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The fostering sector, Coronavirus and lockdown.

Coronavirus has changed the lives of millions of people across the world. Be it through contracting the infection, unemployment or the loss of normality and freedom through lockdown, people everywhere are being affected in many ways because of the pandemic. In the fostering sector, we are managing changes in the way we deliver our services due to the strict restrictions and guidelines put in place by the government to keep the population safe. For children in care and those living with foster families, the pandemic has caused many different challenges. At Focus Foster Care, our team, our carers and the children’s services we work alongside have all had to adapt so children are still being given the best care, their mental wellbeing continues to be protected, their learning promoted and everyone is being kept as safe as possible from Covid-19.

Lockdown challenges

As the UK government continue to ‘lockdown’ the country to help slow the spread of Coronavirus, social workers from all sectors are being faced with many challenges. Our Focus Foster Care staff team have been fully based from home since 23rd March. We have adapted to new ways of working to ensure that we can fulfil our roles and ensure minimal disruption to the services our foster carers and children receive. New ways of working have also been extended to responding to fostering enquiries, undertaking initial visits and progressing applications and fostering assessments. Video calling and technology are helping us to connect with people, face to face, across our service. We recognise it’s not quite the same, but it is a great interim measure in the interests of keeping everyone as safe as possible.

Monthly supervision meetings and support meetings are taking place using video-calling so we can continue to offer ‘face to face’ contact even if it is virtually. With the government insisting people stay at home wherever possible and not mix with people from other households, we are limiting how frequently we visit homes to crisis and emergency situations only. Obviously, this is not an ideal situation for anyone involved, social workers are here to help and it is difficult for everyone that we are unable to visit carers and children in foster homes every time our support is needed. Our foster carers continue to be able to contact our team, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if needed.

Assessment appointments with prospective foster carers are still taking place. However, it is likely some aspects of the process will not be fully completed until lockdown is lifted or eased to allow services to resume and freedom of movement between households. We can not gather the range of information we need from different sources completely until lockdown has eased.

It is important that we restrict the movement of children between households the best we can. However, children still need to come into foster care and sometimes need to move between foster placements to ensure they are with people best suited to meet their needs. Unfortunately, some foster carers will also become unwell with symptoms of the Corona Virus. Like many families, the support network people would usually rely upon cannot be used currently and this can put an additional strain on people and resources. Everybody is doing their best in difficult circumstances and we remain as committed as ever to protect and support vulnerable children and their families.

Children and lockdown

There is no argument the lives of all children are being impacted by Coronavirus and the UK lockdown, be it directly or indirectly. However, children being looked after away from their home are experiencing additional challenges that children living within birth families can simply not comprehend. Face to face contact with birth family members has been suspended and there is no certainty as to when this will change. We are working with local authorities and our foster carers to adapt the way children can enjoy regular and good quality contact with their family members such as video calling and telephone calls. Children will naturally want reassurances from their birth families during times of stress and need to know that their family members are safe and well. Our foster carers are doing an amazing job of supporting children to have contact with their family members and help children navigate their mixed emotions during anxious times.

The closure of schools has also been problematic for vulnerable children. Whilst children already under the care of social services and living at home have been offered emergency childcare in school, not all children in foster care will be utilising this. School offers children much more than academic education, the school setting can be a safe and familiar space for children and an escape from a stressful and uncertain life outside of school. Friendships improve children’s happiness and mental wellbeing and with school closed, children are now missing these interactions with children their own age. For children in foster care, many aspects of their lives can change frequently. The people who look after them, the home they live in, the time they are able to spend with their birth families: all these situations can change regularly but school often remains a welcome constant. School closures are impacting all children across the UK, for looked after children, however, the absence of school has impacted much more than just their academic and social life.

Coronavirus and all the changes it has bestowed upon us since March, has stirred up panic and anxiety amongst the general public. For many children in foster care, anxiety and uncertainty are unfortunately the norm and this pandemic is making their already stressful situation even more so. Social workers and foster carers are doing all they can to protect the mental wellbeing of children in their care and to support them through this unprecedented time. This is a situation none of us have faced before but embracing the lives of children remains at the centre of everything we as a fostering agency do and we will continue working hard to help our foster carers and vulnerable children through this difficult time.

In some ways our work has had to change to deal with the problems brought on by this pandemic, in others we continue as we did before. We are still looking to recruit new foster carers in the West and East Midlands and surrounding areas. Children continue to need foster homes and there could be an increased demand as lockdown is lifted and safeguarding services return to normal capacity. We need passionate, supportive and loving people to join our team of foster carers to be there to help and support vulnerable children.

Contact us today to find out how you can become a foster carer with us.

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