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3.9.4 Searching Children and their Belongings

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to children placed in Southwark's foster homes, but the principles apply to the placement of all Looked After Children. Therefore, where Looked After Children are placed with parents, kinship carers or in placements not managed by the authority, the social worker must ensure these or other adequate procedures are applied.


Contents

  1. Searching
  2. Notifications
  3. Recording


1. Searching

It may be appropriate to conduct a search of a child or a child's belongings if there is reasonable cause to believe that the child has concealed weapons, illegal drugs, other dangerous items or stolen goods and it is unlikely that the items will not be given up without searching for them.

Preferably, the child should agree to the search; but if agreement is not forthcoming, a search may be undertaken without the child's co-operation.

This may include conducting a search of a child's belongings without informing or consulting the child, but such measures may only be undertaken where it is necessary to do so to prevent Significant Injury or Serious Damage to Property.

If the child is consulted and does not agree to the search, the foster carer should consult the fostering social worker and child's social worker before taking any action. However, if there is an immediate risk of Significant Injury or Serious Damage to Property the foster carer should contact the Police or may use Physical Intervention.

Please see the following Chapters:

Physical Interventions Procedure

Contacting the Police Procedure

If a child is searched, only outer garments may be searched. More intimate searches may only be conducted by the Police or with the authorisation of the Court.

When conducting searches, reasonable precautions must be taken to protect against possible sharp or dangerous objects that may be concealed.

If weapons or any dangerous or offensive items are found, they must be confiscated and passed to the fostering social worker for safekeeping.


2. Notifications

There are different notifications procedures for searches concluded with and without children's co-operation.

2.1 Searches Conducted With Children's Co-operation

Searches undertaken with the child's co-operation, where no force is used, must be notified to the fostering social worker by the foster carer the first opportunity. 

2.2 Searches Conducted Without Children's Co-operation

Searches conducted without the child's co-operation which means that a level of force has been used, are deemed to be an Incident and must be notified to the fostering social worker and relevant social worker as soon as possible, but within 24 hours.

The social worker should decide whether to inform the child's parent(s) and if so who should do so.

If the Incident results in any serious damage or the Police are called for assistance, the Designated Manager (Serious/Malicious Damage) must be notified.


3. Recording

There are different recording procedures for searches concluded with and without children's co-operation.

3.1 Searches Conducted With Children's Co-operation

These searches should be recorded in the child's Daily Record.

The details which must be included are:

  1. The time and date of the search
  2. The reason or suspicions which led to the need to conduct the search
  3. Who conducted the search and whether the child or others were present
  4. What was found, and whether items found were retained/confiscated
  5. If items were retained/confiscated, where they were stored

All those present including the child must sign the Detail Record, whether or not s/he was present.

3.2 Searches Conducted Without Children's Co-operation

Any search conducted without the child's co-operation is deemed to be an Incident and must be recorded as such and subject to a Management Review

Please see Incidents - General Guidance.

End