A career in social work can be incredibly demanding, but for many people, it’s the most rewarding work they’ll ever do. Varied, stimulating work days, ongoing personal and professional development and the ability to make a real difference in people’s lives are all attractive features of this line of work, which sees just shy of 100,000 professionals registered around England.
With an array of different types of social work falling under this broad umbrella, many professionals opt to specialise in a particular area. Of these, adoption and fostering social work offers particularly compelling opportunities to improve the lives of others, and in turn provide high levels of career satisfaction. But how do you secure a job – and advance - in this industry?
What adoption and fostering social workers do
Put simply, social workers in adoption and fostering assess families and individuals to determine if they are suitable for fostering or adopting children in need. Placements can be short- or long-term, with permanent situations often required for children who cannot go home. Social workers build relationships with families, getting critical insight into how children may fit into their environments and supporting them throughout transitions. Day-to-day activities largely revolve around visiting families in their homes, investigating whether they’ll be suitable to look after children. As part of this, social workers interview prospective carers to determine everything from family history and skills and experience in caring for children to the home environment and whether it’s suitable for bringing up children. Visits can take place over a long period of time, with social workers undertaking statutory checks in between visits. Much of the work is spent visiting families, but you will also be spending time in the office writing reports and responding to general enquiries. Workers will manage several different cases at once.
Unlike statutory children’s services teams, adoption and fostering falls under both public and private sectors. Alongside local authority teams, there is an abundance of private and charitable agencies that contract with the public sector to provide adoption and fostering services. This offers an array of possibilities for those looking at options to work outside of a local authority.
Ultimately, the role of adoption and fostering social workers is to ensure those wishing to become foster parents or adoptive parents are suitable for the role and then most importantly are trained and supported to ensure the best care for the child.
What you need for your career
Fostering and adoption social workers need a recognised social work qualification, which can be a Bachelor’s degree, Diploma in Social Work or Certificate of Qualification in Social Work. In addition, you’ll need a valid HCPC registration (in England – these differ in other parts of the UK) and understanding of legislation and frameworks related to children social care and fostering. As for soft skills, social workers need to be empathetic and sensitive, as well as having the ability to be diplomatic and objective. You’ll need to re-register with the HCPC after two years on the job.
Depending on your training placements you will need to start your career within Children’s services. Fostering and Adoption are hugely popular areas to specialise in, so as a newly qualified social worker you may begin your journey in a statutory children’s team. Some fostering and adoption companies do offer opportunities to those who are newly qualified, but you will need to demonstrate practical experience from a placement.
Transition from a statutory team into Adoption or Fostering is wholly possible. You will need experience working within Looked After Children, as you will be very involved in the journey of the children who are in fostering currently.
Advancement opportunities can also come in the form of roles such as senior social worker, manager and even registered manager. With ongoing professional development and training, experience and a willingness to learn and advance, your career can progress as you want it to.
Take the next step
If you’re interested in furthering your career in fostering and adoption social work, we might have the perfect opportunity for you. Charles Hunter offers an excellent fostering recruitment service, so browse our latest vacancies and find out more about us.