Norfolk based children’s charity Break celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018 with a series of special events through the year, including the GoGoHares Sculpture Trail to be unveiled during summer.
The charity was founded in 1968 by Judith Davison, her late husband, Geoffrey, and Rev. Leslie Morley initially to provide respite short breaks for vulnerable children and their families, starting with holiday centres Rainbow and Sandcastle in Sheringham and Hunstanton. The overall ethos of the charity remains unchanged; to ensure vulnerable children, young people and families receive the support they need to flourish and grow.
Since 1968, Break has grown to be a significant regional charity and now provides homes for looked after children through small scale children’s homes and a fostering service; homes and respite breaks for children with disabilities and learning disabilities; and support for children and families in the community through the Break Family Centre. The charity has also developed expertise in supporting young people leaving the formal care system at 18 with its Moving On Team and is now pioneering a model of support for young care leavers that has the potential to be rolled out nationally through the Staying Close, Staying Connected project. It also undertakes specialist support and assessment work for children at risk.
Break features in the Sunday Times Best Companies List, at number fifteen in the Best Not-for-Profit Organisations to Work For, in recognition of a commitment to personal development, family friendly working and a culture of celebrating the achievements of the young people it supports
The work Break does is partly supported by individuals who regularly fundraise for the charity as well as a network of corporate supporters naming the organisation as charity of the year or staging fundraising events. The charity has a network of over 50 shops which provide valuable volunteering opportunities for over 900 people.
In partnership with Wild in Art, Break has brought popular sculpture trails to Norwich with GoGoGorillas in 2013 and GoGoDragons in 2015, which also raised funds for the charity. This summer will see the GoGoHares trail revealed featuring 50 city Hares and 15 county hares in towns and villages across Norfolk.
Hilary Richards, Break CEO, said: “We passionately believe every child and young person needs a home where they feel safe and loved, so they can grow in confidence and look to the future with hope and that’s what we strive for every day. Over the past 50 years our charity has gone from strength to strength ensuring that we can support more of the children and young people across the region who need us. We have grown from a small family charity in the early days to one that offers a wide range of support to vulnerable children, young people and families. With the help of all our amazing fundraisers, corporate partners, volunteers and our team, we will continue to develop what we do to ensure that we are changing young lives for the next 50 years.”
To celebrate Break’s 50th anniversary and support the work of the charity, people can stage an individual My Break 50 fundraising challenge based on a 50 theme, take part in organised fundraising events like the Stody Cross Country or the Grand Norwich Duck Race or by undertaking an individual challenge of their choice or by supporting Break’s new virtual challenge.
This month Team Fostering are delighted to welcome Mark Alden as a Non-Executive Director. The agency set out on a mission last year to recruit a new board member who had first-hand fostering experience, to further enhance the level of foster carer perspective into the decision making of Team Fostering. We are looking forward to working with Mark, who shares our mission of putting children’s futures first.
A hello from Mark:
I’m delighted to have been asked to join Team Fostering in the role of Non-Executive Director. My career to date is in banking and finance where I have over 30 years of experience as a Relationship Director and work with businesses across the North East.
I also have direct experience in the world of fostering. In 2010, together with my wife and two children, we began fostering. Our first placement was two girls, one aged 4 years and the other 11 months, and they brought a huge and wonderful change to our lives. Seven years later, the two are still with us and doing extremely well – in fact, we adopted them both in 2014!
When time permits, my outside interests stretch to football where I support SAFC (someone has to!), live music (typically 80’s which shows my age) and I’m increasingly spending time at the local ice rink where the girls are showing huge promise.
I hope that my experience will bring a hands-on flavour of life as a foster carer to board decisions and actions at Team Fostering.
TACT is delighted that one of its’ fantastic foster mums – Lisa Gill, has been announced as a runner up for the Sun’s Fabulous Mum of the Year Award.
45 year old Lisa is an Assistant Head Teacher and mother to three children, she has also fostered 10 children with TACT, many of which have special education needs. And on top of all that, she has also run six London Marathons, four of which to raise money for TACT.
Lisa said: ”I was delighted and very touched to be nominated for the Fabulous Mum of the year competition. I have been privileged over the years to not only bring up my own children but to play a part in supporting some wonderful individuals through my fostering role with TACT”.
