As the social-distancing rules have been relaxed, we take a look at how our own foster carers coped with and adapted to the Covid-19 lockdown, and how it affected children in their care.
Some carers are trying to recreate the school day to give some structure.
For some, this has involved making timetables to follow to complete work. Where appropriate, children have helped to design these. Others have used school timetables to guide them, helping children to follow a familiar pattern and structure.
Carers are looking at balancing the emotional needs of the children and using creative ways such as having assemblies or presentations to engage with them and to build their confidence within learning. This has included awarding certificates for good work.
For some children, they have gaps in their learning and carers are using this as an opportunity to look back to previous work to try to help them build a foundation.
Some children and young people have elected to go to school to keep up a routine, whereas others are more settled at home as a result of not being in school. They are managing education at home better than they would in school, and their anxieties are less.
Many of our adolescents were expected to struggle with not being able to go out and socialise, but, surprisingly, this has not been the case. Many seem to see the benefit of being at home and not having social pressure and also the dynamics of school.
Some of the older young people have talked about not wanting to go out in the world again and the possible risks to them and others. For some, worries about going back to school have caused anxiety. Our carers are recognising the need to support these young people to talk about their worries and to help them to deal with their anxiety.
Some carers are taking the lockdown as an opportunity for family time and building relationships.
This includes sports challenges, gaming tournaments, cooking together, gardening and long walks learning about wildlife and the environment.
For some children and young people, not being able to physically see their families has been hard. Trying to be child led around contact has been difficult in some situations. Where direct contact has been considered, carers and working with other professionals to ensure risk assessments are in place to make this as safe as possible.
For some children and young people, having virtual contact in the homes is difficult and has triggered a reaction. Some children are struggling with what they are seeing on video calls and some are finding it hard that their birth families are seeing them in their foster home. This is because it can feel like their safe space is being compromised.
On an individual basis, our carers and staff are working with the children’s social workers to think of how best to help children have a positive experience of contact during these difficult times and to find ways to make them feel safe.
Plans for children to move to permanence have been affected and this is difficult for children and potential families as well as for carers. Some carers and their families have had to go into isolation for a period prior to these transitions and this has been unsettling for some family members.
Carers are being consulted on an individual basis to plan how this can be managed in the best way possible for everyone. Some court cases are on hold and this will affect things for children in the longer term. For some young people this is causing them anxiety.
Most carers have been in the situation where they are needing to ‘pick their battles’ and to change some of their expectations to avoid conflict and disappointment, as time with the children and young people is very intense. This has often been in relation to the completion of schoolwork.
We recognise that our carers are not teachers and although they need to support the children in this area, it is more important that children are happy and settled at home with them. For some, this one to one time has been positive in building family relationships.
Some carers feel that there is no time for them and no let up. The intensity of having children home schooled and of young people not being able to socialise has impacted on everyone. For some there is a lot of guilt in terms of worrying whether they are getting it right. We are encouraging them to strike the balance and take some time out for themselves when possible.
Support to all our carers has continued and, as always, has been flexible to meet the needs of carers and children in their family. A lot of information has been shared by email and in our Newsletter regarding education and emotional support.
Placement Manager support has continued, and we have also looked at how to creatively use other support we have, including offering more virtual consultation sessions from our Therapeutic Lead. Young Person Consultation sessions have also been offered to children as a way of gaining their perspectives and offering support to them in their current situations.
Although face to face training has not been possible for the last few months, we have used technology to offer one to one training to carers and also provided online courses. There have also been some small group training and support sessions held.
It is difficult to know exactly what the likely impact of Covid-19 will be in terms of the future number of children needing to be provided with care and support. However, there is a general consensus among professionals that there is likely to be a rise in the need for foster placements in the future. As always, we are keen to hear from people who feel that they have the necessary skills, time and energy to foster. If you would like to know more about fostering, please get in touch on 01603 559255.