Ask the Experts: Worries about new employer

Our expert panel offers advice on sharing expertise, an unhappy foster child, privacy for a gay colleague and illness at nursery.

I recently started working for a newly-formed organisation and find myself questioning some of their practices. I want to suggest alternative ways of working to my new employers, but am worried they will see it as criticism. How should I handle this?

Jeanie Lynch: Previous experience of best practice in other agencies can be shared and celebrated, depending on how you manage it. You don't want to come across as a "know-it-all newbie" and risk alienating your new colleagues.

Unless there are practices that potentially compromise health and safety or safeguarding, which must be raised with your manager immediately, you need to choose your moment.

Do you have any agency training opportunities or team days coming up? You could offer to run a session. This would be a good opportunity to share your experience and would be seen in a positive light.

The chances are you have been employed by your new organisation because of your previous experience, so they will probably be keen to learn from you.

Jeanie Lynch has more than 20 years' experience working as a senior manager developing support for vulnerable children and young people

A 12-year-old child on my caseload has been in the same foster placement for four years. The placement seems stable and the care good, but the child does not seem happy. Any advice?

Colin Green: For looked-after children, there is no substitute for taking the time to establish trust and confidence and getting to know them well. It is important to check how the child is in other settings, such as school, and to talk to the carers in detail about their care and experience of the child.

There will be others on your caseload where an obvious crisis or the fact they "shout louder" means you spend more time with them. However, the quiet children need our time and help just as much as those who overtly present problems. They may be just as unhappy but keeping this to themselves.

Offer the child your time and commitment through visiting, taking them out and showing interest in the detail of their lives.

Colin Green has been a social work practitioner, manager and leader, including director of children's services, in six local authorities

We have a new colleague employed as a key worker for young men in our service. He recently disclosed he is gay, but does not want this shared with the young people or other departments. I think he should act as a role model and cannot really work out why he wants to keep such a secret. Am I right?

Tracie Trimmer-Platman: It is sad your colleague does not feel able to be completely open about his sexuality. However, everyone is entitled to privacy. Youth workers should always be able to separate their professional lives from their personal lives.

Your colleague may have had a negative experience of disclosing his sexuality.

Perhaps he has encountered young men who are uncomfortable with him being gay - not because they should be, but because they are young people with emerging opinions and attitudes.

Accept this as a request from a colleague. He can be a role model without disclosing his sexuality.

Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London

How do we manage sick children sent to nursery?

June O'Sullivan: The decision whether or not to send a child who seems a bit out of sorts to nursery or not is often a tough call for parents who may be single parents or have unsympathetic bosses.

More often than not, the child remains unwell. Nursery staff will be concerned about their welfare and won't want the illness to spread among other children.

You need a clear policy on illness that is regularly updated. This could specify that any child who needs one-to-one care needs to be at home with parents or must remain at home for 48 hours if prescribed antibiotics.

The document should also include a policy on whether or not to give Calpol - this quickly reduces a child's temperature and prevents a febrile convulsion, but doesn't solve the underlying problem.

It should also include measures to help staff when their own children are sick.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation

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