Being in care means that Children's Social Care are responsible for making sure that you have somewhere to live and someone to take good care of you.
This can include staying with foster carers, living in a children's home or residential school, and sometimes with an adult you or your parents already know.
Sometimes, being in care is called 'being looked after'. This is the legal way to say 'being in care'.
What is a Care Order?
A Care Order is made by a court. If a Care Order is made, the court has decided that the local authority should have responsibility for looking after you and this means that you are likely to be living away from home. You probably won't have to go to court if a Care Order is made. A children's guardian may go to court for you.
Your children’s guardian will:
- look at what the social worker is planning for you and tell the court what they think needs to happen next
- make sure you have a special legal adviser, called a solicitor
- in most cases, talk with you to find out what you think and how you feel about everything
- in most cases, speak to other people who care about you, like your parents, family and sometimes your teachers and social worker
- tell the court what they think will help you be kept safe and well.
Your parents and children's social care are jointly responsible for you as long as the Care Order is in place. Your parents can't take you home unless children's social care agree.
What is ‘being accommodated’ or 'section 20'?
This is when your parents and children's social care have agreed that it would be best for you to be care for away from home, either for a short period or for the longer term. Your family may ask for you to go home at any time but it's best if this is planned and agreed with your social worker. Your views should always be listened to in any decisions made.
What are files?
While you are being looked after, information about you and your family or carers will be written down. This information is kept in a confidential case-file, which can be a paper file or an electronic file.
The records have to be kept until your 75th birthday. They have to be kept safe and secure, so that only the people with the right to see them can look at them. This is people who need to know so they can give you better care and support.
Lots of other information goes into this file such as:
- plans and agreements
- records of reviews
- important decisions made about you
You have the right to see your files and read the information written about you, however this can be quite difficult and so it needs to be at a time that is right for you. Life story work is often a better way to access this information as it is done in a planned way with a worker that you get to know over time. You cannot see information kept about other people such as members of your family, unless they agree and you can only see things written by other people, like doctors and teachers, if they say you can.
Your care plan
When you first come into care, your social worker will write you a care plan. This is a plan of what's going to happen in your life while you're in care.
Your care plan should include:
- where you'll live
- who will look after you
- when and how you'll be able to contact your family
- if you'll be able to return home, or if you'll need to stay in care
- anything specific to you, like medical information/personal requirements.
You should have a copy of your care plan and you'll be able to say whether you agree with it or not. Your care plan will be reviewed every 3 - 6 months and this is your chance to make any changes to it. Your social worker must not make any major changes to your care plan unless the changes have been agreed at a review (unless quick changes have to be made in an emergency or to keep you safe).
The care plan is the main plan, which brings together your personal education plan, health plan and placement plan.
What is a review?
Your review is your chance to have your say on anything to do with you being in care, and to review plans that have been made for you (care plan). It is a good idea if you go to your Review meetings because it’s important that you have your say and hear what other people think.
Your social worker will meet with you to agree what needs to be discussed at your review meeting and should ask you when and where you’d like your Review to take place.
Your social worker, Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and advocate can support you to be involved in your review and you could even chair or co-chair your review if you wanted to.
Who will be at your review?
Your social worker should ask you who you’d like to be at your Review. Usually this will be you, your carers, your parents, your social worker and your IRO. Your social worker might sometimes suggest that someone else is invited if they think it is important, (for example a teacher). If you would prefer someone not to come to your meeting you should tell your social worker or IRO. The IRO could meet them on their own or could ask them to send in a report instead.
What if you really don’t want to go to your review?
If you decide that you’d like to have a say about your care plan, but you don’t want to go to your Review, your social worker will talk to you about how you would like your views to be shared; this could be in writing, text, art or by talking to your social worker or IRO.
When will your review meeting take place?
The rules say that reviews must take place:
- within four weeks of your placement starting
- three months after your first review
- after that reviews should take place at least every six months.
If there is a lot happening in your life, or if there is a problem with your care plan, reviews may be held more often. This will be decided by the IRO. You can ask for extra reviews if you think they are needed.
Where you live - you and your foster carer
What is a foster carer?
A foster carer is someone who looks after children and young people when they have to live away from home. You live with them in their home with their family. Your foster carers will do all they can to look after you. This means doing things like keeping you safe, making sure you have clean clothes and enough food and helping you to enjoy school and your spare time.
Who can be a foster carer?
