A typical day usually starts around 8.30am depending on traffic. First things first – get the kettle on and make a strong brew to set us up for the morning!
We’ll check the email inboxes and double check the vacancy list to confirm which carers are available to foster. Recently that hasn’t been very many…as we write this we have just three foster homes available and we desperately need more carers in the Midlands, particularly Dudley and surrounding boroughs.
Once we’ve confirmed our vacancies we’ll begin screening referrals. Sometimes we’ll have unopened emails that have been sent the previous evening; we’ll review these and register them on our referral database so that we have accurate, up-to-date information in case the referral ever comes back in again.
An important part of the role is building relationships with Local Authority commissioners and placement teams as this streamlines the matching process – sometimes the easiest way to get more information is by contacting these Local Authority colleagues directly so it helps if you have a good rapport with them.
If we receive a fostering referral which we think is a positive match, we’ll contact the supervising social worker for a second opinion. At this stage it’s not uncommon for us to request some additional information from the Local Authority. We’ll do our best to anticipate questions the foster carers may ask, and along with our own curiosities, all of this information will be requested. After that, it’s time to call the foster carer and discuss the referral directly! As a form of quality assurance, we can also share the referral with the carer so they can see what we see – not all agencies do this but we find it helps carers make an informed decision.
If the referral is for a residential placement, we’ll screen the information as we would for fostering but we’ll then send it to the manager of the residential home. If they are happy with the potential match, we’ll set-up a dialogue between the manager and the child’s social worker so that we can be confident this young person’s needs are going to be met. It’s vitally important that the match is positive alongside any children and young people currently living in the respective home. The same would be true for a fostering referral.
Assuming everyone is happy with the match; whether it’s for residential or fostering, we’ll then formally submit an offer to the Local Authority. The offer will include a breakdown of how the carer/residential home is equipped to support the young person, including a picture book or family profile, costings and contact details for the allocated professional (social worker or residential manager).
On average we will receive 750-850 fostering referral’s a month which is roughly 37 a day (..or one every 10 minutes!). These referrals can be long, detailed documents or brief emails with a contact number to ring in the event we have a match. One of the biggest challenges we face is that each Local Authority uses their own referral document format. If there was a standardised form used by everyone it would be much easier to identify the salient issues within a referral such as placement history, identified risks and contact expectations. We know these are important components of a positive match so we’ll contact the LA for this information if it isn’t already included.
As you can see, it’s a logical process which is continuously considering the best interests of the young person. The last thing Family Care want is to place a young person in a rushed or ill-considered manner that jeopardises the chances of a successful placement for that child. We understand that our foster carers want to contribute in a meaningful way and enrich the lives of vulnerable children and young people. By scrutinising the matching process at every step, we can also give our carers the best opportunity to do this and help children and young people achieve their potential - which is our vision at Family Care.
If you are interested in fostering with us or know someone who is, you can give us a call on 0800-5-677-677 or leave contact details on the website and we’ll get in touch! You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Matt Holmes - Referrals and Recruitment Coordinator at Family Care Group