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The term Accommodated normally refers to a child for whom the local authority has provided accommodation, with parental consent, under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.

However, a child is also accommodated if accommodation is arranged by the local authority for a child who is subject to Police Protection, Remanded or otherwise Lawfully Detained.

A child is also accommodated if s/he is subject to a Supervision Order with a Residence requirement. All children who are accommodated come within the definition of Looked After.

Agency Decision Maker

The Agency Decision Maker is the person within a fostering service who makes decisions on the basis of recommendations made by the Fostering Panel. The Agency Decision Maker will take account of the Panel’s recommendation before proceeding to make a decision. The Agency Decision Maker can choose to make a different decision.

The National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011 provide that the Agency Decision Maker for a fostering service should be a senior person within the fostering service, who is a social worker with at least 3 years post-qualifying experience in childcare social work and has knowledge of childcare law and practice.


To become an adopter or foster carer, families need to be ‘approved’ by a fostering agency. The agency will assess the family, and then formally agree their suitability to foster, and recommend the type of child or children they would best be able to care for.

Asylum Seeker

An asylum seeker is a person who has fled their country and arrived to a country with the intention of seeking asylum / sanctuary within that country. The country they arrived in is also known as the “host country”. People are known as asylum seekers whilst they are making an application for and until granted Refugee Status or Humanitarian Protection.

British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF)

BAAF has four main roles in relation to Adoption and Fostering:
Standard Setting
Raising Awareness
Advocacy and Child Placement
BAAF also provides medical and social report forms (such as BAAF Form F) for collecting information about children, birth parents and prospective adoptive parents or foster carers.


Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is the Government agency responsible for Reporting Officers, Children’s Guardians and other Court officers appointed by the Court in Court Proceedings involving children.

Care Order

A Care Order may be granted (by the Courts) if it is considered unsafe for the child to live at home. A child or young person to whom a Care Order has been granted is classed as ‘looked after’. The legal parental responsibility for the looked after child or young person is then either solely placed with the Local Authority or shared between the Local Authority and the child’s birth parents.

The Local Authority is responsible for key decisions about the child’s welfare and who they live with. Local Authorities can then place a child or young person with a foster carer registered with them, or registered with an IFA. They also control who the child has contact with.

Care Plan

Every Looked After child must have a Care Plan completed and updated by the social worker.

The overall purpose of the plan is to safeguard and promote the interests of the child, prevent drift and focus work with the child and the family.

The Care Plan must be regularly reviewed at Looked After Reviews.

The Care Plan sets out its overall objectives and timescales (including, by the time of the second Looked After Review, how permanence will be achieved for the child), summarises the needs of the child, identifies the services required to meet those needs and describes the management and support of the plan by the local authority.

Before a Court grants a Care Order it must be satisfied that a suitable Care Plan has been drawn up.

The child’s overarching Care Plan should include:

  • Placement Plan (setting out why the placement was chosen and how the placement will contribute to meeting the child’s needs) 
  • Permanence Plan (long-term plans for the child’s upbringing including timescales)
  • Pathway Plan (where appropriate, for young people leaving care)
  • Health Plan
  • Personal Education Plan

Challenging behaviour

Children with particular special needs may display what is known as challenging behaviour. For example, some children may have tantrums, show aggression, or be verbally abusive. Fostered children often have special needs related to their history and circumstances. A child who is disabled or has attachment issues or a learning difficulty may exhibit challenging behaviour. Training in dealing with challenging behaviour is available for prospective foster carers from the agency

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

Most local authorities offer a CAMHS service, which provides an inclusive approach to supporting the mental and psychological health of children and young people. The aim is for these children to be assessed and professionally treated and supported, along with their family, across a wide spectrum of services, such as health, education and social care. Such support is generally NHS-provided.

The approach CAMHS uses is organised around a four-tier framework, which ascends according to the extent of the child’s difficulties. For example, a child on tier one will not need to be referred to mental health specialists, but instead get support from people such as GPs, teachers or voluntary agencies. A child on tier four, however, may require admission into hospital or a specialist day unit. Some children may need support in more than one tier, or even all four, at the same time.

Childcare / Parenting Experience

Many agencies may be looking to place a child specifically, or ideally, with families with some experience of caring for, or being around, children. This may be for many reasons; such as the child has particular needs that would require more assured, confident parenting.

Childcare experience can involve anything from babysitting, working in the childcare sector, to looking after nieces and nephews. Parenting experience refers to just that – experience of parenting an adoptive, foster or birth child.

This kind of experience is always helpful. If a prospective foster family has not had much contact with children in adulthood, they may be advised to think about how they can increase this, such as volunteering at a local playgroup or school.

However, childcare or parenting experience is not essential, and many families with no experience of either will go on to foster, with the support and preparation of the agency.

Children’s Services

Local Authority department that provide services to children, young people, their families and carers. Many Social Service Departments have re-organized into Children’s Services and Adult Services

Children’s Social Worker

This is the person responsible from the Local Authority for making plans, supporting the child or young person, contact with the child or young person’s family and coordinating the care plan. They also have legal responsibilities for visiting the child or young person and ensuring that their reviews are carried out

Clinical psychologist

A clinical psychologist will work with people who have a range of psychological or mental health problems, such as challenging behaviours, addictive behaviours, eating disorders, depression, learning disabilities, and so on. The aim is to improve the client’s psychological well-being.

