Advice for foster carers

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

If you have a young person in your care at home, you might have some specific concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on schooling, contact arrangements and other things. With a recent survey by the University of Oxford revealing that children’s main concerns include catching the virus, infecting someone else and missing school, you might be worried about how your child is feeling.

Our Good Thinking social care expert answers some of your questions below. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or having trouble sleeping because of coronavirus, Good Thinking can recommend NHS-approved apps.

You can find the latest guidance for local authorities on children’s social care and the latest COVID-19 guidance on the UK Government website.

How should I be talking about coronavirus with the child in my care?

Many children and young people are scared and confused at the moment. One of the most important things you can do to help reduce fear and uncertainty is to keep talking to the child in your care and try to answer any questions they might have. Explain to them how important it is to follow the government guidelines on maintaining social distancing and keep them informed as these guidelines develop over time.

The Children’s Commissioner has created a useful Children’s Guide to Coronavirus. You can also find lots of information about coronavirus on the BBC Newsround, Save the Children and The Mix websites.

The UK Government provides guidance about how schools are supporting vulnerable children and young people. You might also find the official guidance on schools re-opening and Good Thinking's articles about Back to School and exam results useful.

How can I help the child in my care?

Children who are in foster care might have had difficult experiences in their lives and might have experienced loss. You can help by giving them extra reassurance during the coronavirus outbreak. Encourage them to talk, create a new daily routine (especially if they are not going to school at the moment) and help them to stay connected with their family and friends.

Their social worker might not be able to visit as regularly as usual so some of the contact they have with them might be through phone or video calls. If the child in your care has questions or needs to speak to their social worker, they should still be encouraged to do this.

If they have contact with their birth family and can’t see them in person because of social distancing rules, they might find this very difficult. Even if there is no contact as part of your child’s care plan, they might be worrying about their family so it might be helpful for you to start this conversation. Talk to your child’s social worker before setting up contact arrangements through channels they haven’t previously used, such as the phone, WhatsApp and other social media, especially if contact is usually supervised.

Take a look at the tips for foster carers by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and Good Thinking’s advice for children in care.

I’m worried about getting ill – what should I do?

It’s really important to be honest about your concerns and to seek support from your fostering agency and the local authority responsible for the child in your care. They will be able to give you advice and guidance about your individual circumstances and discuss contingency plans should you get ill.

I’m worried about my finances (e.g. because I’m shielding and not able to care for any children at the moment) – what can I do?

If you’re a foster carer or a respite foster carer, contact your agency. In late April 2020, The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (Tact) and The Fostering Network met with the Children’s Minister to discuss emergency funding for foster carers.

You might find our article about how to deal with job and financial uncertainty useful.

Where else can I go for support?

Children’s social care services are still functioning so contact your child’s social worker about any concerns you have. If they are not currently at work, ask to speak to their manager or someone else in the team.

Many fostering and adoption agencies have peer support groups available, which can be a really good source of advice and mutual support. You can also call FosterTalk on 0800 040 7675 or The Fostering Network on 020 7401 9582 (members only).

Do you have any other tips for the child in my care at this time?

Our advice for children and young people contains lots of useful information and top tips, including:

  • Stay connected and be open about how you feel
  • Stick to a routine
  • Eat healthily and stay active
  • Be kind to others
  • Get enough sleep
  • Balance online and offline activities

Useful websites

Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

FosterTalk

NHS

NSPCC

The Fostering Network

UK Government (COVID-19 guidance for children’s social care services)

UK Government (COVID-19 guidance on supporting vulnerable children and young people)

UK Government (schools reopening)


Read Good Thinking's advice for parents and carers and our article about how to deal with the uncertainty of lockdown and beyond. You might also find our podcast on mindfulness and the 20 free guided meditations that are available from our partners at Wellmind Health (Meditainment) useful.