Social work diary: “A teenager in care says his foster carer starves and beats him”

A children's social worker talks about late nights, flat car batteries and a difficult child protection enquiry


I return to an area where I had previously worked to give evidence in care proceedings.  The social worker complains about everything not done on the case. I point out I had done everything possible in the time and wrote a detailed transfer summary. I wonder why colleagues so often tend to look on the negative side?


It’s duty day for my team; it can be easy or a nightmare- today it’s the latter. A teenager in care presents saying his foster carer starves and beats him. As he looks well nourished with no visible injuries, we are sceptical. However, neither the fostering social worker nor his leaving care social worker are available so we have to find him a new placement and organise a child protection enquiry. The foster carer is shocked -it was their first placement.

Hoping fervently that nothing else as challenging comes in on top of this, the duty team divide up the tasks and get the young person placed locally. We advise the foster carer not to be alone with him.


My car battery is flat and I miss a looked-after child review. Luckily it was straightforward and we don’t have to reschedule since we are already in the middle of care proceedings. However, on arriving at the office I am drawn back into the care leaver’s child protection enquiry, as his social worker is on leave. This takes up the rest of the day. A colleague covers a child protection visit for me after much juggling of schedules.

By 5pm three of our departments, the police and a doctor are drawn into the investigation as the young person alleges they have internal injuries that cannot be seen.

Thankfully, the allocated social worker is back tomorrow, so will take over. I wonder if the internal injuries are really feelings of hurt at leaving care, but say nothing. The investigation has a direction that I know won’t be changed now.


With all the time taken up yesterday I had to postpone a visit to a child’s aunt and uncle. They want to take up Special Guardianship Order but have not visited much.  I get a lift from a colleague to catch a train but don’t get back till very late.  I’ve no alternative but to get a taxi home but wonder if I will get the cost back in my expenses claim.


I visit some children in primary school who come from a very deprived home where the parents struggle to provide basic needs. The boy tells me he only has margarine on his sandwich today. He and his sister tell me they want to become space tourists and go to Mars. They have seen it on the internet, so it’s possible – they have the charming, innocent optimism of childhood.

My manager confirms I won’t get yesterday’s taxi fare reimbursed. One day, there will be an acknowledgement of the hours needed to do this work. Just about the time those children reach Mars, I think.

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