A Foster Carers Guide to Supervision
A Foster Carers Guide to Supervision
Introduction to Supervision
Supervision is an integral part of your fostering practice and takes place regularly, usually at 6 weekly intervals, usually in your own home. Your supervising social worker (SSW) conducts it.
Fostering brings with it immense rewards, however, it also brings complex challenges in equal measure. Supervision is an important part of your practice and is also intended to be an opportunity to reflect, learn and share strategies and ways of helping the children in your care.
Your supervising social worker should be checking that you are working within and understand the National Minimum Standards (NMS), safeguarding and statutory legislation, policies, procedures and guidelines.
In reality supervision, as in all things fostering, will vary hugely, as you will be able to see from the foster carers’ comments (section 7). Knowledge is key, understanding the framework of supervision, how you conduct it, how it should be conducted and understanding the role, expectations and practice of your supervising social worker will empower you to maximise your supervision.
Your supervising social worker (SSW) will also work closely with your child’s social worker (CSW).
What is supervision?
When you become an approved foster carer you will be allocated a social worker, often called a “supervising social worker” (SSW), sometimes they have other names like link worker. Your child or young person will also have their own child’s social worker (CSW).
They will, or should, visit you at a minimum once every 6 weeks. Supervision can be in person or virtually but there is a statutory requirement for the SSW to see your house, your children and you face to face so they may do a mix of both.
Your supervising social worker should see you at least once every 6 weeks and should write up notes on your meeting. You should then get a copy of those notes within a week or so, or as a minimum before your next meeting.
Here’s what the National Minimum Standards (NMS) (22.8/9) have to say on foster carers’ supervision:
- Each approved foster carer is supervised by a named, appropriately qualified social worker who has meetings with the foster carer.
- Including at least one unannounced visit a year.
- Meetings have a clear purpose and provide the opportunity to supervise the foster carer’s work, ensure the foster carer is meeting the child’s needs, taking into account the child’s wishes and feelings, and offer support and a framework to assess the carer’s performance and develop their competencies and skills.
- The frequency of meetings for short break foster carers should be proportionate to the amount of care provided.
- Foster carers’ files include records of supervisory meetings.
- The supervising social worker ensures each foster carer he or she supervises is informed in writing of, and accepts, understands and operates within, all regulations and standards and with policies and guidance agreed by the fostering service.
What does it entail?
- It usually takes about an hour and your social worker has a list of things to get through.
- They will discuss how things are going with each child, ask if there are any issues, and ensure you are taking into account your child’s wishes and feelings.
- Talk about anything coming up in terms of education, activities, holidays, and meetings.
- They will look at the records you keep on the children if they are not online.
- They check and discuss with you the training you have done, what training you have booked and what they suggest for your continuous professional development (CPD).
- See the child/children if they are there and their bedrooms.
- Will ask about the fostering family, how they are and discuss anything that may impact the placement (ie health, holidays, birth children etc).
- They should discuss with you respite and breaks.
- They will discuss and check on safeguarding, care plan, contact and child/young person’s progress.
- Check that your DBS, medicals and fostering finances are up to date.
- Keep you up to date with any new policies and procedures.
How does it work in practice?
Just like many things it doesn’t always happen like that in reality. So it is up to you to hold your provider to account and make sure you get the statutory supervision you are entitled to and your supervision notes sent to you in a timely manner.
There are of course great examples of supervision too, and having a good supervisor who will bring the best out in you and your practice is the standard all providers should be aiming for.
It is a statutory requirement that you have at least one ‘unannounced visit’ a year. Unannounced visits can feel intrusive and just like all things fostering, although there is a statutory requirement there is no consistent policy on how they are carried out and can even vary between workers within your own provider.
However, it’s essential to be professional and work together with your provider to fulfil this statutory requirement. It seems that the jury really is out on what this should include and many carers get angry at overly intrusive visits where workers go into the carers’ bedroom and birth children’s rooms as well. Other carers don’t mind and just “get on with it”. It’s a really personal thing.
Sometimes it may not be your SSWs doing the unannounced visits as some are carried out by their assistants or support workers.
Your role and what to be mindful of
- Make sure it’s every 6 weeks and you get the ‘supervision notes’. These are a record of each supervision session and what is said and are crucial, especially if you find yourself with an allegation or questions concerning your standards of care.
- Be professional – Make sure you have supervision at a table if possible, offer a drink/ refreshment and make sure you have your computer/tablet/notebook to hand to make any notes you need of your own.
- Don’t overshare, your social worker may be friendly but they are not your ‘friend’, it’s easy to blur boundaries over a coffee in your house. Remember that they work for the local authority or agency and are there to report on you, your practice and your household. Everything you say is written down and stored in your records. Keep the relationship strictly
professional.Top Tip: Supervision meetings are an important part of collecting information and data for your annual review as a foster carer. They will say that supervision sessions are confidential; however, this is not entirely correct as your supervising social worker will discuss relevant information with the child’s social worker, other professionals working with the child or family and their managers.
- Check the supervision notes for anything you don’t agree with or felt did not represent your voice in the meeting, and have them corrected.
- it is vital to your practice as a foster carer that you have a good or at least reasonable professional relationship with your supervising social worker. If this is not the case you should look into mediation with management to restore this relationship, however, if it becomes untenable you may want to change your supervising social worker. For help on this see advice and template email ideas for “Changing your social worker” in the members’ area.
- Make sure you are educated and know the National Minimum Standards (NMS) and statutory legislation that underpins your role. Not only because it helps you professionally in your role as a foster carer, stops you from stepping outside your role, helps you understand what is being recorded and why, but also so you understand the role of others and can ensure
they are conducting themselves and working within the same standards and statutory legislation.
- Make sure your house is in order, so to speak, not just for supervision and unannounced visits but also for safeguarding purposes. Ensure everything is safe, medication and sensitive records and papers are locked away, and things like alcohol are out of reach or locked up. It is easy to get relaxed about things but if you do this as a matter, of course, every day you will not only safeguard your children but keep yourselves safe from complaints, standards of care or
This way of working not only empowers you but also raises standards across the board for our children, young people and our providers.
What foster carers say
So we asked a cross-section of foster carers around the UK the following question:
What are your experiences of supervision?
“Supervision for us works really well although we have learned to “play the game” and not be critical of our local authority in any way, shape or form (although our recently retired SSW agreed to put down her pen at certain points and for our views to be confidential – which worked really well in getting messages to senior managers as I used to say “a number of carers feel like me but are scared of talking to their SSW). After 18 years we feel we are treated as professionals and we feel respected. In return, we listen to any advice from our SSW and take up any offers of training/support groups/advice from specialist carers (most recent example learning to support LGBT+). Our recently retired SSW used to handwrite the Supervision Record Form so we could sign at the end of the meeting – we received a photocopy she posted the next day. Our new SSW types up the next morning and e-mails us to make any changes – our e-mail signature then counts. Good supervision? Honesty, mutual respect, and accurately recorded communications. Action plans carried out in a timely matter”
authority, but I think it’s more that I have a good social worker as her conflicting reports on supervision from my fostering colleagues. I ensure we have a professional relationship. Unfortunately, it is not really a space for us to grow, learn and reflect as supervision should be, it is all about the children and you ticking all the minimum standards boxes (although most carers don’t even get told what they are). I’m always mindful of what I say as I’m very aware that it is all stored up on records and I always check the notes for accuracy, and not just that but how they have written their interpretation of events. I always get things changed if I am unhappy with them.”
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