When Coronavirus hit, the Children’s Participation and Support Leader team had to change their way of supporting our young people. Normally in our roles, we are hands on and are out interacting with the children in our support sessions. We wanted our young people to know we were still there for them and that coronavirus wasn’t going to stop us supporting them! We got creative with how we can continue with our roles.
It was first decided that we would conduct welfare calls to all the children with Affinity Fostering. Vicky put together a list for herself, Bec and Bethan of our young people that we individually would be contacting on a fortnightly basis. The young people we had on our lists were based on those in our area where we support. With these calls, we had a list of questions that we used to help direct our calls so we could write a report and record our interaction with the young people. For some of the young people, we spoke to their carer about the child’s wellbeing if the child was for example non-verbal or too young. We gave the young people the option to videocall or to speak over the phone. On the calls, we asked about their wellbeing and what they have been up to, how they are coping with the lockdown and whether there was anything they were worried about as well as identifying whether there was anything we could do to help. If we felt we could help offer the young people extra support, then we explored that. Vicky had offered one to one support via Facetime with one of our young people where she would read to him. Bethan also used Facetime to work with a young boy in Lincolnshire, by reading through and completing the My Hidden Chimp book. The book contained activities that they discussed and completed together. For each of these support sessions, we had a support report to write up to evidence the work he had been doing with the young people.
For the second lot of calls we conducted, Vicky, Bec and Bethan had a “Children’s Guide to the Coronavirus” digital download that we could send to our carers and young people. When we spoke to the young people, or the carers, we still followed the list of questions but also offered out the guide to the young people. If they wanted a copy, we would email it to the young persons carer. Another resource that we came across was Dave the Dog which was a book for children struggling with Covid19. We would either read them the story ourselves or would also send a copy to the carers to read to the young person. A wonderful aspect of these calls is that we felt that the carers appreciated it too. We had a catch up with the carers as well as our young people.
As the weeks progressed, the Participation and Support Leaders got a feel for which children wanted to continue the calls. We gave the young people the option to continue fortnightly calls or to extend them to every three of four weeks. It was important to us that our young people didn’t feel overwhelmed in an already stressful situation as some had calls from social workers, guardians and local authorities as well as our calls. The calls did start to decrease when the schools began to open back up as when a child returned to school, we discontinued the calls. However, all our young people have been given the personal contact details for Vicky, Bec and Bethan when they join Affinity Fostering in their Handbook so they can always contact us if they need to. The calls are still in place but monthly for the children not back at school yet as we are all back out on the road offering support again!
Not only did we call the children, we also came up with activities our young people could partake in. Vicky created a Time Capsule Booklet for our young people to fill out reflecting on their time during the coronavirus lockdown. The booklet featured about me sections, spaces to draw people you love, what they have been doing to keep busy during lockdown, reflecting on how they feel and even a great section where they can interview an adult you live with! Bethan also came up with some ideas to keep the young people entertained. One of Bethan’s ideas was called “Where I live” which came in the form of work sheets to be filled out. The activity was encouraging the young people to explore their local area with their outdoor exercise. We wanted to know facts about where the young people lived by creating a collage maybe some leaves, flowers, newspapers clippings they had collected, or sketches of things that peeked their interests in their area or a list of facts they had learnt. Bethan also used her craft skills and held a virtual group Arts and Crafts Club. We had seven of our young people attend from three different households. The young people were tasked with collecting items from their recycling at home and creating a robot with it.
As well as these activities, both Bec and Bethan have been working on their own individual projects. Bec finalised her project which was a box we send out to our young people approaching puberty with helpful information about going through puberty and other items. There was one created for the girls and one for the boys. Bethan has recently completed her project which was surrounding the subject of Self-care and how young people can look after their own self-care and mental wellbeing. This will come in the form of booklets for three different groups of young people. These will be 4 – 11, 12 + and parent and child.
All the fun stuff aside, we have also had educational resources available for the carers to request and use with our young people. Our main focus during the lockdown was for our young people to have as much fun as possible. The coronavirus and lockdown has been an unsettling time but our young people have been so resilient and helped the support team through it in more ways than they would know!