One of the things that I enjoy about my role is when I have the opportunity to be able to promote the team I work in and social work. It must have been the nerves as I stood in front of 44 teachers all of whom support looked after children providing extra support and lessons for young people that need them. My role as guest speaker however, was not as easy as I would have liked. My time slot was just after the news of the cuts had been made to the teachers. Each cut despite thoughtfully being made to ensure a service could be continued, still stung. Mileage, lesson length all designed to offer greatest savings. Although the support of these teachers had increased the GCSE success for our looked after children this year and also increased numbers of young people going to University the savings have still been enforced.
So as I began talking about the work our team does, I was mindful of the support needed from other agencies in order to achieve the best outcomes for the young people that we work with. I was pleased after my speech that some care leavers were able to come along and also speak about their experiences of being looked after children. What made this more special was that one of the young people was one of the first that I worked with when I had first started working. Seeing his success made me beam with pride, and speaking with him afterwards listening to how he talked about work and managing living on his own. This young man who had gone from crying because his parents rejected him both moving on with their new lives without him. A young man who then turned to drink and cannabis, dropping out of school and becoming involved in petty crime. However, finding him a stable long term foster placement and a few years later he has been able to turn this all around.
So then the second time in one week that I am asked to be a guest speaker it is with foster carers at a monthly forum meeting. This time the pressure was on! “Why do social workers never answer the phone?” “Why are social workers always late for visits?” One thing that I like and respect is straight questions and I was certainly getting them. However, despite this it was definitely worth it in order to talk about children who are looked after and the difficulties they may find and the importance of foster carers supporting the young people they are looking after. I was pleased when I was thanked by the foster carers for coming in and speaking with them, however slightly worried that now I will be the point of contact for a lot of people who have questions about all aspects of social care.
Despite the knocking knees, and trembling hands I would do it all again!