4 minute read
I never know what to expect when the phone rings. Calls from parents, kinship carers’, friends and occasionally professionals, all seeking advice and support.
A high volume of calls means despite how hard the advisers all work, many callers can’t get through. This is why our website and digital advice platform are essential arms to our service.
FRG’s remit is to advise families whose children are in need, or deemed at risk or are in care system, including relatives stepping in to take on the care of a child who cannot remain at home. Daily I speak to desperate callers dealing with all sorts of challenges, who are asking for help and have nowhere else to turn.
Callers can present as anxious, upset and sometimes angry that children’s services are involved with their families. I try to make them feel that I don’t see them as a troubled family, instead as a family with troubles.
Our callers are trusting me with their most private concerns and not only do I need to listen to them, they need to feel listened to. This is important because many say that they don’t feel listened to by any of the professionals involved with their family.
Our small group of advisers are family law solicitors, child social workers and very experienced child welfare advocates who are professionally trained to gather information and give suitable advice. However, this does not mean that as caring individuals we are never affected by the stories we hear. But while we are on that call it is the caller’s feelings that are the priority.
Daily I receive calls from distraught parents who have been contacted by a social worker saying the words that no parent wants to hear, that they have received a referral and want to meet them. Parents often believe that the social worker is going to remove their children and despite my explanations about the process, for some, this anxiety may never go away.
Domestic violence features in many of our calls. Today I spoke to a mother worried about a social worker coming to see her as her partner had been arrested for assaulting her. She was tearful, saying he did not mean it and the children had not been harmed as they were in bed at the time.
I advised her what to expect from the social worker’s visit and discussed with her children’s service concerns and the process that they should follow. I also advised her about working with a social worker and seeking support from a domestic abuse charity for her and her children. I could hear the relief in her voice when she thanked me at the end of the call.
Another caller was unfortunately in a situation I hear about far too often. A few months prior he had been asked by a social worker to take in his friend’s children after she had been admitted into a mental health facility. He had received no support from children’s services despite purchasing everything the children needed including beds and driving them to and from their school, which was miles away.
I advised him that the local authority should have assessed the level of support he needed to look after the children and assessed him as a foster carer and that as a foster carer he was entitled to receive foster care allowance to provide for the children. I also explained the services that the children were entitled to receive.
FRG has a detailed template letter formally requesting a fostering assessment and backdated foster care allowance that I can provide to callers. Many of them subsequently confirm that they have been successful, with some receiving thousands of pounds backdated payments that they were legally entitled to.
Constantly speaking to families, some in their darkest hour, is very rewarding, especially when you have clearly helped them. But sometimes it can be emotionally draining and you will never know until you take the call. One thing that I do know is that I couldn’t provide my best on a daily basis without the strong team support of my fellow advisors.
Our team are a special group of people who share our knowledge, experience and expertise which enables us to give a professional, quality services to the families that need our support and on a daily basis we offer to make each other tea and give each other cake and biscuits (and even sometimes fruit) which is priceless.