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 How to help your child in care

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PostSubject: How to help your child in care   Wed 1 Oct - 16:43

This document is for parents of children in care but may also be of help to those who work with children in care, including social workers, staff in children’s residential homes, foster carers and local councillors in their role as ‘corporate parents’.

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We all want the best for our children, for them to grow up healthy, happy, secure and confident, but sometimes parents have problems and find it hard to care for a child. This can be due to a family crisis, a child’s behaviour, or, in some cases, because a child is at risk from an adult within the family. The Children Act 1989 and the duties upon the courts and local authorities mean that every effort is made to keep families together by providing support to children at home. But placing a child in Social Services’ care away from the family home is sometimes the only option.

This could be a situation facing you or your family. You may feel upset, angry, isolated, confused or overwhelmed by what Social Services are doing. Your child may feel bewildered, confused and frightened. The decision for your child to live away from home may not have been yours. However, depending on the circumstances and whether you are allowed to continue contact, you can still have a say in decisions that affect your child. Going into care will cause a big change in your child’s life. The Government wants your child to grow up happy, healthy and safe whilst in care, and is determined that local authorities provide the best possible care for children. But it is still very important that you know how you can help your child in care, and that you feel able and confident to do so.

This document is designed to help you. It contains points for you to consider, questions you should ask and an explanation of words and terms used about children in care.
This document is not meant to give legal advice but to provide practical information about how you can help your child in care. If you require legal advice you should contact a solicitor.

Remember Do not hesitate to ask questions of anyone involved in your child’s care.
Ask about the decisions that you can be involved in.
Work with those caring for your child to make sure your child settles and is able to achieve their full potential whilst in care.
Keep taking an interest in your child’s school life and other activities.
Keep in regular contact with your child.
There are different words used to describe when children are living away from home and are cared for by Social Services. To be ‘looked after’ is a recent description and covers the range of legal circumstances including where parents ask or agree for Social Services to care for their child. This leaflet uses the term ‘in care’ because these are the words most people are familiar with. Children in care can live:

In a Residential Children’s Home with staff employed to care for a small number of children.

With Foster Carers these are carefully recruited people trained to look after children in care, usually in the foster carer’s own home.
Apart from a residential home or a foster carer, another option is for your child to live with a member of your family. This could be grandparents or aunts and uncles that are considered suitable carers for your child. Keeping in touch and dealing with change Your support is important to help your child settle down as quickly as possible.

Those caring for your child in the residential home or the foster carer should make every effort to ensure that your child settles. They can do this best with your help.
Ask about the plans for your child in care and what part you can play in your child’s care plan.
Make sure that you give your child’s carers as much information as possible about your child, their likes and dislikes, pet names for things, who is important to them (besides yourself of course), their hobbies and favourite TV programmes, food, school lessons, etc.

You may feel uncomfortable about going to meetings where details of your family life are being discussed. Having a relative or friend with you may give you the support needed to give your views.
Going into care creates a big change in a child’s life. At first everything will be strange, with an unfamiliar place to sleep and eat and there may be other children to get to know.

Children will also have to cope with the reasons that have brought them into care. They may have emotional or behavioural difficulties, be struggling with the family crisis happening at home, have a parent who is ill or in hospital, or could have been abused within their family home.
Being in care can leave children vulnerable. It is important that they receive as much support as possible whilst in care to help them to feel secure.
Do not hesitate to ask if you are unsure or feel uneasy about arrangements being discussed for your child
Children in care miss their parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and other relatives as well as other important people in their lives such as friends and neighbours. The social worker will want to discuss ways in which you can keep in touch. This will include visits, telephone calls and letters.
Keeping in touch and dealing with change

Regular and frequent visits are best and, if possible, should include other members of the family. If you say you are going to visit, do so. A child’s sense of disappointment is great when parents don’t do what they say.
Remember that contact must fit in with your child’s life and the life of the carers. Sometimes carers are looking after more than one child and they will have to juggle visits. So it is important to stick to the arrangements that are made. Let relatives know when they can visit. Make sure your child has access to a telephone – for making and receiving calls. Inform Social Services about special family occasions that you want your child to attend. This may include birthday parties of your child’s friends.
If problems arise about contact it is important that you raise the matter as soon as it happens.
Even where the court or the local authority has decided that it is not possible for you to maintain direct contact, you can still be involved in decision making and play a part in keeping your child safe and happy. Find out about this by asking the social worker responsible.
Day to day matters
Health. The social services will have been provided with health records but you will know most about your child’s health needs. Talk about health matters with those looking after your child. Discuss practical things like in the event of illness who will take your child to the doctor, or who is responsible for arranging routine check-ups.

Education. It is important that your child is happy at school You will know about your child’s talents and achievements as well as needs and problems. Discuss with those caring for your child how you can work together for the good of your child’seducation. Consider practical arrangements like:
Travelling – who takes and collects your child from school?
Homework – will your child be able to work in a quiet room and be helped if he/she gets stuck?
School events – make sure that you and your child’s carers are informed of parents’ evenings, plays and sports days. It is important to children that someone is there to support them.
Emergencies – who should the school contact in an emergency?
Culture. It is essential that children’s cultural welfare and needs are recognised and valued when they are in care. It is important that you discuss with those caring for your child what is important to you and your family, and how you promote your child’s culture.
Religious faith. It is important that children are able to continue to practice their faith while in care. Those looking after children have a duty to help them in this. If possible, arrange for your child to worship at the place you and your family attend. Ensure that your child is invited by the place of worship to be involved in celebrations and services with all the other children who worship there.
Sports and recreation activities. If your child was involved in a sport or recreational activity before they went into care it is important that they can continue to pursue these interests and maintain contact with any sports clubs, dance studios etc they have links with. This can also provide an opportunity for your child to see their friends or brothers and sisters.

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