Barnsley Council's fostering service has continued to help children find permanent and loving homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
With the virus causing the cancellation of monthly information evenings and face-to-face meetings, staff have had to adapt the service to make sure they can still function while they work from home.
Being flexible and making the best use of technology has been key, allowing the team to continue to provide a service to existing foster carers and those considering fostering, minimising delays and maintaining positive, supportive relationships.
By using their social media platforms and Microsoft Teams, the service has been able to conduct virtual one-to-one meetings or phone calls with people who have expressed an interest, meaning they can start or continue their journey.
In addition, they have also continued to offer relevant training to those who need it. For example, people preparing to foster in Barnsley have been given the opportunity to attend various stages of training online.
Due to social distancing measures and lockdown being implemented, fostering staff have not been able to conduct home visits to potential foster carers but any assessments have instead been conducted over the phone or by video call rather than face-to-face.
Fostering panels continue to take place virtually, allowing families who are ready to attend the panel to be approved as new foster carers.
Children have continued to come into care and to need foster carers throughout the recent pandemic. The lockdown has not prevented children from moving into long-term, ‘permanent’ foster placements. Through carefully planned and risk-assessed transitions, children are still able to join their long-term families.
Cllr Margaret Bruff, Cabinet spokesperson for Children's Services, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has presented considerable challenges during the past few months and I am proud of the team for the way they have handled the situation. They have shown that they can still provide a flexible and effective service in the midst of a global pandemic.
"We always need people to put themselves forward as foster carers and during this particularly difficult time we still need to provide safe, stable and loving homes for local children.
"We currently have a number of children aged 5-18 who need long-term placements and we are searching for families who can care for more than one child to enable brothers and sisters to be kept together.
"It's important that people know our teams are still available to help them during lockdown. Coronavirus should not be a barrier to people becoming a foster carer.
"In roles which are based strongly on building relationships with people, through a process which is very in-depth but very rewarding, the team is looking forward to being able to meet with our next batch of foster carers in person as soon as it is safe to do so."
If you are starting to think about becoming a foster carer or are ready to begin the journey, get in touch with our team by sending an email to email@example.com or call 01226 77 5876.
The team are always available to have a chat, provide you with more information or book in a virtual one-to-one meeting.
For more information about the service, please visit www.barnsley.gov.uk/fostering.