Social workers play a valuable role in helping foster children and families. They give important guidance and support to both young people and carers, helping them navigate the sometimes-tricky realities of living in care.
While there are different types of social workers within foster care, all contribute to helping children achieve their full potential. These include supervising social workers (SSWs), who work on behalf of fostering agencies like Compass Fostering, and youth social workers, who work with children on an individual basis.
If you’re considering a career as a supervising social worker in foster care, or wonder what SSWs do, here’s what you need to know.
What is the role of a supervising social worker?
Before a child arrives with a new foster family, SSWs work with the family finding team to make sure that the child and the family are a good match. They also talk through any questions or concerns with the soon-to-be foster parents. The supervising social worker’s in-depth knowledge of fostering legislation and practice means they can support carers to give the foster child the best home possible.
Once the foster child joins their new family, the SSW checks in frequently to see how the child is settling in and how the family is adapting. They’re on hand day and night to advise whenever an issue comes up – which often helps parents get through any fostering hiccups.
The Supervising social worker role also involves help recruit foster carers, run ‘Form F’ foster assessments and get carers the train-ing they need to prepare for the arrival of a foster child and advance their skills.
How to become a supervising social worker
Social workers need an undergraduate degree or postgraduate degree in social work that is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). They also need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
In addition, social workers need good organisational skills, a friendly and flexible attitude, strong communication with the ability to prioritise, and a good dose of empathy and enthusiasm. Due to the nature of the work, many social workers also need a valid driving license, and SSWs should have experience of foster care practice.
If you’re a qualified social worker looking for a position as a SSW in foster care, consider joining the Com-pass Fostering family! You can view our current vacancies here.
Why become a social worker in foster care?
Social work is a rewarding field for anyone who wants to have a positive impact on the lives of others. Supervising social workers help improve the foster experience for children, birth families and foster families.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of social work is being able to watch a foster family and foster child go from arrival through the adjustment period, to where the child becomes part of the family and starts thriving and achieving. There are few feelings in the world like knowing that you’ve made a difference in the life of a child in need!
If you’re interested in finding out more about the foster care system, please get in touch and our friendly team will be happy to answer your questions. Or if you’d like to know more about supervising social workers, you can read about a day in the life from one of our Supervising Social Workers, Steph.
The bonds between young children and their caregivers are vital to help a child feel comforted, safe and secure. When a caregiver isn’t available or is unpredictable, a child will experience chronic stress that can affect their developing brain and lead to an inability to form attachments, known as attachment trauma.
All children entering foster care suffer from a degree of trauma. After all, leaving your primary caregivers is traumatic, even when their care was inadequate or inconsistent. But when that trauma is ongoing, it can impact the rest of a child’s life.
Here are the signs of attachment related trauma, and what you as a foster carer can do to help.
Signs of attachment trauma in children
Neglect causes a child to experience extreme stress, flooding their brains with adrenaline and cortisol and triggering a fight-flight-freeze response. When a child goes through that process repeatedly, that reactionary state becomes pre-programmed, impacting the child’s brain as their ability to reason shuts down to divert energy towards life-saving measures.
What that looks like in the everyday is often an inability to regulate behaviour. Behaviour is a major form of communication for children, so some significant indicators that a child may be suffering from attachment trauma include:
• Acting out, being aggressive and shouting.
• Retreating, being quiet and holding feelings in.
• Struggling to remember and follow complex instructions.
• Having trouble switching between tasks and activities.
• Messiness and lack of organisation.
• Difficulty planning and executing tasks independently.
• Not looking over their own work or being unable to monitor their tasks.
• Having a hard time moderating their behaviour; they may be frightening to other children but won’t understand why.
The long-term impact on a child’s development
If a child doesn’t learn how to form healthy attachments and build positive relationships, they will struggle with many of these same issues for most of their lives.
They will likely find it difficult to regulate their emotions and may act rashly and impulsively. Life skills such as budgeting and career planning will be difficult, and they will be highly prone to stress, increasing their risk of substance abuse and long-term health complications. They may become overly dependent on other people and have difficulty recognising abusive and manipulative behaviours.
Since most children who come into care are suffering from a degree of attachment trauma, foster carers can have a huge impact by helping foster children cope with their feelings and learn how to build strong and secure attachments for the future.
How foster carers can help children with attachment trauma
The best way to help a child overcome attachment trauma is by showing them what it means to have a healthy and secure relationship – but that can be challenging when a child is already struggling.
Carers at Compass Fostering find it helpful to use an approach called ‘therapeutic parenting’. It embraces four principles of communication, called PACE (playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, empathy), to create a framework for working with children in crisis.
