The work life of a fostering advisor
Fostering advisory work is a key area in the developing relationship between foster agencies and potential foster families. Sarah Kean-Price talks to Will Simpson about his day-to-day work life:
16th January 2013
1. Tell us about working as a fostering advisor - what do you do?
Predominantly, I visit individuals, couples and families that are interested in fostering. I provide them with information about the agency and the assessment process, do a basic interview and fill out various forms with them, such as a CRB check, their consent to checks and an agency-specific application form.
2. What is a typical day in the job like?
It varies a lot, depending on what I have booked.
I try and book two or more visits in a day - especially if I’m travelling far. Visits normally take around two hours and involve a quick tour of the house, measurement of potential fostering rooms and lots of conversation.
Besides the actual visits, I write up the interview and add my thoughts/concerns. The information gets passed to the agency and (if they are happy with what they see) the family gets invited to Skills to Foster training and are assigned an Assessing Social Worker (ASW). The ASW gets given the report I create so that they have a head start in filling in the Form F (the full fostering assessment) and can investigate any concerns to root out potential problems early on.
I also have regular meetings with client agencies and liaise on the phone with my clients. Beyond that I have little contact with colleagues so I have to look elsewhere for my social fix. That said, I enjoy meeting new people so the visits themselves satisfy in that regard.
3. Why did you apply for this kind of work?
The opportunity came up through a contact. I’ve worked in the Health and Social Care sector for 8 or so years - mostly in care support work - and needed a change. The hours are flexible so it fits around my studies (I’m doing an MA in Music Therapy).
4. Did you need to show previous experience? Why do you think you got the job?
I didn’t have experience of this particular role but my background in care work meant I had an insight on the broader social care sector. I’m not contracted so my first job was on a casual basis but I set myself up as freelance and approached other agencies to find more work. Prompt turn-arounds on paperwork and a high standard of work has kept clients coming back.
5. Did you need special training for the job?
Beyond meeting with client agencies to cover the particulars of their assessment process and the information they want from an initial home visit, not much.
6. What's the best thing about fostering advising?
Meeting potential foster carers and helping them through the first stages of the assessment process is gratifying. I enjoy the opportunity to dig a little under the surface of their answers and begin to get a sense for their perspective.
Also, as a freelancer, I control my own schedule. I enjoy being able to create my own timetable; quite a change from care work!
7. Do you think that having extra qualifications in this area would be worthwhile?
Not for foster advisor roles specifically. Once you start looking at the next step up, there are several options.
8. What makes a great fostering advisor?
You need to be comfortable meeting strangers, visiting their homes and having frank conversations: I have to discuss potential carers attitudes towards sexuality, religion, dealing with victims of sexual abuse, their experience of loss… It can get a little heavy. But you also need to be tactful, help people to feel comfortable and be respectful of the fact that they are welcoming you into their homes.
Being able to separate concrete observations from your own interpretations based on your norms is helpful in writing professional reports. That’s not to say you have to ignore your instincts; just that you need to recognise them as just that.
9. If you want to work towards a promotion, what are your options? How else could you have chosen to develop your career in this area?
There are two primary routes that I can see. The most direct “promotion” would be to qualify as a social worker, so that you can complete the Form F that forms the majority of the assessment process.
Otherwise, you could look for admin/coordination role within an agency, or move into training for potential/current carers.
10. What do you wish you'd known when you started out? Is there anything you'd tell your younger self?
I’ve been a foster advisor for a little under a year, but as to what I’d tell my younger self: there are lots of ways to make your experience work for you. Think creatively, keep an open mind, and don’t be afraid to go it alone. Freelancing is far from easy, but you can make it work if you apply yourself and are honest about what you want out of it.
11. What do you hope the future holds for fostering advisors?
I hope that more agencies see the advantages of using fostering advisors; foster carers are always in demand and everything we can do to make recruiting high quality carers easier helps.
Also, I hope this advisor continues to find new clients!
If you would like to get in contact with Will, he is available for freelance fostering advice and interviews; processing enquiries; and admin support. Contact him directly at William.LF.Simpson@gmail.com or visit his upcoming website at www.will-simpson.co.uk