Looked after children are a highly significant group because they are among the most deprived and disadvantaged children in the UK. Social work practice within this group of children is likely, one way or another, to have lifelong implications. There are several important roles that field social workers can fulfil with looked after children. Firstly, those based within mainstream local authority teams will be responsible for helping arrive at decisions as to when children should be placed in state care, and when they should be returned to family care or placed in long-term substitute care. When a child is in care a field social worker has a number of responsibilities in respect of their care – these include legal duties to visit them periodically, checking whether the child is settled and that their needs are being met in their care and educational settings, seeing that the child’s wishes are reflected in decision-making around their care as far as possible, liaising with birth family members, setting up contact arrangements between the child and family and friends networks and ensuring that birth family members’ perspectives are also represented in decision-making. These roles require both ‘direct work’ involving direct interaction with children in care and their families and ‘indirect work’ which includes keeping written case notes on the child and their circumstances, compiling assessments of the child, completing formal reports regarding the child for meetings such as Looked After Child Reviews and court hearings, and overseeing that the child’s care plan is being put into effect.
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