How to contact us for advice

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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Fostering panel

The role of a fostering panel is to recommend whether someone is suitable to become (or remain) a foster carer. Every fostering service must set up at least one fostering panel. This should include a range of people with relevant knowledge and experience. There must be one person on the panel who is an experienced social worker. They need to have direct experience of fostering work.

The panel may include:

  • Other social workers and former foster carers with expertise related to:
  • People who have spent time in foster care as children
  • Education and health specialists
  • Local councillors
  • A chair who is independent of the fostering service.

A social worker will have assessed someone who wants to be a foster carer. The social worker will prepare a detailed report which is presented to the panel.

The panel can then make one of the following recommendations:

  • The person should be approved as a foster carer
  • The person should be approved but with certain conditions attached. These will be noted during the assessment)
  • The person should not be approved as a foster carer.

Anyone who has applied to become a foster carer will usually be invited to attend part of the panel meeting at which their assessment is discussed.

The fostering panel does not make the actual decision, however. The panel makes a recommendation to the fostering service. The service’s agency decision maker then takes the final decision. The decision maker must take what the panel says into account but doesn’t have to follow their recommendation.

If someone has their application to become a foster carer rejected, they can appeal through the independent review mechanism.

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