A NOT-for-profit fostering agency has retained its outstanding Ofsted rating following a recent inspection.
Team Fostering, which has a base in Middlesbrough, achieved the highest possible standard which identifies that children and young people are making significantly better progress and achieving more than what was expected in their lives.
The Ofsted report read: “Children and young people are happy. They feel settled and cared for, and they enjoy a whole range of activities, and have access to many opportunities that they may otherwise not have had. Both the agency and the foster carers ensure that children and young people have the best opportunities to make progress and to develop into adults.”
Team Fostering assistant director Rachael Johnson said: “We are very proud to have retained our Outstanding rating. To have the hard work and commitment of everyone at Team Fostering recognised by Oftsed is a fantastic achievement.”
The agency has been providing foster carer placements for children and young people in local authority care for the last 15 years.
For more information visit www.teamfostering.co.uk
We wouldn’t make our own child leave home before they were ready – so why do we discriminate against children in care?
I’ve been a children’s rights worker for seven years, working with young people on their wishes and feelings about their care and support. But when they turn 18 this becomes a limited area: wishes and feelings are often made redundant when faced with the realities of leaving care.
The Staying Put policy was introduced in 2014 to allow young people in foster care to stay until the age of 21. But mention introducing this to children’s homes to anyone in social care, and they immediately talk about logistics. How would it work? When would they leave? What if they came back drunk? What if … what if … How could an 18-year-old ever live with children; surely it’s never happened before?
The issue is not about what the right thing is for the young person, but about the limitations and needs of the system. But Scotland has made it happen (pdf); they’ve decided it’s the right thing to do, therefore they will do it.
Although there are legal differences when a young person turns 18, it does not mean they suddenly need supporting in vastly different ways. They are the same person who is already living in the children’s home.
If a young person wants to stay in the home after turning 18, it is for a reason. They are making the choice to ask to stay; they know what is best for them at this stage in their lives. They will still have reviews, still talk to staff and social workers, still work on moving into their own place. But it will be when they, the staff and their social worker feel it is right thing to do, and in the right way for them.
In my years as a children’s rights worker I have supported many young people who can’t wait to leave the children’s home, can’t wait to no longer have a social worker, and dream of the day for all it represents.
Asking to stay is a big change; it means they are feeling supported, they feel settled, and they are deciding what’s best for them.
As with a lot of care system procedures there is a contradiction. Many young people will never have spent any time living on their own, but when they reach 18 they will suddenly be in a new place by themselves. Is this good parenting? Would we not want a gradual increase in independence and responsibility, as for our own children? This may not be achieved just in time for their 18th birthday and we shouldn’t expect young people suddenly to cut ties with those who have supported them. We want young people to build relationships, to manage them and to grow.
So young people need the option of staying put in children’s homes. Can we find a way of making it work – yes! How will it work – let’s find out, let’s talk about it. Let’s involve young people and ask them what they think and what they need. We don’t give up on our children own because something is difficult; that’s what makes us good parents. Being told it is impossible by children’s services managers – whose own child might still be at home at 25 – is a double standard too far.
Recently, I have worked with young people who wanted to stay in their children’s home past 18. What a fantastic response to the care they are receiving, what great self-knowledge. Their worries weren’t around practical matters of washing or shopping, but around their emotional needs. They knew they needed someone there to talk to. We’ve helped them develop this self-knowledge; we should not totally discount their feelings at 18.
Young people in the UK are staying at home much longer these days, especially with increased financial pressure. So why do we expect those who have experienced neglect or abuse to be ready to leave at 18? Who’s there on their first day at work? Who’s there to talk to when they’re making sense of becoming an adult and all it involves?
Let’s stop discriminating against these young people. It is a poor state of affairs if their 18th birthday represents the date they were legally discriminated against. Welcome to the world, now off you go.
• For more information on the Every Child Leaving Care Matters campaign, click here.
Just as there is a military covenant, so there is an unwritten agreement between the nation and its foster carers. It goes something like this: ordinary families commit to provide a loving home to children and young people who cannot, for reasons beyond their control, live with their own parents. In return, the state promises to cover all expenses and to provide support to ensure that looked-after children flourish.
Over years this covenant, broadly speaking, has survived through good times and bad, and the UK system of child welfare has come to rely heavily on foster carers: about 80 per cent of the 81,000 children in care live with foster families.
However, the fostering covenant is currently being broken, to coin a phrase David Cameron once used to describe our neglect of the military. Austerity measures are having a devastating effect on practical and financial support for foster carers, and on children's access to their social workers and other services, including mental health services.
A report by The Fostering Network, the national charity for foster carers, published a stark survey of foster carers last week. Three-quarters of carers said that cuts have had a negative impact on the fees they receive for fostering, and two-thirds said that cuts had restricted access to vital services, including respite care and mental health services. Two-thirds said that cuts had reduced access to their child's social worker.
This is happening at a time when record numbers of children and young people are being taken into care, putting a severe strain on children's services. To put that into context, one child comes into care needing a foster family every 20 minutes. The picture painted by respondents to the survey is of a system in crisis, unable to cope with the demands heaped upon it.
