Principles

The work of Middlesbrough Fostering Service is based on the following three principles:

Child focussed

The child’s welfare, safety and needs are at the centre of the fostering process.

Partnership

The Fostering Service will work in partnership with parents and children, foster carers and their families, and social work staff and other professionals when delivering the service.

Anti-discriminatory practice

The Fostering Service will respect Human Rights and will ensure that there is fair and equal access to all its services.  The services it provides will be free from discrimination, prejudice and racism.

Aims and objectives of the Fostering Service

The main aim of the Fostering Service provided by Middlesbrough Council is to provide suitable foster care placements for children who are looked after by Middlesbrough Council.

The Fostering Service will achieve this by:

  • recruiting, preparing and assessing prospective foster carers and their families
  • supporting, developing and retaining approved foster carers and their families
  • working in partnership with the child’s social worker to identify a suitable placement when it has been agreed that the child’s assessed needs will be met by placement in foster care
  • working in partnership with the child’s social worker and other appropriate professionals to identify a suitable alternative placement from an Independent Fostering Agency, where appropriate and agreed by Middlesbrough Children’s Panel.

Standards of care

The work of Middlesbrough Fostering Service is delivered in accordance with the following standards:

  • UK National Standards for Foster Care 1999
  • The Code of Practice on the recruitment, assessment, approval, training, management and support of foster carers 2005
  • The National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011

In addition to the National Minimum Standards, Middlesbrough Fostering Service has adopted local standards which underpin its approach to service delivery.  These include:

  • responding to enquiries from potential foster carers in a positive and welcoming manner and sending them an information pack within 5 working days of receiving the enquiry
  • a requirement for social workers who join the team to have some experience of Children & Families work
  • a commitment to the use of co-working by 2 social workers during the assessment process, in the belief that this leads to a high quality, thorough assessment
  • the use of a banded payments system which recognises the valuable contribution made by foster carers as they develop skills and experience and relates the payment received to the skills and experience they have developed

The Organisational Structure of the Fostering Service

The Fostering Service of Middlesbrough Council is provided mainly by workers from the Fostering Team which is based within Wellbeing Care & Learning Middlesbrough Council, with additional input from 4 other members of staff (Team Clerks) from within the Family Placement Service.  The organisational structure as at 1 November 2018 is shown in the diagram below.

Fostering service organisational structure

Details of the Manager of the Fostering Service

Sue Mansell
Middlesbrough House
50 Corporation Road
Middlesbrough
TS1 2RH

Phone :   01642 – 201993

Email   sue_mansell@middlesbrough.gov.uk

Details of staff of the Fostering Service (November 2018)

There is 21 staff employed by Middlesbrough Council in the Fostering Service.  In addition, there is 4 staff employed for administrative support.  Details of the staff, their relevant qualifications and experience are as follows:

Name Job title Qualifications Experience
Sue Mansell Interim Team Manager CQSW – 1990
Post Qualifying Award in Family Placement – 2007
With Social Services since 1990.  With Fostering Service since 2008.
Claire Gibbon Interim Assistant Team Manager BA (Hons) in Business Administration 2001
Dip SW – 2004
BA in Specialist Social Worker with children, young people, their families and carers  – 2011
With Social Services since 2004. With Fostering Service since 2011.
Gareth Bennett Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) Social Work 2012 The University of York Employed by Middlesbrough Council since March 2013 in Assessment and Care Planning Team, moved to the Family Placement Team in January 2017.
Jonathan Howe Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) Social Work 2015 Employed by Middlesbrough Council since March 2015 in Assessment and Care Planning Team, moved to the Family Placement Team in January 2017.
Emma Allinson Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) in Social Work – 2017 With Fostering Service since October 2017.
Sylvia Whitlock Supervising Social Worker BSC (Hons) Social Sciences 1989

CQSW Dip SW 1992

BA in Social Work 2011

Joined Social Services in 1992 in same locality team until 2001.

Moved to Middlesbrough Children with Disabilities team in 2001.

Manager of Children with Disabilities team from 2012 until July 2016.

July 2016 joined Fostering Team; working 2 days per week as part of flexi retirement.

