Young person's guide to being looked after and leaving care

Young person’s guide to being looked after and leaving care

This is your guide to being looked after (some people call it ‘being in care’) and leaving care in Wokingham. Here you'll find information about where where you might live, going to school, meetings and paperwork, seeing your family and

lots more.

Living with foster carers and their family


Foster parents or carers are people who look after children and young people in their home. 


  • They are all different people from all walks of life – but they are all trained in the same way
  • They have already been checked to make sure that they are safe, healthy, that they get on well with children and would make good carers
  • Your new foster carers will be there for you if you want to talk and they will ensure that you have food, drink and clean clothes to wear. 
  • They will help you with your education
  • They will try to help you stay in touch with your friends and to make some new ones


Family and friends as carers


Not all looked after children are cared for by foster carers. Relatives, such as an auntie or uncle or grandparents, or someone familiar to the young person, like a family friend, sometimes care for children who are looked after. 


We check to make sure that they are able to care for you properly. Your social worker should look at your family members first to see if there is anyone suitable to care for you. Sometimes this is done through a meeting called a  family group conference.


If you have a disability


We will make sure you live with a carer who has the skills they need to make sure they can look after properly.

 

  • We’ll make sure that you get the right equipment if you need it
  • If you find it difficult to communicate what you feel or want, your carer will make sure they help you to do this and act as your voice

  

Living in a children’s home


This is sometimes called a residential unit. It means living with up to four or five other children and young people with a staff team who are there to look after you


  • Usually it is young people over the age of ten who live in a children’s home
  • All the staff are there to make sure that your needs are met
  • There will be one staff member there who will be there to help you, make sure you’re ok and help you sort things out
  • You will have your own bedroom and share bathrooms, lounge and kitchen

When you are a child in care there are lots of people that you are likely to come into contact with. It can be a bit confusing, so here are some brief details to help you sort out what everyone does and who they all are. 


Social worker


You will have a social worker who will visit you to make sure you're doing ok. They will:


  • visit you within the first week of moving to your new home. They will carry on visiting you on a regular basis for as long as you stay there
  • visit you more often If you're having difficulties or you ask them to
  • usually talk to you on your own, even if it’s only for five minutes
  • talk with you about how you're feeling about your family, foster carers, school or anything else. If you are unhappy about where you live you need to tell your social worker why


Independent reviewing officer


This person will arrange the meetings where everyone talks about the plans that have been made to make sure you're ok. They will: 


  • Write to you asking you to say what you think and what you want to Talk about at the meeting
  • Make sure the plans made are right for you
  • Make sure that you are able to say how you feel and whether you are happy about the way you are cared for


You can speak to your reviewing officer at any time.


Personal advisor


If you are 16 or over, you will have a personal advisor. This person will help you when you leave care and become independent


Independent visitor


If you don’t see your family very often, then you can have someone called an independent visitor to come and see you.


  • They will be there for you to talk to about things
  • They might take you out to places
  • Give you help and advice
  • Go to meetings with you


Advocate – someone to help you


This is someone who will put over your point of view to other people, based on what you have told them. 


  • They can talk to people with you or talk to people for you
  • Sometimes people you already know can be an advocate for you
  • It can be especially hard in big meetings, or if you are not happy with decisions that people have made about you

 

These are some of the meetings you may be involved with – it doesn’t mean that all these meetings will happen for every young person.


Planning meeting


This is where people talk about your situation, decide who should do what, and when it should happen. This is to make sure all your needs are met.


Family group conference


This meeting is with you, your family, other relatives, friends and professionals who care for you and are concerned about

you. 


In the meeting everyone will talk together to  make a plan for your future. A person called a co-ordinator organises and runs the meeting.


Review


This is where people look at the plans that have been made for you. You will get to say what you would like to happen. Everyone will talk about things like where you are living, school, seeing your family and your health.


Before the review meeting you write down how you're feeling about where you're living. You can do this in your: 


 

Child protection conference


families, carers and workers to talk about keeping children and young people safe from harm. The type of harm might be physically hurt, not looked after properly, being abused or emotionally hurt.


Care and pathway plans


They say what should be happening for you, what help you should be getting and how long you should need to live away from your birth family.


You should know what your care plan says. If you are old enough you should be able to sign the plan and say if you agree with what is in it.


Placement plan


This will be done before you move to live with a new carer. It will include things about you so your carer can look after you properly. It could include hobbies and things you like doing, medicines you take and what time you go to bed. 


It is really important your social worker talks to you or someone who knows you well so that the right information is in the plan.  

When you become looked after it can feel like lots of people who

hardly know you are making decisions about you. It's important you remember:


  • Everyone must make sure they find out your feelings, ideas and views about what is going going and shares that with everyone who is making decisions about you
  • Everyone involved should make decisions that are in your best interest


Telling people what you think


You should let your social worker and carers know when things are going well, or if things need sorting out.


You could also make a formal compliment or complaint if you feel strongly about something. Compliments are important because they let people know what is going well, and then  they can do these things for other people as well.


Complaints let people know what may be going wrong and give them a

chance to make things better.


You can do this through......


Helping you have your say


There are a number of people you can ask to help you if you want to make a complaint about the decisions made about you, how you are treated or the services you do/don’t get. 


