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Coronavirus and the wellbeing of looked after children – advice for foster families

Life as a child being looked after away from home can be full of anxiety and uncertainty. A child may feel like what happens with their lives is out of their control and moving away from their birth families (even if just temporarily) can be a really scary time. With the current Coronavirus pandemic taking over our lives, I am sure many of us feel similar to these children right now: scared, anxious and overwhelmed. We wanted to write a short post today to update you on what is happening at Focus Foster Care during the Coronavirus outbreak and to share important information on how this crisis will likely impact on looked after children. We hope everyone is keeping safe and would like to remind our foster carers we are still available on the phone any time you need us.

Changes to Focus Foster Care during the Coronavirus outbreak.

To try and control the spread of Coronavirus the government have put several restrictions and rules in place to try and keep as many people as possible from getting poorly and overwhelming the NHS. At Focus Foster Care, as we are in the social care sector, our team are key workers and are continuing to work through this crisis. The children we look after need us now more than ever before at this anxious time and we have made some changes to how we work to make sure we are able to continue to support the children under our care and our team of dedicated foster carers.

These are the changes we have now put into place

  • Our team are now all working from home to keep to the new government guidelines.
  • All our routine appointments are now being taken on Skype or over the phone.
  • Our foster carers are able to contact us on our phones as normal. We are still able to offer our usual level of support over the phone to all of our foster carers.
  • To keep everyone as safe as possible we are only able to conduct home visits when absolutely necessary.
  • We are continuing to take enquiries from people interested in joining our team of foster carers and processing applications as normal.
  • We remain here to support all our foster carers and the children we look after during this difficult time.

Advice for foster families during the Coronavirus crisis

For those of you worried about how the Coronavirus will impact your looked after child’s mental wellbeing and are wondering how to navigate this difficult time from a foster families perspective, our senior social worker Fiona has this advice…

We are indeed facing unprecedented times at the moment which every single one of us, adults and children alike are trying to make sense of and adjust to. Our lives have temporarily changed as we know them.

Our looked after children have already faced separation from their birth families and extended periods of time in between having contact with their family members. While most will have not experienced interruptions to attending school, many have faced disruption to their schooling and multiple school moves. If we think about it, what we are experiencing in terms of changes to our lives at the moment and how upsetting they can be, it can help us to understand what looked after children can go  through as a matter of course; their links with their networks are often severed and they can feel isolated and anxious.

Looked after children can face uncertainty about plans for their futures in a way that children living within their birth family network, never have to question.  The impact of the Coronavirus is likely to exacerbate this. Children are not sure when they will see their birth family members again and may worry for their safety and well-being.

For some children, school has been a source of continuity  and safety and the positive relationships with staff members and friends have helped them cope with their life experiences and schools are now closed indefinitely. Leisure activities have been suspended and opportunities to socialise with friends have ceased.

What we do know is that all children are incredibly resilient and with a loving, caring and nurturing network around them, they can feel safe, well and thrive. So, we need to do what we can. It is important that we acknowledge and validate children’s feelings but reassuring them the best we can, answering their questions in an honest and age appropriate way. When we don’t have answers to their questions, lets research them together.

Lets be creative about birth family contact. We may not be able to facilitate face to face contact for children but let’s work together with social workers to consider other means of communication. Technology can be a wonderful thing. Schools are offering regular contact through their websites and on-line learning platforms, let’s encourage children to use these and help them to stay connected.

Lets get outside, it’s Spring!!  We can use our garden’s and once a day we can still go out for a walk, run or cycle as long as we follow government guidelines on social distancing. The Body Coach Joe Wicks is doing PE lesson live every morning at 9am on his YouTube channel. Exercise is a great way to give the day a  kick-start. Physical activity is an effective mood booster, it is fun and an activity that can be done together.

This time is a great opportunity for helping children to learn new life skills and to connect with household members. Most of all, we need to reassure our children that these measures are temporary in the interests of everybody’s safety and things will be back to normal soon.

Fiona, Focus Foster Care senior social worker

The best thing we can all do as a nation is follow the government guidelines and stay inside. If we all social distance when outside and stay inside as much as possible then we will get through this crisis quicker. It is important to remember there continues to be a major shortage of foster carers in the UK, and we would still like to hear from people interested in fostering.

Keep safe everyone. We will get through this together.

fostering