Kayleigh Thompson Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) Social Work 2013 With Fostering service since 2013.
Julie Hodds Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) in Social Work – 2014 With social Services since 2014. With Fostering Service since 2015.
Donna Westmoreland Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) in Social Work – 2018 With Fostering Service since June 2018.
Janet Docherty Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) in Social Work – 1999
PQ1 – 2004
With Social Services since 1999.  With Fostering Service since 2009.
Jill Fawcett Supervising Social Worker DipSW – 2000
PQ Child Care Award 2009
With Social Services since 2000.  With Fostering Service since 2003.
Jude Brown Supervising Social Worker DipSW 1998. With Social Services since 1998.  With Fostering Service since 2011.
Carly Tomkins Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) Social Work – 2015 With Social Services since 2015.  With Fostering Service since June 2018.
Yasmin Afsar Supervising Social Worker Diploma in Social Work

Level 4 NVQ Parent Support Advisor

Level 4 Understanding Autism

9 years’ experience working in a specialist school for children with autism.

Various social work roles including EWO and Family Support Worker.

With the fostering team since January 2018.

Nicola Mason Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) Social Work – 2015 Fostering Service Since 2015.
Tracy Reed Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) Social Work 2013 With Middlesbrough Social Services from July 2013. Moved to the Fostering Team in November 2016.
Jane O’Toole Supervising Social Worker DipSW – 1998 With Social Services since 1998.  With Fostering Service since 2002.
Victoria Lipthorpe Supervising Social Worker BA (Hons) Social Work 2016 With Middlesbrough Social Services from May 2016. Moved to the Fostering Team in January 2017.
Andrew Winn Recruitment, Training and Development Officer NVQ Level 5 in Operational Management.

Certificate in Management.

Certificate in Education.

With Safeguarding Services since June 2007.  With the Family Placement Team since November 2016.
Sam Malone Placement Officer BSc (Hons) Chemistry

QCF Level 3 – Children & Young People

With Middlesbrough Council since January 2015.

Joined the Fostering Team in October 2018.

Brian Foulger Family Support Worker NVQ 3 Health & Social Care. Children & Young People With Safeguarding Services since 2004. With Fostering Service since 2013.
Gill Bisp Assistant Administrator, Middlesbrough Council NVQ Business Admin. Level 2 – 1995
Level 3 – 1997
Level 3 Key Skills – 1997
With Social Services since 1981.  With Fostering Service since 1996.
Sue Atkinson Assistant Administrator, Middlesbrough Council B.T.E.C Business Admin – 1996 With Social Services since 1998.  With Fostering Service since 2000.
Carol Fallow Assistant Administrator, Middlesbrough Council 27 Years’ time served experience With Middlesbrough Council since 1990.

Building Cleaning, Cargo Fleet Lane – Admin, Legal & Local Democracy, Social Services, Integrated Support Unit, Fostering Services.

Sarah Young Assistant Administrator, Middlesbrough Council NVQ Business Admin. Level 2 – 1995
Level 3 – 1996
With Middlesbrough Council since April 2010.

Commissioning Team, Admin Support in CFL, ISU, Fostering Service.

 Activity of the Fostering Service – 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018

Number of Foster Carers:

The number of approved Foster Carers with Middlesbrough Council Fostering Service in the year ending 31 March 2018 was 118.

Number of Connected Person’s Foster Carers:

The number of Connected Person’s Foster Carers with Middlesbrough Council Fostering Service in the year ending 31 March 2018 was 19.

Number of New Foster Carers:

The number of new approved Foster Carers with Middlesbrough Council Fostering Service in the year 2017/18 was 14.

Number of New Connected Person’s Foster Carers:

The number of new Connected Person’s Foster Carers with Middlesbrough Council Fostering Service in the year 2017/18 was 17.

Number of De-Registered Foster Carers:

The number of de-registered Foster Carers with Middlesbrough Council Fostering Service in the year 2017/18 was 19.

Numbers of Complaints and their outcomes:

There were no complaints to Middlesbrough Council Fostering Service in the year 2017/18.

