Jacqueline Heaney, careleaver-turned-social worker, gives us some valuable insights into the world of fostering and what we can do to improve the experience for everyone involved.
Foster carers’ logs
I don’t know how many times I have had to ask my carers to send in a weekly log or daily if anything significant happens. This is not only so I can get to know what is happening in the placement on a daily basis but as a way of protecting the carers about unfounded allegations.
There are all sorts of reasons why children and young people make complaints but if they are deemed to be untrue the best possible way to prove this is to look back over the logs that have been emailed in.
A good example of this could be that during half term you take the young person in your care to the cinema, and then for a meal afterwards. The next day you have family come round and you make a lovely roast dinner. You email in that you have taken the young person shopping with you and you write down what their choices were. When it comes to my supervision visit, I ask the young person what film they saw and if they enjoyed the dinner. This is then recorded in the supervision notes.
A few days later the young person’s social worker visits, because the young person has been resisting boundaries and is angry at the carer. The young person then claims the carers have not taken them anywhere and that they don't get fed. Because of the up-to-date log, I would be able to provide evidence that this is not the case.
So please carers, do not underestimate the importance of sharing your logs with your supervising social worker.
Too much gaming
One of my foster carers was concerned when she was told that something needed to be done about the amount of time the young person in her care plays on his Xbox. The foster carer told me that if she tries to stop the child gaming he will get aggressive and could damage her home.
She felt like he was settled and being well behaved in comparison to how he had been in other placements and she was worried that challenging him would change this. I did understand her point but I could not help thinking that this was the easy option.
I decided that I could help her make small changes to improve the situation. For example, encouraging her to engage the young man with other interests so he has less time for gaming. She could also tackle the situation head on, explaining how reducing his time on the Xbox could be beneficial for his health and wellbeing, and showing him she has an interest in his welfare.
Social work students
Every year I train a social work student or two. For the past two years, the students I have trained have both been fantastic and one is now working in the same agency as me. I am so proud that I have had some input in training up-and-coming social workers and it is wonderful that I now work with my student from last year and I have been watching her steadily grow. I know it might initially be worrying if you have a student allocated to you but please welcome them with open arms and help them improve.
Finally, I have just about recovered from the Ofsted inspection we had early in the year. As much as I was sure that I provide the best outcomes for the children and young people I couldn’t help but be worried that the inspector would identify something I should be doing. However, I should not have worried as the report portrayed Integrated Fostering Service in a very complimentary fashion.
We received ‘good’ in all areas of the inspected framework. I was on a high for the week that followed. I have to say a huge well done to my colleagues. I was expecting the long hours and extra days to cause a little irritation in the team but the other supervising social workers were so kind and supportive to each other.