Jargon buster

Not sure what some of the jargon used in fostering actually means? We explain some of the most commonly used words and phrases.

Allegation – an accusation of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or serious neglect, of a child or young person by a foster carer or other member of the foster family.

Allowance - this is a payment given to foster carers to cover the cost of the child's care including food, clothing, transport and pocket money.

Assessment – this is the process undertaken to ensure that a person is suitable to become a foster carer. The assessment process includes interviews, training, references and other checks.

Care plan – every child in care should have a care plan which will include details of their needs and how these will be met, and contain information about their placement and the longer-term planning for their care.

Children's services - part of a local authority that has responsibility for providing services to children and young people, including the provision of foster care.

Child's social worker - this is a social worker who is provided by the responsible authority to work with a child and to plan for their care. They are also responsible for meeting with the child to ensure that their needs are being met.

CIN - abbreviation used for Child in Need.

Connected person – a connected person is a family member (whether by birth or marriage/civil partnership), friend of, or other person who is known to, the child. They can be child minders, teachers, youth workers or others working in a professional capacity with the child.

Contact – the process whereby children stay in touch with people who are important to them, including relatives such as parents and grandparents as well as others, such as former foster carers.

CRB check – the Criminal Records Bureau check is undertaken to discover if a person has an existing criminal record in the UK. CRB checks can include ‘soft’ information, where no criminal charges have been brought but where serious concerns have been raised.

Delegated authority - this is where the responsibility for making day to day decisions about a child has been passed to the foster carer. This can include decisions around activities, hair cuts and overnight stays amongst other things.

Family and friends care - when a child is living full time with someone who is a family member, friend or was previously known to them. The majority of family and friends care is made up of informal arrangements between parents and relatives, but there are other situations and sometimes legal orders too. Where the child is looked after by a local authority and the family and friends carer is approved as their foster carer, this is known as family and friends foster care.

Family and friends foster care - where a child was previously known to their foster carer and their foster carer was approved to look after them, this is known as family and friends foster care. More comprehensive guidance on family and friends foster care in England is given in Family and Friends Care: statutory guidance for local authorities.

Fee - this is a payment made to a foster carer for their work as a foster carer.

Foster care agreement - an agreement between the fostering service and the foster carer which sets out matters such as terms of approval, the obligations of the foster carer, and what training and support the fostering service will provide for them. More information on what should be included in the Foster Care Agreement can be found In Schedule 5 of the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011.

Fostering panel - the panel is a group of appointed people who make recommendations on the approval of prospective foster carers and any changes to the approval of existing foster carers. Details of who has to sit on this panel are covered in Regulation 23.

Fostering service decision maker - this is a senior person within the fostering service who makes a final decision on the recommendations from the fostering panel (see above). The qualifications required for this role are explained in National Minimum Standard 23.

Guidance - this explains how the regulations should be put into practice. All fostering services must comply with them unless there are exceptional circumstances. You can read the the guidance relating to foster care in England on the Department for Education website.

Health and Social Care Trust - A Health and Social Care Trust is the local public authority for your area in Northern Ireland who has a fostering service that places children from that area into foster care. A listing of IFPs that are members of the Fostering Network is available on Find a Fostering Service.

IFP - An IFP (Independent Fostering Provider) is an organisation that places children into foster placements on behalf of the Local Authority. Some are profit making companies while other are charities or not for profit companies. A listing of IFPs that are members of the Fostering Network is available on Find a Fostering Service.

Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) – the IRM reviews, on behalf of the secretary of state, qualifying determinations issued by fostering services.

Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) - the IRO is a social worker who takes part in the reviews for children in care. They chair the review and monitor implementation of the care plan, as well as ensuring that the child’s voice is heard and that their wishes are taken into account. You can find out more about the work of the IRO on the Department for Education's website.

Local Authority - the local council that has responsibility for children’s services, including provision for looked after children. A listing of Local Authorities that are members of the Fostering Network is available on Find a Fostering Service.

Looked after child - anyone under age 18 who is looked after by the local authority, either because they are on a care order or they are accommodated through a voluntary agreement with their parents.

National Minimum Standards – these describe the absolute minimum standard of service expected by the government, which fostering services must provide. They are used during inspections to check the regulations are being met. You can read the National Minimum Standards for Foster Care in England on the Department for Education website.

Ofsted – the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) is the government body responsible for inspecting fostering services in the England. All independent fostering providers have to be registered with Ofsted.

Parental responsibility - all the rights, duties, responsibilities and powers which the law gives a parent in relation to their child. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility as do fathers if married to the mother when or after the child was born or by other legal agreements. Parental responsibility can also be given by the courts to others under orders such as special guardianship or adoption.

Pathway plan – the pathway plan is completed as part of the leaving care process for each young person and includes any actions that have to be carried out by the responsible authority, foster carer, the young person themselves and any others involved.

Personal Education Plan (PEP) – the PEP is part of the child’s care plan and gives information about the arrangements that have been made for their educational and/or training needs by the responsible authority.

Placement plan – the placement plan forms part of the child’s overall care plan and lays out how the placement will meet the particular child’s needs.

Private fostering - an arrangement whereby a parent arranges for their child under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled) to live with someone who is not a relative (as defined below) for more than 28 days. Private fostering arrangements must be notified to the local authority, who will visit periodically to ensure the welfare of the child.

Qualifying determination – this is where a fostering service is considering to not approve a prospective foster carer, wishes to change the terms of approval of an existing foster carer or feels a foster carer is no longer suitable to foster. In the case of receiving a qualifying determination that they don’t agree with, prospective and existing foster carers can make representations to the fostering service or they can ask the IRM to review the situation. However, they cannot do both.

Regulations - these outline the legal requirements for foster care and all fostering services must comply with them. Failure to do so is a breach of the law. You can read the Fostering Services regulations for England on the Government Legislation website.

Relative - defined by the Children Act 1989 s.105 as a person who is by full blood, half blood, marriage or civil partnership the grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt, or step-parent of a child.

Residence order - an order granted by the court which gives the holder parental responsibility for a child, although they share this with anyone else who has parental responsibility.

Responsible authority - this is the authority that has responsibility for ensuring that the child is looked after appropriately while in its care.

Short breaks – these are a series of placements made for a limited amount of time where the child then returns to their parents. This does not include children who are subject to a care order.

Special Guardianship – when the court makes a Special Guardianship order it gives parental responsibility to the special guardian, which they share with anyone else who has this. The order lasts until the child is 18, unless the court discharges it earlier.

Statement of purpose – required by law under the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, the statement of purpose must include the aims and objectives of the fostering service as well as the services and facilities that they offer. The statement of purpose has to be placed on the fostering service’s website if they have one.

Staying Put scheme – a scheme that supports young people to remain with their former foster carer beyond the age of 18.

Usual fostering limit - under the Children Act 1989 Schedule 7, the numbered of children fostered by a foster carer is limited (the usual fostering limit). The current usual fostering limit is three children unless the children are all siblings although exemptions can be granted. More information about the usual fostering limit and its exemptions can be found in section 5 of the The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 4: Fostering Services.