Fostering Services

The services and facilities provided by Middlesbrough Fostering Service fall into 3 main areas:

  1. Those provided to prospective foster carers:
  • Information and advice about fostering
  • Initial visits to people expressing an interest in becoming foster carers
  • Preparation training for applicants
  • Competency-based assessment of applicants using BAAF Form F
  • The opportunity to attend the Family Placement Panel when their application is presented
  1. Those provided to foster carers registered with Middlesbrough Fostering Service
  • Supervision and support from a named social worker from the Fostering Service
  • Practical support (such as transport and activities for children) from a Support Worker, according to need
  • A regular newsletter specifically for foster carers registered with Middlesbrough Fostering Service
  • Access to a secure on-line notice board
  • Membership of Fostering Network
  • Support groups and social events for foster carers
  • A foster carers resource directory containing information on policies, procedures and practice guidance
  • Access to independent advice and mediation when necessary
  • A programme of induction training for newly approved foster carers
  • A programme of post-approval training specifically for foster carers.
  • Financial support for placements, using a banded payments scheme
  • Loan of essential equipment or household items to support specific placements
  • A peer mentoring scheme, provided by foster carers who have had relevant training
  1. Those provided to social work staff who need a placement for a child looked after by the Council.

These consist of:

  • A duty social worker available during office hours Monday – Friday
  • Provision of a range of foster care placements for children looked after by Middlesbrough Council
  • Provision of carers for use by the Emergency Duty Team for placements at evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

Procedures and Processes used by Middlesbrough Council’s Fostering Service

Recruitment, Assessment and Approval

Middlesbrough Fostering Service follows the two stage assessment process set out by The Department for Education in July 2013.

The target to recruit 100 in-house foster carers by 2014 was set as part of the Middlesbrough Children’s Looked After Strategy. This target was increased in 2013/14 by senior management to 120 in-house foster carers. The target has been increased to recruit 130 foster carers by 2017.  The number of approved carers, as at the 31 March 2018, stands at 118 and the service continues to work toward its goal.

A new Fostering for Middlesbrough marketing strategy has been developed following a full situational analysis of current foster carer recruitment, national research around foster carer motivation and research into what good looks like fostering marketing approaches.

From this base a full multi-media based campaign that focuses on the child, rather than the foster carer.  There is a new look and feel to our marketing, a dedicated website – fosteringformiddlesbrough.org.uk – social media pages and a digital marketing promotional campaign that features a number of highly emotive films.

The test campaign started on the 13 August and will run for 3-months; testing messages, channels and approaches during this time.  At the end of the 3-months a full evaluation will be undertaken that will direct the campaign moving into 2019 and beyond.

It was agreed that all five local authorities of Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar & Cleveland, Darlington and Hartlepool would continue running as Tees Valley Fostering.  A collaborative approach was agreed between all five Tees Valley Local Authorities to implement a sustained integrated marketing and communications campaign over the next 12 months to include media relations, advertising and events.

Tees Valley Fostering Campaign Objectives

  • Raise awareness of fostering within the Tees Valley area and the need for more foster carers.
  • Recruit more foster carers from within the Tees Valley area and signpost them to their Local Authority.
  • Steer application choice to Tees Valley Local Authorities as opposed to Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs).
  • Promote the fostering services and support available from each of the Local Authorities within the Tees Valley
  • Highlight the need to recruit more foster carers for harder to place children such as children over 10, children with disabilities, and sibling groups, as well as long term foster placements and supported lodgings for children and young people until the age of 21.
  • Emphasise the rewards and support available to Local Authority foster carers.
  • Dispel myths around fostering, which may be preventing people from make an enquiry.
  • Increase the capacity to undertake larger, ‘bigger budget’ marketing activities as a Tees Valley partnership by joining up resources and sharing the cost of recruitment.

Assessment process to become an approved Foster Carer for Middlesbrough

Enquiry Stage

A key element of the recruitment strategy is that of responding to enquiries in a positive but realistic way.  Enquiries are taken by a member of the Fostering Service who obtains basic details and answers any initial questions.  An information pack is sent out within 5 days of receipt of the enquiry.  If the enquirer wants to go on to the next stage, they send back a short form giving basic details of themselves and the type of fostering that interests them.

Once a reply slip has been received a social worker will conduct a screening call. The screening call provides an opportunity for the enquirer to ask any questions and for the social worker to gather further background information so an informed decision can be made as to whether the enquirer can proceed. If the enquirer does not meet the criteria for fostering advice will be offered at this time.

If the enquirer proceeds an initial visit is arranged. Two social workers visit and provide information on the application process and its requirements, the needs of children who are looked after and the role of the carer.  They will also find out about the families circumstances and their motivation to foster. Following further discussion, an agreement is reached in respect of the progression of the application. If the enquirer proceeds from this point a second home visit is arranged. A registration of interest form is completed to proceed to stage one. The enquirer will now be known as a prospective foster carer/s.