All sorts of people can be foster carers. They can be married or they could be single. Some foster carers have other foster children living with them or they might have their own children. Sometimes it is possible for a relative or friend of the family to be your foster carer.
Will I get my own room?
In some foster homes, you will have a bedroom of your own; in others you may share a room with other children and young people.
How is fostering different from adoption?
If your social worker thinks that you will not be able to go back to your family, they may start looking for a family you can stay with until you are grown up. This may be a family who can adopt you, or it may be a family who will foster you for a long time.
Do foster carers get paid for what they do?
All foster carers get some money from Children's Social Care. This is to make sure that they have enough money to pay for your clothes, food, outings, pocket money, things you may need for school and holidays.
View a Children's guide to fostering.
Where you live - you and your children's home
What is a children’s home?
A children’s home is where there are staff employed to look after you. The staff work in shifts taking turns to look after you. Some homes are quite small with only a few children, some are larger and others may have a school as part of the building. Most of them have a mix of boys and girls but some have just girls or just boys.
What do children’s homes do for you?
The staff at your children’s home will do all they can to look after you. This means doing things like keeping you safe, making sure you have clean clothes and enough food and helping you to enjoy school and your spare time.
What is a key worker?
A key worker is a member of staff who has special responsibility for you. They will arrange things for you like seeing your family, social worker and doctors’ appointments. Your key worker will attend your meetings with you and will help the people in the meeting to understand your wishes, needs and point of view.
Young people's meetings
Children's homes should have regular meetings for all the young people living there, to make decisions about things in the children’s home and sort out any problems.
Other things about where you live
All homes have rules, they are there to help you and the people you live with get along together. They are a way of making you all feel safer. Your carers and social worker will go through the rules with you so that you understand them and there is no confusion.
Your personal belongings
You will have somewhere to keep your clothes and other things that are important to you. If you have anything of value you need to let your carer know so that they can help you to keep it safe.
If you are old enough, you will get pocket money. This is for you to spend on extra things for yourself.
Seeing family and friends
Keeping in touch with your family and friends is really important. Contact can include seeing members of your family, speaking to them on the telephone, writing to them or receiving letters, presents or emails.
Your right to see your family
Unless there are very good reasons why not, you should be able to have regular contact with your family. You should also be able to see your friends.
You, your carers and your social worker should agree a plan about how often you should see your family/friends and where it should happen.
What is ‘supervised contact’?
Sometimes the court or social workers decide that it is better for you to see your family with another adult present. This may be because they are worried that you may become upset or that you may get hurt during the visit. This is called supervised contact.
What if you can’t see someone?
Sometimes it may not be a good idea for you to see someone. Social workers can ask the court for an order to stop people from seeing you if they think it will be harmful to you. Even if you can’t see someone, you may still be able to get photographs, letters or cards from them.
What if you don’t want to see someone?
If you are worried about having to see anyone, including your parents, then you do not have to. You must tell your carer or social worker if you don’t want to see someone.
What if you don't like the amount or type of contact you are getting?
It is important that you let someone know what you want, how contact is going or if anything is upsetting you about contact. You can talk to your social worker, carer or a worker from Rights and Reps, Telford and Wrekin's Children's Rights and Advocacy Service.
How can you keep in touch with your friends?
Children's Social Care should try to find you somewhere to live as near to home as possible. That way you can keep in touch with your friends. Sometimes this may not be possible. If you do have to move away from your friends your social worker and carers should help you to keep in touch if they can. If you have friends who are really important to you, you need to tell your social worker how important this is to you.
Am I allowed to stay overnight with friends?
It is important for you to be able to join in with things your friends are doing, like having sleepovers. If your carers are happy for you to take part in a sleepover, and believe you will be kept safe, this will usually be ok.
The law says that all young people between 5 and 18 must have the chance to get a full time education and for most people, this means going to school.
Support from Children's Social Care Services
Your social worker, key worker or foster carer should help you as much as they can. They can help by making sure you have all the things you need for school and that you get the help you need with your homework. They should also come along to any meetings at school to make sure everything is going well and to help sort out any problems.
Support from Designated Teachers
All schools have someone called a Designated Teacher. This is a teacher who understands about you being in care. You can talk to your Designated Teacher at school if you have any problems in school.
What is a Personal Education Plan?
All children and young people who are in care will have a Personal Education Plan (PEP). You, your social worker and teacher will sort out your PEP.
Problems at school: what if I need extra support?
If you have any problems at school or are worried, it is important that you talk to your social worker, carers or designated teacher who will help you.
