So you want to change your Social Worker
So you want to change your Social Worker
A positive and proactive guide for foster carers considering a change of supervising social worker, with approaches for resolution and moving on.
1.Introduction to changing your Social Worker
As a foster carer, your supervising social worker is a key part of your team and the team around the child. A good working relationship with them is essential to your practice.
In this guide, we look at what can go wrong, what steps should be taken to resolve it and what should be done if you can’t find a resolution.
We look at the National Minimum Standards and Social Work England’s expected standards of practice and conduct from social workers and the commitments made to you by your fostering service in the Foster Carer’s Charter.
A key part of your supervising social worker’s role is one of supervision. You can see the FosterWiki foster carers guide to supervision here.
Sometimes the relationship with your supervising social worker can break down, or you can have trouble striking up a relationship with them from the outset and may want to change social workers.
Why a change of social workers?
Relationships between foster carers and supervising social workers can break down for many reasons, just as relationships can break down in any working environment. However, due to the fact that it is such a crucial relationship and impacts directly on the foster
carer, fostering family, the team around the child and the children it is imperative that is a good effective and cohesive professional relationship.
Foster carers may be reticent to highlight problems and often leave them until breaking point. Traditionally there exists quite a power in-balance between foster carers and social workers. On paper foster careers are self-employed workers, we are also supposedly equal members of the
team around the child and as such should, in theory, should enjoy a balanced relationship with our supervising social workers, however, this is not always the case. Foster carers might feel nervous about coming forward when there is a power in balance and a climate of fear-driven by the allegations system and lack of rights.
Therefore it is good practice by local authorities and agencies to support foster carers when they are finding the relationship with their supervising social worker difficult. Good providers will be immediately open to exploring what has gone wrong, if it can be restored and what work needs to happen for this to be achieved.
Sometimes this foster carer/supervising social work relationship breaks down to the point where it becomes untenable, in which case a smooth transition to a new social worker, without blame on either side, must be achieved.
2. What should we expect of our supervising social workers?
Let us look firstly at what we should expect from our supervising social worker. As foster carers we are continually held accountable to National Minimum Standards, legislation, policy, safeguarding regulations and are continuously monitored in our role by fostering services, by managers and our supervising social workers. So it is easy to forget, whilst the focus is on us, that our fostering providers and those who work for them also have standards, regulations and codes of practice to adhere to.
Here are just some of the standards and requirements of a supervising social worker.
National Minimum Standards (NMS)
- 21.7 The role of the supervising social worker is clear both to the worker and the foster carer.
- 21.8 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.
- 21.9 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.
- 21.11 Current and prospective foster carers are able to make a complaint about any aspect of the service which affects them directly. Records are kept of representations and complaints, how they are dealt with, the outcome and any action taken. These records are reviewed regularly so that the service’s practice is improved where necessary.
- 21.12 There is a good system of communication between the fostering service social workers and the child’s social worker. The fostering service social workers understand the role of the child’s social worker and work effectively with them.
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. Foster carers’ files include records of supervisory meetings.
Social Work England – Social Worker’s professional standards
Social workers have their own professional standards and codes of practice and conduct that they are expected to meet.
- 2.1 Be open, honest, reliable and fair.
- 2.2 Respect and maintain people’s dignity and privacy.
- 2.3 Maintain professional relationships with people.
- 2.4 Actively listen to understand people, using a range of appropriate communication methods to build relationships.
- 2.6 Treat information about people with sensitivity and handle confidential information in line with the law.
- 3.1 Work within legal and ethical frameworks, using professional authority and judgement appropriately.
- 3.7 Recognise where there may be bias in decision making and address issues that arise from ethical dilemmas, conflicting information or differing professional decisions.
The Foster Carer’s Charter
Most fostering providers will have signed up and made a commitment to the Foster Carer’s Charter.
The full charter, its history and implementation can be viewed FosterWiki’s page ‘The Foster Carer’s Charter’s here.
Here are some examples, from the Charter, of what we should expect from our supervising social workers and fostering providers:
- Recognise that foster carers have skills and expertise that makes the biggest difference to the everyday lives of children in care.
- Value foster carer’s skills and expertise equally to those of other professionals.
- Recognise that foster carers are the people who live with children every day and know them best.
- Include them in all meetings that affect them and the children they care for.
- Ensure that the fostering service will meet the standards set out in fostering regulations and guidance.
- Treat foster carers without discrimination and respect them as a colleague.
- Respect confidentiality.
