Last Updated 11:00am, 7 April 2020
How we are supporting you during coronavirus (COVID-19)
Hopefully you have been receiving our regular newsletters with the latest guidance and advice for foster carers during the coronavirus pandemic.
We want to reassure you that Fostering Devon is doing everything we can to continue to offer support and keep things running as normally as possible. Please be prepared that we may limit some services while we focus on safeguarding our children at this difficult time.
Family Contact Guidance
We recognise how important it is for children and young people to have contact with their birth family and so we will share guidance from the government when it becomes available. In the meantime, we would encourage you to set up virtual contact (Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp video) as a means for children and young people to stay in touch with their birth family safely.
Social Worker Visits
There have been no statutory changes to the frequency or type of visits social workers need to undertake. Visits to children with a child protection plan, or in our care, remain a statutory duty to ensure their needs are being met and any risk of harm is being managed and/or prevented.
Before social workers make a visit, they will telephone ahead and check that the household is well, self-isolating or unwell with Covid-19 symptoms.
In some situations, we may need to conduct a ‘virtual visit’, guidance given to social workers is shared below.
- Undertake checks with agencies who have had contact with the child or young person. E.g. if the child is in the school provision for vulnerable children
- Speak to parents/carer via phone, WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime etc.
- If the child/young person can speak via phone, WhatsApp video, FaceTime etc. this must happen. Ensure as far as possible the child or young person is given an opportunity to be spoken to alone
- Where a child/young person is unable to speak, they should be observed via the phone video and the phone shown to them so they can listen/see who is calling
- Where required, the parent/carer/care leaver is asked to provide a virtual tour of the home using the phone video
- Don’t lose sight of why we are involved, virtual visits still have an important purpose
Support to Foster Carers
We are pleased to be able to offer all our foster carers the following virtual support provision:
- Supervising Social Workers – will continue to be in touch daily/weekly depending on your circumstances
- Supervision – will continue at least at the same frequency as before
- Placement Support Team – telephone support is being increased to ensure we have more capacity – 01392 381491
- Peer Guides – please contact your guide
- FosterTalk – lines are available 24/7 –
0121 758 5013 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Make use of Fostering Devon support networks through established support groups
- Devon Foster Care Association
- Online Training – see Approved Carer Zone on fostering website
- NEW Fostering Devon Facebook group has now been established, this is a closed group and there will be some level of moderation. Please join and be part of this online community
- Fostering Devon Duty Line – 01392 381491
- Regular fostering newsletter and updates
Foster Carer Supervision
It is important that we continue to provide supervision to our foster carers. The way in which this now happens may change from traditional home visits to telephone/video calls or a walk in the park observing social distancing.
We recognise that the frequency of contact with foster carers may need to increase as children are home for longer periods of time whilst schools are closed.
Visits in person may take place where a foster carer has specifically asked for this, or we feel extra advice, guidance and support is needed. Supervising Social Workers undertaking the child’s statutory visit may want to take the child out in the fresh air as part of their support to the household.
Supervising Social Workers and Children’s Social Workers will agree a household visiting plan to ensure tasks are not duplicated, this will also help reduce footfall.
If neither the Supervising Social Worker or Children’s Social Worker are visiting in person, Area Managers will need to authorise the new temporary ‘virtual contact’ arrangements.
Routine statutory unannounced visits to foster carers by their Supervising Social Worker will be suspended until further notice.
Placement Support Team
The Placement Support Team offer an out of hours support service. This is primarily a phone-based service, the team can be reached on 01392 381491. On very rare occasions requests are made for face to face interventions. A decision will be made in every individual situation giving due regard to the needs of the children and foster carers in addition to the safety needs of the staff members. These requests will be discussed and agreed between the supervisor and the area manager.
NHS Devon Health Assessments
For the time being named Doctors will continue to complete IHA’s (Initial Health Assessments) virtually and in discussion with social workers and foster carers around the child. Only when absolutely necessary, or when safeguarding medical information cannot be transposed onto IHA, will a child/young person be seen in a clinic setting. Any follow-up physical examinations will be carried out when the risks of Covid-19 have ceased.
Named Nurse and children in care teams will review all RHA’s to see if there is a clinical need to complete/update a RHA during the current time. This service will continue to be reviewed in response to NHS England guidance. Where a child is identified as being more vulnerable to Covid- 19, those with an unmet health need and those that are socially isolated i.e., care leavers, will be triaged as a priority.
Safeguarding work will continue and telephone advice will be provided to children, young people, carers, and local authorities as required.
Personal Education Plan Meetings
During the current situation PEPs that have already been scheduled will go ahead for the rest of the term – via Skype. Foster Carers will be issued with dial-in details via their child’s social worker or in some cases direct from the Virtual School Team. We will endeavour to get the Designated Teachers to join the calls where possible, if not, a member of the Virtual School will assist, usually your child’s Area Learning Advocate.
Fun, games and chat in our virtual get-togethers!
The participation team are aware that a lot of young people are now at home for most of their time and so are offering virtual meetings on Zoom video chat for children in care and care leavers to catch up with each other, discuss what is important to them and join in some fun games and challenges. If one of your young people would like to join these virtual groups, please email email@example.com or your locality worker and we will share some simple instructions on how to sign up to Zoom.
If your young person would prefer to speak to a participation worker by themselves please also email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your locality worker.
Mind Of My Own
Just to remind everyone working with young people that we have access to the Mind Of My Own App. It allows your young people who have access to a phone to share their wishes and feelings.
They need to have an email address and can share thoughts prior to visits, for meetings and generally how they feel.
Given the ongoing rules around social isolation it would be good to sign up now and let our young people know about it. I have shared it with a few young people and the feedback so far is very positive.
If you have questions or would like to talk about the new arrangements, or support, we are here for you. Please contact your supervising social worker or the Fostering Devon Duty Line on 01392 381491.
Please take good care of yourselves and stay safe.
Additional crisis support is being offered during the pandemic. If a child or young person (under 18) is experiencing a mental health crisis, you can now access Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) 24/7. Please call 03300 245 321 from 8am-5pm, Mon to Fri or 0300 555 5000 outside these hours. Callers will speak to a call-handler, their call will be forwarded to a voicemail service and their message will be returned within one hour. There are three CAMHS crisis teams – Torbay and South Devon; Exeter, East and Mid Devon; and North Devon.
In the event of an emergency please call 999. General information about CAMHS services and referrals can be found on the Children and Family Health Devon website.