What if I am not in school?
The local education authority has to provide full time education for all young people aged 5 - 18. If you do not have a school place then your carers should contact the Education Access team so that they can help and advise you.
What's a Virtual School?
Many children and young people in care attend many schools and further education provisions, both in and out of Telford and Wrekin, so the virtual school is there to make sure all children and young people in care get a high level of support with their education.
The Virtual School has a PEP Co-Ordinator whose job it is to ensure that PEPs are carried out in a timely manner.
There's a virtual head teacher and a team who work together to help you track your progress and ensure appropriate support and opportunities are made available to you.
Everything should be done to try to avoid you being excluded from school. Your teachers and carers should give you as much support as possible to prevent you getting excluded. Exclusions should only be made for very serious things. If you are excluded, arrangements for you to receive good quality education should be made within 6 days.
What about getting permission for school trips and outings?
Sometimes an adult who is responsible for you has to sign a form to say that you can get involved in special activities, such as school trips and outings. It will normally be your carer or your parents. Whoever it is, it should be easy to sort out so that it is easy for you to join in with things.
What happens after I am 16?
Children's Social Care will carry on supporting you in your education right up to the age of 24 if you need it. If you need help and advice with finding training or a job, Children's Social Care will also support you.
Health and happiness
Being happy, fit and well is very important for your overall health. There are many things you can do to make sure you are fit and well, such as eating healthy food, exercising and keeping yourself clean. Children's Social Care are responsible for doing all they can to make sure you are as healthy and happy as possible.
How should your carers help you to be fit and well?
Your carers should get lots of information about you and your health. They will need to know if you have been ill before and what things make you better. If you are disabled, there may be things that need particular attention. If you have to take any medicines regularly, or have any special injections, your carers will make sure this happens.
It is really important to be registered with a doctor so that you can see a doctor whenever you need to. This should be done as soon as you become looked after. Your carers or social worker should sort this out for you. Your carer should also make sure that you're registered with the opticians and dentist so that you can have regular check-ups and treatment when you need it.
Your annual health check
As part of keeping yourself happy, fit and well, you'll be offered an appointment with a doctor or nurse when you first become looked after and every year after that. This is an opportunity for you to discuss anything about your health that interests you or you may be worried about. It is part of making sure that your health is being looked after properly and that you are getting all of the advice and support you may need about health and personal care issues. If you are old enough to understand why, you can say no to this if you really do not feel you want this chance to talk about your health and wellbeing.
Am I allowed to see a doctor or nurse without my carers knowing about it?
You are allowed to get medical treatment on your own if the doctor (or nurse) thinks you are mature enough to decide for yourself. If they agree to see you without the permission of your carer, they should keep this private and not tell anyone else. The only time they can tell other people about seeing you is if they are worried that you or someone else is in danger of being seriously hurt.
Giving consent to medical treatment or examination
You can give your own consent to being examined or treated if you are 16 to 18 years old. The doctor or nurse does not have to ask or see your parent or carer as well. If you are under 16 you may still be able to give consent for yourself as long as you are able to understand what is involved in the proposed treatment. If you are able to give consent for yourself, the doctor or nurse will not tell your parent or carer without your permission except in exceptional circumstances to protect you or someone else from serious harm.
Eating the right food helps keep you fit and well and you should have a varied diet which is health and fits in with your culture or religion. You should be able to ask if you can sometimes have your favourite foods while you're in care and you should tell your carers what you like and don't like.
When you get older, you will become more responsible for making your own meals. Your carer should give you the chance to help prepare meals or make your own. You should also be given the chance to take part in shopping for food.
Your happiness - talking things through
Staying healthy also includes not letting things that are bothering you build up until you feel ill.
Finding someone to talk things through with is really important. Try to find someone you trust. You can always talk to your social worker, foster carer, independent visitor or other professional, or you might prefer to talk to your friends. For some people, it is useful to talk to someone who has been specially trained to listen to you and helps you to sort things out.
Your happiness – bullying
Sometimes young people can be bullied by other young people. This is not right and the people looking after you – your social worker, carers, teachers and virtual school are responsible for finding ways to stop it from happening.
Bullying is where anyone tries to upset you on purpose and can include:
- hitting and kicking
- stealing things from you
- threatening you
- calling you names
- stopping you from making friends.
You should always try to tell someone if you are being bullied.
Last updated: 9.32am on Thursday 23 January 2020