Looking after somebody else’s child can bring additional challenges: you all may need to adjust to having a new member in your family; you may need practical help; you may need advice on what rules are appropriate; the child in your care may have suffered harm and need additional help with their emotions, behaviour or education.
It might be that you feel you need ongoing support to care for the child you are looking after right from the start. At the time you are being assessed and at court, tell the social worker what you think you need or what you think you will struggle with so that they can plan with you what strategies or services might help. It might be that long after children’s services assessed you, life changes, and you find later that you need some additional help.
A care order will mean that you and the child continue to have children’s services’ ongoing involvement through the LAC processes, and those affected by adoption may be eligible for post-adoption support.
The first place to ask for help is the usual services that are available to all families; we call these universal services.
Pop into your local children’s centre, speak to the teacher at the child’s school, or ask the child’s health visitor or your GP. Schools are likely to be the best people to know how to help with education issues and GPs are most likely to know about health issues.
Children’s centres are often great at knowing what practical help is available in your area, such as knowing how to use a car seat, or accessing activity groups in the school holidays. All universal services have advice on helping children and carers with emotional and behavioural issues. Check the list of other useful websites.
You can search for services and charities that are available to you locally on the Norfolk Directory.
If the universal service you speak to thinks you need more help with a specific issue, they may make a referral to a service that specialises in the area you need help with. They will speak to you about this suggestion before they make the referral as they need your consent to do it. We call these services targeted services.
If there are several issues you need help with, it may be useful to bring all the people helping you together to meet regularly to discuss progress and make sure the help you and the child receives is coordinated, ie that you are being given consistent advice and that nothing is being forgotten because people have assumed that one of the other people is doing it.
This can done through the family support process. You and the child choose one person to lead the family support process, which should be someone you get on with well, such as the school teacher. Sometimes this family support process can be supported by the early help hub who have trained workers who work with children and families to provide help and support.
For more information on the family support process or the early help hub, visit Early help.
If the child in your care needs additional help, above what can be supported through the family support process, they might be able to receive support from children’s services under s.17 of The Children Act 1989, which recognises the child as a child in need. These services are designed to support children and their families to improve any difficulties. Children’s services want to help children and families as quickly as possible to improve things so that the support level required can go down to a lower level again. We understand that some children's difficulties cannot improve and these children may need ongoing support for the foreseeable future. All disabled children are automatically classed as children in need and might continue to receive ongoing support from the children with disabilities team into their adulthoods, for example.
If the issues your family is facing could be causing any child in your care significant harm, children’s services have a legal duty to assess what is occurring and act to improve things. You can call children’s services if you think this applies to your family. If any professionals working with you feel this applies to children in your care, they will call children’s services. The professional will tell you that they are contacting children’s services and why, unless they believe to do so might put the child in danger. The professional will aim to continue to support you and your family alongside any involvement from children’s services.
Asking for help is considered to be a strength and shows that you are thinking about the child. We will give you advice on what level of services we think would best help you.
You can call Norfolk children’s services on 0344 800 8020 at any time for advice or to request additional help.
The kinship team within Norfolk children’s services, is designed to support family members and friends who are looking after a child they know. We can give you advice over the telephone, try to help you resolve any issues in sustaining contact with birth parents, and exchange letters between the child and their family members which can help keep your address confidential if necessary.
Advice line for kinship carers