Like most directors of children's services I think I am pretty good at keeping a variety of plates spinning but as I was reminded when I was out with our Fostering Team a few weeks ago I am a real amateur in comparison to them.
My morning started with attending the weekly Child Awaiting Placement meeting where I heard about the lengths the team were going to in trying to deliver the best possible placements for some children and young people in really tricky situations. I guess like all authorities it is increasingly challenging to generate sufficient placements to ensure the ideal match. There seems to be an increasing number of children whose needs make carers think twice about whether they can meet their needs. On a subsequent visit I listened to a Fosters Carer's concerns about her ability to keep a young person safe and the impact this was having on another young person in the same placement. A situation which required the wisdom of Solomon in knowing how best to respond.
None of this is new and the Operations Manager and I reflected on our years in practice but it was a timely reminder if one was needed about how amazing our staff and foster carers are. The humour and passion was evident, as was the amazing carrot cake, but so was a concern that we were letting children down. In fact nothing could be further from the truth and we talked about three cases that I had been involved with recently that required the most imaginative of solutions which in one case put us at odds with the regulator. Whilst it is true we might not always come up with the perfect solution, we seem to have mislaid our magic wand, it doesn't mean we don't try. Our imperfect solutions have a habit of working and in the vast majority of cases lead to good and in some cases great outcomes for children and young people. For all the compromises, frustrations and tears our services up and down the land are built on extraordinary people invariably doing 10 extraordinary things at once.
Stuart Gallimore is ADCS vice president and DCS in East Sussex. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website