Interview with Manchester Fostering Lead Frank Ward
“I have found this app to be useful in my experience. It allows the young person some independence and allows them time to provide feedback at their own pace without the need of speaking directly with me. This also follows the current trend of children and young people using technology instead of old-fashioned pen and paper which is much less appealing in today’s society”
Louise Pitchers – Supervising Social Worker in Manchester
How have you been finding our apps?
There’s no problem with the apps. It has been a challenge to support all LAC Social Workers to participate with this new method of hearing the voice of our children and young people but thankfully we have made good progress and will continue to do so. I can confirm that fostering SSW’s have made significant progress in understanding the value and importance of listening to the voice of the child. It’s been a challenge culturally getting people to learn how to use the apps and to recognise the importance of them. We set it as a standard in our reviews that we want young people to use the Mind Of My Own apps. Because we have that standard in the foster carer rules, we’re able to see who uses it and who doesn’t. That’s how we’re able to measure the uptake. That’s why we’ve seen improvements at the foster carer’s reviews.
We’re educating social workers to not send paper questionnaires to 10-year olds. It’s not for the foster carer to get questionnaires filled in on feedback about the foster placement. By and large people are on board with the apps. Nobody can argue against the value of using them in fostering. We have the opportunity, and we want to hear form young people about their views. We want fostering social workers to encourage the young people to use the apps.
How have other fosterers found the use of our apps?
About three times a year we have foster carer forums. They’re about half a day long and are attended by between 25 to 90 carers. We run daytime and evening sessions and have a care experienced worker who provides briefings about influence and the voice of the child and Mind Of My Own to the foster carers. We keep it on the agenda at each carer forum – the importance of getting children and young people’s views. They don’t want to hear it from me but they’re happy to hear it from a care leaver.
Have you had any feedback from the carers?
Nobody objects to it. It’s like everything else – nobody has grounds to object. It’s very user friendly and age appropriate. No carer’s objecting, it’s just getting people motivated to use it. Sometimes it’s a cultural thing and it just needs a bit of effort.
Have there been any challenges?
Supervising Social Workers not being proactive. We’ve put the responsibility on them. Up until a few years ago many experienced foster carers weren’t encouraged to get the voice of the child as part of their review. For many it’s still a new thing and they’re not used to it.
How are these challenges being overcome?
Just constantly reinforce the message of the standard that we want to hear the voice of the child using the Mind Of My Own app.
Have you learned something through the use of our apps you may not have learned otherwise?
The apps provide more detail then we would normally get. Historically when using a questionnaire, you would just get one-word answers. Using Mind Of My Own young people are more likely to engage and give more feedback. The whole idea of an app is more likely to engage young people. They’re more likely to understand things on tablets and phones. Many of our young people have never even heard of statements on paper before!