As equal members in the team around the child, foster carers should be included in conversations where decisions are being made for or about the child they care for.
Why should foster carers be involved in decisions about a child’s care?
In many cases, foster carers know the child they are looking after better than any other professional. As they are responsible for their day-to-day care, foster carers are likely to have a unique understanding of the child’s needs and preferences (likes and dislikes) and the most up-to-date information about them and their lives. As well as this, foster carers are often asked to advocate with or on behalf of the child, to represent their wishes or feelings (for example, in relation to their education or health). This means it is very important for foster carers to be included in conversations where decisions are being made about the child they care for.
How should foster carers be involved?
As equals in the team around the child, foster carers should be invited to contribute to all relevant discussions about the child. This means that, in principle, foster carers should be invited to any formal or informal discussion, meeting or assessment that involves the child, the child's care plan or themselves, whether or not a decision about the child or the child’s care plan is made. This is made clear in all government legislation, regulations, statutory and good practice guidance across all four nations of the UK.
Which meetings should foster carers be invited to?
It is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of all meetings that foster carers should be invited to across all four nations of the UK. The meetings foster that carers should be invited to will vary depending on a child’s individual circumstances and care plan, and the legislation in each nation. But the basic principle is that foster carers should be invited to all relevant discussions about the child in their care.
We believe that foster carers should be involved in decision-making at every stage to prepare for and support a child they care for. This means that foster carers should be invited to discussions or meetings about:
- Planning – for example, meetings about how best to protect and support a child they have been, or may be, matched with.
- Welcoming – for example, meetings to plan a child’s care, or to plan how to support a child to keep in touch with their birth parent(s).
- Monitoring – for example, reviews of a child’s care plan.
- Supports – for example, meetings to review a child’s mental or physical health needs; wellbeing; educational needs; discussions around safeguarding issues; or meetings to prevent or minimise relationships breaking down.
- Changes – for example, meetings to plan a child's return home, adoption, special guardianship or long-term foster care (permanence); discussions about planning a move to a different foster family; or conversations about a young person’s pathway into adulthood and independence.
As foster carers are responsible for the child’s day-to-day care, it is important that they have the chance to contribute to discussions that might affect that care, and to advocate with or on behalf of the child in their care for the decisions that are best for the child.
What happens if foster carers can’t attend a meeting about the child in their care?
Some meetings about a child’s care will be planned well in advance, while others will need to be scheduled at much shorter notice, because of a change in a child’s circumstances, or a specific incident. In either case, meetings should be arranged at a time/place where key people in the team around the child, including foster carers, have the opportunity to attend. For this to happen, it’s important to understand and plan for any circumstances that might prevent foster carers from being able to contribute to discussions, for example, having other children that they care for during the ‘usual’ working day.
If foster carers are not able to attend a meeting, discussion or assessment about a child in their care, they should be invited to contribute in another way. For example, a foster carer might want to send a written statement to be read out at a meeting, or share their thoughts with their supervising social worker, who can communicate these on the foster carer’s behalf. As equal members of the team around the child, the views of the people caring for the child should be heard and taken into account. After the meeting, foster carers should be fully informed about what was said at the meeting, and any decisions that were made.
Are there any meetings that foster carers should not attend?
In some cases, it may not be appropriate for a foster carer to attend a meeting about a child in their care. For example, if someone raised a serious safeguarding concern about a foster carer, or someone in the fostering household, it would not be appropriate for the foster carer to attend a meeting to discuss the child’s safety (for example, ‘strategy meetings’). In these instances, the fostering service should represent the foster carer in the discussion and keep the foster carer fully informed about what was said, what the next steps are, and why it is not appropriate for the foster carer to be involved.
There may also be some meetings where social workers and supervising social workers may represent the foster carers’ view as part of a wider discussion, for example, at Local Authority ‘panel’ meetings about the allocation of resources. In these cases, it may not be practical for individual foster carers to attend, as decisions are not being made on an individual level.
What else can help the team around the child work together?
The Fostering Network has long campaigned for foster carers to be recognised as equal members in the team around the child. We believe that the Foster Carers' Charter will help to make this a reality. The Foster Carers’ Charter represents a commitment on behalf of the placing authority in its role as the corporate parent, the fostering service and the foster carers to work in partnership for the bests interests of the children they care for. Our vision is to see a Foster Carers’ Charter in place at every fostering service in the UK.
How can I find out more?
If you have a specific question about fostering, you can contact our advice and information services, available to people interested in, or involved in, foster care in all four nations of the United Kingdom.
The published legislation and guidance that underpins the principles on this page can be found:
- In England, in:
- The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review (2015), Volume 3: transition to adulthood for care leavers (2015) and Volume 4: fostering services (2015)
- The Independent Reviewing Officers’ (IRO) Handbook (2010)
- Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018)
- Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards
- In Wales, in:
- In Scotland, in:
- Children (Scotland) Act 2020
- Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014
- The Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009
- Guidance on the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 and the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007
- Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 see also The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 and being a Relevant Person
- In Northern Ireland, in:
Published: February 2022