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Children’s guide to being in care

We put this guide together to help you and others like you who have just come into care. It will tell you what it’s like to be in care, what to expect and how to cope with the good and the bad.

What is residential care?

If you are about to go into a residential unit, you may be feeling scared.

Everybody feels like this at the start so try not to worry. A residential unit is a place that has a number of young people living there. The young people who are placed there are usually unhappy with foster placements for a number of reasons.

  • They are used to a big family.
  • They prefer to be with lots of young people.
  • They are very attached to their family and cannot settle in a new family.

A residential unit is very similar to a foster placement. Here’s what’s different.

  • A residential unit is larger than a foster home.
  • There are more adults in a residential Unit, who are professional staff. They do not live in the home but work there on shifts.
  • In the home there is:
    • a big kitchen
    • a television room
    • a laundry room
    • your own bedroom.

Other things that you should know about residential units

Bed times

There may be set bed times, talk to your keyworker about this. They should give you a list of what is expected from you and what you can expect from them. It makes it nicer if you try to respect the home, the rules and the workers. In turn they will treat you with respect.

Family

If it is safe for you, you will still see your family as you would in a foster placement.

School

You will be supported to attend the same school. Staff should help out with things like books, uniforms and getting to school.

Meal times

There are set meal times and the staff will make food for you. If you are hungry and would like a snack, ask the staff.

Your own room

You will get your own room and toilet. You will be able to decorate your room yourself.

Pocket money

You will get your own pocket money, depending on your age. As you get older, you will get help with budgeting.

Key worker

One of the staff members will be your key worker. This person will work closely with you to help you get the most out of your time in residential care. He or she will be someone with whom you can talk if you need to ask for help. Your key worker is like a foster parent in Residential Units.

Complaints

If you ever feel you would like to make a complaint while in a residential unit, just ask any of the staff about how you go about doing this. Often there is a box that you can put a complaint in.

See the section on ‘Things aren’t right – what can I do?’ to see how to make a complaint to Sandwell Children’s Services directly.

We hope this makes it easier for you when you first arrive. Remember, the staff are there to help you settle – do ask them if you need anything.

Children’s guide to being in care

Hi! My name is Amy and I’m a member of the Looked After Children’s board which is a group of young people who are in care or after care themselves and who work together to make things better for all young people in care in Sandwell.

We put this guide together to help you and others like you who have just come into care. It will tell you what it’s like to be in care, what to expect and how to cope with the good and the bad.

I know you’re feeling scared and you feel like you’re the only one in the world that this has happened to.

You probably feel really lonely and as if there’s no one who understands or who you can talk to. I felt like that, too, and so did everyone on the board when they came into care.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone, there are lots of people who are in your shoes. There’s no reason to be scared. There are people who will help you and who will listen.

We’ve tried to cover everything in this guide that we thought you would want to know. We hope it helps.

Why am I here?

There are many young people in care, just like you! It’s important to remember that it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.

You’re probably asking why this has happened to you and when you can go home.

There are lots of reason why you might be in care. Often it’s because your family are not able to care for you at the moment or that things are difficult at home. Your social worker will be able to tell you more.

While you’re in care your carer will be able to make sure you are safe and looked after.

Your social worker will look at what’s happening at home and try to get things better so you can return home as quickly as possible. Sometimes this may happen quite quickly, while for others it may take a long time. Some young people will stay in care.

You will find out what is planned for you during your review. If you have any questions, do ask your social worker or carer – they are there to help.

Meanwhile, try to make the most of your stay and try your best not to worry about what’s going to happen.

There are lots of other young people in care that you can talk to and who can be your friend – they are going through the same thing as you.

Will I ever go home?

Your social worker will try to get you back home with your family as soon as they can.

They know that this is the best place for you when it is a safe and loving home. Sometimes, however, a lot of changes need to happen at home before it’s good for you to go back.

