If you are new to being in care, are already in care or you are a care leaver, preparing to leave and live independently, but in a supported way, this page may help answer some of your questions, point you to the right information and help you understand how we work.
These are only a few questions you may have. If we have missed any or there is something you really need to know you can ask your social worker, carer, IRO, Advocate or make contact through the contact page on this web site.
What does being “in care’ mean?
You may here several different terms for a young person in care: CLA (Child looked after) LAC (looked after child) for instance. In Wokingham, we have worked hard to get the terminology right for young people. We have listened to what you have to say, and many of you said you do not like CLA or LAC and would prefer CIC or Child in Care, so this is the term we use when speaking about your legal status. At present some of the paperwork still needs changing and this is a work in progress, but with your help, we can make sure everyone knows how important this is to you and things will change.
CIC is a term to explain that a child or young person is living away from their parent or parents. This can be in a foster placement with foster carers, with someone they know either family members or friends, or a residential unit or school, with carers and key workers.
Why am I being looked after?
Usually a child or young person becomes a child in care if their parents or carers cannot look after them for any reason. We always consider other family members and friends before thinking about foster care but sometimes this is not possible and your social worker will ask the Family Placement Team to find somewhere for you to stay with people who can care for you.
It is important you know why this is happening and your social worker should tell you what the plans are for you, especially around things that are important to you. If this doesn’t happen then you can ask your carer to speak to someone about this.
There are two ways you can start to be looked after
When the decision has been made that you need to live away from home or “come into care”, your social worker will work with your parent or parents to explain why this is needed and what is going to happen. If your parent or parents agree this is the right plan, then Wokingham Children Services will provide you with a place to stay as a way of helping you and your family through the difficult times. This is called a Voluntary Arrangement or sometimes you hear the term Section 20 and it is an arrangement between Wokingham Children Services and your parent or parents.
If your parent or parents do not agree with the plan, and the worries are very high then Wokingham Children Services can go to Court and ask to share Parental Responsibility with your parent or parents. This means that if the Judge agrees then Wokingham Children Services can make decisions about your care, where you live and ensure you keep safe, but ideally they want to work with your family so everyone knows what is happening and is involved in making plans for you.
What does placement mean?
“Placement” is a word used to describe the place that you are living. This can be a foster placement with foster carers or a residential home with key workers. In Wokingham we are working hard to try and change the terminology we use and have listened to the young people who have said they would like where they live to be called “home” or something other than “placement”. This is a work in progress us if you have any ideas let us know!
What does legal status mean?
Legal status can be difficult to explain but when we talk about your “legal status” we are talking about who has legal responsibility for you at any one time.
When you live at home with your parent or parents but need support, Social workers work with you and your family under legislation called the Children Act 1989
If you do come into care it can be done in two ways: sometimes social workers have to go to court and talk to a Judge so they can make a legal order which allows Children Services to make decisions about you if it’s the right thing to keep you safe. This order is called an Interim Care Order and it is the start of the “care proceedings” for you and about you.
For some children and young people, social workers don’t have to go to court straightaway because their parent or parents have given permission for them to be looked after, this is called Section 20.
The Interim Care Order and Section 20 are all part of the Children Act 1989
What is a care plan?
Your care plan is an important document. It is a plan about you, for you and should include your views, wishes and feelings. It sets out in writing what you need to make sure you are being well looked after and supported in all the areas of your life. It will say what needs to be done to make it work and who is going to do what.
Your care plan includes:
- Who is going to look after you.
- How to stay healthy.
- Where you are going to go to school.
- How you will do the things you enjoy.
- How and when you will see your family or other important people in your life.
- How you will practice your religion and culture.
- What the plan for your future is.
Where will I live?
Where possible Wokingham Children Services will always look for someone you know that can look after you safely whilst decisions are being made about your future. This can be family or friends but if this is the case, they have to be assessed by a Social Worker to make sure they understand what it is they need to do.
If you cannot live with family or friends then the Social Worker will ask the Family Placement Team to look for a foster placement or if a young person has specific needs this may also be a residential home/unit who can meet those extra needs.
It is important that any placement identified for you is a good match and should be close to your school, your friends and family so you can keep in touch.
It is important that you have your own room, if possible and you are able to take your own personal items with you to help you feel a little more settled.
What is a foster carer?
Foster carers are ordinary people who look after children and young people who cannot stay with their own families. They may have other foster children living with them or their own children. They are carefully chosen by Wokingham Children Services Family Placement Team.
Sometimes people you know, such as relatives or family friends, can become your foster carers and they will need to be assessed and have their own social worker.
Sometimes it is not possible to use a foster carer in Wokingham, so the Family Placement Team looks outside of Wokingham for an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) that may be able to help or maybe a better match for you
Will I be able to see my parents and other members of my family?
This is a very important question. The answer is usually you are able to see your parent/parents or your family members. When you first come into care there is a lot to plan and to make sure we get it right it can take a few days to arrange contact. However, it is important that you see your family and they see you so no one gets too worried. Contact can take many forms, but it has to be safe and your social worker, you, your parent or parents and your foster carer will all talk about what is the best way to arrange contact.
There are sometimes or special reasons why contact cannot happen, and this is when your social worker should talk to about this, listen to what you have to say and explain what is going to happen.
How will my social worker know what I want?
Your social worker will visit you regularly and talk to you on your own about how you are getting on. This is the time you can tell them about what it is you would like to happen.
Your social worker will listen to you and make sure your views are taken into account when decisions and plans are made. If you think this is not happening you can tell your carer, your IRO, a teacher at school or your advocate. It is important that we know what children and young people want, so we can make the right plans for the future.
Will I get pocket money/new clothes?
Yes. You will receive pocket money and this will be an amount agreed between you, your social worker and your foster carer. The amount you get will be dependent on your age.
You will also get some new clothes.
You should receive a leaflet about your rights as a child in care and if you do not have this let your carer, social worker, advocate or IRO know and this can be sorted for you.
If you feel you are not getting what you think you should be getting , or you don’t remember or are confused about your rights as a child in care then your Advocate can help you.
Can I stay with friends?
You will need to talk to your foster carer or social worker about any friends you want to stay with. They will need to check out these plans to ensure that you are safe.
Will I live with people like me and understand my specific needs? Wherever possible you will be with carers who are the same background as you or who understand, respect and value your background, culture and religion. They will help you to have the food you normally eat. If needed they will help you to practice your religion.
Foster carers are very skilled people, who understand children and young people but of course they don’t know you so it is important that they get to know you and find out the things you need, like and want.
Who can I talk to about how I feel?
There are many people you can talk to about how you are feeling, for example, your social worker, foster carer or independent reviewing officer.