She added: ”I feel it is so important in life to try and do something for others and this is something I try to do daily through my fostering role and in my position as an Assistant Head in a Special School. I am proud to see the children and young people I have supported making their impact on the world. It makes it all worthwhile.”
TACT CEO Andy Elvin said: “TACT is so very proud to have Lisa as one of our foster mum’s. Her selfless dedication to her community is reflected by the fact that she has fostered 10 children and works as an assistant headteacher. As if that wasn’t enough she has run 6 London Marathons! She really is a fabulous Mum”
Like all our amazing foster carers, Lisa has found fostering to be very rewarding. If you have a spare bedroom and the desire to improve the lives of vulnerable children and young people in care, then please do not hesitate to contact TACT and find out more about fostering.
Our foster carers come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and ethnic groups. We believe the most important criteria for becoming a foster carer is your ability to listen and empathise, to provide a stable and loving home and to speak up for the children you care for. Your sexuality, marital status, age and whether you own a home do not determine your suitability as a foster carer therefore will not impact your fostering application.
Member News: TACT - Same sex foster carers of a sibling group share their story for LGBT Week and Mothering Sunday
Abby and Eira are a same sex couple and TACT foster carers, who last year welcomed into their home a sibling group – a three-year-old girl, a five-year-old boy, and an eight-year-old boy – and absolutely love it. Abby shared their story with BBC Radio Derby to mark Mother’s Day and LGBT Fostering and Adoption Week.
You can listen to her here
And you can read their blog here
Community Foster Care is seeking some new trustees to join our board, and the board of our sister charity, Community Family Care.
Our board of trustees is made up of people with a variety of skills, experience and knowledge which helps us to develop, strengthen and grow the services we offer to children, young people and their families.
We meet three times per year at our Staunton offices and once per year at our office in Lancaster. This is a strategic meeting covering the business and finance aspects of the charity.
Trustees are also expected join a sub-group with which they’d like to engage. Our current sub-groups include finance, investment, safeguarding and foster children.
If you think your skills could strengthen our board and would like to discuss this exciting opportunity further, please get in touch with our board secretary, Kathy O'Keeffe, on email@example.com.
St Christopher’s was delighted to welcome colleagues from the Department for Education to visit three of our residential services in London and hear what young people had to say about improving transitions from care to independence.
Attendees included the Permanent Secretary Jonathan Slater, Director of Social Care Tabitha Brufal and Chair of the Residential Care Leadership Board Sir Alan Wood, as well as representatives from the Children in Care and Permanence Team.
The day started at one of our children’s homes for an overview of St Christopher’s and our specific approach to care, before the team explained their work in more detail. This particular home is linked with our new Staying Close pilot, so young people moving onto independence can make use of the accommodation, peer mentoring and life skills support. The home also has ‘pop home’ beds for when young people who have left the service want to come back and visit the people who are most important to them.
Next they visited our Staying Close accommodation to find out how participation and co-production shapes the project. Two young people from our Safe Steps home had kindly prepared lunch for the visitors and chatted about their experiences of St Christopher’s, before staff described the key elements of the Staying Close pilot, the progress they have made since opening, and how they are overcoming challenges. The entire project has been co-produced with young people to bridge the gap between leaving residential care and independent living, so it is a great example of how St Christopher’s empowers young people to take part in service design and delivery.
Finally the DfE representatives visited a 16+ supported housing service. They met with staff and three young people to discuss a project that had recently taken place where young people identified what works in transitions and trained managers on how they could make this easier for the care leavers they work with.
By meeting children and young people face to face, the visitors had the chance to hear directly about the issues that are most important to their futures. Staff supported young people to take part if they wanted to, but also supported those who chose not to participate in line with our participation policy.
'Just returned from a fascinating visit to three of St Christopher's projects in London. Enjoyed meeting highly motivated young people and determined and impressive staff teams. Lots of thoughtful ideas and suggestions for residential care. Keep up the good work!'
Sir Alan Wood, Chair of the Residential Care Leadership Board
Director of Corporate Services Geneva Ellis said: “I want to say an absolutely huge thank you to you all for the care and attention staff put into making it a valuable visit for our guests and making sure that our young people had opportunities to share their views (or not!) as they desired. It is really important for children in care to have their say and know that their views are listened to, valued and respected.”
