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Advice if you can please

(10 Posts)
bonster123 Fri 09-Sep-11 00:37:54

In January we fostered two boys (brothers) as a long term permanent placement.

After brief introductions and reading their life stories and full history (at the time we naively thought we had all the information) they moved in and we had problems within the first week with the oldest.

Long and short of it, after 7 months the oldest brother has left our care. He has returned to his previous short term carer where he lived for 2 years. (I know - short term!) to await another placement.
We feel terrible, and I don't think we will ever get over the guilt.
SS think we have either caused this placement breakdown or we have over-reacted to his behaviour.
They conveniently ignore the fact we shouted for help on day 5 of the placement, and continued to do so until the end. CAMHS advice has been ignored completely by SS.

The youngest is still with us, and we very much hope will continue to be.
Now here is the problem - the chilldrens new social worker who has only known these boys 2 months.
Right from the start she has been unprofessional. I cannot go into too many details but at one point she said to both of us "If you don't get on with me I will take xxxxx away" - I have 2 witnesses to that too. During the past 2 weeks she has done everything she can to undermine this placement.

I know that the boys will need contact. However our SW has decided - on our behalf without asking us - that every other weekend he will go to stay with his brother and without any discussion - that we will do the 112 mile round trip on a Friday night to take him, and again on Sunday to pick him up.
We feel this is way too much contact and will not give either brother a realistic chance to settle. Our views are not being listened to at all. This SW is making decisons without asking anyone at all. My support worker is all but useless and just tries to defend her colleague.

Where can we go from here? Who can we complain to, and how? I have known other FC's to be alienated as soon as they complained and the last thing we want to do is do anything that makes things worse.

Can someone give some advice, has anyone been in a simialr situation?. I feel like tearing a strip out of this useless SW which will do no good at all. When I came home from work tonight my wife was in floods of tears and nobody makes her emotional easily.


MissVerinder Fri 09-Sep-11 07:12:56

Hi Bonster, sorry to hear you're in such a predicament!

If I were you, I would check your fostering agreement with regards to contact. I'm presuming you're with a Local Authority? In anyone's book, 112 miles is not a reasonable distance for contact, even if it is friday night to sunday morning.

I would be very angry at the whole situation also, especially the comment the SW has made to you about "taking x away."

Also, are you a member of Fostertalk? They have an independent helpline which I have been told is very useful- maybe give them a call.

I'm sorry MrsBonster is upset as well. It must be hard enough for you in the first place with the older brother leaving, without then being guilt tripped by the SW about the younger. I completely understand about you being a little apprehensive about complaining, as you feel you're putting placements in jeopardy.

I think there are 2 ways to go about this-
1) Suck it up and try and be bessie mates with the SW, whilst subtly putting your point across.
2) Complain, but put everything in the letter- why the placement broke down, CAMHS reports, copies of any diaries etc, the fact you're worried about the SW, a signed statement from the witnesses as to what SW said, the fact you're worried about the complaint affecting your future placements, and catalogue the improvements that your LO has made since his brother has left, and how the extended contact could potentially impact on him; then send it to the highest person you can and let that trickle downhill.

With regards to the contact, if it did go ahead (despite your very valid reasons for delay), would you get "expenses" for this? With it being such a long time, would they count it as "respite" and therefore not pay your allowance for that time? I know it's not about the money, but 224 miles=1/2 tank of petrol=£35 <cries at petrol prices>

Hope this makes sense, it's a bit early for me. Hopefully, someone who's been doing this a lot longer than me will come and help you soon.

Remember, you are foster carers and the LA/IFA whoever should treat you with the respect you deserve.

bonnieslilsister Fri 09-Sep-11 09:23:04

Have no advice, I am afraid, just shock on your behalf that you should be treated so badly when your intentions were to care for 2 boys and you tried for months without any help and still you are willing to care for the younger boy. I agree with all Miss V said and although I have not come across Fostertalk, Fostering Network give lots of good advice.

anji9012 Fri 09-Sep-11 11:08:22

It does seem that CAMHS help is like gold dust at present, have same problem. Good luck though. fight!hmm

SeenButNotHeard Fri 09-Sep-11 16:28:28

Can I ask, are they hoping to find another placement for the boys together, or have they now decided that they should remain in seperate placements?

I ask as obviously this has a bearing on the contact arrangements.

There are a few things that you could try...

- ask for a network meeting with all parties, including the other foster carers so that you can come to a mutual agreement re facilitating contact.

- arrange a meeting with your ssw and his/her manager to discuss the difficulties you are experiencing - it is their job to support you - or let you know if you are being unreasonable.

- Ask that a LAC review is held and get the IRO (who should be the same for both siblings) to get involved.

You don't say how old the children are, but their views need to be listened to and they may need an advocate from an organisation like VOICE

MissVerinder Fri 09-Sep-11 21:42:01

Bonnie Fostertalk is the name of the magazine from the Fostering Network- I got mixed up!

NanaNina Fri 09-Sep-11 23:39:01

Hi Bonster - retired sw & tm mgr here of a Fostering & Adoption team - 30 years experience in all - 25 for LA and 5 working independently.

Firstly I know what you mean about feeling guilty about the older of the brothers, and yes social workers often feel carers are over reacting (espeically sws who don't have children, and are young and inexperienced and more pertinently because they are not the ones trying to care for a disturbed child and the way this manifests itself for the foster family.