Everyone understands that this is a difficult time for you and that you want to go back home. But social workers want to keep you safe and make sure that you are properly cared for. In care there are many young people going through the same thing as you.

Many of these go home very quickly, some take longer and some stay in foster care. Although it seems unfair when you are in care, remember that it is not your fault and that you deserve a safe and happy childhood.

Will I see my family?

Everyone knows that it is really important for you to see your family.

If it is safe for you to meet with family members, a social worker will arrange regular meetings with them.

These may take place in a family centre, at an office or sometimes at home. This is called ‘contact’.

There will sometimes be a worker who will be present during contact.

Contact will happen:

  • If you want it to happen.
  • If your family want it to happen.
  • If it is safe.

If you want to know more about contact, i.e. where and when it will happen, talk to your social worker.

What will happen with school?

When you are taken into care, your social worker will try to keep you in the same school as they know it is important for you to keep in contact with your teachers and friends.

Sometimes, however, this is not possible and they may have to move you because:

You are now living too far from your own school.

You may be in danger if you attend your old school.

Try not to worry because your social worker will try to support you to attend the same school if this is at all possible.

If you have been moved from your old school and you do not understand why, do ask your social worker and they will explain it to you.

If you are unhappy about how social services have changed your school for you, you can make a complaint. See the section called ‘Things aren’t right – what can I do?’ for help with making a complaint.

Good luck in school!

Who are all these people?

You will probably come into contact with the following people:

Social Worker

Social Workers like myself are members of staff who will visit you every 6 – 8 weeks and make sure that you are OK.

We write your care plan and help you with any problems. Write down your social worker’s name and number and keep it in a safe place.

Family Link Social Worker

I visit your foster carer to make sure they have the help they need to look after you well.

Quality Development Co-ordinator

You will see me, the Quality Development Co-ordinator, at your review. I will chair your review and give an independent viewpoint.

I check that your care plan is working with you, your social worker and other people in your life. I make sure that your school, family contact and health is as good as it should be. If you need legal help I can help to arrange this.

LACE Worker

I work for the Looked After Children Education Service.

I will meet you to make sure that your education is going well and to plan targets for you in school.

Find out more about the Looked After Children Education Service.

Health Nurse

I see you every 12 months to make sure you are in good health.

This can be more often if you need help and advice.

Carer

I look after you on a day to day basis.

My health

My health

Being healthy and understanding your own health and development is important for all young people.

Being healthy covers things like what you eat, what exercise you do and being confident and happy. It is also important that you know when and how to seek help or advice from professionals if you are feeling unwell or worried about your health.

Everyone has a unique body and all young people will have questions at some time or another about their aches and pains, whether things are working properly or not or if their bits and pieces are ‘normal’!

It is also natural that as you become a teenager you will have questions around your development and sexual health.

While in care it is important to remember that there are people available to help you and answer any questions that you may have.

Why is there special help for looked after young people?

When you move around or have problems at home it is sometimes difficult to keep track of all your health visits and you may miss some sexual health talks at school.

When you live in care it can be lonely and sometimes you can feel that there is no one to talk to.

You must remember that you are not alone – there are people who are able to help and who will answer your questions on all health issues, including sexual health, contraception and pregnancy matters.

They will do this by treating you with respect and not embarrassing you.

Who can I ask?

The first person you should speak to is your carer or keyworker. If your question is on a sexual matter and you feel that this is not possible, you can ring the Teenage Pregnancy Team on 0121 500 1500. They will offer advice and help.

Brook also run a drop-in centre at the Leaving Care Service, Stone Cross, every Tuesday between 2pm and 3.30pm, where you can get free contraception, pregnancy testing and information on sexually transmitted diseases.

You can also get this help through the family planning clinics at any time.

Is information shared with my carer or other people?

Unless you are in danger of hurting yourself or possibly hurting other people, your questions will be treated in a confidential manner.

Before sharing information with other people, the LAC Nurse or other professional will ask your permission.

