The Foster Home and Health and Safety

1. Introduction

As part of your preparation to foster, you will have been provided with training on health and safety and be clear on what your responsibilities are as a carer. This will be continually reviewed by your Supervising Social Worker. You may also receive a visit from an Inspector from Ofsted as part of the inspection process for the fostering service.

Foster homes should provide a warm and welcoming environment where children are safe from harm or abuse as well as bullying. The home should be clean and well maintained including decor.

2. Equipment

Your Supervising Social Worker will talk to you about any safety equipment the fostering service may be able to offer. Any equipment provided by the fostering service is on loan and must be returned at the end of the placement. These discussions will include your arrangements for transport including car seats etc.

3. Fire Safety

The whole family should decide on a fire exit strategy which identifies which exits you might use.

The foster home should have smoke alarms, one on each floor of the house. You should make sure batteries are changed as needed.

You should avoid multi-way adapters as these are a fire hazard.

When doors and windows are locked e.g. at night, all members of the house including the foster child should know where to find the keys in the case of an emergency.

You should store matches and flammable liquids safely out of the reach of any child.

4. Kitchen Safety

You should make sure that all appliances are safe and in good working order.

There should be no leads from kettles or irons hanging where a child could pull it.

When you are cooking turn pan handles towards the back of the cooker so they cannot be pulled, and, if you have small children, use a stair gate to keep them out of the kitchen.

Cat litter trays should not be kept in the kitchen and must be kept out of reach of children.

Toxic/hazardous substances, such as bleach, cleaning materials, medicines, glue and aerosols should be stored safely and securely out of the reach of any child.

Where children have allergies, preventative measures should be detailed in their Care and Placement Plans and Health Care Plan - for example following good hygiene routines in terms of utensils and crockery, hand washing, avoiding cross contamination in the kitchen area, checking labels for allergens and any agreed allergen avoidance in the home.

5. Outdoor Areas

If you have a swimming pool or a pond it should be covered, fenced off or drained.

Any chemicals should be kept in a locked, safe place which children cannot access.

Any out-buildings such as garages and sheds should be locked. 

If you have slides and swings, they should be secure with a soft surrounding area. 

A greenhouse/shed should be in good repair and any glass should be away from the play area or made of toughened glass. 

Barbecues should be closely supervised and children should never be left unattended near them. Barbecues can remain hot for a long period of time after use and they should be damped down once finished with. Children should not be allowed to light barbecues. Never leave barbecues unattended.

If children play unsupervised in the garden, then gates and fences should be secure.

Some fairly common garden plants are poisonous and some are fatal. Children may eat berries and think they are okay. Poisonous plants should not be in the garden. If they already are, you should remove them.

6. Pets

You should not keep a dog which comes within the scope of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, either because it is a banned type of dog (any dog of the type known as the pit bull terrier; Japanese Tosa; Dogo Argentino; Fila Brasiliero), or a dog (of any breed/type) which is dangerously out of control, including on private premises. It would not be appropriate to place a child in a household where such a classified dog is being kept. Considerations in relation to dogs will include where/how they are kept. A recent Review conducted by Public Health Wales concluded that the most important piece of advice for members of the public is 'to never leave a baby or young child unsupervised with a dog, even for a moment, no matter how well you know that dog'.

As part of the annual review, consideration may also be given to the breeding of animals and/or working animals in relation to the impact of the welfare of the child/young person in your care.

Where children have allergies to pets (for example in relation to asthma or eczema) you should talk to your Supervising Social Worker about how best to minimize the effects.

If you do have pets, you should keep their areas including the garden clean and regularly changed.

7. Gas Appliances

You should make sure that any appliances are in good working order and regularly serviced by a Gas Safe engineer. You may be asked to produce the certificate at the time of your foster carer review.

8. Transport

There is a separate section regarding this, see Transport.

9. Concerns about Health and Safety

If there are concerns about any aspects of your home, then your Supervising Social Worker will discuss this with you and a period of time will be given to resolve the issue. If the issue remains a significant concern and are not resolved, then a report will go to the fostering panel to consider your approval.

Your Supervising Social Worker will support and guide you to creating and maintain a safe and caring environment. They will also help you with developing your Safer Caring Plan (see Developing a Safer Caring Plan) and arrange a break (respite) from fostering.

This information will be reviewed and amended along with any changes in legislation to make sure you provide the safest possible family home.