There are two regular placement officers at UK Fostering who cover our 4 regions. The role of a placement officer requires a variety of skills as matching foster placements in relation to a child’s needs, background, and practical factors, is complex and involves quite a few people in the decision-making process.
Placement officers need to get to know the foster carers in their areas well and work very closely with the UK Fostering social workers who support the foster carers, so they can work out who would be a good match for any child needing a foster placement who is referred to UK Fostering. They build strong working relationships with each local authorities in all regions so that they can trust that they match as well as possible based on the information that has been provided. A typical day for them is described below and, as you can see, it is a busy one:
We usually start the day by checking our emails and voicemails to see what requests for foster placements (referrals) have come in already, and often to check that a child that was on their way to a foster carer’s home the evening before did arrive safely and has settled in.
One of the first referrals that I read is for a 13-year-old girl, AB, who is very unhappy in her current foster home, is feeling very low and has expressed thoughts of self-harm (although has not carried this through is still of great concern). She was placed recently in a late-night emergency, and there was not time to properly match her with a foster family, as the priority was getting her to a place of safety. Unfortunately, whilst there are no issues with the quality of care given by her current foster carers, her current foster household set up is not right for her (the home is a busy one) and this has left her feeling very overwhelmed.
On viewing the full information about AB’s needs, I check our vacancy list and note that we have very experienced foster carers in the area (who have just had a child move to live with a family member and therefore have become available) and who may be a good match for AB. They have their young adult daughter and a cat at home, and AB would be the only foster child in the home. According to an online map, these foster carers do not seem to live too far from AB’s school so we will discuss with the foster carers to ensure that they will be able to take and collect her. The main foster carer (at home full time) has great listening skills and works at a child’s pace to try to help them make sense of things. These foster carers are also able to work well with a child’s social worker, their UK Fostering supervising social worker, and other professionals thereby providing support around the child.
I forward the referral paperwork to this foster carer’s supervising social worker to read through and discuss directly with the foster carers. This will be a planned move from AB’s current foster home, so we have some time to consider if more information is needed at this stage, or perhaps arrange a discussion with or visit from AB’s social worker. Hopefully, the supervising social worker will come back to me soon with a positive response from our foster carer.
Whilst waiting I get on with reading further referrals and some administrative tasks such as completing placement and matching paperwork, arranging finance information to ensure that our foster carers receive the correct allowances (!) etc
We get a phone call from one of the local authorities that we work regularly with to ask if we have any foster carers that could take, CD, a 16-year-old male, this evening. He needs to be moved out of area and be placed in a foster home that is experienced in caring for teenagers. He is described as a generally good lad but has recently got in with a local gang and involved in low level offending. There have been some recriminations due to this involvement and he now is not safe. We have a single, male foster carer who lives about 2 hours’ drive from CD’s current home, who has successfully cared for a young male with a similar background. As is needed today, I immediately contact his SSW to have a discussion, as well as contacting the local authority to request further background information on CD, or to be able to speak with his social worker for more information on his situation. Fingers crossed again!
I hear back from the supervising social worker re AB, the 13-year-old girl that is needing a planned placement move. Our foster carers would like to be considered so I get in contact with the local authority that is looking for a placement and explain about our carers and their skills and experience as well as provide their foster carer family profile and other information.
We typically get around 60 referrals a day in most regions but, unfortunately, many of the referrals we are not able to help with as we do not have foster carers that are local for school, or unable to meet that child’s needs for some other reason, however several others we are able to follow and request more information. Sometimes a referral is no longer needed as perhaps a family member has come forward to care for the child, or a situation resolved, and the child does not need a foster placement.
I hear back that our single, male carer is interested in being considered for CD (male aged 16 years), but he and the supervising social worker have some questions. I contact the local authority and CD’s social worker calls straight back. I quickly pass on the supervising social worker contact details and let them get talking!
13-year-old AB’s social worker gets in contact with me to ask to speak to our foster carer’s supervising social worker, as she is very interested in possibly placing AB with them. Again, I share the contact details for the supervising social worker so that they can discuss further.
Just before I turn off the computer for the day, another planned referral comes through for a long-term foster placement for a 5-year-old boy, EF. EF has experienced neglect and has witnessed domestic violence whilst at home, which has led to trauma and delay in his presentation. He can be aggressive and is very energetic. EF will need couple carers who are very robust and, ideally also need culturally matched carers to be able to support him to adulthood. He needs to be the youngest child in the home by at least 5 years as he fights for attention and requires lots of support to manage his emotions. This gives me lots to think about and who UK Fostering may be able offer as a match for this young boy. EF is in a safe environment for now so I can pick this up again tomorrow 😊
by Lynsey Dobbs – Senior Recruitment Officer, UK Fostering