Being in care
It can be a difficult time when you come into care and you will probably have a lot of questions.
Why am I in care?
Your social worker will explain why we are looking after you. It can be for different reasons. It is never your fault. We will do our best to take care of you while we are looking after you.
The Children Act 1989 is the law that says when children should go into care. There are a number of ways this may happen, but the two most common ways this might happen are:
- Section 20 Accommodation - when your parents and social worker agree that the best thing is for someone else to look after you at the moment. However your parents still make decisions for you.
- Section 31 Full Care Order - when a court decides that the council should take over main responsibility for your care. The Council then has the main role in making decisions for you, although your parents will usually still be involved. You might have an interim care order (a Section 38 Interim Care Order) before a Court decides your final plan.
New words and phrases
Your social worker and carer will be able to help you understand what is happening while you are in care. You will hear new words you might not have heard before. If you don’t understand something ask your social worker or carer.
"In care"/ "Looked after"
This is when we, the Council, make arrangements for you to be cared for.
In Newcastle it's us – Newcastle City Council. We are responsible for all our children in care in the city. We are sometimes called "corporate parents". This is another name for the people who work for us who are involved with your care.
Your social worker is the person responsible for making sure we meet your needs and that we have a plan for your future. They will visit you in the first week of being in care, and then generally at least every 6 weeks if not more. If you are in care for more than a year and you're happy and settled your visits from your social worker may reduce.
Some children in care live in residential homes with other children. If you live in a residential home you will have a key worker who will work with you to make sure things are as good for you as they can be.
"Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs)"
IROs lead care review meetings to make sure you are getting the best possible care. They work for us but are independent to your social worker. They want to make sure your care plan meets your needs. You will have the opportunity to meet your IRO at your first Looked After Review and at any future review meetings. You can also speak to your IRO if you have anything you would like to say outside of the meeting about how you are being cared for. You can telephone them on 0191 277 4636 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).
A Court Guardian works for an organisation called CAFCASS. They are your independent voice in court. The Guardians most important role is to make sure children are safe and help make sure that decisions made about them are in their best interests. In Care proceedings, their job is to check our plan and make sure it is the best possible plan for you. Find out more about CAFCASS
Your placement is where you live while you are in care. You might live in:
- foster care – where you live with a carer who isn’t part of your family, in their home
- a residential home – where young people who are in care live together and are looked after by carers.
- family and friends foster placement – where you're looked after by someone in your family (like an aunt or a grandparent) or sometimes a family friend.
This describes your day to day life with your carers. You make the placement plan together with your social worker and carer. A meeting will be held to agree your placement plan. At this meeting it will be agreed who can give you permission to take part in different activities (for example, sleepovers, school trips and holidays with your carers). If you have any questions about your placement ask your social worker or carer.
Your care plan describes how we will look after you and plans for your future. You make this plan together with your social worker and the important adults in your life. It will change over time as you change and grow.
This is the word used to describe how you will stay in touch and spend time with your parents, family and friends. Contact will be discussed with you as part of your Care Plan. In some cases your contact with your family may be supported by your carers, social worker or other people working for the Council.
When you are aged 16 years or over your care plan becomes a pathway plan. The pathway plan will detail the services and support you need as you move towards adulthood. You and your social worker will develop this plan together to make sure it responds to your changing needs and ambitions.
An advocate is usually someone independent who can help you have your voice heard when social workers are making plans with you about how you should be cared for. If you want the support of an advocate ask your social worker, foster carer, key worker or even your teacher to help arrange an advocate. You can also ask for an advocate directly from NYAS, our advocacy service. You can telephone them for free on 0808 808 1001 or email email@example.com. Find out more about NYAS.
An Independent Visitor is a volunteer, independent of the Council, who is there to be your friend. They visit and provide time and support to someone who has little or no contact with members of their own family. As with any friendship, this relationship may last for a number of years, so needs building over time and isn’t a short-term commitment. An Independent Visitor would be available to take you on outings or activities, to clubs, out for meals or just to offer friendly advice when needed. Activities would always be led by you. If you would like to have an Independent Visitor you can ask your social worker, foster carer, or key worker. You can also contact our North East Independent Visitor Service directly by telephone 0191 2727 4990 or by email NE.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meetings whilst you're in care
Children in Care Reviews
Reviews are held to check how things are going for you and see if anything needs to change with the way you are being looked after. We really want to hear what you think so it is good if you go to your review meetings. They should happen every six months. The first two reviews happen sooner – within 28 days of coming into care and then again within 3 months.
Personal Education Plans (PEPs)
Your personal education plan (PEP) looks at how well you're doing at school, what you could do even better and what support you need. Your PEP is looked at once a year (at least) at your PEP meeting. The Designated Teacher at your school, your carer and social worker will be at your PEP meetings. You'll also be asked to join in and it's important that you're able to say what would help you most.
This is where you have a chat with a doctor or nurse, once a year. They'll help you understand how to keep healthy. If it would help to make you feel more relaxed, your carer could be involved in this and the review health assessments can be held at school or at your placement. You'll be able to choose each time.