Dear past, present and future carers,
I am writing this blog as a social worker. I want to try and share my experiences of being a social worker for looked after children, with some real-life experiences and situations. I have asked for this to be anonymous for a few reasons. One being that as a social worker, some people will have had good experiences of working with me, and some bad, that’s just the reality sadly, and not one I’m happy about. Also, I will at points be referring to real examples of children and families that I have had the pleasure and challenges of meeting over the years and I want to protect them, their families and their carers identities. This is not about individual people. This is about learning and reflecting and trying to do a better job for it.
I want this to be as open and honest as possible. I want to write to you all about my reflections on various aspects of working with children in care. I am not writing to be antagonistic, to offend or to undermine anyone. I am also only human, and some of what I write you might not agree with me. But I am doing my best and I want to open a discussion. You can expect a new blog from me a couple times each month and I hope you enjoy reading them.
The Anonymous Social Worker: Lockdown Reset
The lock down has been hard for all of us, harder for some than others and we have all coped in different ways. Daily I think about our children in foster care and how this situation has been for them.
For our carers, I think about you too, and I salute you! Often the children you care for have complex needs and can be demanding of your attention. School is a well needed and deserved break in the day and for some, that is just not possible at the moment. I am sure I speak for the service when i say thank you for keeping our children safe.
For me, I am ok, and I am enjoying lockdown. Other than not being able to see my family and friends and do the ‘normal’ things we used to do I am enjoying it. But why? This is what I have been reflecting about.
Before lockdown, my life was pretty hectic. We were rushing around trying to get to work on time, get to our visits on time, keeping on top of paper work, getting the jobs done at home (that are mostly still there!), seeing friends and family for various events. We didn’t really stop and now I realise how exhausted I was. Taking a positive from this time, there have been such few demands. I am now working from home like most of the country who can. It has given me time to slow down, rest and reset.
This has made me think about the children in our care. Many of which when they first come into care are experiencing such a high level of stimulation. They may have been around adults who are drinking, taking drugs, have poor mental health and witnessed domestic abuse. They may have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Most of their life they may have been just trying to survive, possibly protect their siblings and get through each day. Take these children out of those situations and put them into a much calmer environment in foster care is really alien for them.
I worked with a very self-aware 16-year-old boy. He really struggled not being able to live with his birth family. Together we put together the analogy that when he was at home, he was a little whirlwind. Bouncing off each of the unsafe and scary things in his path to keep himself safe, keep himself going and keep him fighting. But when these things were removed and he came into care, he, the whirlwind, did not have anything to bounce off anymore and he felt completely uncontained and didn’t know where to go. This in itself felt scary for him and he didn’t know how to keep his energy up. Sometimes it can take some time for the whirlwind to calm and sometimes it can look for things in its path to test those boundaries and make sure he still has the strength to fight if he needs to. But the whirlwind will tire and run its course. Much like a child in care will calm and accept being cared for in a safe way. As cheesy as it is, there is always sunshine after the storm.
I am not comparing my experience of lockdown to the experience of a child coming into care as that would do them such an injustice, but this is where my trail of thought has taken me. And not every child will be a whirlwind, far from it. Every child’s experience is different, just like all our experiences of lock down are different. I am trying to take this situation and use it to help me understand our children better.
As the demands placed on us have been stripped away, we have all coped differently and sadly some of us have tragically experienced significant loss in our life as a result.
This is not dissimilar to the children we look after.
As we start to put together our society and our communities again, we are all a bit fearful of whether we are doing it right. Whether it is safe. Whether the government are making the right decisions to keep us safe. Are we going to get ill again and lose even more people?
For our children, as they come out of their own storm, they are learning to trust the adults around them again. And they might ask similar questions of us adults. ‘Are they doing this right?’. ‘Are they going to keep me safe?’. ‘Am I going to lose more people I care about?’. ‘How can I stay in touch with the people I love that I can’t see any more?’. ‘What if I never see the people I love again?’.
We are all trying to get through this storm in our own ways. Sadly, I think there will be times when it is one step forward two steps back, that is how we learn isn’t it? I think being able to relate our experiences in various ways can be helpful. I hope one day when we have put all the pieces back together in a safe way we can reflect on this time. It might not be back together as we know it, and we will all need to get to know our own ‘new normal’ again.