Whether taking care of a young child or a teenager, it’s a given that you’ll need to offer first aid or medical help at some point in your capacity as a foster carer. From treating cuts and grazes to managing more serious problems, the health and wellbeing of a child in your care is yours to maintain, and we’ll make sure you get the right training and support to offer the helping hand they need.
For new foster carers looking for advice on treating a child in their care, our guide to first aid and medical support gives practical help on administering first aid, storing medication and what to do in an emergency.
Basic First Aid Tips for Foster Carers
Before you receive your placement, our Skills to Foster training course will cover the basics of caring for children. Once you have been approved there is an expectation that you will complete the Paediatric 12x hour Paediatric First Aid Course as soon as possible, this will ensure you are able to support your child or young person when they come to live with you with any First Aid requirements. Please speak to your Supervising Social Worker about how to go about organising and booking onto a local course.
Get the Right Kit
Investing in a comprehensive first aid kit is one of the first things you should do as a new foster carer, and it’s something which may come up as part of your assessment and ongoing monitoring with a social worker. You need to have all the basics – plasters, antiseptic cream, anti-bacterial medicinal wipes etc.. as well as any other essentials needed to treat a specialist condition. These should be stored in a secure box that is only accessible by Foster Carers in the home or young people under the guidance of their Foster Carers.
Remember the ABC
The cornerstone of all first aid situations is ABC, which stands for airway, breathing and circulation. If a child in your care becomes unconscious for any reason, you need to keep their airway open, make sure they can breathe easily by putting them in the recovery position, and keep air circulating by giving them space. This is the first thing you should do in an emergency, before treating any other injuries.
How to Stop Bleeding
Even the smallest cuts can cause a lot of bleeding, which can be upsetting for young children. Before you apply a plaster, you need to stop the bleeding by applying light pressure to the affected area. Keep the pressure applied until the bleeding stops, then go ahead and clean the wound and wrap it up.
Dealing with Burns
Burns are particularly painful and can leave children with lasting scars, so you need to know how best to treat them. Applying a wet cloth to the area will help minimise the pain and prevent further tissue damage, but be careful of compressing the area too much if the skin is badly damaged.
Treating Diarrhoea in Children
Diarrhoea is a common illness in children, but if it persists for a number of days you should have visit your GP immediately. One of the biggest dangers of the condition is dehydration, so make sure to give them plenty of water; a rehydration solution may be needed in severe cases which can be purchased at your local pharmacy under the guidance of a pharmacist. Anti-diarrhoea medication is great for easing the side effects of diarrhoea, such as stomach ache, this should be discussed with your pharmacist to ensure the correct dosage is administered.
Caring for Sprains
When children play or take part in sport, it’s easy for them to sprain an ankle, a knee or a wrist, and the result can be pretty painful. The best way to treat sprains is by raising the affected area and applying a cold compress to stop the swelling. They should be able to move the joint, even if this causes discomfort, but if they can’t it could indicate a broken bone. You should seek medical advice immediately.
Good first aid comes down to common sense, intuition and calmness, so just remember your training, offer them a few words of comfort and make sure you call for help if needed.
Storing and Managing Medication
Whether administering over-the-counter painkillers or more specialist medicines, how you manage and store medication in your home is important. Foster carers need to ensure medication is secure and its details properly recorded, as this is something which is often monitored by social workers during unannounced visits to your home.
Ideally, all medications should be stored in a locked box or cabinet out of reach and sight of children, unless they need to be accessed by an older child (under guidance from the Foster Carer). They should never be placed somewhere where a young child can get hold of them.
It’s important to make a note of the different medications given to a child in your care, whether that’s a basic painkiller or medicine prescribed by their GP. This will not only help to prevent an allergic reaction but will be a useful record for other foster carers and social workers to refer to should the child move on to live with another family.
Before administering prescribed medications, you need to make sure you’re aware of the dosage and other essential information, and record when it has been taken and how long for. It’s also important to have an open discussion about different medications with older children, as they have a right to refusal (Refusal to take medication also needs to be recorded)
Furthermore, in the case of older children, they may be given the right to self-medicate only after careful discussions with their GP and a thorough risk assessment is carried out by their social worker.
Specialist Medication and First Aid Training
Many children in foster care have additional medical needs that require specialist treatment programmes and medications, and these requirements will need to be factored into your daily care routine. Caring for a child with additional medical needs may sound a little daunting, but with the right help and support you can offer a safe, loving and nurturing home for any child, regardless of their care needs.
We have a duty to make sure all our foster carers are given the appropriate training and support to provide an effective and comfortable home for children with medical needs. After taking the initial Skills to Foster course and receiving your first placement, we’ll liaise closely with you to make sure you have access to the right training provision, be it advanced first aid or learning how to care for children with special needs. This can be discussed with your Supervising Social Worker.
Through a comprehensive placement plan, we’ll set up direct contact between you, your Supervising Social Worker and the child’s GP, so that you always have an open line of communication and can get the help and advice you need. Whether your child is diabetic, needs regular physiological therapy or Learning disabilities, we will always make sure you are given the appropriate training and support to be an effective carer.
Medical Emergencies and Travelling with Your Child
In the event of an emergency, you should first contact the emergency services before beginning first aid. If the child is taken to hospital or you need to visit your local A&E, you should contact your supervising social worker immediately.
Emergency situations involving any child can be traumatic, but it is important to remain calm and remember your first aid training. If they have fallen or been involved in an accident, don’t move them, but offer words of comfort until the ambulance arrives. If they’re unconscious, place them in the recovery position. Emergencies are all about staying calm, assessing the situation and following simple steps to get medical help. You should also call the police if they have been injured in a serious accident.
There are also certain procedures to follow when taking a foster child away on holiday. Firstly, you must inform your Supervising Social Worker and arrange for a prescription of their medication if they suffer from a specific medical condition. The best thing to do is talk to their GP about your travel plans, and they will arrange for the medication to be clearly labelled, making things easier at customs.
Keep all medicines in their original packaging and be sure to carry any documents concerning the child’s health. You should also arrange a comprehensive insurance policy which will cover the cost of medical expenses for your family while travelling abroad.
Provided you follow the necessary steps, carry plenty of medication as well as their documents – travelling abroad shouldn’t be a problem. Remember to keep all medicines locked in a secure box while travelling, particularly with young children.