My name is Stephanie, and I am a Supervising Social Worker with Compass. I have worked with Compass for almost 2 years and have a good idea of what the role is and how to best manage that alongside being a mum of 2. That was until the lockdown, and I have had to adapt and change in ways I never really wanted to, but now I’ve started to wonder if ‘the before times’ were personally right for me.
My day usually starts around 6am if I’m lucky, because according to my 4-year-old, “the sun’s shining,” means that it’s morning. This normally isn’t a problem because by 8.45am I can switch into being ‘Steph’ and drive away from ‘Mummy’ for a while. Not now, I’m Mummy, I’m a social worker, I’m a professional, I’m an on-call worker, I’m everything, all the time. That’s not to say I’m not grateful, I’m grateful for a lot. I have always loved working for Compass, I like working remotely, I like being able to pick my children up from school when I want to, and I like planning my own diary.
Now, my diary looks a lot like scrambled eggs. My work diary used to start at 9am but now it starts at different times each day, and honestly it never ends! I’m writing this post at 8.30pm because I haven’t found time in the 2 weeks since I volunteered to write it to sit down. Between meetings and calls with foster carers I am making lunch, playing Barbie’s, making slime, reading Biff and Chip and mopping up gallons of water where my children have had ‘fun’, and that was just today.
Also, today I have spoken with 6 of my foster carers, had supervision with 2 and attended a professional meeting, all whilst signing off numerous foster carer daily logs. Being on the phone is now my normal. I supervise 15 carers at the moment, that’s at least 15 welfare calls a week, which doesn’t sound that much until you’ve spent 45 minutes talking about how crazy their day has been and then figuring out what I can do to make it a little easier.
In the last few weeks I have been a part in arranging home tutoring, counselling, experiential educating, emergency sessional work, reading referrals and matching carers with children. I have also arranged for a carer to have someone do her food shopping and picking up a paddling pool as she was having to isolate at home with her husband, their 3 children and 2 foster children as someone in the household had covid-19 symptoms. These are all things which were not part of my everyday normal a few weeks ago, but somehow now feel essential.
Lots of essential things, like physically attending Contact Meetings or Looked After Child Reviews, are no longer essential I enjoy seeing new faces in Skype calls of people who previously could not attend due to the time it took out of their day, such as Teachers and Health Visitors.
The thing I enjoy the most about lockdown, is talking to the children who live with my foster carers. I have seen more children attend meetings about them than I ever have before. Somehow being behind a screen, means it’s less scary to listen to professionals make decisions about your life. Part of being a looked after child, means seeing ‘professionals’, this means their local authority social worker, the foster carer’s social worker (me), the independent reviewing officer, their CAMHS worker, their counsellor, the list really can go on. I have always worked creatively to make visiting children as child friendly and as fun as possible. Sometimes this doesn’t work, but sometimes it means I am playing charades in the living room for 2 hours, being beat at Pictionary or being invited to enjoy a celebratory slice of cake after a child has been granted permanence with their foster carer.
I can’t do all of this at the moment, I can’t quite make that connection in a way that is really meaningful over the phone. I quickly realised that not very many kids wanted to talk to me at all. What do I do to make this different? I didn’t become a social worker to not be social!
Watching my own children on the phone to our family or peers, it was mainly them walking around shoving the phone onto random items, “look at my duck, here’s the washing machine, here is mummy on the toilet” -such fun! They were struggling to make connections with people they love and enjoy spending time with normally. Think Steph, Think.
• “I’ve been playing netball”, “I’d love to watch you play netball!”
• “I have £65 in my piggy bank, I think”, “let’s count your pocket money together.”
• “Have you ever played guess who over the phone?”
• “Do you have the Bloons app on your phone, because I have that too, let’s play.”
• “Going for a walk? Ring me when you’re back, I would love to hear how many rainbows you’ve seen.”
Being in lockdown is hard, being a working mum is hard. Being grateful for working with Compass, always. Being grateful that when I wanted to remain at home because I have asthma, being supported by my manager, and her manager, always. Being grateful that my children, your children, our looked after children are safe, always.
Do I want to go back to how it was before? The more I think about it, maybe not! There have been some positives in all this, I have learned so much about myself and my job over the last few weeks that some things I hope we can include them when we go back to ‘normal’. If we can mix personal connections and holding essential meetings over Skype I’d probably get a lot more done, the children I work with would be seen and spoken to more often- which is why we’re all doing this and foster carers would have more time to just be with the children or enjoy an extra hour on the sofa before the school bell rings. But in all honesty, I just cannot wait until taking my annual leave means, being able to actually leave my house!
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