What is a Supervising Social Worker?

Author: TACT Fostering

Tags: Social Work, Supervising Social Worker

In foster care, there are many professionals who work to provide care and support for young people. Foster carers, and the truly amazing things they do each day for children in their care, are at the forefront of this support network. However, to facilitate, regulate and oversee this care, social workers are essential.

There are two categories of social worker involved in foster care: a Child’s Social Worker and a Supervising Social Worker.

How do the social worker roles differ?

A Child’s Social Worker, as the name suggests, will work solely in the best interests of a child in care. They will assess any risk, provide detailed referral documents about a young person, and will liaise with and support birth parents. They will also instigate and oversee the child-to-carer matching process. A child’s social worker will always be local authority based, whether a fostering home is found via a local authority or externally via agencies.

A Supervising Social Worker (SSW) can be either based within a local authority, or they can work for an external fostering agency, such as TACT. Their role is to assess, support and nurture foster carers, as well as being a key professional in the child-to-carer matching process.

Many will be familiar with a child’s social worker, and the general duties and responsibilities they are required to undertake. So let us look more closely at some of the main responsibilities of the Supervising Social Worker, and why establishing a bond with a foster carer is so important.

A Supervising Social Worker with Foster Carers

The Foster Carer Assessment

The assessment to become an approved foster carer will take a number of months to complete. In most cases, it will be the Supervising Social Worker (SSW) who will eventually go on to support the approved carer that will undertake the assessment.

This assessment effectively begins with an initial visit to the fostering applicant’s home. The SSW will instigate further discussions about fostering, and will also request to view the spare bedroom(s) that the applicant has nominated for foster care.

If the preliminary criteria is satisfied, the assessment process will then move on to the main stage – sometimes called ‘Stage 2’. This involves a detailed analysis of a fostering applicant, their family, relationships and life history. As well as being an essential element to the application process, it provides the opportunity for the SSW to establish rapport with the applicant – something that will prove to be invaluable should they become an approved foster carer.

The SSW will effectively guide the fostering applicant through this assessment process, completing a document called a Form F, cumulating in final approval via a fostering panel.

“The most rewarding element is the opportunity to build meaningful connections with foster carers. This bond is the foundation for supporting them in their roles, enabling them to provide a nurturing and therapeutic environment for the young people in their care. Witnessing the impact this has on young people’s lives is so gratifying.” – Lisa, TACT Supervising Social Worker

Child-to-carer matching

If the fostering applicant is approved by the fostering panel, they are ready to start providing care for a young person. This involves a ‘matching’ process to establish whether the fostering home can meet the needs of the child, using referral documents received from the child’s social worker. Very often, the request for care is time sensitive, so referrals are constructed to provide detailed information in a concise manner.

Because of the carer and SSW bond already established during the assessment period, the SSW is able to quickly evaluate whether a child would be a potential match for the foster carer. Some of these matching considerations are:

  • Does the foster home itself meet the child’s needs?
  • Are the finer details stipulated on the referral aligned with the preferences of the foster carer?
  • Does the foster carer have the right skill set and experience?
  • Is the foster carer mentally and emotionally ready at the point of referral?
  • Is the child a match with other young people in the household?

If the SSW is confident with the match, they may then approach the foster carer to talk through the referral in more detail. It is important to state that foster carers are under no pressure to consent to any match.

“I have been given the opportunity to empower and advocate for our children and young people. I have been there to celebrate successes and support through the more difficult times. I feel very honoured to work with such caring staff and foster carers who never cease to amaze me. I am proud to say I am a SSW.” – Vicky, TACT Supervising Social Worker

Day-To-Day Support

SSWs provide foster carers with the support they require when caring for young people. An SSW also provides the vital link between the foster carer and the child’s social worker, to ensure that the needs of the young person are being met.

Again, establishing a good working relationship and rapport with a foster carer can help provide a safe, friendly and supportive space. Many foster carers report that their SSW is approachable, knowledgeable and, on occasion, has gone over and above in order to support.

Another element of support provided by an SSW is foster carer home visits. This is to monitor how the provision of care is progressing, if there are any concerns from either the carer or the child, and if any further support is required.

SSWs are also able to link in with other professionals or organisations, such as in the fields of education, health and therapeutic support.

“My TACT Supervising Social Worker is always there and ready to listen and help. Her guidance and support has been invaluable to me. When the boys arrived, they only had the clothes they were stood in. My SSW arrived with bags of clothes that had belonged to her children which was fantastic and, truly appreciated.” – TACT Foster Carer, Yorkshire

Supervising Social Workers utilise their knowledge to provide vital support and guidance to foster carers. They are a consistent, approachable and regulatory presence in all fostering scenarios.

SSWs are also able to call on other professionals to help provide the level of care required to meet the needs of young people. But it is the underlying passion to make a difference to children’s lives, whilst building and nurturing a bond with their foster carers, that make SSWs truly exceptional within the support network around a young person.