Lucy Stevens - 10th November 2021
Supervising social worker, Sam Grant, tells us what it is she likes about her role at Eastern Fostering Services.
I’m Sam and I’m a supervising social worker at Eastern Fostering Services. This means I support and advocate for Foster Carers and the children they care for. My role includes:
- Emotional and practical support to foster carers through regular supervision
- Identifying and supporting foster carer training and development needs
- Designing and delivering training
- Advocating for the foster carers and the children to professionals in social care, education, health and well-being
- Working with professionals to deliver the best outcomes for children
- Supporting the carers in fostering review meetings, educational meetings and in promoting additional support for children and carers
- Organising social events for children and carers to help build a supportive fostering community
- Spending time with the children and young people we look after
- Sharing ideas and delivering new ways to encourage and grow the children and their carers
I qualified as a social worker 2 years ago, having completed a student placement at Eastern Fostering Services. I always thought that I would go into front line family support and indeed after I qualified that was where I went. A part of me loved that job, it was high energy and unpredictable, reactive but having my own family responsibilities, it was really difficult at times too. I couldn’t really plan my time properly because I would never know what crisis would come in or when.
One valuable thing the job did give me though was a good perspective on the lives that many of the children who come into foster care will have experienced. The experiences working directly with families taught me empathy; it gave an insight into the difficulties some parents face – making healthy choices, prioritising, managing environmental factors and how family history can also shape parenting. Providing ‘good enough’ parenting is extremely difficult for some adults; they love their children, they just don’t know how to make the changes they need to.
Now, at Eastern Fostering Services, I see the other side of the picture and I think my past experiences allow me to really understand and truly see the children we care for. There are times when I get frustrated and saddened when I see the impact of neglect on children, but I am maybe able to better understand the contributing factors when it comes to birth families and their dysfunction.
Life at Eastern Fostering Services isn’t so frenetic, though it’s true there is never a dull moment. We have the luxury that stability assures, the ability to plan and think creatively. In fact, it is this aspect that I love most about Eastern Fostering Services. Because we are a small team and because of our ethos, all team members are encouraged to think about the children in everything they do. We are not only encouraged but expected to bring ideas to the table as to how we can improve things for carers and children, how we can be more child-centric and think outside of the box when it comes to solutions for the many difficulties that our children and carers encounter on their journeys. It’s in this way that I think Eastern Fostering Services truly adds value to the children and the carers that we look after.
Regular fostering supervision
I see my carers at least every month. It’s important that foster carers have regular quality time with their Supervising social workers. I create a space for them to talk about whatever they want. Whether that is to vent frustrations, bounce strategies and ideas off me, seek my advice, raise training needs or just share a cuppa and some laughter. It’s a vital space for foster carers and allows me to build good, productive relationships with them.
Regular time with the children
This is another part of my role as fostering Supervising social worker that I love. I get to spend time with the children and young people and build a good, trusting relationship with them. This can be particularly important when children have had transient adults including professionals. I get the opportunity to be a constant in their lives. I might have lunch with them, take them shopping, go for a walk or do some sports or leisure activity with them. They enjoy that time out, being made to feel special and often open up to me during those times. We can make a difference just being alongside them and getting to know them. One of my young people recently responded to a question I asked about what they would look for in a support worker. They said, “I’d want to know if they like us or if it’s just a job, cos I will know, straight away.”
Regular time with the birth children of foster carers.
Part of my role is to support the wider family of foster carers. Children who are growing up in fostering households also need encouragement, praise and a listening ear. We ask a lot of our birth children, and we feel we must recognise this and respond to their needs. I would hate our children to feel overlooked or unimportant, so I make sure I spend time with them, checking in on how they are doing and understanding if there is anything they are struggling with. This is a key part of supporting the sustenance of fostering placements.
Fostering community days out!
We hold regular events for the children and fostering families. This is a great opportunity for us all to see each other and catch up. It allows the children to make friendships and get to know the wider team and the carers to feel part of a valuable community of like-minded foster carers. We’ve done loads of great stuff this year, such as the Thrive Outdoor Centre in Essex, Go Karting in Cambridgeshire and beach days for our Suffolk and Essex carers, to name just a few!
Providing additional support as a fostering agency
Another way we add value, which I am really proud of, is to employ support workers who are dedicated to the children and young people we care for. As we have grown as an agency, our aim has always been to plough resources back into the children and carers. We have just employed a full-time Children’s Participation Worker whose main role it is to build a good, trusting relationship with the children and young people. They will also plan and put on social events tailored to the children and their interests. In addition, they will be used as a trusted professional to support and supervise contact between children and their birth families. They will also do some important direct work with the children to help them navigate important issues such as healthy relationships, Internet Safety, coping with loss and trauma. I really feel that Eastern Fostering Services is unique in its determination to add value to carers and children, and we work so hard to get the best possible outcomes for children.
I’m super proud of the team at Eastern Fostering Services as well as the children, young people and foster carers who make up our raison d’etre. As that young person recently said, it’s not just a job, it’s a way of life for us all and I look forward to meeting and supporting lots of new foster carers and children in the years to come!