Playfulness means bringing a lightness of touch to communicating with your foster child. A playful approach creates a safe environment that invites closeness without asking too much.
Acceptance allows you to validate your foster child and their emotions. Instead of trying to change how they’re feeling, you can sit and experience it with them.
Curiosity invites you to ask questions about why your child is feeling or acting the way they are without judgement or blame.
Empathy helps you understand the situation through your foster child’s eyes.
Other tools to help a child dealing with attachment trauma include:
• Getting down to their physical level.
• Keeping your tone of voice light but firm.
• Not insisting on eye contact.
• Being aware of your non-verbal gestures, such as crossing your arms or putting your hands on your hips.
• Keeping verbal communication simple and matter-of-fact.
The goal is to help the child move from a dysregulated state to a regulated one by calming their fight-flight-freeze response. As they learn to trust you, your relationship will begin to form a new blueprint for what a secure attachment looks like. Their behaviour will slowly get easier and with their trauma lifting, you will discover the beautiful, loving child they really are underneath.
Attachment trauma is a broad topic, but your social worker will always be on hand to help you with the information and skills you need to support your foster child.
• Learn more about attachment trauma at the Attachment & Trauma Network.
• Learn more about therapeutic parenting at the National Association of Therapeutic Parents.
• Beacon House has numerous online resources to help support children with developmental trauma.
• The British Association for Adoption and Fostering has additional resources available for foster parents.
While dealing with attachment trauma can be difficult for foster carers, it is also one of the most significant ways you can have a positive impact on the life of a child in care. If you’re ready to find out more about becoming a foster carer, please get in touch today.
All children have a hard time to paying attention and focusing every now and then – but if these behaviours become persistent and a child struggles to pay attention to topics they enjoy, it could signal an underlying issue like ADHD or autism spectrum condition.
Autism spectrum condition (ASC) is a series of related developmental conditions that shows up in early infancy and childhood, and its sign and symptoms can vary widely. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopment disorder that usually shows up in early childhood, often accompanied by other disorders or conditions, and can affect a child’s ability to focus.
While the two disorders are different, they can present with very similar signs and symptoms. If you think your foster child might have ASC or ADHD, you’ll want to get them diagnosed correctly so they can get the treatment they need as soon as possible.
What to look for: the signs and symptoms of autism and ADHD
Common symptoms for both include:
- Inability to pay attention
- Hard time focusing
- Difficulty communicating
- Emotional outbursts
Children with ADHD might also have a hard time moderating their behaviour and be unaware of obvious dangers around them, while children with ASC might lack understanding of social cues, engage in repetitive behaviour and find it difficult to be in large groups or relate to the world around them.
Consider a child’s age and maturity when observing their behaviour – children in care often have behavioural difficulties or learning delays as a result of trauma and instability. You can read about what the most common form of trauma in foster children – attachment trauma – looks like here. [hyperlink to article]
How ADHD and autism are different
ADHD and ASC work differently in the brain, but both are conditions with biological causes and do not come about because of bad parenting or trauma. While there are differences between ADHD and ASC, it’s not uncommon for children to have more than one condition – and since every child is unique, their conditions will be too.
Some common differences between the two include:
- Children with autism can have trouble focusing on some things but are highly engaged with topics that interest them, while children with ADHD can have trouble focusing on any task that requires prolonged attention.
- Children with autism may have less social awareness and find it hard to make eye contact or point to things, while children with ADHD may have a hard time sitting still.
- Children with autism tend to love order and repetition, while children with ADHD dislike repetitive tasks.
- Children with autism are prone to sensory overload, while children with ADHD are easily distracted by new things.
- Children with ADHD may talk nonstop and interrupt others. Children with autism can do the same, but usually only about specific topics that interest them.
Early intervention can have an enormous impact on future development and skills, and as ADHD is common in children with autism it’s important to get a proper diagnosis to figure out the best treatment.
Treatments for autism are as varied as the disorder itself, but will usually include therapies such as behavioural therapy, educational and school-based therapies, and social skills training, and can also include medication.
Treatment for ADHD often combines medication and therapy, but every child’s case is unique so it will always depend on the child’s individual needs.
Some common at-home methods of dealing with ADHD and ASC include managing diet, giving positive attention and educational support, and creating a calm and structured environment.
What to do if you think your foster child has ADHD or ASC
If you think your foster child may have ADHD or ASC, it’s important to get them seen by a GP for diagnosis and to start the process of creating a treatment plan.
Compass Fostering also gives foster carers special training and support to help create a positive environment for every foster child’s unique needs. While children with these disorders can be challenging, caring for them is extremely rewarding if you can create a safe environment that allows their personality and intelligence to flourish.
