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What happens when you go into care

Coming into care can be confusing at first and you're likely to have lots of questions.

Why am I in care?

This can be for different reasons. It can be because parents or other adults looking after you aren't able to keep you safe or meet your needs.

Or there might be another reason which your social worker can explain to you. 

It's never your fault. While you're in care, everyone will do their best to make sure you're looked after in the best way possible. 

Find information about activities for looked after children.

New words and phrases

Here are some new words and phrases you might hear often. If there's anything you don't understand, ask your social worker or carer to explain. 

In care

Being in care or looked after mean the same thing. It's when we make arrangements for you to be cared for. It might be another council if you live outside Dorset.  

Local authority

This is the council that's responsible for all the children and young people in care in the area. In Dorset, it's us: Dorset County Council. 

You might sometimes hear 'corporate parents'. That's just another name for the people who work for us who are involved in your care. 

Social worker

This is the person who's responsible for making sure your needs are met and that there's a plan for your future. 

Your social worker will visit you in the first week of being in care and then at least every 6 weeks for the first year you're looked after. 

Their visits might be less frequent after that if you're happy and settled. 

Key worker

If you live in a children's residential home, you'll have a key worker who will work with you, your family and social worker to make sure things are as good for you as they can be. 

Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs)

IROs work for the council but are independent of your social worker. 

They're there to make sure you're being looked after in the best way possible. 

They attend your Looked After Child review meetings. Their main job is to make sure your care plan meets your needs. 

Designated teacher

This is the person at your school who has special responsibility for making sure your education carries on properly while you're looked after. 

Independent visitor

These are volunteers who advise, assist and make friends with young people in care. 

They've been trained and can visit young people regularly to help with various activities.

Speak to your social worker if you're interested in having an independent visitor.

Placement and placement plan

Your placement is where you live when you're in care. There are different types of placement:

  • foster care: where you live with a carer, who isn't part of your family, in their home 
  • children's residential home: where several young people who are in care live together and are looked after by carers
  • connected persons foster placement: where you're looked after by someone in your family, like an aunt or grandma, or sometimes a family friend

A placement plan is about your day to day life with your carers. You, your social worker and carer make the placement plan together.

There will be a placement planning meeting to agree the plan. At the meeting, everyone will agree who can give you permission to take part in different activities, for example, sleepovers, school trips and holidays with your carers. 

You'll probably have questions about your placement. Ask your social worker or carer questions that might include:

  • what do I call my carers?
  • can I stay at my friend's house sometimes?
  • who will buy me clothes, toys and other stuff?
  • do I get pocket money?
  • can I have a pet?
  • can I have my things from home with me in my placement?
  • what if I don't like the people I live with or the people who look after me?
  • how soon can I see my family?

Your social worker or carer will usually be able to answer your questions. If they don't know the answer, they'll find it out for you. 

Care plan and pathway plan

A care plan says how you'll be looked after. You, your social worker and important adults in your life make the plan together. 

The plan will change as your life changes. 

A pathway plan is for young people who are 16 and over. It shows what support you'll get as you move towards adulthood. 

The legal stuff

The Children Act 1989 is the law that says when children should be taken into care. There are 2 ways this can happen:

  1. Section 20 Accommodation is when your parents and social worker agree that the best option is that someone else looks after you at the moment. But your parents still make decisions for you.
  2. Section 31 Full Care Order is when a court has decided that the council takes over main responsibility for your care. In this case, we (Dorset County Council) have the main role in making decisions for you, although your parents will usually still be involved.

Meetings while you're in care

Reviews

Reviews are to see how things are going for you and to check if any changes are needed to the way you're being looked after. 

Your views are really important so it's good if you go to the meetings. 

The meetings should happen every 6 months. 

The first 2 reviews happen sooner; within 20 days of coming into care and then again within 3 months. 

Personal education plans (PEPs)

Your personal education plan (PEP) looks at:

  • how well you're doing with your school work
  • what you could do even better
  • what support you need

We look at your PEP at least once a year at your PEP meeting. 

The designated teacher at your school, your carer and your social worker will be at your PEP meetings. 

You'll be asked to join in and it's important that you're able to say what would help you most. 

PEP meetings take place in the first term of every school year. They're usually held at your school. 

Health assessments 

Health assessments are where you have a chat with a doctor or nurse once a year. 

They'll help you understand how to keep healthy. 

If it would help to make you feel more relaxed, your carer could be involved in your assessment and the review health assessments can be held at your school or at your placement. You can choose each time. 

Children in Care Council

Find out about the Children in Care Council and activities for children in care.

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