Who’s-who in fostering
Foster Carers are key members of a larger team all working together to promote the best interests of children and their families. Below are descriptions of some of the people belonging to that team.
Foster Carers’ Supervising Social Worker (SSW)
This social worker is part of the team that is responsible for recruiting, preparing and ‘assessing’ new Foster Carers. After someone has been approved as a Foster Carer, they are linked with a social worker who provides them with supervision and support. This ‘Supervising Social Worker’ is the link between the Foster Carer and the other members of the social work team. The SSW is usually the person who contacts a Foster Carer to see if they are able to take a new child into their home. They make the arrangements with the child’s Local Authority Social Worker to organise the child’s arrival. They also visit on a regular basis in order to ensure that the placement runs smoothly and to work with Foster Carers on any concerns as they arise. In the Trust, the SSW is the main point of contact for our Foster Carers, and they are also the main contact person for the child’s social worker.
Child’s Social Worker
This is the person who works closely with the child and their own family. They are employed by the Local Authority, that is responsible for the child. They are often the person who brings the child to the Foster Carers’ home for the first time. They visit the child on a regular basis to discuss any problems or issues that have arisen, and to check the child is healthy and happy. It is also their responsibility to make plans for the next step in the child’s life.
With most placements, the aim is to get the child home to their own family. But even when the child is placed with a Foster Carer long-term, and is not returning home, the Foster Carer needs to help them keep in touch with their family. Foster Carers will normally be involved in making the arrangements for any contact that might be agreed within the child’s care plan. This can be regular telephone or written contact through to face-to-face meetings with the child’s parents, family members or important people in the child’s life, at a place arranged between the social workers.
Other Foster Carers
Other Foster Carers can be a valuable form of support. Most Local Authorities and Independent Fostering Agencies have support groups where Foster Carers can meet and talk together about any problems they are experiencing. They may also get together for fun activities such as children’s parties and family barbecues.
Many children in care can have problems with their education. Disruptions and changes in their lives often mean that they are struggling to keep up with their peers. They may have had several changes of school. Problems and uncertainty in their lives may be expressed through difficult behaviour.
Foster Carers need to develop close relationships with children’s schools. They may need to help staff recognise the difficulties a child or young person is experiencing in their life. Since 2000, all schools have a teacher who is responsible for children who are in the care of the Local Authority (‘Looked After Children’, hence the initials ‘LAC’). If a child in care has problems at school, this teacher will act as the child’s advocate – helping the child to express their opinions and to sort out any problems they are having. As education is so important the Trust retains an education support worker to support our Foster Carers and help our children achieve within their school setting.
If the child in their care has a physical disability or other need, Foster Carers may find themselves taking part in frequent hospital appointments and visits to consultants. They may also be working closely with health visitors and doctors. All children living with Foster Carers will need to be registered with a GP and dentist and have regular eye tests.
Therapists and Counsellors
Children who have suffered emotionally distressing experiences may need help from therapists and counsellors. The therapist may undertake one-to-one direct work with the child. Depending on their needs, the child may also participate in short or long term therapy involving play, art, music or drama. The therapist or counsellor may want to involve the Foster Carer in some aspects of this.
Solicitors and court officials
If there is a court case about the child, the Foster Carer will probably meet someone called a Children’s Guardian. The Guardian will be interested in the Foster Carers’ experiences of caring for the child and may ask for their opinions about the choices for the child’s future. The solicitor representing either the child or the Local Authority may also seek the Foster Carers’ views.