Meet our Fostering Support Workers
You also meet our two Fostering Support Workers, Amy and Marcus. They work directly with children and young people to make sure they are happy, achieving and that their views are taken into account in decisions about their lives.
We spoke to Amy and Marcus to find out more about their work with young people.
What is a Fostering Support Worker?
Marcus: We aim to empower young people – everybody has their own individual needs but all deserve the same opportunities. We try to celebrate young people’s different attributes and abilities, adapting to what they need.
Amy: Predominantly the role is about building relationships, quickly and effectively, with young people. We get to know them so they feel relaxed and able to talk openly and freely. Work is targeted to young people’s individual needs so we have to be flexible and sensitive in our approach.
Marcus: Children in care often experience multiple changes – either living with different foster families or having different social workers. So we build trust and play a role in stabilising their lives.
Amy: At times we act as advocates to give young people a voice and help them express their thoughts and feelings.
Marcus: In our role, I find that young people see us not as social workers but as people that make them feel at ease who they can relate to. We are like a counsellor, social worker, foster carer and friend rolled into one!
How do you start working with a young person?
Amy: A young person’s social worker will identify a need, maybe if they are having a bit of a wobble, and introduce us in to help.
And what do you do when you spend time with young people?
Marcus: Sessions vary depending on their needs and age. There are therapeutic considerations that go alongside what we do, such as when we undertake ‘life story work’ to help young people understand their journey from birth to now. We think about how things will or won’t impact young people based on what we know and what their social worker and therapist think.
Amy: We also support young people to prepare for adulthood and leaving the care system. Like I worked with a 16-year-old on CV writing and helping them job hunt – that was a brilliant achievement for the young person, as they ended up getting a part-time role. I was so proud!
Marcus: But it is more than just activities. Everything we do is for the young person, there is always a purpose. If I am doing something like setting a young person’s goals, I will do it through a game of football or something else they enjoy. Nine times out of ten this approach gets more out of the young person.
Amy: We do activities that we know young people will feel comfortable doing and take interest in, like bowling, football or going to the park. One young person needs support developing their social skills, so I take them to soft play so they can interact with other children.
Marcus: We liaise with other professionals too to develop programmes that can help young people and make use of expertise from other teams in St Christopher’s, like education and therapy.
How often are you in contact with the young people?
Amy: Every week, but more often during the school holidays as there is more time for us to meet. Consistency is really important so we see young people regularly.
Marcus: We also have contact with young people through a newsletter and through Mind Of My Own, an app that they can use to give feedback to their foster carers and other adults who work with them.
Do you work directly with foster carers?
Amy: We don’t just build a relationship with the young person but also with the foster carer. Our involvement can save the relationship with the young person and foster carer from breaking down – if there are any wobbles we can offer support to get things back on track.
Marcus: We are part of a support package for foster carers and go hand-in-hand with the social workers and in-house therapeutic team. One child told me how they felt about moving to a new foster home, so I was able to work with the carer to implement support that would improve the child’s experience.
Did the pandemic impact what you do?
Marcus: In the first lockdown, Amy and I put our heads together to come up with some new ideas for supporting young people. We set up the youth council to give young people a chance to speak and be heard. For example, one young person at the council shared how lockdown had impacted their mental health, which they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.
Amy: Lockdown was difficult because you build such a significant relationship and you can’t beat in-person interaction. Young people couldn’t always speak honestly about their feelings over video calls – they don’t spend all their time with us criticising their foster carers or anything, but it’s important they have space to offload to us. Some of my kids love speaking to me in the car as you’re side-on rather than face-to-face so it feels less intimidating. I make playlists for them so they feel relaxed, otherwise they will never open up. It’s all about the approach.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Marcus: Seeing young people progress from where they started to where they end up, and the impact we’ve made. For example, one young person did not want to talk to me when she first moved in but she started to engage, settled into her foster home and now she’s going to university.
Amy: I agree, I love seeing young people’s confidence, self-esteem and self-worth grow. It’s a really rewarding job.
Why is it important to listen to children and young people?
Amy: I always think back to their past and what they have been through – those were situations where they didn’t have a voice or weren’t heard.
Marcus: The youth of today are tomorrow’s adults so it’s important to give them a voice. We put ourselves in their shoes and think about what it’s like to move into a new home with a new family because it can be scary. We want to help them feel in control of their future.
What would you say to someone thinking of fostering?
Marcus: Fostering is a brilliant opportunity to help children feel supported, safe, loved, heard and have a home.
Amy: You can’t always undo what a young person has been through in life but through fostering you can provide stability and watch them develop.
Marcus: You can give a young person the right ingredients for their start in life so that they can grow into whatever they want to be.
Would you like to foster with St Christopher’s? Enquire about fostering with us today.