The difference a placement can make.
I have been a social worker now for 10 years. In that time, I have been lucky enough to work with some committed and creative professionals who supported some amazing families, one of which I would like to talk about here (all names have been changed for confidentiality purposes).
I worked with a foster family who took on the care of a 6-year-old boy, Daniel, who was removed from home in an emergency due to allegations of sexual abuse, parental domestic abuse and substance misuse leading to neglect. The foster family were initially hesitant about taking him on a longer term basis because they had a birth child and another foster child of a similar age. However, after learning more about Daniel’s difficult history they agreed with support from the Fostering Team.
The foster parents, Tracey and Martin Lawson, were really passionate about helping children in need; they demonstrated this by finding as many activities and family events to share in fun with their foster children. They continually updated their skills to ensure that they were in the best situation to manage any ‘challenging’ behaviours. They would go on every training day we offered, they would work with any professional who could be useful to their foster child and they were dedicated to being the most informed and best read. Both parents were responsive to suggestions from my team and the child’s social worker, they did not see themselves as experts but gave freely of themselves to secure the best outcomes for the children they fostered.
The Lawson family, Tracey, Martin, Ruby 21, Rachel 20, James 14, Rebecca 12(long-term foster daughter) Lucy 6, Billy 6 (long-term foster son) all worked together as a whole system to support the newest member of their family. They had meals together, they had discussions together if there were issues with any behaviour in the house and worked tirelessly to find solutions that worked for each family member. One such meeting took place when Daniel had hit Lucy across her face. Tracey called the Lawson’s together to have a talk around their dining table about what had happened and how everyone could try and prevent this from happening again. This was a non-blaming way of exploring the causal factors in the event, what feelings were evoked and what could protect against something happening in the future. I was struck by the whole family system’s determination to work through the situation in a supportive and progressive way.
Daniel learnt a lot as part of this amazing family, how to use a knife and fork, how to share toys and play. Tracey and Martin helped him learn how to read and write. They modeled to him how to manage anger and deal with upset feelings without hurting yourself or others. His social workers helped him to build a coherent story around his past and what was happening for his parents when he was at home and now. The combination of these factors had a very positive impact for the whole family.
The Lawson’s had all worked hard through their learning and training, their behaviour modeling, their containing, their actions and words. When the young boy was asked what he had learnt from the placement, he said one thing over all. He’d learnt how to be happy.
This experience shows me that you can teach someone how to intervene in a tantrum, you can teach someone how to contain an outburst, you can even teach someone how to play. It’s a special family who can work together to create the feeling of fun, the feeling of happiness and the feeling of belonging,
I am truly inspired by the Lawson’s family story and the dedication and skill they all have, they work together to create such a special place for foster children. They change lives, together. I’m always in admiration of families like the Lawson’s.