Matching our foster carers with children who we know will thrive in their home takes time and skill. Fostering administrator Nikki offers an insight into the complex process involved when placing children in need of a safe home.
It’s 9.00am and my inbox is already full of messages from the weekend. There are more emergencies, and social workers from across England are desperately trying to find a safe and secure home for children in the worst of circumstances. Sadly, it is the same story each week – too many children are needing somewhere safe and there are not enough places for them all.
Armed with a much-needed coffee, I tackle the back log, responding to the Local Authority Placements Teams, to let them know I’ve received their emails and am working through their requests. But the emails just keep coming and I continue with today’s, reading each referral and noting all its complexities, before considering them for our available families and responding to each one individually.
I spend a lot of time reading the families files and speaking to social workers, as it is so important to get to know them. I want to find out about their strengths, their skills and experience so that I know them well enough to find the right placement.
Referrals received: 120
I take a call from a new foster family who haven’t yet had their first placement. They are really keen to offer a home to a child, which is so wonderful to hear. I explain what I am doing to find them a placement and discuss their needs and answer their questions. This family has twin twelve-year-old girls. They feel they would struggle with having a teen placed with them and would prefer to support younger children. I make a note on their file so that this information on age preferences is highlighted.
I am delighted when a referral comes in that could be a match for another family. I share the referral with the Supervising Social Worker and the family and hope it might lead to a successful placement.
When speaking with carers, I have to remember that the referrals can be overwhelming. I reassure them that they have the last word on the placement and that if they feel that this child isn’t a match, they can and should say no. The families often tell me that they feel guilty for saying no. I reassure them that a ‘No’ now is far better than a breakdown of placement later which could have been avoided by being honest about what is right for them.
I leave them with the information and give them a chance to think it through. I let them know I am always available to answer further questions and remind them that they can reach out to their social worker for support.
Referrals received: 109
We have a placement ending today. A teenage girl is moving to Semi-Independent accommodation. I call our carer to make sure everything is arranged. We had always known that this was going to be a challenging placement but a combination of the carers’ dedication and comprehensive training they received that was specific to the girl’s individual needs, means that she has thrived and is now ready to move on.
Not only do our carers receive training during their assessment process but they also receive ongoing training, with our social workers, either in person or online. It’s great for their professional development and ensures they are able to tailor their skills to their placement.
I receive good news when the carers who received a referral yesterday call to say they would be interested in taking the placement. They have a few questions which I will direct to the child’s social worker.
Referrals received: 118
The referral from Tuesday is going ahead which is fantastic. It looks like he will be joining the family on Friday afternoon. I update the carers and the social worker, who will go to the house to meet everyone and help with the settling in process. I make sure everyone has all the relevant information.
I need to send an email to all carers, to invite them to the online support group. This important group gives our carers a chance to discuss issues that have arisen in their placements and get support from each other. It’s an excellent opportunity for skill sharing and problem solving with those in similar situations who may have help, advice or are able to acknowledge and understand issues.
Friday is always a busy day for placements as social workers and placements teams across the country try to ensure everyone is safe before the weekend. When possible, we like to take some time to evaluate each referral and match carefully. However, emergency placements often have a lot of unknowns and this puts a lot of added pressure on everyone, including our carers.
I check the foster carers have all the information that they need about the child and once he arrives, our supervising social worker contacts me to tell me everyone is settled. I update our crucial Out of Hours team, who we hand over to from 5.00 pm. This team ensures that our carers are never without someone at the end of the phone to help with any concerns.
For me, it’s the end of another very busy week. I will be back to it again on Monday and I know that each day will bring something new and challenging to my inbox. Let’s see what our amazing carers can do next!