I carry out home visits – I might be visiting families in their homes for regular monthly supervision which can take a minimum of 1.5 hours to 2 hours depending on how many children the foster family is looking after and how things are going. This will not be my only contact with the foster family. We will often communicate on regular basis via email, telephone and text messages. Good communication between the foster carers and I is crucial and cannot be stressed enough.
During the home visit, we might be talking about many things and no supervision visit is the same. The focus is on the children’s progress, looking at the different areas of their development, such as health, education, emotional wellbeing, learning new skills including independence skills and so on… I will often also focus on the foster family itself, the foster carers, their children and their wider support network. How are they finding things, are they coping well, how is the working relationship with the Local Authority, what is it they need support and help with? Together we try to identify their strengths and work on areas that need developing. The monthly supervision visit is documented in a Supervision record, signed off and the foster family keep a copy for their files.
The foster carers attend regular meetings with the Local Authority social workers, such as the Placement Agreement meeting, when a child is initially placed into their care, or the Looked After Children’s Meeting and Personal Educational Plan Meetings. The latter two are equally important as the Looked After Children’s meeting reviews the children’s care plan in place and the Personal Educational Plan meetings provide an opportunity for the foster carers to ensure that children receive the necessary support to meet their educational potential.
Depending on the care planning for the children in their care, there might also be Long term linking meetings taking place or, if the plan for the children is to be moved on to their adoptive family, meetings with the Adoption Social Workers. I will regularly accompany foster carers to these meetings and support them in advocating on behalf of the children in their care. Foster carers are professionals in their own right. It is therefore important that they feel empowered and confident to share their knowledge of the children they look after and hence contribute to the care planning for the children’s future and actively shape the children’s educational achievement.
Paperwork is a necessary and an important part of the fostering role. I might be supporting foster carers with completing their daily logs until they feel confident and comfortable with their style and detail of their recording. We will also regularly review risk assessments and the foster family’s Safer Caring Plans to ensure that their practice is safe and everybody in the family is appropriately safeguarded.
Often, it is required that foster carers provide input into assessments such as sibling assessments and psychological assessments which inform court decisions and some foster carers like to have assistance with their input to ensure that the most comprehensive information is provided for the involved professionals.
Depending on how long the foster carers have fostered, an annual fostering household review has to be completed, which requires a significant amount of data collection to provide evidence and feedback from other professionals and support networks to reflect on the carers’ fostering year. The preparation for their annual review provides an opportunity to check compliance, renew required DBS checks and medicals and review personal development. The review is a joint piece of work and if this is the first annual review for the foster family, it is presented to an independent fostering panel, which I attend with the foster carers.
Whilst the above outlines the day to day practical activities that I would usually be involved in with foster families, another equally important role of the supervising social worker is to develop and grow the foster families’ understanding of relational and developmental trauma and attachment and the ongoing impact of this on the children they are looking after.
When foster families become trauma and attachment informed and translate their knowledge into their day to day life, this can have the most transformative effect on children who have been through adverse experiences in their lives.
Supporting foster families with expanding their “tool box”, watching them build their resilience and develop self-care strategies, whilst maintaining commitment, stability and continuity of care for the children is, for me, the most rewarding part of the work.