“All we want is positive outcomes for everyone”
When you foster with St Christopher’s, there is a whole team helping you care for a child or young person. This includes a dedicated supervising social worker, who supports you and your family and helps you be an excellent foster parent.
Katya is a social worker in our Eastern Region team supporting foster families in Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Discover what she does and why she thinks more people should become foster carers.
What is a supervising social worker?
I am a means of support for foster carers, giving guidance and advice. I advocate on their behalf and on the children’s behalf to make sure they get the right support and input from services to ensure life remains stable and positive for the children and carers.
I also ensure carers remember to support their own wellbeing. Sometimes carers can be so fixated on making sure the child is settled, happy and has positive outcomes – which is obviously brilliant – but it’s important for them to look after themselves too.
How long have you worked in fostering?
I’ve worked in fostering for more than 17 years, starting off in contact supervision which is when you support children in care to spend time with their birth families. I then became a support worker and completed my social work degree after that.
Did you always want to work with children?
I’ve always enjoyed being around kids, when I was a teenager I did lots of babysitting for neighbours. However I actually wanted to be a performer with a physical theatre company! I had a big idea of training with a circus school and setting up my own company but had a change of plan when my own children came along.
Starting out in a fostering agency made me want to do more and more to help children and foster carers, which is why I decide to become a social worker instead.
Also my dad was a social worker – he worked with foster families, in a children’s home and ran a youth club, so from a young age I grew up knowing there were other children who weren’t as fortunate as us. This probably played a role in my decision too.
What can foster carers speak to you about?
I typically see carers on a monthly basis, but it can be more frequently if needed. Sometimes a child or young person may behave in a certain way because they are telling you a message that they feel unable to say verbally, so carers need to understand this. I help them reflect on the meaning behind a child’s behaviour, suggest different parenting approaches and consider how they could respond.
Sometimes carers just need someone they feel safe to share their struggles and difficulties with so I am often an outlet for them to speak through their worries.
I also provide training to prospective foster carers and other specialist training, to make sure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to care for young people.
Do you work with the young people too?
I do, my main role is to support foster carers to help them support young people but that includes visiting and seeing young people regularly. I speak to them on their own to check how they are feeling.
Sometimes I take them out or look after them in their foster home to give the carers a break. It’s important for me to build relationships with the children and young people so that they have another adult they trust and feel comfortable with.
What are your hopes for children in care?
All we want is positive outcomes for everyone. We are flexible and willing to do what it takes to ensure the right solution is achieved for the child. I know if I feel a carer needs additional support I can go to my manager and it will be put in place.
We work hard to make sure foster carers and children have lots of support from a whole team of people, including an in-house therapist, a support worker and the option of respite support. This means we can put support in place and keep things stable for the child. We don’t want children constantly moving between foster homes as it can compound feelings of rejection and make them feel like they aren’t good enough.
If someone wanted to be a foster carer, what would they need to know?
Fostering is a very challenging job because you look after children who have been through traumatic experiences. You need to be very flexible and resilient, and you need to be willing to complete training.
Patience is so important. To affect positive change it takes more than just a loving home – it takes time and repetition so that you can counteract a child’s negative experiences.
Every achievement, however small, feels like a big reward. You are helping a child or young person to reach key milestones in life.
Why should someone pick St Christopher’s to foster with?
I am really proud to be working for St Christopher’s and the work we do. Because St Christopher’s is a charity you know that any money gained is going back into services and support. It doesn’t line someone’s pocket or make them richer but is actually used for the good of children and young people.
I am always so amazed that the lengths my carers will go to, to ensure a child is happy, supported and has the best outcome. They really do put their heart and souls into caring for children.
Would you like to learn more about becoming a foster carer? Enquire with us today for a friendly chat with our team.