We are foster carers and on a typical day we receive three mobile texts from our local authority looking for foster homes. By definition, the texts are brief. But they hint at complex family situations that have led to children and young people being removed from their homes. These texts are a last resort, sent by social workers racing against the clock, having failed to secure accommodation through the usual channels. These are the hard-to-place children that nobody wants. The frequency of these texts suggest that there are many such cases.
We currently foster three siblings, so we are in no position to help. Yet we find ourselves trying to work through how we might offer accommodation, even if it were only for a few days until something else became available. It is a pointless exercise, and yet that is what we do, and I am sure other foster carers respond in the same way.
These texts are a stark illustration of stresses within the system, a consequence of the shortage of foster carers. The Fostering Network estimates that some 9,000 new foster carers are currently needed to ensure stability in the system, yet recruitment and retention is severely compromised by the impact of cuts. One Fostering Network respondent said that £2,000 a year had been cut from her allowances. Increasingly, the day-to-day cost of providing for looked-after children is being subsidised by foster carers.
At a time of cuts across public services, foster carers do not expect to be immune from austerity. But the cuts now being imposed mean that children are increasingly to be in placements that are not appropriate for their circumstances or needs, and that families are often pushed beyond their ability as foster carers, without training or support. Cuts in benefits have also had a significant impact, causing some foster carers to simply give and look for work.
Society celebrates foster carers but generally does not want to be troubled by the reality of foster care. We warm to the generosity of their spirit and don't like to think that they, like everyone else, have bills to pay and might find the financial burden too much to bear. But something has gone badly awry when the care of children who have suffered abuse and neglect depends so heavily on goodwill and kindness. The foster care covenant, Mr Cameron, is well and truly broken.
Education Secretary describes new strategy as a ‘watershed moment,’ but plan faces strong opposition from social workers
Children taken into care will to be fast-tracked into permanent adoption away from their natural parents under Government plans to change the way vulnerable young people are looked after by the state.
In a wide-ranging package of reforms ministers intend to change the law to make it clear that courts and social workers must always pursue adoption when it is in a child’s best interest.
The move is expected to result in many more children being permanently adopted rather than being placed in foster homes in the hope that they could in future be re-united with their natural parents.
However the plan faces strong opposition from social workers who claim the Government is pushing adoption to save money and have warned councils will feel compelled to meet centrally set targets, rather than acting in the best interests of children.
Currently it can take up to 18 months for children in care to be adopted a time scale that ministers want to half.
As part of the proposals the Government has also pledged to provide more support for adopted children and the parents who look after them.
All adopted children will be entitled to counselling services until the age of 21 and will be given a designated teacher at school to look after their interests.
In order to maximise the number of children being successfully adopted councils will be made to join regional adoption agencies while the length of time it takes for adoptions to go through will be monitored.
Announcing the changes the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, described the new strategy as a “watershed moment”.
“For the first time ever, we are explicitly setting out how we will transform the lives of our most vulnerable children by making sure they get the opportunities they deserve,”
“We cannot stand by while children spend months in care waiting for their new family, when loving parents are available. We cannot preside over a situation where adopted children are less likely to do well at school than their classmates. “And we mustn’t fail to take action against stifling red tape that stops councils from matching children with the families that are right for them.”
But a recent survey of over 400 social workers for the magazineCommunity Care found widespread concern about the Government’s plan.
Just 4 per cent of respondents said they agreed with the government’s approach, while 69 per cent said they did not agree while the rest were undecided.
One social worker, responding to the survey, said: “[Ministers] seem to want to blame local authorities, when the courts introduce the huge delays with the insistence on endless assessments, ignoring the assessments of social workers.”
Another said that targets would “distort and undermine” the processes they are meant to improve,” while another questioned the research behind the targets: “Where is the evidence that shortening the time frame for adoption assessments to 6 months will encourage more people to adopt? It could well mean inadequate rushed assessments.”
TACT is delighted to announce that Solomon O.B – rapper, poet, and 2016 Hammer & Tongue National Poetry Slam Champion, has become an Ambassador for the charity.
Solomon O.B. is himself a former foster child, having been taken into care with his brother Sam and sister Anu when they were all babies. And his winning Slam Championship poem –Unorthodox Beginnings, is a celebration of his positive experience of being fostered and a moving tribute to his foster parents.
Solomon said: “I was honestly a bit overwhelmed when I was asked to be an ambassador for TACT. It’s a big honour but I plan to do the role justice. I really want to provide a strong example for kids in care and change perceptions around what it means to come from the care system. It doesn’t have to be a limiting factor.”
Solomon has kicked off his ambassadorship by performing at a TACT Children’s Champions event where he met young people in care who get together several times a year to share their experiences and help shape TACT’s range of services for children and young people. One foster child aged 15 summed up meeting Solomon as “really inspiring”.
Andy Elvin CEO of TACT said: “Not only is Solomon an incredible talent, he is a lovely man, and a shining example of the power and effectiveness of foster care. There are thousands of young people just as wonderful, able and talented as Solomon in foster care and TACT want the public to understand that the bad news stories are not who foster children are”
Solomon remains close to his foster parents Victor and Patricia Brooker who he calls ‘nan’ and ‘grandad’ and he adopted their surname as a Christmas present.
