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.
Sometimes we will have unopened emails that were 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. A 'referral' is the information sent to us via email regarding a child or young person. It should include important information such as the age, needs and behaviours of the young person, which school they attend, how often they have contact with their birth family and any activities or hobbies they enjoy.
We will 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 Lancashire, Wolverhampton and surrounding boroughs.
Once we’ve confirmed which vacancies are available, we will begin screening referrals and responding to our counterparts at the local authority (LA). 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 will contact the supervising social worker for their views and insights. At this stage it’s not uncommon for us to request some additional information from the local authority. We do our best to anticipate questions the foster carers may ask, and along with our own curiosities, all of this information will be requested.
Assuming the supervising social worker is in agreement, it’s then time for us 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 across a secure platform 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 screen the information as we would for fostering but we will then send it to the manager of the residential home. If the manager and staff are happy with the potential match, we then 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 at the home.
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 will 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 over 1400 fostering referral’s a month which is roughly 60 a day (or one every 7 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 challenges we face is that each LA have their own referral document format. If there was a standardised referral form used by everyone it would be much easier to identify the key information within a referral including placement history, identified risks and contact expectations. We know these are important components of a positive match so we will 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 outcome 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, a good starting point is to do some research. Understanding the requirements of fostering will help. Depending on your circumstances, there are various types of fostering to consider too.
When you are ready to take the next step, fill in our online enquiry form and we will give you a call to discuss your eligiblity. The application process is transparent and we support you every step of the way.
Healing Pasts | Building Futures