Around 180,000 children who would otherwise be adopted or in care live with relatives or friends, but carers face a postcode lottery for assistance
"I have wondered how this would have ended if I had been a less vocal, expressive or determined person,” a grandmother told a Gloucestershire family court last autumn, after applying to be appointed special guardian to her infant grandchild.
She was successful, but was keen to air her criticisms of the “extraordinary experience”. She alleges there was poor communication from children’s services, she was wrongly told she was ineligible for financial support, and unexplained delays meant her grandchild was in foster care for longer than necessary.
“It has left me feeling shattered by the lack of kindness and understanding I experienced in such a painful context,” she told the judge.
Responding to her statement, Gloucestershire’s interim improvement and operations director, Neelam Bhardwaja, said: “We know that taking responsibility for a young child is a huge decision and can be very stressful. We acted with integrity and kindness towards everyone involved in this case, as well as providing financial support including paying for some independent legal advice.
“We feel confident this child has the loving and committed family they need and we support the special guardianship arrangements.”
The grandmother in this case is not alone in struggling with a local authority’s attitude to kinship care. Around 180,000 live with relatives or friends and nine in ten kinship carers say they do not feel supported in bringing up children who might otherwise be adopted or go into long-term foster care.
Kinship care is more stable than foster care and, by objective measures, has significantly better outcomes for children. So how do local authorities view it, and how much are they willing – or able – to resource this type of placement?
With large numbers in informal arrangements, the root problem for many kinship care families is being invisible to policymakers and local authorities. According to charity , support for kinship care is a postcode lottery. Chief executive Lucy Peake says many are “plunged into poverty” after volunteering to care for a child they had never expected to bring up.
The charity wants children in kinship care to be supported according to their needs rather than their legal status. But Charlotte Ramsden, director of children’s services for Salford, says that with budgets slashed and the child population increasing, local authorities’ capacity to respond “is massively less” than it should be.
Failures by councils to identify and properly assess and prepare kinship carers pose a genuine problem for children, says Mike Stein of York University, who researches the corporate parenting of young people.
“It gets my blood boiling. It’s so unjust that your life chances should be affected by inadequacies in this area,” he says.
Ramsden says that kinship carers are valued by local authorities, but paying them the same as foster carers is simply not achievable. “In an ideal world, if resources weren’t an issue, we might be saying something very different,” she says.
Sandra started looking after her nine-month-old grandson seven years ago after social workers took emergency measures to remove him from her son. She was given five minutes to decide whether he would go home with her or into foster care. She received five months of nursery fees from her local authority so she could keep hold of her job. Since then, Sandra has not had any financial support – despite it being the local authority’s decision to take action.
“I feel hard done by by the local authority,” she says. “I think a lot of kinship carers do because the council just thinks: ‘We don’t have to pay for a foster carer.’ Some get £400 a week per child, so we’re saving them that.”
While the lack of money may pull councils in one direction, a trend for children to stay with their birth families pulls in the other.
Special guardianship numbers are soaring and the way relatives and friends are viewed in terms of their capacity to care for a child at risk has changed considerably, says Joan Hunt, an expert in family law.
Ten years ago, a grandparent whose own child was an unsafe parent might have been regarded with suspicion by a local authority. Now, case law firmly encourages the assessment of relatives and means that families are much more likely to be carefully considered. Ramsden says children’s services try to be flexible if a family member offers to look after a child.
What financial, practical and emotional support is available for the increasing number of kinship families?
Statutory guidance from 2011 says children in kinship care and their carers should receive the support they need regardless of their legal status.
“If local authorities implemented that it wovuld make a huge difference, but they are terrified of opening the floodgates, and that if they make services and money available, they will have thousands of carers knocking at their door,” says Hunt.
Given that the guidance on support is often not followed, Hunt believes that only primary legislation is likely to lead to genuine improvements.
But despite budgetary constraints, some new thinking is being introduced. In an initiative pioneered and delivered by Tact, which delivers Peterborough council’s fostering and adoption services, the same practical and emotional support and training will be available to all kinship carers where the council has been involved in creating the child’s placement.
