New to Care?
What does it mean being in care?
Being looked after is also called "being in care"
There are lots of reasons why children are looked after or in care. This may be for a short while or until you're an adult. Everyone's situation is different so if you don't know why you're in care, speak to your social worker who will try very hard to explain.
Even though the local authority cares for you, your parents are still responsible for you but they now share those responsibilities with the local authority.
You may be looked after because your parents have agreed the local authority can care for you or a family court has said that you need to be looked after.
While in care, where you live will depend on your individual situation and what's happening in your life. You may be in:
- Foster care
- Living with a family member or a friend of the family
- A children's home (sometimes called Children's Residential Unit)
- Secure accommodation
If there is anything else you need to know about being in care/looked after, talk to your social worker.
Who will I meet and what do they do?
- Social Worker
- IRO (Independent Reviewing Officer)
- LAC Nurse, or School Nurse, or School Health Advisor
- Foster carer or Residential Care Worker
- Family Placement Social Worker
Other people you may meet:
- Staff from Virtual School
- IV (Independent Visitor)
- Social Work Support Officers
How will decisions be made and when will I know?
It is expected that day to day decisions about you will be made by your foster carer. These are decisions such as daily routines, bedtimes and what activities are being planned for you. They will try to involve you as much as possible.
If you live in a Residential unit, these decisions would be made by the team of carers there or someone called your Keyworker. Keyworkers are part of the staff team but they have particular responsibility for you.
Sometimes the big decisions have to be made in Court. This might be when social workers believe it is not safe for you to remain at home and they ask the Judge to make a care order. The judge appoints a Childrens Guardian to look into your case and everyone involved then completes reports to decide where you will live, long term.
Every child who is looked after will have an IRO who will chair the review meetings every 5 months. The IRO will meet with you before the review to get your views. (See related webpage.)
Your social worker will update you on any changes to your care plan as soon as possible after the changes.
Decisions will be made by chatting to people who know you i.e. your parents, social worker, teachers, but most importantly by chatting to you.
When will you know about decisions?
Some decisions can be made immediately such as how will I get to school? Can I stay at the same school? And your carers can often make these decisions.
Other decisions may take longer, such as will I go on holiday, school trips, when will I see my mum /dad, siblings? Can I live with my siblings?
Sometimes if the courts are involved, then decisions about you can take a few months and the judge may ask other people such as the guardian to help him to make the right decisions for you.
If you attend your review you will know immediately about some decisions made about you, others may take a little bit longer.
Who to contact
It can be difficult being in care. There are a lot of adults talking to you and about you. You might not understand everything that is going on and you might feel embarrassed to ask what things mean.
But don't worry, you can talk to your social worker when they visit you or you can contact them sooner by:
- Telephone: at their office. If they are not there you can leave a message and they will ring or text you as soon as they can.
- Email: All social workers have an email address and you can send an email at any time.
- Mobile: All social workers have a mobile phone which you can ring on or send a text to.
- Face to face: You can make an appointment to see your social worker in person at their office or at the place you live, they can also meet you at the park, or McDonalds, which ever suits you.
- Letter: If you want to write to your social worker you can write to them at their work's address.
- Duty social worker or manager: If it's not possible to speak to your social worker you can also talk to a duty social worker or the social worker's manager who will try very hard to help you.
- Other adults: if you feel you don't want to speak to your social worker directly, you can pass on messages to other adults such as your teacher, carer, key worker etc who can talk to your social worker on your behalf.
Staying in Touch
If you have just moved, you should be able to keep in contact with friends, family members and anyone else you are close to. However, sometimes this is not possible, or you may not be able to see them face to face, or on your own.
If this happens your social worker will explain why, and may be able to speak to them on your behalf, and then give you their messages. There are many ways to stay in touch. You may be able to use your mobile to make a call or the internet. If you do not have access to any of these, you can always write a letter or send a card.
Your social worker, carer, new family or teacher will all be able to help you keep in touch with friends, family members and former carers. If it is not possible for you to keep in touch with people yourself, your social worker may be able to give you news of home, or explain why it is not possible to speak to them and what can be done.