- Recognise that fostering is an isolating and challenging task and appropriate and timely support makes all the difference to the fostering family and to the child in your care.
- Recognise that positive endings of a placement are important for children, young people and foster carers and their families ensuring that support is in place to achieve this.
- Respond positively to requests for additional support.
- Provide carers with formal supervision every month and regular phone or email contact or as required.
- Give them honest and open feedback.
- Pay foster carer’s allowances, expenses and fees in a timely manner.
- Ensure openness in all of our discussions and communications with you.
- Ensure that foster carers are treated with respect, kept informed and provided with emotional and practical support should they be subject to an allegation.
- Provide a framework for dealing with allegations and adhere to our agreed timescales.
- Ensure that foster carers know the arrangements for the payment of fees and allowances in the event that you are not able to foster while the subject of an allegation.
- Providers understand that open and honest dialogue is the key to a good relationship.
- Listen to foster carers.
- Ensure that you consult with foster carers in a meaningful way on matters that affect them.
- Give clear expectations around children’s Care Plans and the foster carer’s role within that.
- Give them timely feedback from consultations.
You can see these in FosterWiki’s members’ area in the short course ‘Your role as a professional’
3. How do you change your social worker?
If your relationship with your social worker has broken down it can be a difficult and stressful time, be proactive in addressing the situation but remain calm and professional at all times. Try not to leave it until breaking point when it has irreversibly broken down, as, at this stage stress, exhaustion and emotions could prevent the situation from being managed in a calm and professional way.
Good local authorities and agencies will work with integrity and good practice. They will listen to their carers and be open to reflection and learning throughout. They will also know that central to a foster carer’s practice is the strong professional relationship between the foster carer and supervising social worker and they will want to do everything in their power to facilitate this. The foster carer/supervising social worker co-working relationship is key to outcomes, retention and placement stability.
What should you do?
- Approach your fostering team manager to raise the issue.
- Explain and discuss the issues you are having, be calm and professional and confirm any verbal discussions or phone calls in writing by email, so you have a written record.
- Every avenue should be explored in an effort to work together and resolve the situation, the team manager should organise a meeting with themselves, you and your supervising social worker.
- This initial intervention should be a restorative/mediation meeting focused on the issues to see what can be done to improve or resolve the relationship.
- No blame should be apportioned throughout this process, each person should be heard and their experience of the relationship explored and respected.
- If this meeting is not successful your team manager should facilitate your move to a new supervising social worker.
- If at anytime you feel vulnerable in this process contact the union or your support organisation (see section 6).
4. Things to be mindful of
- Be as proactive as you can in trying to sort things out before they get to the point of the breakdown.
- As foster carers our professional roles are precarious, we have no rights (at present) and complaints or perceived complaints against social workers can be a pre-curser to allegations and standards of care complaints. It is a time like this when relationships have broken down with fellow professionals, that we can feel vulnerable and exposed.
- Approach the situation with calm professionalism, follow up all phone or face to face conversations with emails to confirm what was said. Get everything in writing.
- Always keep a ‘working together’ approach and show you are making every effort to make things work. This way you can not be accused of ‘not working with services’.
- Whistleblowing policy – Foster carers are currently classed as ‘self-employed’ and as such have no whistleblowing protection. However, most fostering providers do have it written into their policies and fostering handbooks that foster carers are protected against whistleblowing. Although asking for a change of social worker does not automatically come into this category it may do if you are highlighting poor practice or complaining about a social worker or fostering service and could be subjected to an allegation as a result.
- If you are not getting the response you would like for your fostering provider reach out for independent help and support. (See section 6).
5. What foster carers say
6. Information, Help and Support
Help and support created for foster carers, by foster carers, we are the experts by experience. We have the first foster carers knowledge bank.
Access both the open pages and members area. Both are free to access and footprint-free. The member’s area gives you privileged confidential access to FosterWiki’s experts by experience for advice and guidance. You will also find short courses and guides from the foster carer’s perspective, top tips, allegation help, templates, and the ability to add to FosterWiki. With more content being uploaded regularly.
Please let us know what information or advice pages you would find useful and we will put them in place. https://fosterwiki.com/register/
- National Minimum Standards https://fosterwiki.com/wiki/national-minimum-standards-nms/
- A Foster Carers Guide to Supervision https://fosterwiki.com/wiki/a-foster-carers-guide-to-supervision/
- Social Work England – Professional Standards https://www.socialworkengland.org.uk/standards/professional-standards/
- Foster Carer’s Charter https://fosterwiki.com/wiki/the-foster-carers-charter/