If you aren’t sure if your child may have one or more of these disorders, you can find more information and support here:
Foster children with special needs such as ADHD and autism are harder for local authorities to find homes for, but a stable and caring environment can make all the difference. Find out more about fostering special needs children by getting in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable team here at Compass Fostering.
It can be frightening to realise that your child, or a child in your care, might be hurting themselves. It’s important to stay calm and know that you’re not alone. Self-harm has been on the increase in recent years, and can affect both genders – in fact, the number of boys who self-harm is now higher than the number of girls.
A child might turn to self-harm for many reasons– and there’s plenty you can do to help. The most important thing to remember is that you should never tell a self-harmer to stop; they won’t be able to do so without a strong support system in place. You want to avoid putting any further guilt and shame on someone who is already struggling.
Here are the signs to look out for, and the steps to take if you think your child might be self-harming.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when someone intentionally hurts themselves physically. It is a way of taking emotional or ‘unreachable’ pain and making it into something real – turning it into an external thing that is tangible and controllable. It may feel like the only thing within a child’s control, so it’s important that you approach the situation calmly and carefully.
While more than half of people who die by suicide have a history of self-harm, suicide is rarely the goal of self-harm. Self-harming is a coping strategy, and suicide happens when there are no coping strategies in place or when coping strategies stop being effective. Unfortunately, suicide is sometimes the unintentional result of an act of self-harm.
Different types of self harm
There are many types of self harm behaviour in young people. These can include:
- Cutting or burning skin
- Self-strangulation using ligatures
- Hitting or biting themselves
- Pulling out hair
- Poisoning themselves with tablets or liquids
- Purposefully engaging in physically risky behaviour
- Banging their head against the wall
One method that can be used to help prevent more dangerous forms of self-harm is to redirect these impulses – by snapping an elastic band against the wrist, for example, or holding ice cubes until they melt. These give similar feelings of pain or discomfort without the risk of infection or damage.
Signs of self-harm
Some of the signs of self-harm are obvious – like unexplained cuts or burns – but often self-harmers will be skilled at hiding this kind of evidence. Subtler signs to watch for include:
- Wearing full coverage clothing (even in hot weather)
- Depression or anxiety
- Weight loss
- Frequent illness
- Hair loss
- Bloody tissues in the rubbish
- Low self-esteem
- Low mood
- Expressing feelings of failure and self-hatred
Privacy is essential for self-harm, so withdrawal from social and family activities is a big red flag, particularly when paired with any of the behaviours listed above.
Why do people self-harm?
Because self-harm is a coping tool, there can be many contributing factors. Some of these include social problems like bullying and peer pressure, the glamorising of self-harm on social media, anxiety, depression, and overwhelming pressure to achieve.
Children in care can be at higher risk of having experienced trauma and abuse in their past, and will be less likely to have developed safe and constructive coping strategies – meaning they may be more likely to turn to self-harm.
What can parents and carers do?
- Stay calm and non-judgmental. Don’t show horror, disgust or disappointment, and don’t make your child promise to stop. Instead, support your foster child in building resilience, identity, self-esteem and confidence, and work on developing other coping strategies. Ask them to help you understand why and how self-harm helps them.
- Keep an eye out for less obvious signs of self-harm, such as injuries in areas that can’t easily be seen.
- If your child wants to look at websites offering tools to help support self-harmers, support them in doing so – but look at the sites with them, as some may inadvertently encourage self-harming behaviour.
- If needed, give your foster child support to keep wounds clean and cared for – but allow them to take the reins. You don’t want to exacerbate the problem by taking away their control over their own body.
- Self-harm is often accompanied by a lot of shame, embarrassment and self-hatred that can make your foster child’s feelings and actions very hard to talk about. Encourage them to talk and express themselves, and try to help your child find other ways to deal with their emotions.
- Seek professional help. If your foster child is suffering badly enough to resort to self-harm, they need extra support from a mental health professional.
Even if your foster child is not self-harming, someone they know might be – so raise it as a topic in your household so your child knows they can talk to you.
If your child tells you that a friend or schoolmate is self-harming, think carefully before informing the parent as you will be breaking the confidence your child has shown in you. Instead, try to get permission from the friend (with your child’s help, if necessary) to talk to their parents before taking action.
Where to get help
List of resources to include:
- Samaritans: call 116 123 (open 24 hours a day), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or check your local Samaritans branch
- Mind: call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (weekdays from 9am-6pm)
- National Self Harm Network Forums
- YoungMinds Parents Helpline – call 0808 802 5544 (weekdays 9:30am-4pm)
- If you are a foster carer with Compass Fostering, reach out to your support team for more guidance
When you join the Compass Fostering family, you’re never alone. We offer extensive and ongoing training and support to help carers deal with many difficult issues that can arise when looking after a foster child. Get in touch to find out more about becoming a foster carer with Compass Fostering.