Part of the problem local authorities face in developing sustained support for kinship carers is systemic, says Andy Elvin, chief executive of Tact.
“Because funding is always year-on-year, it’s hard for managers to make decisions on the next 10 years,” he says. “If you could look at a child growing up for the next 12 years and you want a good outcome and value for money over that time, then you might make different decisions than if you’re looking at next March.
“But there’s no reward [to councils] for being prudent. You just get less money next year.”
Hunt is clear that using kinship carers more and better supporting them would save taxpayers money in the long term – not least because it would lead to improved outcomes for more children.
With the right resourcing from central government to allow councils to offer sustained help over a child’s lifetime, “you’d have more people coming forward as kinship carers, and if they had more support, more would last”, says Elvin.
“Long-term stability is good for children, so you end up with [fewer] children who would go on to need adult services, or intensive support services through adolescence,” he says.
The vast majority of looked-after children feel their lives have improved since being taken into care, a study has found.
The charity Coram Voice and the University of Bristol asked 2,263 children and young people aged between four and 18 about their experiences of being in care and found 83 per cent felt their life had improved. Only six per cent said they felt life had got worse.
However, the Our Lives Our Care survey also found half of four- to seven-year-olds felt the reasons why they were in care had not been fully explained to them.
A significant minority of children also did not know who their current social worker was and 16 per cent of children under eight said they had "too much" contact with their siblings.
"Sibling bullying is the most frequent form of bullying but often goes unrecognised or is minimised, although the detrimental effects on children's development are well known," the report, which noted that conflict between siblings peaks "during middle childhood and normally reduces during adolescence", states.
The report also calls for social workers and carers to do more to explain to children why they are in care and ensure every looked-after child has a trusted adult in their life. Social workers and carers should also ask children in care about their sibling relationships and intervene if sibling bullying is a problem, it adds.
Carol Homden, chief executive of the Coram group of children's charities, said: "It is encouraging to hear that such a large majority of children and young people in care feel their lives are improving and that, for most, the care system is providing them with the safety, support and opportunities they need to thrive.
"However, the results show us that we can and must take action to address the avoidable losses of care so that children feel ‘normal' and are able to do the same things as their friends, have an understanding of why they are where they are, and a part to play in decisions that affect them."
Professor Julie Selwyn, director of the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies at the University of Bristol, added: "The results of the survey show that most children and young people are flourishing in care but about 18 per cent of young people aged 11 to 18 years old are not.
"Young people with low wellbeing did not feel settled and felt that they were being moved from placement to placement. The detrimental impact of a lack of a trusted adult in these children's lives cannot be overestimated."
The survey also found that girls and black or mixed ethnicity children have lower wellbeing than their peers in the care system. Compared with other ethnicities, mixed ethnicity children were most likely to have had five or more placements, dislike school, feel negative about their future and not understand why they were in care.
The report recommends that social workers and carers pay particular attention to building girls' self-confidence but said more research is needed into why mixed ethnicity children are most likely to have lower wellbeing.
The survey was carried out as part of the Coram Voice and the University of Bristol's Bright Spots programme, which helps local authorities identify the views of young people in care. Bright Spots currently works with 31 councils in England and Wales.
Barnardo’s is partnering with the CareTech Foundation on a £1 million project to develop a ground-breaking digital resource to support young people leaving care.
Such young people face a variety of challenges as they transition into adulthood, including feeling lonely and finding it hard to make a home for themselves. It is all too easy for them to become isolated and find difficulty accessing available opportunities.
In partnership with the app developer FutureGov and with the support of the CareTech Foundation, Barnardo’s is developing a UK-wide innovative digital resource focused on the needs of care leavers.
It will feature content on:
Javed Khan, Barnardo’s Chief Executive, said:
"We are extremely excited about this partnership with the newly formed CareTech Foundation and their support of our work with young people leaving care.
Barnardo’s has been keeping children safe, supporting them with an education and helping them to achieve their dreams for more than 150 years. Care leavers remain some of the most vulnerable young people in our society with figures showing 40 per cent aged 19-21 are not in education, training or employment.
