Friday, November 01, 2013

Working with social workers

I’M writing today’s blog drinking a mug of tea, but it’s not my “Best Mum In The World” mug. That mug has been put away out of sight. It was my Social Worker’s idea to hide it.

LET me have a word about what I think about Social Workers. They are a fact of life in fostering. You get a Social Worker attached to you by Blue Sky. They work for Blue Sky and their job is to look after you, help you foster as best you can. They’re always on the end of the phone or email, and they visit as often as is right, usually at least once a month for “Supervision” although I like to call it “Catch Up”. They want to hear about your problems, and there’s nothing better than having a good old whinge knowing the person listening is actually interested and sympathetic. But  if there are things going really well, you must remember to tell them about those as well.
IF a child comes to you for fostering, the child has a Social Worker of their own, which the child’s local Social services provide. That Social Worker’s job is to look after the child’s interests. If the child has a problem at school, or isn’t eating well, the first thing you do is let the child’s Social Worker know. Then you tell your Blue Sky Social Worker. Often the two of them will try to sort the problem out together.
NO shortage of backup then.
TO be really honest, when I started fostering, my first thought was “Oh Good! Loads of backup. Phew!”  But for some reason, probably human nature, I got a bit angsty with being in the spotlight. I got defensive about things I was advised I could do better, and then got frustrated that the things I was suggested didn’t have instant results. To be really, really honest, that was the time we talked about whether we had what it takes.
I’M so glad we stuck at it and worked out all those worries, because fostering is as hard as it’s rewarding.
WHAT we’ve identified, “Bill” and I, is that foster children often struggle with being told anything if it feels like authority. And so do we, Bill and I, to a lesser extent. This probably goes back to our time at school, and in my case working at a place where I had an unpleasant supervisor for many years. Being in any kind of situation where somebody is judging me, or telling me what to do makes me uneasy about old experiences.  I went to a very useful training session about this, it’s called “Triggers”. Sometimes you get a feeling  for no apparent reason, it’s been “triggered” by something deep down. A song in the radio might remind you of an old love affair, or someone looking at you over the top of their glasses might remind you of a horrible person. The thing is you often aren’t aware of it.
WHEN my Blue Sky Social Worker comes round we’ve agreed to call it “Catch Up” because the word “Supervision” doesn’t go down well with me.
IT’S also the reason my “Best Mum In The World” mug is hidden away. My foster child, first or second day after arriving with a lot of anger, said “My mum’s got a mug with that on it.” I mentioned this to my Social Worker, who suggested I try keeping it out of sight. The child’s mum had not given the love a mum should, if I can put it like that.
DID it help the child? Probably, a bit. But it’s one of those things you don’t discuss with the child, because talking about home life is usually a trigger in itself. It was worth doing just in case.
SO on the whole, having your own Social Worker is gold. You get someone who is a family priest one minute, then an IT specialist, then a psychiatrist, a lawyer, a doctor, and educationalist. The list goes on.
AND a friend too, in fact, one of my ex’s (ex-Social Workers) came round for coffee last time she was passing. She wanted to know how things are going for us because she’s interested, and, without wishing to get gushy, she cares.


  1. So much of the press coverage re social Workers is so poor that it is really encouraging to hear some more positive tales, thank you. I'm not one by the way but I hear about them a lot through my work.

  2. Thanks Dixie74. I am trying to give a balanced account of my experiences in fostering and I think it's just as important to highlight the positives as well as the not so positive.

    1. Hi

      It would also be interested to hear your views on allegations made by foster children against foster carers? The way foster carers are left in the dark, how their own social worker must keep their distance so not to interfere with the case? Strategy meetings held and no meeting minutes disclosed at all?
      I was a foster carer for two years and luckily was never subjected to an allegation.
      But a very close friend was. After fostering the same child for over 12 years.