Stephen’s Story

What the person’s situation before working with Advocacy Focus?

Stephen* is 7 years old and has ASD& ADHD.   After a substantial amount of planning and searching, he was placed in his “Forever foster family” a year ago.  He is thriving with this family.  His behaviour has been more positive and he has settled at school.  The entire foster family and their own adult children think of him as “their own”

A decision was made that Stephen needed to move foster families due to two of his adopted siblings living very close by. There were concerns that Stephen would mention to his birth mum where his adopted brothers were living.  Due to the complexities of the family, this was inappropriate.

The impact of moving foster family would be devastating for Stephen.  He would struggle to understand why he couldn’t live with his family and this could unsettle his life.  He loves living with them and the opportunities they give to him.  They understand him and he knows that he can depend on them always.  How would he cope with a move?  It could mean a number of different changes of foster placements, possibly residential placements/schools in the future.  The impact on his emotional health would be huge.

His foster carers stated that they would do anything  to keep Stephen as part of their family, even move home.

Senior managers stated that the costs for moving home were very expensive and that it would be difficult for the council to agree these.

What did you do to help the person?

Advocate contacted the Local Authority and outlined Stephen’s rights and the impact of a move to a new family and possibly school.  The Local Authority wrote back and said that it was complex and that they were looking at the options.  The family felt in “limbo” as there were no timescales set and they were not hearing back from the Local Authority.

The Advocate spoke to the foster carer and asked permission to contact the Help At Hand Helpline for advice.  The Social Worker and Independent Review Organisation agreed that this was appropriate.

The Help at Hand Helpline felt so strongly about the issue that the Children’s Commissioner for England, wrote to the Local Authority in person, to request that Stephen would not be moved and that the Local Authority needed to find a resolution.  She gave clear deadlines for a response. 

The day after the letter was sent, the Local Authority arranged a meeting with the foster carers, their social worker and team manager.  At this meeting, the Local Authority apologised, stated that it was totally their fault and that Stephen would not be moved from their family.  The Local Authority agreed to support financially with a house move.

What was the outcome?

The Local Authority funded the moving costs so that Stephen wasn’t moved to another family.  He remains with the family and is settled and happy.

Why was advocacy support was so effective?

As Independent Advocates, we were able to look at a range of options, including contacting the Help at Hand Helpline.  This was instrumental in achieving the outcome for Stephen due to the importance of the Children’s Commissioners Office.

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