Roisin Ritchie is one of our social workers supporting foster carers and finding placements for children and young people who need short or longer-term placements.
We urgently need to recruit more foster carers all the time. The empathy that they show is really inspirational.
Although her Dad worked in the field of adoption and fostering, during her social work training it wasn’t an area that Roisin Ritchie expected to work in. That changed when she undertook her final social work placement at an adoption agency and saw for herself the life-changing impacts of adoption and fostering, and the key role that social workers can play in supporting this vital activity.
Roisin joined East Lothian Council’s fostering and adoption team when she graduated and has been working as a Social Worker in this area ever since. “The team works really well together as people know each other really well and get on great; it’s very supportive,” she says.
Each year in East Lothian, the council must find foster placements for children and young people aged 0 – 21 years old. The team works is urgently recruiting East Lothian residents to become foster carers so that there are enough homes to keep children and young people within their local communities. “We are always receiving more requests for placements than we have carers available which means children and young people having to be sent to placements out of the area,” Roisin explains. “That takes children out of their communities, further away from families, schools, familiar environments and friends and it can be traumatic for them.” This is particularly important when it comes to keeping sibling groups together or close together.
Roisin is full of praise for East Lothian’s foster carers. “The skills they have and the empathy that they show is really inspirational. Witnessing the work foster carers do every day and how much you can learn from them is a fantastic part of my job.”
Foster carers come from all backgrounds and bring their own experiences and skills to the role. However there are certain qualities that broadly unite them. “People need be able to empathise with children’s stories and their backgrounds. It’s important not to be overly judgemental and to be able to form good relationships with families as much as possible so that everyone’s working together for the benefit of the child or young person. I think you need to be open-minded; having a good sense of humour is helpful along with warmth, kindness, being understanding.”
The council’s team works closely to support foster carers throughout the preparatory process and through to their first placement and beyond. Each carer is supported by a dedicated Social Worker who acts as a main contact for anything they may need. The team works hard to match a child’s needs with the prospective placement. There are also regular opportunities to take part in monthly sessions with other foster carers to share experiences, and take part in training. This process continued during Covid-19 as has the recruitment of foster carers.
An incredible job
For Roisin, this is the most challenging part of the job. “We urgently need to recruit more foster carers all the time,” she says. “It’s really hard when you are not able to find a suitable home to keep a child or young person in East Lothian. Foster carers open their homes to children and young people they don’t know and do an incredible job. We hope more people will come forward to join them.”
Find out more about fostering and the difference you could make in a child or young person’s life at www.eastlothian.gov.uk/fostering or call 01620 827 643.