The second aspect of social work involves working with children and young people. Here again, there is a wide choice of areas that a social worker can choose to specialise in or that they might be asked to deal with. Often their young clients will have problems in two or three different areas of their life; for example if they are misbehaving at school, there is a chance they may also be in trouble with the police for misbehaving out of school! The first example of social work involving young people is children’s home and the foster care system.
Social work and foster care
Foster care is a kind of respite care, though in some cases it can be much more long term. Every local authority has a number of families in their area who are willing to be foster parents to children whose home life has become too unsettled or too dangerous. Social workers are very involved with selecting and screening these foster families, to make sure that they can provide the right environment for these children, many of whom will have behavioural problems because of their upbringing so far. The decision to take a child away from its parents, even temporarily, is not one to be made lightly, and social workers will usually try and exhaust every avenue, without putting the child at risk, before this decision is taken. Sometimes, the parent themselves may ask for their children to be taken into care if they feel they are not coping. At this time, the social worker would try and find a foster care family to look after the child for anything from a few days to several months, or even years.
Social work and children’s homes
If foster care cannot be found or the child is likely to be removed from the home for a longer period of time, they may have to stay in a local authority children’s home. These are much brighter places than the old Victorian style buildings of the past, but it is still an unusual environment to bring up a child. There will be at least a couple of social workers permanently attached to the home as well as other social care workers. The child’s original social worker will also keep in contact, as the aim is always to return them to their own home or to find a more stable environment for them to be brought up in. Sometimes being brought up in a children’s home can actually make the child’s behaviour deteriorate, as they come into contact with older and more troubled kids or rebel against the situation they find themselves in. This is why it is important that the social worker who has dealt with their case maintains contact and even takes them to see their parents or family, so some contact with their normal life can be maintained. This support will continue, even when the child has left care as an adult.