10 Top Allegation Tips You Need to Know
10 Top Allegation Tips You Need to Know
- Record, Record, Record – We can’t emphasise this one enough. You would have already heard this from your provider, but think again.
- You would have already had some basic training on recording from your LA or IFA however this will mostly be for their benefit and children’s recordings.
- You also need to record things that safeguard your role as a foster carer.
- Emails are one of the best forms of ‘recording’ as they are dated, even timed and are irrefutable evidence when you need it. Many of you will be recording via electronic platforms.
- If you have an incident, however small, with a child, a birth parent, an SSW/CSW and others that concerns you record them immediately, if you have paper records still make sure you send an email to your provider (usually SSW/CSW) which shows the date, you may need this later on. Sometimes issues ‘blow over’ however still record them by email, you might say “just to let you know” or other phrases indicating a response is not required, but you have it in writing. This way you don’t have to explain incidents, defend yourselves, or have ‘their word against yours’…. it is all in writing.
- Be astute, brief and clear in your emails or with your recording, be factual and concise.
- If you are recording things about children and young people be mindful of the language and tone used to describe children, behaviour and situations. Use positive language and stick to facts not opinions.
- Making a complaint -Official or unofficial complaints against children’s services employees by foster carers can be a precursor to an unfounded (retaliatory) allegation. We wish this wasn’t the case but it is a sad reality. So if you do want to make a complaint then planning how, when, what to say, how to protect yourself as much as you can is important. Having the support of an independent fostering consultant or the foster carers’ own union the NUPFC can be helpful in these cases.
- Complaints need to be assertive but not aggressive. Anger is likely to be confrontational, accusations and telling them that they are bad at their job can lead to tense, defensive and angry responses and sometimes retaliatory allegations.
- Complaints need to refer to policy, protocol, National Minimum Standards etc. Be clear about where you feel things could have gone better, and calmly explain what you are concerned about. Keep boundaried, professional and clear and try to instigate an honest conversation that is focused on resolution.
- Can you sort things out before that stage, can you get help and advice from elsewhere?
- Never write a complaint as a knee jerk reaction, think it through.
- Source advice, help, support and access the tools and tips in FosterWiki. When you make a complaint it is often a good idea to have your independent support representative, consultant or union copied in so that your provider can see you have backup and are not “going it alone”.
- Don’t go from zero to full-on….for instance, you want to complain about an SSW or CSW who you are not finding you can work with…start by sending a mediation type of email, ie “how can we work on this together” and/or “we are sure that you will agree with us that in the interests of the child we need to do XYZ” and “as always we wish to work closely with the team around us to resolve this issue” Make the complaint about the breakdown of your joint working relationship rather than getting personal or accusatory.
- Make sure your complaint is specific and targeted, do not send hundreds of emails to different people within the organisation about 50 issues. Send one proportionate, specific email, firstly to one person with another may be copied in, you then have the ability to escalate, but allow those concerned to work with you. Keep it achievable, and set the desired outcome.
- Choose your battles wisely -Having a voice is important, but it is wise to choose which battles are important.
- There are many ways to advocate for a child. Again this is not about “not doing it” but “how you do it”….see number 2 and work smart. Manage your expectations, be reasonable, specific, outcome-focused and strategic.
- Understand the limitations of your role- We are not dealing with products or clients in our role, we are working with children and young people in our own family settings, they become part of our family, and we are often called ‘parents’. Therefore emotions can understandably run high and we can forget just how limited our role is. This can lead to difficulties surrounding care plans, contact, education and other decisions concerning the child that are not within our control. It is better to manage your expectations by understanding just what we can influence and what we can’t. It is very frustrating to not be listened to sometimes, especially when we know the child better than anyone but unfortunately, this does come with the job. However, it does not stop you from advocating for a child and influencing outcomes. Work professionally to establish yourself in the team around the child in the way we describe.
- Learn to spot the warning signs and act very quickly What are the early warning signs that there may be an allegation brewing? Here
are some examples:
- Your child is displacing anger or trauma towards you, and you are finding it difficult to manage challenging behaviour.
- A young person wants to go home, they may be repeating conversations with birth parents, where the parent is complaining about you or they are encouraging them to complain.
- Things are not going well at contact centre contacts.
- Your relationship has broken down with an SSW or CSW.
- You have made a substantial complaint or multiple complaints.
- Something has happened, you may even have done something, if this is the case get ahead of it as soon as you can.
- Share wisely – Remember that details about your children, their families and your fostering are highly confidential.
- Use confidential support groups to chat about your issues, other fostering colleagues, your independent support, consultant or the foster carer’s own union the NUPFC.
- Be careful what you share online. Make sure no child is named either fully or by initials or anything is written that can identify a child in any way. Do not post photographs of foster children. This is hard on so many levels as they are part of our families, however, it is not deemed appropriate and can get you into trouble.
- Transferring agencies – Look at tip number 2 on complaints and follow a similar protocol. We have a FosterWiki template for transferring agencies. We wish it wasn’t the case but wanting to transfer can often spark allegations if an agency or local authority can try to prevent you from transferring, you can not transfer if you have a current allegation or standard of care against you and it is unlikely the new agency will want you. This is obviously very bad practice and many LA’s and agencies will not do this, however, often carers are transferring because they are unhappy with the current organisation so being professional, measured, and protecting yourselves (see no 2) and following the FosterWiki protocol.Remember do not resign from your current agency until you have been approved by the new one if you have children in placement, just write with your ‘intention’ to transfer (again refer to the FosterWiki top tips to transfer protocol and template email).
- Your SSW is not your ‘friend’ – Your SSW may be very friendly and supportive but they work for the local authority or agency and are there to serve them not you. Never get into ‘friendly chats’ or get carried away with every minute detail, be professional at all times in supervision and all meetings.
- Communicate wisely – We want to be seen as professionals so the very best way we can achieve that is by modelling our professionalism. It is not always easy, but remember to be calm and put thought into your discussions, staying specific, and measured. Do not be…defensive, threatening, rude, personal, arrogant or do anything in haste. This may seem very obvious but we work in an emotionally charged setting, with workers in some of our organisations that are overworked and underfunded. Remember – If we want to be seen as professionals we need to act as professionals at all times in our engagement with the team around the child.
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