Standards and Regulations

Fostering Services National Minimum Standards (England) 2011:

Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care:

See also:

1. Introduction

When we talk about relationships and sex it can often feel like quite a difficult subject. What you need to remember is that this subject covers many things including friendships, body parts and body changes.

Figures show that Looked After Children are at high risk of becoming a teenage parent because of sometimes being out of education or being moved from placements so it is vital that you feel able to deal with this subject.

You should ensure that as part of the Placement Plan you are clear of any family values or religious beliefs that underpin this subject. A parent may express wishes about their child's sex education, which should be taken into account, but your over-riding aim must be to safeguard a young person's health and well-being.

2. Talking About Relationships and Sex

Age-appropriate conversations about relationships should begin early in a child's life and continue as they grow up. But if a young person is placed with you as an older teenager, it's never too late to talk about sex. All children need communication, guidance, and information about these issues, even if they sometimes don't appear to be interested in what you have to say. They may come across a lot of inappropriate information on the TV, radio or internet so the need to be able to check what is right and what is wrong.

Remember to talk to both girls and boys and don't assume if there are two carers, the other is doing it. Both carers should be involved in these conversations.

You must adopt the same approach with children who explore or are confused about their sexual identity or who have decided to follow a particular lifestyle so long as it is not abusive or illegal.

Discussing relationships and sex can be more complex if the child/young person has been sexually abused. They may blame themselves and have confused feelings about the purpose of sex. You may need to work closely with other professionals including the child's social worker to ensure they are clear on appropriate relationships and sexual behaviour, and to rebuild self-esteem and develop trusting relationships.

You should try not to project how you feel about the subject onto the child, so if you cringe when asked a question, the child may also shut down or be unsure what this means.

Research says that if parents/carers talk to children about this subject they are more likely to delay having sex and use contraception when they do.

Effective relationships and sex education at home and at school is essential if young people are to make responsible and well informed decisions about their lives and resist peer pressure.

Schools are required to provide relationships and sex education as part of the curriculum for all children and young people. School programmes are based on national and local guidelines and take place both at primary and secondary level. Sometimes you will be automatically notified by a child's school of what they are planning to deliver; if not you should try to find out when programmes are being introduced so that you are prepared for any questions they may have.

3. Useful Tips

Some useful tips:

  • Start early, don't feel you need to know it all, but if the child asks you a question and you don't know the answer say you will get back to them and make sure you do. Answer questions simply if asked - e.g. what is a condom? It stops women from having babies;
  • It is always best to check out what a child/young person knows, so if they ask you a question, ask them what they think it means;
  • Do not wait for them to raise the subject. You could talk to a young person about something that has been on the television or in the news to get their views. This should also cover topics such as friendships, respect and trust;
  • Find books, leaflets or appropriate websites dependent on age for the child to look at, or look at them together;
  • Find out where local services are that can help. Contact local youth services or look on-line for more information;
  • Try to be truthful as stories about storks can be confusing and will need to be changed later.

4. My Foster Child Thinks They Want a Baby

Some young people may have a strong desire to have a baby. They may think by doing this they can create their own family which could offer love and stability. It may be useful to seek support from their social worker or your Supervising Social Worker about how to deal with this. They could help you identify possible agencies that may be able to advise you. They may look at exercises such as:

  • How they plan to support a baby emotionally and financially;
  • What are the day to day costs needed to care for a baby;
  • Experiencing what it is like to care for a baby;
  • What do they want for their children?

5. Contraception and Pregnancy

Whilst not encouraging it, it is understood that young people may engage in sexual activity; some before they reach the age of consent which is 16. You should speak to your Supervising Social Worker and the child's social worker to agree what steps to take to reduce the risk of pregnancy or infection, including contact with a sexual health services. As a foster carer you should not give advice on contraceptive choices, the sexual health services are trained to do this. Any child under the age of 16 years can ask for contraceptive advice without the consent of a parent or guardian.

If a young person is suspected or known to be pregnant or have a sexually transmitted infection, you should speak to your Supervising Social Worker, who should consult the child's social worker to decide on the actions that should be taken as soon as possible.

Children under the age of 13 are deemed unable in law to give consent to any sexual activity. If you are concerned that a child under 13 years who is placed with you has engaged in sexual activity, this must be referred to the local authority's Children's Social Care Services as a Child Protection Referral.

If you are concerned that a young person is being abused, exploited or at risk of Significant Harm, you should share your concerns with the child's social worker as soon as possible.

Issues of confidentiality are vital in promoting positive relationships and sex education, the main principle regarding confidentiality is that you should not tell anybody someone's personal information, unless failure to do so would put them at risk or suspected risk. Young people have a right to expect that those who work with or care for them respect their privacy.

If you are concerned that a young person is being abused, exploited or at risk of Significant Harm, you should encourage them to agree for you to do something that will protect them.

See: Child Sexual Exploitation.

Remember that early sharing of information is key to providing effective help for children and young people. Where possible, practitioners should share confidential personal information with Children's Social Care with consent. However, where there are concerns that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, practitioners should be willing to share information without consent where the public interest served by protecting the child from harm outweighs the duty of confidentiality.

6. Local Sexual Health Services

Local Information - to follow.