‘We need to share the same vision’ – The Relationship Between the Brent Foster Carer and the Supervising Social Worker
8 April 2020
The supervising social worker is the second most important person in your life, after the child in care. They are constantly there, either to help you or to check in with you, and this is why it is very important to have a good relationship with them right from the beginning. We spoke to one of the supervising social workers (SSW) in our team to learn from them more about working with foster carers.
You will meet your SSW at either the assessment stage or prior to this when they do the initial visit. As part of this, they come into your home to meet you, get to know you better and have an in-depth conversation about why you want to foster. You can read more about the Initial Visit here. The social worker who will carry out the initial visit may continue to be the one who assesses you to become a foster carer; then they could move on to being your dedicated supervising social worker.
Briefly, the role of the SSW is to empower and support you for as long as you foster for Brent, so that you provide the best possible care to the foster children. The SSW is your link to the fostering team, the one who represents your needs in front of other professionals or teams, and the first person you would call when you need help. As part of their job, they will check in with you regularly, most commonly once a week, to make sure you and the Brent children in your care are well, and they will visit you at your home. During lockdown, all SSW’s were in touch with their foster carers through email and phone, and all visits took place through WhatsApp or Zoom.
‘My role as a SSW is based on empowering and supporting the foster parents to look after children as best they can,’ said Patience, Brent Fostering SSW. ‘As part of my role, I help foster carers to make their own decision by showing them the way to achieve the best outcome for them and the children. I show them that they have the knowledge and the capabilities to find solutions to their problems, and I encourage them to have their own ideas. The support element refers to my capacity to link them with the relevant people that can help them or answer their questions,’ adds Patience.
Ideally, for the relationship to go smoothly, both you and the SSW need to be flexible, understanding and supportive of each other. A shared vision about fostering, mutual respect and open and honest communication are other key elements. For example, every time you welcome a new child into your home, your SSW will meet you to discuss their ‘care plan’ as well as day-to-day arrangements. As long as you and your SSW agree on what you are trying to achieve for the child and how you may need support yourself, then you are off to a good start. One of our core values is transparency; hence, we aim to share all the information that we have about a child before you agree to take them into your home. You, on the other hand, need to be open and honest with your SSW from the start and share with them information about events and people in your life.
Conversely, undermining each other’s views is what could ruin the relation and deteriorate the placement. Lack of empathy and understanding from either side are two other plausible causes for failure. ‘If one of my carers tells me that they feel a certain way or need something from me, I need to understand them, and I do my best to help them,’ says Patience. Being open and honest with your SSW about everything that happens in your and your foster child’s life will help you in certain situations. For example, if there is an allegation against you, knowing the truth will help your SSW to explain your circumstances or advocate on your behalf.
Having a good relationship with your SSW is important for you and the children in your care. If you feel comfortable with them, then you will be able to meet the needs of the children, find solutions to problems, and access resources to overcome challenges. At the same time, knowing more about the relationship from an early stage is critical for your complete awareness of what fostering entails.
We are proud to have a lovely and experienced team of SSW's waiting to support and empower you to look after Brent children. If you would like to join us, give us a call. If you have questions or would like to speak to one of our foster carers about how they are getting along with their SSW and the support they receive, sign up to attend one of our virtual info evenings.