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Reflection on a year in ‘lockdown’ at Caldecott fostering

I have been a social worker for a very long time, I won’t say how long, as I like to keep people guessing about my age.. For one I am typing this blog, rather than writing it by hand and giving it to the typing pool to have it typed up! I’m not even sure the concept of a ‘blog’ existed in those days!

I have been reflecting on the unusual year we have lived through and the impact it has had on our lives as a fostering family. It has been our aim as a team to to ensure that we continue to offer an outstanding service to our children and foster carers, whilst keeping everyone concerned well and safe at this difficult time.

So, what have we learned?

What has worked well? We are very proud that we managed to offer a seamless response to this crisis from the fostering service to our carers and young people. Fortunately, we were already well placed to work from home in terms of technology as all our platforms are cloud based.

We introduced virtual ‘workflow’ meetings via video call every Monday during which team and individual tasks are discussed and agreed. During the initial lockdown period, meetings have also been held each Thursday for a 20-30 minute ‘welfare check’ via video call to ensure the staff team remained functioning and feel ‘connected’. We continued with group clinical supervision with a psychotherapist for the team, to ensure everyone was supported to look after their well-being and resilience.

Regular contact with foster carers continued via telephone and video calls. We have maintained regulatory compliance by undertaking carer household annual reviews via video link. This worked well and demonstrated our willingness and capacity to be flexible and adaptable. We were able to maintain high quality support during the entire reporting period, despite the challenges posed.

Regular contact and online events for carers and young people have taken place facilitated by the support worker and other team members, such as contact with individual children, online group fitness sessions, activities such as quizzes, cooking and baking classes and theatrical makeup workshops. We even had a ‘virtual’ Christmas dinner together!

We implemented a closed Facebook group for our foster carers through which we could share resources with carers and children. This reduced the volume of emails foster carers received and allowed them to access a wide range of resources and practical activities for them and their children.

We have linked in with the Fostering Network resources which has been sharing communication and questions between many IFA members. We have joined NAFP conference calls and meetings providing advice and guidance. We have accessed CoramBAAF who have provided updates and guidance in particular relating to carer medicals, risk assessment and insurance.

We have shared information with the three bodies named above, with respect to the impact of the situation on foster carers and children. This information contributed to a letter to the children’s minister about support needs of carers and children.

All staff supervision has continued as per normal frequency. There has been no occasion when the RI, the RM or other staff members have not been immediately contactable. The team has been incredibly responsive and have risen to the challenge.

The Covid-19 crisis has provided us with an opportunity to assess the positives and challenges of working differently and in different roles remotely. This experience has confirmed how the communication between us is critical, as well as the importance of being able to work together in physical ways as well as virtual.

As a result of working remotely, we have developed creative ideas to maintain recruitment activity such as arranging home visits via video calls.

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