Stage 1

Stage 1 of the process to become an approved foster carer will officially begin and will last 8 weeks. The registration of interest form is signed to give consent to proceed and for statutory checks to be completed for all relevant people in the household. Once the form has been completed and returned, references are taken up with the Disclosure and Barring Service and all relevant statutory agencies.  This includes contact with the relevant embassy if the applicant has worked abroad and the records of the RAF/Navy/Army if the applicant has been a member of the Armed Forces.

References from the applicant’s current employer are sought.  Medical examinations are carried out by the applicant’s doctor using the BAAF Medical Form and returned to Middlesbrough Medical Adviser for comments and a recommendation.

The prospective foster carer/s are notified of the dates for the preparation group and are advised that the preparation group is an important part of the application process and they are expected to attend each session.  The preparation group normally runs for 3 full days and includes the children of the family if they are of an appropriate age.  There is evaluation and feedback at the end of the group.  At this point some people also decide not to proceed any further.

Once a foster carer has been approved by a fostering service, they cannot be approved by another service until their original approval has been terminated.

If an applicant has been a foster carer in the previous 12 months, a written reference from their previous fostering service is obtained; there is no additional requirement to also interview personal referees. However, the fostering service can choose to seek verbal and/or written references from personal referees, in addition to the fostering service’s reference. If the previous fostering service does not provide a reference, for whatever reason, interviews with two personal referees must be conducted.

Where an applicant has been approved previously, or is currently approved, as a foster carer regulation 26(1A) gives the fostering service undertaking the current assessment the power to request access to records about the applicant held by the fostering service which granted the approval (provided that the applicant consents). That service must provide access within 15 working days of a request being received. Records compiled by another fostering service, can be used to inform the new assessment of the applicant’s suitability to foster. For instance, if previous partners have been interviewed in the previous assessment, and the current assessing social worker is satisfied with the records in respect of these interviews, it should not be necessary to repeat the interviews if no further information is required. The assessing social worker should, however, satisfy themselves as to the quality and continuing relevance of the information before using it to inform the current assessment.

If the fostering service’s decision maker decides that the applicant is not suitable to foster, the applicant will be written to informing them of this decision and giving full reasons for the decision. This will occur within 10 working days of all the stage 1 information being received.

If it is decided not to continue with an assessment because of information collected as part of Stage 1, the applicant must be informed that they can complain via the fostering service’s complaints process.

Once all statutory checks and references are completed and no issues have arisen stage two will begin. Stage 2 of the process to become approved foster carers last 4 months.

Stage 2

Stage 2 assessment is using the BAAF Form F. The assessment is normally carried out by 2 workers. The topics covered include: personal background, history, experiences, parenting experiences, birth children’s views, the home environment, dog/pet safety and the applicant’s own contributions.  In addition to the assessment sessions with the applicants and their family, at least 2 personal referees are interviewed, as are the ex-partners of the applicants where it has been agreed that there was a ‘significant’ relationship. Children of the applicants living elsewhere will also be interviewed, with the agreement of their carer or their agreement if adults.

When all the necessary material is available, the Form F is completed by the social workers using contributions from the prospective foster carer/s. The Form F is read and signed by the prospective foster carer/s and is presented to Middlesbrough Family Placement Panel which meets every 2 weeks.  Prospective foster carer/s are encouraged to attend the panel meeting when the application is discussed.  The Family Placement Panel considers the Form F and makes a recommendation regarding the application.  This recommendation is then approved (or not) by the Agency Decision Maker of Children’s Care.  Prospective foster carer/s are then notified in writing of the outcome of their application. If approved the foster carer is transferred to a supervising social worker with a support and retention remit.

If an application is not recommended by Panel and the prospective foster carer/s do not accept this, they can choose either to make further representations to the Family Placement Panel or to have their application referred to an independent body known as the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM).  The IRM will review the recommendation made by Middlesbrough Family Placement Panel and make its own recommendation about the prospective foster carer/s suitability, which the agency must then take into account when making the decision about the application.

