FosterWiki Opinion Piece

Every foster carer needs a Frank

As FosterWiki Ambassador Carolyn Moody MBE processes the death of her first fostering social worker she reflects on how his exceptional qualities helped her become the carer she is today.

As FosterWiki Ambassador Carolyn Moody MBE processes the death of her first fostering social worker she reflects on how his exceptional qualities helped her become the carer she is today.

Being a foster carer is sometimes very hard, not just for a foster carer but for the whole family, but with the right support, the type that doesn’t judge you, you can overcome most challenges.

After hearing the sad news that my first-ever fostering support social worker, Frank, passed away. I thought about my journey, as a new foster carer, my first supporting fostering social worker and today, on a continuing journey of education and still caring and supporting vulnerable adults and privileged to be doing so.

Frank was a wonderful person who definitely helped shape my fostering practice and gave me the drive to be a professional foster carer.

Fostering has changed since I began back in 2002, we have much better awareness today and are beginning to understand the effects of trauma and we are continuously learning more about its complexities and the most effective ways to support children. This increased awareness is leading to more compassionate and trauma-informed approaches to care and healing.

However, the support is just not as consistent today, as it was then, you could build a relationship, and in general, rely on that support from someone who knew you all as a family. Today, it has got so bad, that it is increasingly difficult to build a good working relationship, and that is a major problem for not just me, but for so many.

It’s partly due to Frank, and my passion to support children, to be the best I could be, that I remained fostering for many years and continued caring after into Shared Lives. However, the system was just as challenging then, as it is today!

Frank challenged me and taught me how to problem-solve. He gave me room to grow and create a safe space for the children I cared for. We had a great working relationship. I could be honest with him, and he never judged me. He understood why I felt the way I did, even if he didn’t always have all the answers right away. He often said, “I know you’re going through a lot, but everything will be okay.”

He had so much empathy and was always there for me. He used to be a foster carer himself, so he understood what I was going through at that time. He was big on safeguarding and keeping records, he kept me on my toes, and he had my back. He made it a priority to know my family and the children I cared for. His praise gave me confidence, and I felt comfortable with him.

Even when I doubted myself, he always believed in me. I remember a tough time when my first foster child, Simon, had night terrors and hardly slept. I was exhausted and wanted to give up, but Frank said something that made me keep going: “Don’t get discouraged. You knew it wouldn’t be easy. Simon needs you to be strong for him. Remember, the end result is worth the journey.”

With Frank’s ongoing support and some breaks along the way, I got through it, and Simon stayed with us for many years. He later joined the Army and did well for himself. I can’t help but think that if everyone had a social worker like Frank, it would be so much better.

For some years now, local authorities have discouraged fostering support social workers from becoming too close to foster carers. This is because everyone must remember to keep their professional roles clear, but foster carers with both excellent training and supervision will understand this rule.

In foster care, tough decisions are made about a child and as carers must be doing what we should to keep a child safe, and equally it is vital that every foster carer is treated the same way – no favourites.

But it’s so important to find a balance, between being professional and being friendly. It’s necessary, and experienced workers can manage this. When they change, often to less experienced workers and far too often, foster carers can feel left on their own, feeling desperate at times. Also, important information about the family and the children we are caring for gets lost. Many new supervising social workers arrive knowing nothing about your situation, often there is no handover from the previous one, or they have not even bothered to read any notes.

Foster carers need the right help and advice at the time, often they can’t wait, and the children can’t wait!

All these changes can be really hard for foster carers to do their best for children This is something that is putting pressure on fostering families and needs action. In the ever-evolving journey of fostering, we must remember the significance of dedicated, empathetic support like Frank provided. While the landscape of foster care may have changed in past years, the need for consistent, compassionate, and trauma-informed support remains. It’s a reminder that with the right guidance and dedication, foster carers and their families can overcome challenges and continue to provide loving homes for vulnerable

Recently FosterWiki was involved in a consultation group with the DfE on an early career framework for fostering social workers, with the all-important feedback from FosterWiki foster carers, who know first-hand what is important to them in a Supervising Social Worker.

For foster carers, a good Supervising Social Worker, with the qualities Frank had, is absolutely fundamental in addressing the challenges they face while striving to make a real difference in the lives of children in their care. I for one am so pleased that FosterWiki was involved in such crucial work.