking the foster carer to care for additional children for whom they were not originally approved. For example, if the foster carer has taken on the care of other siblings or children from a different family group. In these instances, issues relating to mixing children with different needs and behaviours must be addressed. The carer review should consider the new dynamics of the household, including the foster carer’s capacity to care for the extra child/ren and what supports may be needed.
If at the review it is identified that the foster carer has a spouse or de-facto partner who has moved into the home, they will need to be screened and assessed as a carer, and will require a WWC Card.
If the relative or significant other foster carer has withdrawn from being a carer after the child has left their care, and the Department is seeking to return that child or place another related child with them, they must be reassessed. It is not sufficient to simply review the foster carer; they will need to be assessed by the district according to the Relative Carer Assessment process.
8. Approval by the district director
The Carer Review form must be signed by the foster carer, child protection worker, SCPWPS and team leader. It is then provided to the district director for approval and signature.
Once approved, a copy of the Carer Review (Form 565) should be provided to the foster carer, and the original should be scanned and placed into the foster carer’s file in Objective. Relevant details should be updated in the ‘Review a Carer Registration’ section in assist.
9. Reassessment of a general foster carer
If a general foster carer has withdrawn from being a carer after a child has left their care and the Department is seeking to return that child or place another child in care with them, they cannot be ‘reviewed’ as a general foster carer. The foster carer will need to be assessed according to the general foster carer assessment process. Child protection workers should refer to Chapter 9: General Foster Carer Assessment.
10. Recording any issues of concern
It is important that the child protection worker and others involved in addressing issues of concern with a foster carer maintain sufficient records. This includes:
- any concerns the Department raises with the foster carer
- whether the foster carer was given the opportunity to respond to those concerns
- the foster carer’s response
- the Department’s conclusion in relation to the issue.
These records will be important if the Department wants to rely upon the concern(s) as the basis of a proposed revocation of a foster carer’s approval in the future.