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Starting any new job can be a daunting prospect. But when you're joining a busy fostering and adoption team as a supervising social worker, there's a lot to get your head around. Here's our quick survival guide.

While most employers will have some kind of induction scheme, the nature of social work means you may need to hit the ground running. So, the first and most important rule is don't panic. Listen, ask questions and make sure you understand everything. It's better to ask for advice or support than to make a costly error.

Write it down


You'll probably be buddied up with an experienced supervising social worker so that you can shadow him or her and learn the ropes. There'll be a lot to take in, from basic admin procedures and IT system protocols to key contacts, including other members of the social work team and representatives of other agencies such as the police, the probation service, teachers, charities and the Department of Health. Therefore, having a notebook to hand is a good idea. There's no way you'll be able to commit it all to memory in one go.

Find out more


You'll get plenty of first-hand explanations about how things are done. However, it's worth asking if there are any reference guides or staff handbooks you can access for further reading, for example IT system manuals, policies or process flowcharts. Don't assume you'll automatically be given them because such things are often forgotten about in a busy working environment.

Foster good relationships


One of the key responsibilities of a supervising social worker is to build positive, productive relationships with foster carers. Even on day one, you may come into contact with one or more of those foster carers, so you need to be fully prepared. Remember, first impressions count, so you should show right from the outset that you're on their side, are proactive and will be able to support them effectively. Respond promptly to any queries but don't bluff. It's OK to let them know you're new on the job and may need to check something out with a more experienced member of staff.

Be one of the team


Effective collaboration is vital in any social work setting. Therefore, right from the start you should show your willingness to support your colleagues, share information and accept advice. Even the simple act of making a cup of coffee for a colleague could help break the ice and start building a good working relationship.

At the end of the day, find a way to relax and switch off, whether that's doing some yoga or chilling out in front of a movie. Your head will probably be buzzing, but it's important to let your subconscious take over and process everything you've learnt and experienced. Get a good night's sleep and you'll be ready for day two.
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