What is happening in Syria?
Well, in a nutshell, the country’s leader and army decided to declare war on his own people, so the country’s army is shelling and bombing every civilian target there is. During this, families have lost their homes, or left for safety to neighbouring countries. Many decided to take a leap of faith and migrate further looking for safety. The numbers of refugees are now in the millions so now the Syrian problem is a worldwide problem and not just a regional one.
Caring for Muslim youngsters? Are you nuts? What about ISIS…
Ok here is a bit of news; ISIS has around 20,000 members, mostly adult male fighters who are spread between Iraq and Syria. The Syrian population is 22 million, making the chances of you getting an ISIS child NIL. A refugee child is a scared individual looking for a safe place to call home.
But the child comes with no history? How do I know who am I taking?
Legitimate concern, but let’s take a look at the children we already care for now. They often come as an emergency placement, sometimes with no history or an inflated one as logs are often made by professionals trying to protect their backs. You still take that child and then problem solve as you have him or her in your household,
As carers we are always taking risks with who we take in our homes and that is a part of the job. Syrian children are no different to that, they come with the advantage that they mostly have had positive parenting before this war. They are respectful and full of gratitude – I know a few carers who will only take asylum seekers because of the level of respect they offer.
How about culture differences and diet restrictions, it’s going to be a nightmare?
Humanity is universal; Stick to this faith and you will be fine. The smile is an international language, it speaks louder than any words.
Here are a few tips that can help bridge the culture gap:
Halal Diet: No alcohol, meaning no alcohol, including cooking sauces and to any product that has alcohol as part of its manufacturing process. EXCLUDING MEDICINE. If in doubt always go vegetarian where possible, the kids will not mind, in fact they will love you for including them at meal times.
No pork, No Ham, No Bacon. This also extends to any product made from pig such as pork gelatine sweets. If you wish to educate yourself further on Halal diet you can do so, but sticking to these basic roles would be a great help.
Toilet habits may be slightly different as well. Muslims wash with water every time they use the toilet. Having a small garden water jug under the sink would make a child’s life a lot easier. These can be bought from home bargains, B&Q and even the Pound Shop. Remember they would not like to use toilet paper and there is a slight chance that the child may not be familiar with a toilet seat. In general Syria uses a different concept of toilet seats, it wouldn’t harm using sign langue to explain the flushing and the general rituals of the toilet, male to male and female to female demonstration would be more sensitive to the cultural gap. Hold the jug and tell them it is ok to use it.
Dogs and pets are fine, but if you notice that your child is praying it would help them to keep the dog out of the their room as they would need to keep that space a pet free zone.
Where can I get more help?
Check your local mosque, there is likely to be one you didn’t know about nearby. If not there are plenty of communities and literature online that can help. The council would be also be a good starting point. Any questions please don’t hesitate to ask and thank you once more for the job you are doing :).
You are amazing as they keep telling you, you really are.
Foster carer Compass Fostering
What is a Refugee?
A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
(The 1951 United Nationals Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees).
The Facts About Refugees
A number of first born children are forced to leave their families and placed in countries which are seen to be safer. Issues would be:
- isolation from family
- Isolation from friends
- Coping with a new environment when used to different behaviours e.g, violence and war, poverty, corruption, intolerance
- Language and cultural challenges
- Laws, police and the state
Dispelling Myths About Refugees
- Asylum seekers do not come to the UK to claim benefits. In fact most know nothing about welfare benefits before they arrive and had no expectation that they would receive financial support. (Refugee Council, Chance or Choice? Understanding why asylum seekers come to the UN, 2010)
- Most asylum seekers are living in poverty and experience poor health and hunger. Many families are not able to pay for the basics such as clothing powdered milk and nappies. (Independent Asylum Commission citizens inquiry in The Independent 2007)
- Almost all asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support – this can be as little as £5 a day to live on.
- Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing and they cannot chose where they live. The accommodation allocation to them is not paid for by the local council. It is nearly always ‘hard to let ‘ properties, where other people do not want to live.
- Asylum seeking women who are destitute are vulnerable to violence in the UK. More than a fifth of the women accessing our therapeutic services had experienced sexual violence in this country. (Refugee Council. The experiences of refugee women in the UK 2012)
- Asylum seekers do not receive more benefits than pensioners in the UK (UK Parliament briefing paper 2012
Foster Care For Unaccompanied Refugee Minors
If you are interested in fostering a Refugee then request a digital information pack from this page and we can get you started!