As for what the sw is saying I can barely believe what I am reading. You don't need me to tell you that is totally unacceptable and unprofessional. You need to record exactly what she said (and date) and names of others who heard this. You must have a link worker - have you told him/her has he/she been supportive to you and if not I would wonder why. I think you need to tell your link worker what has been said and request a face to face meeting with the child's sw, her manager and your link worker and possibly her manager.

There is more than one issue to be discussed - there has been the dreadful comment that she made. Also this issue of contact and what she has decided is utterly and totally ludicrous. You must not accede to this request - it is beyond all reason and I really would question the competency of this social worker.

Presumably when you took the boys, contact arrangement were made that you found satisfactory? If there is any change to contact arrangements these need to be made in the context of a LAC Review (they are chaired by independent social workers but still in the employ of the LA) oh gawd I've just heard that we can't say Looked Aftered Children any more - you have to say Children Looked after (don't ask!).

So you need to press for this meeting asap to discuss the unprofessionalism of the social worker and these contact arrangements. As someone else has said, is the plan now to foster the boys separately (one with you) and one elsewhere. The boys probably do need to keep in contact but that is something that has to be negotiated and it is not your problem, it's the social worker's problem - I am hearing more and more on this forum of how foster carer's are being expected to transport children to contact becasue budgets have been cut by this govt. If this continues the LAs will have few fosters carers left.

If you don't get satisfaction by this meeting (which is the first step in the complaints procedure) then you go to the 2nd step, which is usually an investigation by an independent person, and the 3rd step is for the social services committee to hear the complaint and believe you me, social workers will want to avoid this at all costs.

On Monday you must telephone the sw, her manager, your link wrkr and ask for a meeting to be set up. At the same time, as for a copy of the complaints procedure and this usually makes them realise you mean business.

You shouldn't be worrying about how this will impact on you, this unprofessional social worker must be taken to task - she could do untold harm.

Feel free to PM me if this would help.


bonster123 Sun 11-Sep-11 10:46:57

Firstly, can I thank all of the replies for being positive. I really didn't know what to expect bearing my soul on an internet forum.

A few points to clear up. I did write the opening post late at night, in anger.

My Lw is one of the witnesses to the childrens SW threatening us.

The boys will have contact at their old foster home where the oldest is now living temporarily until a permanent home is found. We got on really well with these FC's and are happy to allow our FC to go there for weekends. However, every 2 weeks is way too much, how are we supposed to have a family life at home?

We were prepared to keep trying with the oldest boy had SS listened to any of the recommendations from CAMHS. We were very happy to go to these meetings, naively thinking that is was going to make a difference -we took untold days unpaid from work, and SS have completely ignored CAMHS advice.

We have since heard that another FC is in the process of making a complaint against the childrens SW.

I am still in 2 minds as to what we should do.
I know we SHOULD make a complaint but i have seen other FC's all of a sudden lose their placements and never get any more. I will try to get in contact with the other person compaining to see if they have the same issues as ourselves.

Thanks again for the replies of support.

maypole1 Sun 11-Sep-11 11:10:41

they will usually effectively put you an gardening leave and you will be seen as a problem

its so awful we basically have no rights, i would just see if their any thing your lw can do

i actually once had a child's sw rude to my bio son over the phone thankfully it was on speaker phone and the lack had already stared so the independent reviewer heard, and really gave her a bollocking after the meeting

somtimes the lw might be able to talk to the sw manager with out it being offecial if awful you are being treeated like this

but to be honest the only people ss listen to usually is the court

NanaNina Sun 11-Sep-11 17:57:41

What is your link worker doing after hearing the threats made to you by the social worker??? They are both social workers working for the same authority and the LW is as you know your social worker. She should be making a complaint to the sw and her manager, never mind you wondering whether you should complain. I cannot believe what seems to be going on in social services with foster carers on these threads. Makes me feel very sad to see what things have come to.

Re the frequency of contact, again this now needs to be re visited, given the brothers are now living apart. You must discuss this with the sw and your LW and negotiate something that is fair to all concerned.

As for whether you should complain about the unprofessionalism of the sw the answer is YES YES YES, and if I were you I'd be wanting to know why the LW did not take up this issue with the sw at the time, or later and feed back to you.

I am sorry to hear M aypole say that people who complain don't get placements, because this is what happened over 15 years ago in the LA that I worked for (conversations over the desk - oh don't use the xxxxx they did such and such and all sorts of things, not just about carers who had complained) but i truly thought those days were long gone. Carers are as you know reviewed annually and it can be seen if they have made a complaint and subsequently had no placements and questions should be asked about this. In my experience everything is so much more transparent these days and on (dare I say) a much more professional footing, but hearing what some of you carers are saying is really dreadful. I am 7 years out of LA work, and would have expected progress, instead of which the clock seems to have turned back.

I know that the cuts SSDs and all public services have had to make will have a bearing on things, ie. asking carers to transport children to contact etc and i know that this is one of the issues here, but the slashing of public services budgets is not your problem. The social workers should be making arrangements for transport and if they can't afford to pay for it, then it can't happen and when a judge wants to know why, they will have to say that couldn't afford to pay for transport for contact. Whilever foster carers keep on covering up for the deficit in budgets, it will become accepted that this is how things will be, and new carers will be told that this is a requirement.

SO fight the transport issues NOW!

As far as this sw is concerned and her thoroughly unprofessional and unpleasant comment - that is nothing to do with money and should be addressed sooner rather than later.

I am feeling so angry on behalf of you foster carers (who are like gold dust to LAs) being treated so shabbily by LAs and rude social workers. Don't let them get away with it!

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