Dear Contact Supervisor Whilst social workers and team managers are busy in front of laptops, chairing meetings and attending court hearings, you are busy traversing Birmingham’s congested roads collecting our fostered children and young people to support them through precious hours with their parents, relatives and significant others. It’s a job that’s rarely acknowledged despite being integral to children who are coping with life away from their families and dealing with feelings of separation and loss. At times you may feel forgotten and unappreciated though you should know that we couldn’t possibly deliver what’s needed without the valuable service you provide.
One of the most striking features of your role is the unique opportunity you have to spend time with children, young people and their families, observing their moments of agitation, worry or joy, listening in on their jokes and stories, humming along to songs or nursery rhymes as they play. In some cases, you see tiny babies daily and watch them develop over the months of contact that slowly reduces as the parents struggle to focus on family life. In other cases, you see young people each school holiday, noting the changes in their hair styles, interests and height. Social workers often note that contact workers should see children and young people more often than they are able to. We hope you enjoy this very special position that you hold in their lives.
Reflecting on how much time you spend in the company of Birmingham’s children, young people and their families, it has become apparent that there will be various pieces of important information that you hold; the memories, stories and recollections that didn’t seem relevant enough to record on your monitoring form. For example, perhaps you remember the way Jason would run to the window to wave when he saw your car in the drive; the Frozen CD you had to play in the car for Samira who sung along despite not knowing the words; the way Rimvydas and Lydia would tip out the bag of iced gems provided by their mother, sort them into colours and eat the yellow ones first. Maybe you recall the birth father telling you that his grandfather worked at the Cadbury factory or the birth mother stating that she once won a trip to Alton Towers for getting 100% attendance in year ten at Hillcrest school.
What we know from listening to children in foster care or children who have been adopted, is that they love to receive these little snippets of information that give their stories life and character. So often the information children and young people receive about their history is cold, hard and factual, filled with dates and decisions without reference to anything that they can imagine, enjoy and use to build a sense of their past and identity. This is something we want to work on and in doing so would like to call upon all contact supervisors to make a contribution to the child’s life story by supplying us with any information you think the child might love to hear. There are though, 3 important ground rules:
Your supervisor will support you to consider the type of information which will be suitable and help you to collate this when your work with the child / children ends. We have devised some letter templates to help you think about how you can present this information. Of course, not every contact supervisor will feel able to contribute, but where possible, we want to engage you and make good use of the special information you may hold.
Should you have any questions or concerns about what information may be appropriate, please discuss this with your supervisor or access the Permanency Advice Service on 0121 303 1010 from 9.00 – 1.00 each Tuesday and Wednesday.
Thank you for your support.