Developing a Safer Caring Plan

1. Introduction

Working out a Safer Caring Plan for your family including your foster child is not about changing everything that you do. It is about thinking about what parts of your family's behaviour involves risk and working out what you can all do so that safer care becomes part of everyday life. This will have already been covered on the training course.

It will also help you to know how to deal with situations that might seem OK in your own family but are not safe in a foster family. It is important that everybody that is in the house is aware of the plan and is signed up to it. Regular visitors to the home need to know about the Safer Caring Plan.

The whole family should be involved in agreeing your plan and in reviewing it each year (or when circumstances change). Your Supervising Social Worker can support you with this. When you have completed your Safer Caring Plan you should discuss it with the child's social worker and give a copy to the fostering service. Sometimes you may need to review your Safer Caring Plan because something new happens like a new placement.

The aim is for all those involved to understand what might happen and to avoid the child feeling worried or anxious. 

When you go on holiday you will need to think about your Safer Caring Plan.

2. Adults and the Safer Caring Plan

Some Looked After Children / Young People may have had negative relationships with adults/adult carers. The experience of having a positive adult role model can help improve the chance of them having a positive relationship with adults in the future. If there is more than one foster carer in the household, a good start is for all  carers to ensure that they get involved from the start in developing their family's Safer Caring Plan. It is really important that all  carers consider their role in order to minimize the risk of allegations.

Foster carers will be expected to share the caring tasks.

3. Working out your Safer Caring Plan

The following are the some of the issues which you may need to consider when developing your family's Safer Caring Plan. This is not intended to be an exhaustive or prescriptive list but should help in drawing up your own personalised plan, which should be tailor-made for your family.

You may wish to also think about:

  • Each issue from everyone's point of view (the foster child, other children in the household, yourself, visitors, possibly pets etc.);
  • Any specific situations when and where areas of conflict might arise;
  • Which caregiver is responsible for implementing each aspect of the plan (remember to include outsiders like babysitters);
  • Setting times to review the plan, not just annually or when there are significant changes;
  • What will happen when you go for a holiday or weekend away?
  • What will you do if one or more aspects of the plan aren't working?

3.1 The Names you use

Children should call you by your first name.

Discourage the child from calling you 'mummy' or 'daddy' because it causes confusion about their own family.

3.2 Physical Contact and Showing Affection

Physical Contact

You must provide a level of care, including physical contact, which demonstrates warmth, respect and a positive regard for children.

Physical contact should be given in a manner, which is safe, protective and avoids the arousal of sexual expectations, feelings or in any way which reinforces sexual stereotypes.

The following include areas which could involve physical contact and which you might want to include in your Safer Caring Plan:

Showing Affection

One of the prime tasks for foster carers is to work with the children to maximise opportunities for forming and benefiting from positive relationships with adults.

Warmth and understanding are essential, but everyone needs to know and understand when a relationship is inappropriate. Showing affection is a very important part of your caring role and should never be avoided because of the fear of allegations

Children who have suffered many unexpected losses in adult relationships are likely to be constantly fearful of being abandoned again.

Children should always be asked first if they would like a kiss, hug or a cuddle. They need to be taught by a caring adult to say 'no' if they do not want to be touched and what touch is appropriate touch.

Families will all have different ways of showing affection and you need to be careful not to impose your way on others. If touch has meant something other than affection to a child in the past, they might not understand that when you try to show them affection.

3.3 Playing

Listen out when children are playing and check when they go quiet. Encourage children where possible to play in public parts of the home.

You may feel that the child should play with friends at your home particularly during the early days of a placement. This may be more difficult when they are older children. If you are not sure, talk to your Supervising Social Worker.

3.4 Stopping Bullying

  • Put in place clear rules that say bullying is not acceptable and what actions will be taken if the foster carers suspect bullying or are told of bullying happening;
  • Make it clear to children what is acceptable behaviour;
  • Provide opportunities for children to think about the issue of bullying e.g. writing stories or poems or drawing pictures about bullying;
  • Have discussions about bullying and why it matters;
  • Be good role models as foster carers.

3.5 Intimate Care

If possible, children should be supported and encouraged to undertake bathing, showers and other intimate care of themselves without relying on carers. If children are too young or are unable to bathe, use the toilet or undertake other hygiene routines, arrangements should be made for carers to assist them. Unless otherwise agreed, if at all possible children should be given intimate care by adults who do not identify as a different gender.

The Bathroom/Toilet

Arrangements for intimate care of young and/or disabled child should be set out in the Placement Plan for each child.

Children who are old enough should be encouraged to wash themselves and should have privacy in the bathroom. It may be possible to sit outside the bathroom so a child remains safe yet is able to bathe in privacy.


Wherever possible, girls should be supported and encouraged to keep their own supply of sanitary protection without having to request it from carers. There should also be adequate provision for the private disposal of used sanitary protection.

