Foster carers have lots of responsibilities to their children, one of which will be to recognise and respond to their health needs while they are under your care. How far this extends depends on what type of foster carer you are, the involvement and delegation of the birth family, which placement you have, and what your agency dictates in their policies. All of these factors come into play one way or another, so this guide has some general advice as to the health responsibilities of foster carers to their foster children.
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General First Aid
You have some authority when it comes to making decisions about your foster child’s health. For short term placements, you are typically able to administer general first aid such as bandages and painkillers if an accident happens or the child becomes unwell. However, this all has to be strictly recorded and cross-referenced by the active social worker at the time. For longer term placements, your authority becomes larger and you can even be awarded delegated authority which generally means you can make a lot more decisions and even give medical consent for the child in your care.
If your foster child ever needs emergency medical treatment, act as you would for any other human being. The additional step for you, once the child’s needs have been met sufficiently, will be to then call in the social worker team so they can either A) get involved or B) make sure everything is legal permissions wise and consent wise.
Talk to Your Social Worker
To understand fully what you can and cannot do when it comes to medical intervention and decisions, you have to talk to your social worker. There will be training, of course, and private agencies like fosteringpeople.co.uk often deliver ongoing programmes about health needs and concerns that you can watch out for and participate in. A lot of this will be mandatory, and it will all come in handy when it comes to outlining safeguarding policies too.
Children in foster care need access to healthcare while you are looking after them and this includes dentist appointments, opticians, and basic medical check-ups too. Lots of fostered children also have regular nurse visits to make sure their physical milestones are being met. These are all things you will be made aware of.
What to Do If You Suspect Mental Health Decline
As a carer, being in the loop with children’s mental health is advisable and it will definitely come up over the course of your foster carer training modules. Mental health is less obvious than physical health and the two can certainly be intertwined as well. Knowing what to look for and remaining vigilant is the only way that you can properly protect your foster child. A lot of the time mental health and young people in care will struggle to connect with what is happening inside their heads. That is why your role will be to know when things aren’t right and take action.
Health responsibilities as a foster carer are often straightforward. You have a certain degree of authority, and sometimes permission is needed for a range of things like appointments.