BECOMING A CARER
How safeguarding protects both young people and foster carers
You might have heard social workers, local authorities or other professionals involved in fostering talk about “safeguarding”.
Safeguarding is all about protecting vulnerable people, including children, from abuse, neglect and accidents. It’s also about making sure young people get good access to the things they need to stay healthy and well, to ensure they receive safe and empowering care, and to make sure they know how to protect themselves.
As you can imagine, this means safeguarding is an important concept in foster care and something we at Lika, as an independent foster care agency in London, take very seriously. (And so does the Government: safeguarding is actually part of UK law.)
All this might make the concept of safeguarding seem a little bit daunting, but don’t be put off!
Firstly, if you become a Lika foster carer, you’ll get really great training in everything you need to know about safeguarding.
Secondly, when you eventually welcome a young person into your home, we’ll help you create a Safer Caring Plan that’s tailored to the needs of both you and your young person.
And thirdly, safeguarding will protect you, as a foster carer, as much as it protects the young person you’re fostering. Following safeguarding procedures will keep you and members of your family safe from false allegations.
Making sure both foster carers and young people feel safe and comfortable and have a clear understanding of their roles is one of the most important steps to creating a happy, healthy and successful foster care experience.
Let’s take a closer look at safeguarding in a foster care situation.
Let’s demystify safeguarding a bit by looking at what the legislation asks of foster carers. This will give you a clear picture of the kinds of responsibilities it covers.
- Children’s safety and welfare should be promoted in all fostering placements and children must be protected from abuse and harm
- Foster carers must actively safeguard and promote the welfare of foster children
- Foster carers must make positive relationships with children and create a culture of openness and trust
- Foster carers must be aware and alert to any signs or symptoms that might indicate a child is at risk of harm
- Foster carers should encourage children to take the kinds of appropriate risks that are a normal part of growing up
- Foster carers must encourage children to keep themselves safe (including outside the home and on the internet)
- Foster carers must be appropriately trained (that’s our job!)
- Foster carers must work in partnership with other agencies involved in the child’s protection, like the child’s school, GP, social worker, etc.
As you would expect, foster care agencies have policies, procedures and structures in place to ensure safeguarding occurs exactly as it should.
At Lika, you’ll receive expert training in safeguarding concepts and techniques. You’ll also receive a policy document that outlines everything you need to know and do, before you even welcome a young person into your home.
We’ll also help you create a Safer Caring Plan. This is a real consultative and diverse document that includes not just safeguarding ideas but the rules of your house, too. It could contain things like:
- Your household fire safety procedure
- Babysitting arrangements
- Rules around taking photographs
- How you’d approach conversations around sex and sexuality
- Rules about smoking and alcohol
- How you manage misbehaviour
- Directions for first aid and medication
- Rules around bathroom use and where to get dressed
- Decisions about supervision
- Rules around bedrooms
- Rules around pets.
You can probably see from this list how a Safer Caring Plan really pulls together health and safety, house rules and child protection issues.
A few days after your young person arrives, we’ll pay a visit to see how everything is going. This is called a placement planning meeting. We’ll all sit down together — you, your young person, and your social workers — and talk more in depth about rules and regulations.
We’ll also discuss ideas about how to manage certain aspects of your relationship — like how to talk to each other with respect when you’re feeling frustrated, how you might show affection (are hugs OK?), and those sorts of things.
Throughout your time as a foster carer with Lika you’ll also have 24/7 back-up support available to you from our expert team. We’ll also link you up with another experienced carer, whom you can ask for advice in a peer mentor capacity.
Avoiding problems when allegations or misinterpretations occur is the big one here.
This might sound counter-intuitive but we know that the safer a young person feels in their foster placement and their relationship with their carer, the more likely it is they’ll make allegations against the foster carer.
This happens for different reasons but sometimes it’s a test to see whether you’ll stick by them when the going gets tough. It could also be that something has triggered a response in your young person, because of the trauma they experienced in the past. This can lead to the child saying something happened now, in their current situation, when in fact it actually happened in the past.
So, how does safeguarding help the carer in situations like this?
Well, firstly following the rules set down should help avoid any potential misunderstandings and misinterpretations. But secondly, a big part of safeguarding is keeping a daily record. This record might, for example:
- Log details of disagreements
- Record details of behaviours
- List who has been in the house
- Record what the young person is eating
- Log the time certain events occurred
- Contain communications from school.
Keeping a record of the things that happen means when allegations are made, the professionals asked to look into it have a good understanding of chronology and everything that has happened in the foster home.
If the young person is old enough, many foster carers involve their young person in writing the log, making it a really transparent process and a good opportunity for discussion and reflection. Hearing your young person’s perspective is also a good opportunity to iron out any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of things that happened.
When it comes to safeguarding, everyone involved with the welfare of a young person has a role to play — you, your foster care agency, the social workers, doctors, teachers, local authorities, and so on.
As a Lika foster carer, you’ll receive extensive training and resources, tailored to your individual care situation, including everything you need to know about safeguarding.
Support from our team of experienced professionals, including social workers, therapists and other foster carers, is available 24/7.
And we also match our carers and young people carefully — because we know a good match delivers the best possible result for both young person and carer.
Our goal at Lika is to ensure fostering is a fulfilling experience for you, and a transformational one for the young person in your care.
If you’re in south or east London and you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions.
We’re in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham.