All fostering services must review a foster carer in accordance with appropriate legislation, fostering regulations and guidance. The review will consider whether a foster carer's approval should continue and if there should be any changes to their terms of approval (if any are set). Reviews are an opportunity to reflect over the previous year, consult others, acknowledge what has gone well, and consider any challenges as well as exploring the support needs of a foster carer.
About annual reviews
In England and Wales a review of foster carers’ approval must take place not more than a year after approval, and thereafter whenever the fostering service provider considers it necessary, but at intervals of not more than a year. In England and Wales fostering regulations make it clear that the first review must go back to the fostering panel. After that, there is no legal requirement for a review to go back to panel, although the fostering service can choose to do so.
In Scotland, reviews must be held within 12 months of the day of approval, and subsequent reviews within three years of the previous review to the fostering panel. In Scotland, all reviews are undertaken on an annual basis (but there is no legal requirement for all reviews to go back to panel unless as stated it is the first review, subsequent reviews within three years, or where the agency considers that a review of the foster carer’s approval is necessary or appropriate to safeguard the welfare of any child who has been placed with that carer.
Fostering regulations make it clear that the first review report has to go back to panel. After that, there is no legal requirement for a review to go back to panel, although the fostering service can choose to do so.
Principles of reviews
The following principles should apply in terms of annual reviews:
- Fostering services should have a clear local policy and practice guidance in relation to how they undertake foster carer reviews.
- Terms of approval should be kept under review in order to consider any changes in circumstances, household members, age and range of children cared for etc.
- Allegations or concerns may trigger the need for a review as could any major change in the foster carer’s household – for example, a serious health issue, or separation or divorce.
- A report of the review must be written and shared with the foster carer and they should have the opportunity to include their own comments.
- A review should at a minimum seek and take account of the views of the foster carer, any children in placement during the last year, and the children’s social worker(s).
- Fostering services must prepare a written report setting out whether the foster carer is suitable to continue to foster, their household continues to be suitable and the terms of approval continue to be appropriate and send out written notification to the foster carer.
- Where fostering services determine the unsuitability of approval of a foster carer, the carer must be informed of their rights and timescales to submit any written representations to the fostering service provider.
How we can help
The Fostering Network can provide an in-house training course on annual reviews, tailored to meet your service's needs. Contact our training team for more information.
- England - Fostering Services (England) Regulation 2011. Also see Practice Information Note: Annual Reviews in England.
- Wales - The Fostering Panels (Establishment and Functions) (Wales) Regulations 2018
- Scotland - Looked After Children (Scotland) 2009
- Northern Ireland - The Foster Placement (Children) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996
Foster carers should also read this page about reviews.