Barnardo’s hopes to design an app that will help young people to access information in a way that truly works for them, providing immediate access to helpful information and producing data that will help us to evaluate how digital resources can reduce crisis points among young people.
Barnardo’s ambition is to be a digital leader in the sector and so we embrace technology’s potential to drive new ways of delivering better outcomes for more children. We are therefore grateful to the CareTech Foundation for part-funding this innovative project and would urge other funders to come forward to help us improve outcomes for young people leaving care."
The project is expected to last between three and four years. Around 1,000 care leavers will benefit from the digital resource each year, with scope for many more to be supported.
Barnardo’s hopes and expects the new resource will lead to the following outcomes:
As part of the partnership, CareTech staff and service users will be directly involved in the testing and development of the new digital resources. The Foundation will also give opportunities to CareTech staff to volunteer with Barnardo’s.
The CareTech Foundation is donating £300,000 towards the project and hopes other philanthropic organisations will join them to make the project a success.
Claire is a foster carer with St Christopher’s in the West Midlands. She talks about the impact fostering has had not just on the children she looks after, but on her own life too.
Why did you want to become a foster carer?
My cousin adopted a little boy and heard that children were “unadoptable” after four years old – so I thought, ‘What happens before they turn four and once they are older?’ These children stay in the care system, usually in foster care, so I wanted to help.
I had the time but waited until my son was older (he’s 23 now) so he had my full attention whilst he was growing up. I spoke to him about it and he was all for it, especially once he got back from some charity work he had been doing in Africa. So I made the call!
What did you look for in a fostering agency?
I researched a lot of fostering agencies to be honest, there are so many out there. The ones I discounted were very clinical and it seemed like children were not the priority. It was heads on beds – I didn’t like that as I wanted the children to be the main concern.
Then I found St Christopher’s. Their staff are there 24 hours a day, which the kids need because their issues don’t just go away at the end of the working day. And the young people know that staff are there for them – it’s not just empty promises, they turn up and support them even if it’s a quick phone call on their first day of school. It isn’t just a job, they genuinely care.
What’s your favourite thing about fostering?
It’s very rewarding, I couldn’t say this enough. With my first placement, a teenage boy, the difference in him in such a short time was so rewarding. He did extremely well here and we both learnt a lot.
One thing that a lot of children in care have in common is that they have zero confidence. They haven’t had the same experiences as other young people. One girl I cared for was petrified of everything like trying new foods or walking to the shop on her own. Just this morning she got on the bus to school without an adult, so I was so proud!
The little things are the best. I looked after a young girl and she went nine days without getting a detention at school. She was so proud of herself and it was a huge turning point – it boosted her confidence and made her realise she wasn’t “bad”. You watch them grow emotionally as well as physically, and they learn to see the good in themselves.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about fostering?
Do it! Just make the call. There is such a need for voices for children, they’re desperate for people to look after them. It is challenging but the rewards far outweigh it. With hindsight, I wish I had done it sooner!
I thought that being single would go against me and it doesn’t. There are so many people who think they can’t foster but you can. If you’ve got love and attention to give a kid the rest is paperwork. The kids don’t care if you’re single, gay, black, white – as long as they feel safe and secure.
What impact has fostering had on the lives of the children you look after?
The young girl I fostered is more aware and comfortable with who she is. She takes care of herself properly now and doesn’t put herself in danger, which she was doing from a very early age.
Children go into the care system and are just a number. Then they get to St Christopher’s and it’s different. The children I’ve looked after have lived with families at other fostering agencies and they said to me that they’ve never met people like the St Christopher’s staff. It’s because of all the activities St Christopher’s put on and the social workers, who are there 100% for the children. Mine have had to hear difficult news, but the staff have taken a much more thoughtful approach so that they can explain things properly and offer support afterwards. It’s not like that at all agencies.
Self-confidence is huge with children in care. They have low self-respect and self-esteem, so being able to watch them realise they’re actually worth something is fantastic.
What impact has fostering had on your own life?
My life is a whole lot richer and a lot more fulfilling – and it’s also fuller now, in a good way! Fostering has given me a whole new purpose in life because you can see the good it does immediately. The rewards are exceptional.
Could you transform a child’s life by becoming a foster parent? Find out more information here.
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