The initial days and weeks of a child being placed can be described as daunting, overwhelming or like ‘a deer in headlights’ moment. This is where having a good relationship with an experienced and knowledgeable supervising social worker can really help a foster carer to manage. Here at Fostering UK all of the supervising social workers have years of experience within their roles and are ready to support new and experienced foster carers.
The child may arrive with very few belongings, so you may need to visit the shops and purchase some underwear, pyjamas and a few sets of clothes. If the placement is planned, you could do this before the child arrives. It is also a good time to ensure you have an appropriate car seat and stair gates (depending on the age of the child). Have a think about any safer caring or safeguarding considerations you may need to put in place and ensure that the other household members are aware. Your Fostering UK supervising social worker will complete a risk assessment for the household, which you will have access to, and this is a living document that will be updated frequently.
The child arrives at the foster carer’s home
When the child arrives ensure that the social worker bringing them to placement has given you medical consent for the child, this is important should you need to seek any medical advice for the child in the first few days. Once the social worker has left, show the child around the house and their bedroom and offer them a drink and a snack.
It will have been discussed during the assessment process and pre-approval training that a child may experience a range of emotions. There is a useful saying ‘connection over correction’ which means that a foster carer should focus on building an attachment with the child placed with you prior to trying to appropriately manage any negative behaviour that they may be displaying.
Within 3 days of the child being placed, there will be a placement planning meeting held, which will usually include the foster carer, their supervising social worker and the child’s social worker, sometimes it will also include the birth parents, a manager from the local authority and the school. In the meeting topics such as the child’s routine, education, culture, religious beliefs, health, hobbies, contact details and the anticipated length of the placement will be discussed. This is a chance for the foster carer to ask any questions or discuss any worries that they may have. The delegated authority will be completed during this meeting which allows the foster carer to give permission for school trips, holidays, sleepovers and hair cuts etc. without needing to speak to the child’s social worker too.
Within the first 28 days of placement a Children We Care For meeting will be arranged, this meeting will include the foster carer, their supervising social worker, the child’s social worker, health visitor, school, virtual school, therapists (if they are involved) and an Independent Reviewing Officer who will chair the meeting. Within this meeting, the foster carer will be asked how the placement is going, along with discussions about the child’s health, education, contact and court proceedings.
The child will have a medical arranged by their local authority to check the child’s weight, height and any medical concerns or worries that the local authority or the foster carer may have regarding the child. Often the child will need to be registered at a new doctor and dentist close to where the foster carer lives.
Fostering planning meeting
It can often feel difficult to say when you are unable to attend a planned meeting, however, the foster carer plays an important role in all meetings and often knows the child better than any professional. So, liaise with your supervising social worker if a meeting needs to be rearranged to a different time or day. Your supervising social worker should be able to advocate on your behalf whilst supporting you to have a voice.
Although your supervising social worker can often seem busy, it is important to remember that they are there to support you. If they don’t answer the telephone then leave a voicemail and don’t be afraid to follow it with an email or text message asking them to call you when they are available. With a small agency such as Fostering UK, there will always be someone to talk to if your own supervising social worker is not available.
Always remember, the child remains the priority. Whilst attending meetings and liaising with professionals is a big part of the fostering role it should not overshadow the need for the child to feel safe and well cared for with foster carers who feel appreciated and supported.
If you would like further information with regards to becoming a foster carer, please complete the ‘enquire now’ form on the Fostering UK website.