Earlier this year, foster carer Sarah very kindly wrote us an article to give her tips on how to handle an unfounded allegation.
It’s a topic that is covered briefly in your initial training. If you are anything like us, you listened and thought “how awful, but I’m not going to foster ‘troubled’ teenagers so that won’t happen to us”, then moved on. How wrong we were!
Two years into our fostering experience (a long term placement of a young child and first foster placement) we were dealt the brutal blow. I can honestly say it came at us like the proverbial ton of bricks.
What followed that awful Tuesday afternoon bombshell was weeks of heartache and stress to a level I have never experienced before.
Not meaning to spoil a good story, but I’d just like to fast forward to the end and let you know that all allegations were completely unfounded and we survived the experience. What I would like to share is some useful tips and advice if this should happen to you:
- Remember it can happen to anyone
- Keep thorough records of everything; we once missed an incident form for what we believed was a minor event, but when our accuser claimed we deliberately caused harm there was no record of the event to provide evidence
- Be aware of what any given situation may look like to a third party. We’ve all had those times that we look back and think “that must’ve looked awful” when obviously it was completely innocent. If it’s all documented it’s all covered
- Be strong, don’t be afraid to ask for extra support. Allegations often feel like a personal insult and that hurts!
- Don’t blame your social worker; they have to ask some intrusive and seemingly accusatory questions. One question our social worker asked us was if our marriage had broken down and we were covering it up! She didn’t for one-minute think that, but it had been raised by someone else and she had to ask us. A good relationship with your Social Worker is vital now
- There are organisations that offer advice and support, your social worker should be able to signpost you. Use them, they are invaluable. We used resources from The Fostering Network
- Don’t give up! Learn from it, become a better foster carer and move on. Time is a great healer, you are doing a fantastic job and that will shine through. The effects of an allegation will linger for a while, it will be in your annual review, it may be bought up at the next LAC review etc. but this is just a formality. Be prepared for it and eventually it will become a learning experience and youwill be a better person for it
If you are worried about an allegation, or would just like to be more prepared in the case that it happens, members of The Fostering Network can visit: