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Paulette from Fostering Solutions Shares her Thoughts for Black History Month

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Why is it vital that we attract foster carers from different cultures and backgrounds?

Foster children can be placed trans-racially and cross-culturally and they can thrive. But it is really important that they understand who they are and where they came from. I believe anyone with the right amount of love and nurture can make a difference to a foster child but we have to ensure that the child’s needs are met in full. This means being aware of the child’s identity – their culture, background, world view, haircare, skincare, everything. The whole child is important and we need to attract foster carers from all kinds of backgrounds so that young people’s needs can be met in different ways.

Please share your thoughts about Black History Month

Black History Month is important, but there needs to be a greater awareness of black history all the time, it needs to run through everything we do. There can be misunderstandings about other people’s history and identity, so understanding more about where other people are coming from increases understanding and respect. We need to make the awareness of black history bigger and louder and broader.

It is important, too, to recognise the contributions that black people have made both in this country and elsewhere. The narrative and often be quite negative and it is important – particularly for children in care – to hear about people who have achieved, often in the face of adversity. This helps young people who’ve had a difficult start in life to understand that they can achieve too.

Please tell us about your role as a Supervising Social Worker

I work with Fostering Solutions to support, guide and enable our foster carers to provide the best possible care for our children and young people. We are all on the same page, working in partnership to meet the needs of foster children. I currently supervise 15 fostering families across the West Midlands. We meet regularly to discuss the children and talk about any issues, so I can offer guidance and support.

The wellbeing of our foster carers is paramount, because if they are not happy or comfortable it will have an impact on how well they can care for the children. I develop a close relationship with all my foster carers and am interested in what is going on with them and their extended families. Sometimes my role is to remind them of their skills and experience and offer encouragement. At other times, it might be to suggest that they need to attend to their own wellbeing or take time out for themselves. Because I stand outside the situation, I can take a broader perspective of the whole fostering family and that can be very helpful.

I hold annual reviews with all of my foster carers. We talk about what is going well, discuss any concerns and look at how the fostering agency could help by developing the foster carers’ skills and increasing their understanding of the needs of the children placed in their care. I also host monthly support groups, bringing foster carers together to talk, share experiences and have space away from the home to meet others in similar situations. In conjunction with the placement team, I help to match the children and young people in our care with suitable foster homes. I think very carefully before putting a referral in front of a foster carer, considering where it might be a good match and where it might be less good as it’s important to get it right.

Why did you go into this work?

I wanted to be a social worker from a young age. Growing up, I experienced trauma and I wanted to use those experiences to help children and young people and women. I studied social care at college and qualified in 1994. I’ve worked in many different fostering agencies but where I work now – Fostering Solutions – is great.

What are the rewards and challenges of being a Supervising Social Worker?

I love seeing the children thrive and watching how they change and grow over time. Our foster carers are amazing and it is rewarding to empower them to recognise their skills and encourage them to go the extra mile. They pour care and nurture into the children and it makes such a difference.

There are challenges to this work. Sometimes people go into foster caring for the wrong reasons and I might have to help them to develop the kind of skills they need for children to thrive in their care. There is a lot of paperwork and sometimes the interactions with Local Authorities can be challenging. However, it is how we work in partnership with Local Authorities that makes the difference. In building positive and professional relationships, each child is supported by a team that has their best interests at heart.

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