Induction, Support, Training and Review

Foster carer approved
As part of its commitment to the development of the foster care service and increasing the skills of its foster carers, Middlesbrough Fostering Service provides a training programme.  Training can also be provided to meet an individual identified need.  Foster carers are given support and encouragement to participate and methods of delivery include distance learning and e-learning as well as group training sessions. Training can take the form of a workshop, literature, signpost to website, DVD or a discussion with a professional, experienced foster care or supervising social worker.

Foster carers can keep up to date with training that is on offer via the website this is available via a secure platform on www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/fostering. Some training opportunities require the carer to apply on line, while other training may require a phone call or e-mail to a member of the Fostering team. Carers are sent texts to remind them of training available or for confirmation of a place on training.

In addition to the training sessions provided by the Fostering Service, other training opportunities are available through the training provided by the Middlesbrough Local Safeguarding Children’s Board and through the purchase of places at external training events, which are relevant to foster care.

All foster carers who are approved by Middlesbrough Fostering Service have their approval reviewed at least once a year.  The review process within Middlesbrough is also used as a means of giving foster carers the chance to give some feedback on the service they receive from Children’s Care and to evaluate whether the foster carers are meeting the requirements of Middlesbrough Banded Payments Scheme.  Foster carers are fully involved in the review process and are given a report to complete prior to the review meeting.  They are fully involved in the review meeting which is chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) who is independent of the Fostering Service.  After the review meeting, the IRO completes a review report with a recommendation which is presented to Family Placement Panel for discussion and approval.  Foster carers are able to attend the panel meeting when their review is discussed if they wish.  The review recommendation is then given by the Director of Children’s Care and foster carers are notified in writing of the outcome of their review.

A summary of the complaints procedure

Complaints about Middlesbrough Fostering Service are dealt with using the complaints procedure of Middlesbrough Council.  This procedure sets out 3 stages to dealing with a complaint.

Stage 1 – Local Resolution

The Manager of the service will attempt to address the complaint as quickly as possible.  Within 3 days of receiving the complaint, the Complaints Section will acknowledge the complaint telling them who will look into the complaint and provide them with information on the complaints procedure.  The Manager will contact the complainant to discuss the complaint and try and resolve the issues within 10 working days.  If the Manager cannot achieve resolution initially, the Manager may take a further 10 working days. The maximum amount of time that Stage 1 should take is 20 working days.

Stage 2 – Investigation

If the person making the complaint is not happy with the outcome at Stage 1 or the timescale has elapsed at Stage 1, the complainant has the right to move onto Stage 2.  A Senior Manager who does not have direct line management of the service or person whom the complaint is being made, will investigate the complaint along with an Independent Person who is appointed from outside of the local authority, whose role is to ensure that the process of investigation is open, transparent and fair.

The Investigating Officer and Independent Person will meet with the complainant to agree the elements of complaint.  Once the Investigating Officer and Independent Person have completed their investigation they will both prepare a written report, which will be sent to the Department and complainant.

The Investigation should be completed within 25 working days, if this is not possible the timescale may be extended to a maximum of 65 workings days.  The Children’s Complaints Officer or the Investigating Officer will discuss any extensions to the timescale with the complainant.

Stage 3 – Review Panel

If the person making the complaint is not happy with the outcome of the Stage 2 investigation, they can ask for the complaint to be considered by a Review Panel.  The panel will consist of an Independent Chair and two other Independent People who do not work for the local authority.

The purpose of the Review Panel is to consider the adequacy of the Stage 2 investigation and focus on achieving resolution for the complainant by addressing their clearly defined complaints and desired outcomes.

The Review Panel should take place within 30 working days of receiving the request.  The person making the complaint will be informed of the recommendations of the Review Panel within 5 working days and the Executive Director of Wellbeing Care & Learning will send the complainant a response to the Panel’s recommendations within 15 working days of the panel meeting.

The Complaints Officer will help with a complaint if:

  • you are not happy with the care you get
  • nobody listens to you
  • you are not happy with things people do for you
  • you need more help

To make a complaint you can write:

The Complaints Manager
Town Hall
Middlesbrough
TS1 9FX

Email: comps@middlesbrough.gov.uk

Tel: 01642 729707

The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills

The Fostering Service of Middlesbrough Council is inspected every 3 years by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

The Northern Regional Centre is at:
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
Manchester
M1  2WD

Phone:    0300 123 123 1
Email : enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk