“What is it you do, exactly?”

Since the first episode of ‘Protecting Our Children’ was shown last week on BBC2 (http://goo.gl/5Uac5) I’ve had a lot of questions from friends/acquaintances asking about social work. One girl, who knows me well and therefore shall remain nameless asked me: “what is it that you do, exactly?!”

So I thought I’d spend a little time today explaining my job, since I spend the vast majority of my time working, thinking about work or recovering from work.

The simplest way to describe my role is “one row back from child protection”. Social workers like me come into play when the Child Protection work is over, or almost over.

Using the example of Toby (the child from the documentary) … he had a social worker Susannah, who had responsibility for ensuring his safety in his parents’ care. When he was removed from his parents’ care into Foster Care, he would then have become the responsibility of another social worker. This would be his Allocated Social Worker, and they would work in a Looked After Children’s Team.

I’m not one of those. My job title is “Supervising Social Worker”. We support the adults, who take care of the children.

Toby was placed with foster carers…his foster carers would have had their own Supervising Social Worker. This is a registered social worker who works for either the Local Authority (Social Services) or an Independent Fostering Agency (which is what I do)

A Supervising Social Worker is there to help the adults to give the best care they can to the child. We have a statutory duty to visit the home every 4 weeks, to provide supervision, practical advice and emotional support to the carer(s). We also meet with the children and talk with them about their experiences in foster care.

Many children placed in IFAs are there because there were no suitable options for them in Local Authority care. This could be because of ongoing child protection issues – e.g. needing them out of their local area for their own safety. More often it is because of their emotional or behavioural needs, and their having exhausted all local options for care.

Children in foster care all have their own unique ‘issues’ and difficulties. My role is to support the adult to enable them to continue providing a high standard of care to the child. If the carer is struggling, then the level of care they give is likely to suffer.

A SSW will attend meetings about the child, such as “Looked After Child Reviews” or “Personal Education Plan” meetings. Our role here is to explain our perception of the child, his/her needs, the positives and negatives that the carer has experienced in looking after him/her. Our role is directly and indirectly related to the care of the child; we ensure that the carer is doing all they can…but ultimately the ASW and the Looked After Child Team is responsible for the child, acting as their Corporate Parent.
I hope that’s a simple but clear explanation. You can read more about social work by going to http://www.gscc.org.uk and following the links.

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