Enuresis and Encopresis

If it is known or suspected that a child is likely to experience enuresis, encopresis or may be prone to smearing it should be discussed openly, but with great sensitivity, with the child if possible, and strategies adopted for managing it; these strategies should be outlined in the child's Placement Plan. Please be mindful of the fact that the review of the plan may be held in the presence of a variety of involved professionals and be mindful of a child or young person's sensitivities when discussing such sensitive issues. It may be appropriate to consult a Continence Nurse or other specialist, who may advise on the most appropriate strategy to adopt. In the absence of such advice, the following should be adopted:

  • Talk to the child in private, openly but sympathetically;
  • Do not treat it as the fault of the child, or apply any form of sanction;
  • Do not require the child to clear up unless agreed as part of the treatment strategy; arrange for the child to be cleaned and remove then wash any soiled bedding and clothes;
  • Keep a record;
  • Consider making arrangements for the child to have any supper in good time before retiring, and arranging for the child to use the toilet before retiring; also consider arranging for the child to be woken to use the toilet during the night;
  • Consider using mattresses or bedding that can withstand soil. You may be able to request a mattress protector from the fostering service if you need it.
Children who are old enough should be encouraged to wash themselves and should have.

3.6 When you go out

You have responsibilities towards the children you are looking after and towards those you ask to baby-sit or look after children. You need to think what you can do to avoid putting everyone at risk.

You should be clear about what your Supervising Social Worker considers are satisfactory arrangements for caring for children when you are out. You could make an arrangement with other foster carers.

3.7 Travelling by Car

Think about who travels alone in a car with a foster child. It can be a good way of the child having one-to-one contact because it can be easier to talk without any eye contact. However, a child who has, or may have been, abused might feel unsafe alone in a car with an adult.

A safer rule is for foster carers to avoid travelling alone with a foster child. If this cannot be avoided, the child should travel in the back of the car. If there are two carers with a child, it will be safer for the child to be in the front of the car rather than in the back seat with one adult. Once you know the child well you may want to review this situation.

3.8 Photos, Videos and the Internet

It should be clear in the Placement Plan who can sign to agree for the child's photo or video footage being taken in settings such as school.

If photos, videos or the internet have been part of any abuse for the child/young person, you should check the best way forward with the child's social worker.

It is always helpful when you do take photos or videos, to ask the child's permission first and make sure that they get copies and that they know who else will see them and why.

Be sensitive to how children react to having their photo taken. Do not take photos of children having a bath or wearing no clothes.

When the child uses the internet, take an interest in what they do and agree, when, where and how they will use it. Look into some software that filters inappropriate material for children.

Also see: Internet, Photographs and Mobile Phones.

3.9 Children with Disabilities

Children with a disability may be particularly vulnerable to abuse.

There may be more of a need for intimate personal care. Where a child/young person has a disability or complex health needs, you should speak to the child's social worker for advice.

Foster carers will need to make sure that a child/young person with communication difficulties is able to express their wishes about personal care, and this should also be recorded.

3.10 The Way you Dress

It is important for people to dress appropriately when in the house. Make sure that your family, and foster children have nightwear.

3.11 The Foster Carers' and Other Family Member's Bedrooms

Some parents like to let young children get into their bed to talk, and listen to stories or to be comforted when they are not well. It is one of the dilemmas you face when as a family you are trying to give your own children a normal upbringing whilst wanting to provide a safe environment for the children you foster.

Sharing your bed can trigger the memory of abuse and give the wrong messages about what might happen and what is acceptable. It will be safer to provide all children with a time of affection outside your bedroom, telling stories and maybe having a hot drink together.

3.12 Children's Bedrooms

Your plan should be clear about bedroom rules.

Children over the age of 3 should have their own room but there are exceptional circumstances when children can share - an assessment of this will happen. When this happens, they should have their own space in the room and somewhere to store personal possessions.

Children should not share beds. It may be decided that you should knock on their bedroom door before going in.

Some children who have been abused might need their own space so that they learn that they have the right to be safe and private. The most important thing is for them to have somewhere to keep their belongings safe.

3.13 Bedtime

Bedtimes are an opportunity for carers to show care and warmth towards the child, striking the balance between rules and safe caring need to be found for each individual child. The rules are similar to bath time. Consideration should be given to whether the child's previous experiences and preferences mean it might be better for either a carer identifying as a particular gender to carry out this task, or for both joint carers to do it. Carers should leave the door open when putting children to bed.

3.14 Education about Relationships, Sex and Sexuality

Relationships and sex education is important for all of us as we grow up. This should also be age appropriate. Children need to be helped to think about what makes a good friend and what makes a bad friend. They need to learn how to avoid situations that might put them at risk of abuse and how to protect themselves and others. Children need to learn how to say 'no'. Carers need to know how to explain the difference between what is and is not acceptable behaviour and how to help children change behaviour that is not right for their age. You may need to say that you are talking to them about relationships and sex to help them deal with situations, feel safer and as part of growing up.

Families will have different approaches to this subject and how children get information about relationships, sex and sexuality and what they are told. You will need to find out from the child's social worker what the family's approach was and the best way of dealing with this, particularly if the child/young person has a different cultural or religious background from your own. You may also want to check out with school/educational setting what they are doing on the subject so you can be prepared.

Providing a safer environment means that other children in the foster home must understand that any sexual activity with a foster child is as unacceptable as with a biological brother or sister. See Relationships and Sex.

The most important thing is that the child feels they can come and ask you questions and talk to you about the subject if they are not sure. Foster carers should never share personal details about this subject with the child.

3.15 Fire Plan

Discuss as a family what routes you will take if a fire starts and practice an evacuation. Think about where keys are kept so everybody knows where they will be for the front and back doors and windows.