Friday, 16 August 2019

Finding the right foster placement

The police visit a home in response to an emergency call as neighbours have reported a disturbance and domestic violence. The police are concerned for the safety of the young children who look frightened and neglected.

A family has broken up, the mother has been struggling to manage on her own but her mental and physical health has deteriorated and she can no longer cope – the children are being neglected.

These are just a couple of examples where children, for their own safety and protection, are removed from their family and into care. Such decisions are never easy and never taken lightly, as removing a child from his/her parents is hugely traumatic.  It’s not just down to social workers or Police alone - many agencies are involved, including the courts.

When a decision is made to remove a child from his/her family, where to place the child is of great importance and that comes down to the Placement Team which is part of West Sussex County Council’s Children’s Services.

This specialist team do amazing, fascinating and vital work which I learnt much about on a recent visit to them.

Children and young people should live with their family wherever possible, but when their safety and welfare causes significant concern they can be placed in the care of West Sussex County Council either at the request of their parents or by a court order.

 The child’s social worker initially looks at whether the child/young person can be supported by a member of his/her extended family which helps keep the link with the child’s family.  Unfortunately, this is not always possible.

The Placement Team have developed important skills. The first is to find out as much as possible about the child/young person, taking into consideration carefully his/her needs and wishes in order to get as good a match as possible. Taking into account children’s likes and interests can really make a difference to how they settle into their new home.  As is so often the case it is not the big things that matter but those small details which can make a real difference. For example, if a child likes animals finding a foster carer who has a friendly dog or cat may help settle the child in the new placement and as a result build the relationship with their new carer.

Sometimes a foster placement is appropriate or a placement in a children’s home, depending on needs. Finding the right home for the child is often challenging as there is a high demand for places across the country. The Placement Team needs good listening and negotiating skills and a thorough knowledge of fostering and children’s homes regulations.

The number of children coming into care is increasing across the country and West Sussex is no exception.  There are 747 children/young people in care in West Sussex – that’s an increase compared to previous years.  The work of the Placement Team is crucial in getting the right support for the children who need us most and I was so impressed with the work they do.
Following our recent Ofsted report, considerable work is underway to improve our services including the experience of children coming into care.  We have some way to go but I’m heartened to see first-hand the dedication and commitment of our staff to the children and families they support - ensuring the voice of the child is at the centre of everything we do.

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