They will at all times treat you professionally, they will not judge you and they will give you the information you need in an unbiased manner.

Please do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask these people whatever questions you have.

They are there to help you. Remember, health education and sexual health education is a healthy and necessary part of growing up.

Things aren't right - What can I do?

Things aren’t right – What can I do?

Sometimes people and places can make you sad or angry.

When you’re in care these feelings can sometimes be too much to handle on your own and it’s important to remember that you do have people to talk to and who will help you. You may think things like:

You can speak to:

  • Your Social Worker.
  • Your Foster Carer.
  • Your Key Worker.

Making a complaint

If you feel more stongly about the problem and want to make your point of view official, you can make a complaint to the Customer Focus Team. You can do this in a number of ways:

Write to them at:

The Customer Focus Team
PO Box 2374
Oldbury
B69 3DE

You can also ask your social worker for a complaints form and you can freepost this to the Customer Focus Team (the address will be on the form).

They are there to take your complaint and help resolve it. Once they have received the details, they will get back to you within three working days to tell you what is going to happen.

Advocates

Advocates

Sometimes you may need someone to help you make your points to adults or to make your points for you.

This may be when you make a complaint, during a review or any time there is a problem between you and your social worker, foster carer or another adult in Children’s Services.

In this situation you can ask for an advocate. An advocate will meet with you and discuss what you want to say – remember, the advocate does NOT work for Sandwell MBC, but is totally independent.

They will then either put forward your point of view or they will help you put forward your point of view to other adults.

If you would like an advocate you should contact:

FREEPHONE 0800 61 61 01 between 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday. If you call at other times you will still get a response quickly.

Or:

The Children’s Society Black Country Advocacy Service is an independent, confidential service for children and young people who are in care, leaving care or have a social worker.

Contact details:

The Workspace
All Saints Road
Wolverhampton
WV2 1EL

Freephone: 0800 652 3839

Telephone: 01902 877563

They also have online advisors that you can email immediately.

The advocacy service try to ensure that you should have spoken to your advocate about your problem within 24 hours of contacting them.

Just what are all these things?

Just what are all these things?

Let’s explain…

Health Assessment

When you come into care you will have a health assessment. This is nothing to worry about. A doctor will meet you, measure your height, weight and heart rate etc.

This is done to make sure that you are healthy and that you get all the medication or treatment you need, if any.

You will also be helped to go to the dentist regularly and have your eyes tested.

There is no reason to be nervous about this. It is a chance to ask the doctor any questions about your health.

PEP

A PEP is a Personal Education Plan. This keeps a record of how you are getting on in school and helps you and your teacher set targets. This is to make sure you get a good education. We think it is really helpful to set these targets as your education is very important.

Why have a PEP?

Having a PEP means that teachers and social workers can help you deal with the changes that are happening around you throughout your time in care. Remember that even with all the problems you have, education is still important and you can still achieve a lot.

What will happen?

Your social worker or a member of LACE (Looked After Children Education) will come to your school at least twice a year and sit down with you and your teacher to talk about what you want to achieve.

Care Plan

This is a plan made by social workers which makes sure you are looked after well. It includes things like doctors’ appointments, placement rules and education plans etc. It makes sure that everyone knows what they are supposed to do to make sure you are safe and happy. You should have a say in your care plan.

Reviews

These are where your care plan is checked to make sure everyone is doing what they should to make you happy.

The first review is called a placement review and happens four weeks after you have been in care. The next review happens within three months of coming into care. After that, the reviews happen every six months months or sooner if there is a problem. You should attend your review as you have a chance to say if you want your care to be changed.

Care Orders

Care Orders dexcribe who is looking after you, for what reason and for how lng. There are a lot of different care orders, e.g:

Care Order Section 31 – This is where Sandwell shares parental responsibilities. The courts must be involved.

Interim Care Order – This is a temporary order so that the social worker can check if the child is safe. If there are dangers to the child, a full care order can be made.