Clinical psychologists tend to work with one particular client group; for example, children or people with learning difficulties. They use assessment methods such as psychometric tests, interviews and direct observation. The treatments they will provide include therapy, counselling and signposting support. They are often called on to act as expert witnesses in court.

Clinical psychologists work mostly in hospitals, health centres and as part of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), usually in multidisciplinary teams, alongside colleagues such as doctors, teachers, social workers and occupational therapists.

CRB Checks

Anyone who is assessed by a fostering agency has a police check (carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau for England and Wales). It is essentially a check of your police record, so the agency is told of everything on your record including any offences that would preclude you from fostering, such as offences against children.


The CWDC was set up to promote the training needs for everyone whose work is mainly with children, young people and families – whether professionally or in a voluntary capacity. CWDC closed on 31 March 2012 with its key work transferring to the Teaching Agency (Early Years, Educational Psychology and Standards and Qualifications), Children’s Improvement Board (Integrated Working) and the Department for Education (Sector Leadership and Social Work).

Direct (or face-to-face) Contact

This involves a meeting or a visit between looked after children and birth family members; it often takes place in a neutral area, such as a family centre, sometimes under the supervision of a social worker. Contact can also be made by telephone.


This is the term given to an unplanned ending to a permanent foster placement.

Emergency foster care

Emergency foster care is fostering at very short notice, such as in the middle of the night if a child’s birth parent is taken into hospital for example. It is usually a temporary placement until another is found.

Every Child Matters

The five outcomes: The Every Child Matters green paper identified the five outcomes that are most important to children and young people. They are:

  • Be healthy
  • Stay safe
  • Enjoy and achieve
  • Make a positive contribution
  • Achieve economic well-being

The five outcomes are ambitions for every child and young person regardless of their background or circumstances. Improving outcomes for all children and young people is the key objective of Children’s Services and Children’s Trusts

This means that the organisations involved with providing services to children are teaming up, sharing information and working together, to protect children and young people from harm and help them achieve what they want in life.

Foster Carer / Foster Parent

Foster Carers play a vital role in providing a safe, secure and stable fostering environment for someone else’s child when they are unable to live with their birth family.

Our foster carers encourage positive and bright futures for looked after children and young people.


Fostering is a way of providing family life for someone else’s child in your own home when they are unable to live with their birth family.

Foster care placements can be short term or long term, and can last for days, months or years. Many children return home to their birth families, but others may receive long term support, either through continued fostering, adoption, residential care, or by being helped to live independently.

Fostering Fees and Allowances

Fostering fees/allowances are provided to cover living costs and offer a reward element in recognition of the demands of becoming a foster carer. Fostering fees/allowances will often vary between fostering agencies. The fostering fees/allowances from Acorn House take into account the professionalism and significance of the role that foster carers play in the lives of looked after children and young people.

Inappropriate behaviours

This applies to a wide range of behaviours that are seen to present difficulties, and may be socially unacceptable. Such behaviour is often intimidatory or invasive, such as outbursts of aggression, both verbal and physical, or sexualised behaviour. It may mean a person is simply behaving unsuitably in certain social situations; for example, it is appropriate that a child is friendly among friends and family, but such behaviour becomes inappropriate when a child is indiscriminately friendly to strangers

Indefinite Leave to Remain

Permission for an asylum seeker to stay in the UK, permanently.

Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA)

IFA’s work in partnership with Local Authorities to provide foster placements for looked after children and young people.

Independent Reviewing Officer

If a Local Authority is looking after a child (whether or not the child is in their care), it must appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) for that child’s case.

From 1 April 2011, the role of the IRO is extended, and there are two separate aspects:  chairing a child’s Looked After Review, and monitoring a child’s case on an ongoing basis, As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has a duty to identify any areas of poor practice, including general concerns around service delivery (not just around individual children).

IRO’s  must be qualified social workers and, whilst they can be employees of the local authority, they must not have line management responsibility for the child’s case.

Interim care order

An interim (or temporary) care order may be granted while waiting for a final care order court hearing. This will give the local authority and others involved more time to gather information about the child’s welfare to help the court make its decision. The order lasts for eight weeks, but the local authority can apply to the court for an extension.

Leave to Remain

Permission for an asylum seeker to stay in the UK, temporarily.

Local Authorities and their role in fostering

Local Authorities are the legal guardians of any looked after children and young people. Local Authorities place looked after children and young people into care using their own foster carers and foster carers registered with Independent Fostering Agencies

Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)

Local authorities in England should identify designated officers (referred to as the LADO) to be involved in the management and oversight of individual cases of allegations of abuse made against those who work with children as set out in the Allegations against People who Work with Children Procedure

Their role is to give advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations; liaise with the Police and other agencies, and monitor the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible consistent with a thorough and fair process. The Police should also identify an officer to fill a similar role.

Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB)

The Local Safeguarding Children Board is the successor to the Area Child Protection Committee. The Board is made up of representatives from a range of public agencies with a common interest and with duties and responsibilities to children in their area. It has responsibility for ensuring effective inter-agency working together to safeguard and protect children in the area. The Board has to ensure that clear local procedures are in place to inform and assist anyone interested or as part of their professional role where they have concerns about a child

Looked After Children (LAC) and Young People (YP)

A Looked After Child (sometimes referred to as ‘LAC’ or Young Person) is a child who is Accommodated by the local authority, or a child who is the subject of an Interim Care Order, full Care Order or Emergency Protection Order.

National Minimum Standards (NMS)

The National Minimum Standards are issued under the Care Standards Act, 2000. There are different minimum standards for the provision of Children’s Homes, Fostering Services, Adoption Services, Residential Family Centres and other care settings, including those in adult provision. The ‘Standards’ must be met in the provision of care for children, adults and older people; and they are the standards which form the basis for inspection and registration by Regulatory Bodies, such as Ofsted. The standards are ‘minimum’ standards, rather than ‘best possible’ practice, and many homes/agencies will more than meet the national minimum standards or will aspire to exceed them in various ways.


Although agencies make decisions about whether a family should be approved as a permanent foster carer, they are guided in this by recommendations made by a group of people who come together to form a fostering panel. Panels are made up of people with diverse and relevant experience of fostering – personal and professional. Panels provide considered recommendations about whether applicant(s) are suitable to foster

The panel’s recommendations must be taken into account by the agency decision maker when making its decision.

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent has by law in relation to a child. Parental Responsibility diminishes as the child acquires sufficient understanding to make his or her own decisions.

A child’s mother always holds Parental Responsibility, as does the father if married to the mother.  Unmarried fathers who are registered on the child’s birth certificate as the child’s father on or after 1 December 2003 also automatically acquire Parental Responsibility.

Otherwise, they can acquire Parental Responsibility through a formal agreement with the child’s mother or through obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order under Section 4 of the Children Act 1989

Parental responsibility can be acquired by any person through a Court Order, for example a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order. As well as an unmarried father, a step parent or a parent’s civil partner can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order under section 4 of the Children Act 1989.

The local authority acquires Parental Responsibility through an Emergency Protection Order, an Interim Care Order and Care Order. In these circumstances the local authority shares Parental Responsibility with the parents and those with Parental Responsibility, including special guardians. Parents do not lose their Parental Responsibility unless an Adoption Order is made.

Where a child is placed with prospective adopters, the prospective adopters acquire Parental Responsibility as soon as the placement is made. This will be shared with the birth parents and with the adoption agency making the placement.The Adoption Panel may give advice on the exercise of Parental responsibility and the Adoption Placement Plan should set out how the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the birth parents and prospective adopters may be restricted.

Personal Education Plan (PEP)

Every child and looked after young person must receive a Personal Educational Plan (PEP) – this is a legal requirement. This document should establish clear objectives, milestones and targets, both academic and behavioural, with the aim of encouraging dialogue between social workers, schools and carers. Other existing plans should fit into, and be integrated with, the PEP. It is the responsibility of the young person’s social worker to initiate the personal education plan by contacting the school’s ‘designated teacher’ for children and young people in public care. The personal education plan should be in place within 20 days of the young person becoming a child or young person in public care or moving to a new school

Placement Plan

All Looked After children are required to have a Placement Plan, which forms part of their overarching Care Plan, and sets out why the placement was chosen and how the placement will contribute to meeting the child’s needs.  It sets out how on a day-to-day basis the child will be cared for and his/her welfare safeguarded and promoted, and the arrangements for matters such as contact,  medical care, education/training, as well as details of the Social Worker, Independent Reviewing Officer and Independent Visitor if one is appointed.  There are additional requirements as to information to be included depending on where the child is placed. The local authority responsible for making the placement is responsible for providing the Placement Plan – this is set out in the Care Planning, Placement and Review (England) Regulations 2010, which became effective from 1 April 2011.


This is the term used to describe placing looked after children and young people into foster care families. IFA’s are usually asked to provide a foster placement for children that the local social services or social work department can’t place with their own foster carers. There is currently a shortage of around 8,750 foster carers nationwide according to the Fostering Network in December 2011.

Respite placements

Respite involves children living with foster carers having short stays with another foster family to give their family/main carers a break. This can last for a weekend, one week or two weeks.

Safeguarding Board

Each local authority area has a Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) made up of representatives of local authorities, health bodies, the police and other agencies. Their aim is to ensure that all agencies work well together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people in their area

Supervising Social Workers

This is the term used to mean the person who is responsible for supervising and supporting foster carers from the Agency. They are also referred to as Link Workers or Family Placement Workers, and are key members of the fostering service

Support networks

Your support networks are your friends, family, and anyone in your wider community, such as religious associates. Agencies will usually want to know more about your support networks, as this helps them understand who will be there for you, and with whom your child will interact. This may be even more relevant if you are a single carer, or if you are planning to permanently foster a large sibling group.