Virtual reality

9 March 2017 News Round-up

SOCIAL WORKERS should use social media to try to contact a parent ahead of court proceedings, according to a judge who abandoned a final adoption order hearing after it emerged that the mother had not been informed it was taking place because the local authority had failed to track her down. The mother had left or been forced to leave the country and the local authority had sought to reach her via the country’s embassy without success. However it emerged that contact had been made by the birth father’s representative in court following a relatively simple Facebook search a few days prior to the hearing. Both the local authority and the child’s guardian confirmed that there was no rule against staff using Facebook to contact parents. “I do not for one moment suggest that Facebook should be the first method used, but it does seem to be a useful tool in the armoury which can certainly be resorted to long before a conclusion is reached that it is impossible to locate the whereabouts of a birth parent,” the judge said. His approach was supported by Helen Oakwater, a trainer and adoptive parent who, for a number of years, has been pushing for social workers to be able to use social media including Facebook searches in their work. “We are in 2017, with austerity and cuts. Let’s use the best tools available,” she said on Twitter.

Oakwater has also written and presented extensively around the need to respond to the impact of unsupervised contact via social media on adoptees, arguing that much more needs to be done to “futureproof” adopted children by providing more robust life story information. The legal system absolutely has a role to play in this, she underlined in this presentation.

GIRLS IN care are more likely to have lower well-being than boys, suggests research published by the University of Bristol and Coram Voice under the Bright Spots Programme which aims to understand how children themselves feel about their lives in care. Using feedback from over 600 children and young people the researchers examined well-being factors including how settled children were, their relationships with carers and family, how much they liked their bedroom, access to opportunities and how included they were in decision-making. They found that a quarter of girls in care aged 11 to 18 experienced low life satisfaction – more than double that of the boys and significantly higher than the general population. Research has shown that subjective well-being correlates with other outcomes such as educational attainment, health and employment prospects, the researchers say, and that while data is collected on general outcomes for children in care, no information is collected nationally on how children themselves feel about being in care. Around 95% of children surveyed said they trusted their foster carer and 83% trusted their social worker – although trust for the latter dropped as the children got older.

LABOUR MP Lillian Greenwood raised concerns over the involvement of profit making companies and the threat of monopolies reducing value for money in the foster care sector, CYP Now reports. The MP’s comments came at the second session of the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into fostering which included an appearance from Iain Anderson, group chief executive at the National Fostering Agency which last summer launched a merger with Acorn Care and Education Group. The deal was called in by the Competition and Markets Authority and Acorn now needs to divest itself of some of its fostering provision in order for the sale to go ahead (TWiF 23 February 2017).

THE NSPCC has brought together a wealth of information on harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) extrapolated from a number of serious case reviews. “The learning from these reviews highlights that children who display HSB need support and understanding,” the organisation reminds us. “HSB should be recognised as a potential indicator of abuse and professionals should work together to look for the reasons behind a child’s behaviour and consider appropriate safeguarding responses.”

THE SCRAPPING of a controversial clause in the Children and Social Work Bill that would have allowed councils to test out new ways of working and opt out of some of their statutory requirements under children’s social care legislation was widely featured after an article predicting the move appeared in CYPNow. The provisions had faced sustained opposition right across the children’s social care sector, with the government finally capitulating after Lord Laming, who headed the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié, added his voice to the dissenters, according to the BBC.

AND FINALLY blogger and trainer Annie, whose five children have spent time in care writes in her surviving safeguarding blog of her son’s decision to return to foster care part-way through a planned return to her home. Working through this difficult chapter in her life she nevertheless has some measured advice for social workers and others in her position. “There are two families who are about to be affected by a significant change; the birth family and the foster family,” she writes. “Having the knowledge of how both live is imperative to putting together a successful rehabilitation plan. It is not enough to say that “this is how it is done”; this is not a ‘one-size fits all’ process.”

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