Face to Face Contact
Face to face contact between foster children and their relatives presents a number of risks to foster carers. Every foster carer must consider and evaluate the risk for themselves and their households individually. While most face to face contact was suspended during the initial lockdown, the stance by many Local Authorities now is that it falls under the category of “work” and therefore is exempt from restrictions. However, Local Authorities still have an obligation to consider if face to face contact is essential or if virtual contact would be sufficient. Also classing face to face contact as “essential work” does not exclude Local Authorities from having to ensure the health and safety of those involved with contact. Some Local Authorities have an Infectious Disease Policy which you may find in your fostering handbook and can be applied to Covid-19.
If you are directed to proceed with face to face contact you may want to consider the following:
- As a minimum, ask for the following to be implemented for contact:
- Health questionnaire and declaration for all those prior to attending
- Temperature checks upon arrival
- The use of hand sanitizer for all those attending
- Clear expectation of the use of face masks or visors where individuals are exempt, for the full duration of the contact.
- An outdoor contact setting wherever feasible
- Room to be of an adequate size to allow for social distancing and ventilation (open doors / windows ) for indoor contact settings.
- Contacts limited to immediate birth family and number of individuals participating in contact kept to a minimum.
- Items used during contact to be quarantined for 72 hrs. Preferably, carers supply toys in box exclusively for contact and gifts are placed in the same box also for 72hr.
- Carers to supply all food and drink for duration of contact in disposable packaging.
- Where there is a legal order associated with contact, social work must take reasonable steps to fulfil their obligation to meet the order. Ensure you check the contact order – if it’s recently been renewed or issued it may include a caveat about Covid-19 which gives flexibility to the requirement for face to face contact from a legal perspective.
- Ask for a risk assessment to be completed for contact which includes the risk to yourself and your family, considering any underlying health conditions. You should be allowed to see the risk assessment and input into it directly.
- Ask for social work to provide you with a written contact agreement (agreed by birth parents, social workers and foster carers) which details which safety measures will be implemented (as described above), how they will be checked and what action will be taken if they are not adhered to. This is particularly important if contact is unsupervised or in a family home.
- Agree in writing with your social worker what support (including financial) will be provided to you and your family if anyone in the household becomes ill with Covid-19 or what compensation will be paid in the event of death from Covid-19 as a result of infection due to contact.
If at any point there is mention of removing the child or the threat of panel or deregistration, do not enter into any further conversation. Advise social work that you need 24 hours to consider this information and that you will respond in writing and contact us immediately by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many Foster Carer Workers continue to be asked to facilitate contact via telephone or online apps. Tips to keep in mind are:
- Make sure the app or device you are using does not give others your phone number, email or location. Zoom is a good example, used with an email account set up specifically for this purpose.
- Ensure you, your supervising social worker and the child’s supervising social worker are clear about your role. Foster carers should not be expected to take on the role of supervising contact. If this is something that is normally done by a social worker or a contact supervisor they should be joining the call.
- If you are concerned in any way about facilitating video contact you should seek permission from social work and all parties on the call to record the call for record keeping (this can be done on Zoom – files must be renamed to save them securely)
- Be mindful of your environment – where calls are taking place, what can be seen and who else is around
- Ensure you maintain the confidentiality of other children in the home and that any unrelated children cannot be seen or heard in the background.