Accommodation Section 20 – This is when the parents ask Children’s Services to look after their child. The courts do not need to be involved.

My Reports

My Reports

During your time in care you will have different reports, assessments or reviews.

These might include:

  • Health Assessments
  • Personal Education Plan (PEP)
  • Care Plan
  • Reviews
  • Care Orders

You should have received your ‘Wot LAC care 2 know’ guide and this contains a section called ‘My Reports’. This contains clear folders so that you can keep copies of your reports safe.

What are the different types of care?

What are the different types of care?

Let’s explain…

Foster Care

Foster Care is where you live in a carer’s home. This can be short term, while staff make a decision about where you are to live in the future, or long term, in which you stay in the carer’s home until you leave care.

Residential Home

This is also known as a Children’s Home. You live here with other children and staff care for you.

External Placement

This is a foster home or a children’s residential home that is not in Sandwell.

Respite Care

This is a stay in a foster home or a children’s residential home for a planned amount of time only, and is to give your parents or carer support and a break if they need it.

Residential School

This is a boarding school. You live at the school and go home or to a placement at weekends or during holidays.

What am I allowed?

What am I allowed?

Use of the telephone

You can use the telephone as long as it is within reason and you ask your carer first.

School equipment

If you are at school your carer will buy all the things you need, like books, pens and pencils. Your carer will make sure you have a school uniform.

Clothes and presents

Your carer will make sure that you have enough clothes – there is a clothing allowance that they can use for this. They also have an allowance to buy you presents for your birthday and other special occasions, depending on your culture.

Activities

Your carer will pay for you to do activities like dance classes and football. If you were doing these before, they will help you to keep them up.

School outings and travel

Your carer can sign forms for you to go on outings with the school, if it is for a day. They cannot sign forms for medical things – these must be signed by a social worker. If you live more than three miles form the school, you are entitled to a bus pass.

Your own room

You can have your own bedroom, unless you are very young, or you can share with someone if they are related to you.

Meals

Your carer will give you three healthy meals a day, and you can also have snacks.

What is residential care?

What is residential care?

If you are about to go into a residential unit, you may be feeling scared.

Everybody feels like this at the start so try not to worry. A residential unit is a place that has a number of young people living there. The young people who are placed there are usually unhappy with foster placements for a number of reasons.

  • They are used to a big family.
  • They prefer to be with lots of young people.
  • They are very attached to their family and cannot settle in a new family.

A residential unit is very similar to a foster placement. Here’s what’s different.

  • A residential unit is larger than a foster home.
  • There are more adults in a residential Unit, who are professional staff. They do not live in the home but work there on shifts.
  • In the home there is: a big kitchen
  • a television room
  • a laundry room
  • your own bedroom.

Other things that you should know about residential units

Bed times

There may be set bed times, talk to your keyworker about this. They should give you a list of what is expected from you and what you can expect from them. It makes it nicer if you try to respect the home, the rules and the workers. In turn they will treat you with respect.

Family

If it is safe for you, you will still see your family as you would in a foster placement.

School

You will be supported to attend the same school. Staff should help out with things like books, uniforms and getting to school.

Meal times

There are set meal times and the staff will make food for you. If you are hungry and would like a snack, ask the staff.

Your own room

You will get your own room and toilet. You will be able to decorate your room yourself.

Pocket money

You will get your own pocket money, depending on your age. As you get older, you will get help with budgeting.

Key worker

One of the staff members will be your key worker. This person will work closely with you to help you get the most out of your time in residential care. He or she will be someone with whom you can talk if you need to ask for help. Your key worker is like a foster parent in Residential Units.

Complaints

If you ever feel you would like to make a complaint while in a residential unit, just ask any of the staff about how you go about doing this. Often there is a box that you can put a complaint in.

We hope this makes it easier for you when you first arrive. Remember, the staff are there to help you settle – do ask them if you need anything.