Most importantly you should feel able to talk to the person you go to for help and be able to trust them. Some of the people who could help are:


  • Your foster carer
  • Your key worker
  • Your social worker
  • Your personal advisor
  • Wokingham’s children’s rights officer
  • A youth worker, teacher or teaching assistant
  • Your parent, or older brothers or sisters

 

When you are looked after it is important to try and keep other things in your life as settled as possible and this includes your education. You will carry on going to your usual school unless this  causes real difficulties.


Your teachers


All schools now have someone called a designated teacher. This is a

teacher who understands about being in care and who you can talk to at

school if you have any problems in school caused by being in care.


You tell your social worker how much you want your teachers to know about you being looked after. The designated teacher will be asked what they think about your progress for reviews. They might ask a teacher or your form teacher to  about your learning. These teachers will only be told that you are looked after, otherwise it’s up to you how much they know, and they will be told to keep this information confidential.


Your school work


You will be given support, help and space to do your homework. If you have problems about being able to keep up with your homework you can speak to your carer, social worker or designated teacher.


Your social worker and teacher make a plan which will say what help you need in school. This is to male sure you do the best you can. You will also be asked to say what you think about the plan.


Your exams


These are really important and you can expect help to plan ahead for them. Your carer will make sure that you have time and space to study and revise. If you need extra help with revision or extra help at any time your social worker or carer can contact the virtual head teacher.


Bullying


Someone may be bullying you by teasing you, or hitting, kicking or hurting you. Standing up to someone who is bullying you or someone else is difficult. You need to talk to someone about it, even if you feel scared.


  • Speak to your parents, carer, teacher or social worker or friend. It is ok to tell others
  • Sometimes you might be unkind to other people and it is ok to stop and think what you are doing.
  • Are you treating other people badly and making them upset? Ask for help with this.
  • Speak to an adult who can try and help you even if you feel scared.
Being healthy means your body is in good working order. Keeping fit can be fun. Important things to keep you healthy are:


  • Regular exercise - this is important as it affects how you body works
  • Food - Your body needs the right kinds of food to help it grow and repair itself and to provide energy to keep you going.
  • Sexual health - Making informed choices and being responsible, respectful and protecting yourself and others is important. Visit the NHS sexual health website to find out more 
  • Body care – Keeping yourself clean is an important part of staying healthy. It prevents the spread of germs. It also helps prevent things as like skin problems and tooth decay.
  • Sleep and relaxation – Sleep is vital to your system. It gives your body time to grow, repair and refresh itself. Relaxation is also an important part of keeping healthy. It gets rid of tension and allows the body to ‘unwind’
  • Avoiding dangerous habits – Some people deal with stress by drinking too much alcohol, smoking too many cigarettes or taking drugs. These can damage your body. Visit the Talk to Frank website to find out more

 

When you move to live with a foster family or in a children’s home it is important that you still have some contact with your family. 


  • How often you see your family, where you see them and who you see will be different for everyone
  • In some rare cases children in care are not allowed to see their families, but you can usually write to each other to keep in touch
  • If you don’t want to see members of your family, you should talk to your social worker. It is important for them to understand how you feel, so they can make sure the right plans get made.

 

Life story work


Life story work is when you and your social worker or carer spend some time putting together a record of your background and family history.

Your social worker might also ask another worker to make up this record with you.


There are all sorts of ways to do this. It could be a: 


  • a simple photo album with 
  • few notes decorated journal with information and mementos
  • a written story


You keep your life story work so that you will always be able to remind yourself of people, places and important events and add to it if you want to.

The Children's Act is the main law about children in care:


  • It helps people decide what is the best thing to do to keep you safe. 
  • It says who should be responsible for you. 
  • Usually, your parents will always have a say in what happens to you.  
  • If we decide that you need to go into care to make sure you're safe, this is known as a care order. We will be responsible for you as well as your parents.


Tell us if you're not being looked after properly


Nobody should do things that make you feel uncomfortable or scared. Tel you social worker or carer if someone:


  • Smacks or hits you
  • Stops you from having food or drink
  • Stops you from seeing your family or other people who are important to you
  • Makes you wear different clothes from those around you
  • Stops you from having medical or dental treatment that you need
  • Locks you in a room, or in the house where you live
  • Keep you awake so that you don’t get your normal sleep (but they will need to wake you up for school even if you stay up late). 
  • Stops your pocket money as punishment – but they can use some of it to pay for something that you have damaged or stolen)


Restraint - stopping you by holding onto you


If things are really difficult and you are hurting yourself or others, or damaging valuable property, staff in children’s homes can stop you by holding onto you. They can also stop you if they have a very good reason to think that you might be about to do something like that. This is called ‘restraint’. It should never be done as a punishment, shouldn’t harm you and should only be used when there is no other way to protect you or someone else.

Many young people are only in care for a short time. Some younger children and young people may leave care before they are ready to live independently. This may happen if you return to your birth family, or if the courts make an

adoption or residence order for you.


  • Adoption and Residence Orders are court orders. They mean that the people who have the order can make the same sort of decisions about you that your parents would.
  • If one of these orders is made to your carers for you, then you would no longer be looked after. Adoption does not just concern babies; you can be adopted up to the age of 18.

 


Becoming independent


When you reach 16 years, your social worker will complete a pathway plan with you. This will detail the support you need to prepare you for when you leave care.


You will also have a personal advisor who will help you when you leave care with lots of things like money, finding a job and education.

You'll be given a guide to being in care which will tell you more about being in care. It also includes information sheets you can use to keep track of everything and make notes to help you.