He said: “If we weren’t different skin colours you would have no idea we weren’t related. They showed us the same level of love and affection and pure dedication to raising us as they would their own children.”
Solomon plans to work with TACT to inspire looked after children and young people to achieve their goals and to eradicate the stigma attached to being in care. As Solomon explains in his poem – children and young people in care ‘are not mistakes on pages but awesome novels with unorthodox beginnings.’
You can see a video that Solomon has recorded especially for TACT about his experience of being fostered.
For interviews, photos and further information please contact Laura Luxton, Communications lead at TACT on 0208 695 8133, or 07977411831 (out of hours) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The wellbeing of thousands of children in care is under threat because of budget cuts in England, a charity says.
The Fostering Network says children in care are finding it harder to access social worker support as a result.
Town hall bosses says the number of children receiving intensive support through child protection plans has risen 60% in the past eight years.
Cuts to early intervention budgets left councils with very difficult decisions, they added.
'Truly shocking'The Fostering Network's chief executive, Kevin Williams, said: "We are extremely concerned that so many foster carers feel that recent cuts are having a negative impact on their fostered children's access to the support and services that they so vitally need.
"The wellbeing of thousands of fostered children is under threat.
"This is worrying enough in itself.
"But equally worrying is the drop in the support - both practical and financial - being offered to foster carers to enable them to provide stable and loving homes to these children."
He said this charity had "fought long and hard" to ensure all foster carers received an allowance that covered the costs of looking after the children they cared for.
"To think that this progress is in danger of being eroded and that foster carers will be forced to subsidise the care of these children or that children will go without is truly shocking," he added.
The network carried out a snapshot survey of foster carers, and about 600 replied.
Of these, about 70% said their allowances had been negatively affected by local authority cuts, and about the same proportion said they felt cuts were limiting access to their child's social worker.
'Worked hard'One respondent said: "We have fostered for over 25 years and cared for well over 300 young people, and the service has never been in a worse position to deliver young people with a good care service."
Another foster carer said: "My monthly visits have been cut to once every two months, with a telephone call in between, and the timing of visits seem rushed and you can't explain your needs in the time given. They have too many cases to look after."
Councillor Richard Watts, vice-chairman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said councils had worked hard to protect front-line children's services and increased spending on children and family services between 2010 and 2013.
"Unfortunately, this has still amounted to a reduction in real terms, and didn't take into account increasing demand, particularly in high-end child protection services.
"More than 20,000 extra children, an increase of more than 60%, are now receiving intensive support through child protection plans than eight years ago.
"These pressures have left challenging choices elsewhere, and this report highlights some of the difficult decisions councils are forced to make every day.
"There are no easy choices as councils try to balance the immediate need to safeguard a child with the clear benefits that can come later from investment in vital support services and early intervention."
A government spokesperson said: "We greatly value the vital contribution that foster carers make to children's lives, and are committed to ensuring they receive the recognition and support they need.
"We are giving councils almost £200 bn to spend on local services by 2020, and we know that the vast majority are protecting frontline children's social care budgets."
In this recent blog post, Team Fostering CEO, Vicky Davidson Boyd, offers her thoughts on being a not-for -profit fostering agency...
I have read lots of information recently about “for- profit” and “not-for-profit fostering” agencies.Many people aren’t aware that there are fostering and adoption agencies that make a profit, but from speaking with foster carers on a daily basis, I have found that once they are aware of an agency being not-for-profit, they really care about the values and ethos that support this.
Articles like 'Why do we let fostering agencies profit from caring for vulnerable children?', from fellow Fostering through Social Enterprise (FtSE) member TACT, are beginning to highlight the issue, but more needs to be done to raise awareness amongst the general public about different types of providers, the services and support each alternate provider can offer and how this is funded. Many fostering agencies are set up on a profit making basis but that isn’t the case for every independent fostering provider . Some, including Team Fostering, are Social Enterprises, which means that we operate for a social purpose. There are no shareholders and all of our profits are reinvested in services for children and families.
Children can be in care for a number of months or even years. We are seeing more and more requests for planned long term foster placements. This can mean a child stays with their foster carers up until 18, or even 21 on a Staying Put Placement. With the ever increasing Local Authority cuts, fostering agencies, like us, need to be confident that we can provide and sustain high quality care for children and young people on a long term basis and so we need to sustain the support offered to foster carers. Being a not-for-profit agency is one of the ways in which Team Fostering does this as we never have to make allowances for shareholders or investors and can offer better value to our Local Authority customers.
So, what does being not for profit mean in practice? Well, in the case of our agency, Team Fostering, it means being truly child centred. We invest as much as we possibly can in our foster carers, and in support and services to give the children we look after the very best chance of a good future. This includes education support, activities, and even therapeutic support in some cases, to promote good long term outcomes for children. Also, participation groups to help children have a voice in the agency, as well as great quality, relevant training and a generous fee to our foster carers.
Perhaps surprisingly, we are one of the highest paying fostering agencies when it comes to our foster carers; something that I personally believe is necessary to recognise the support and commitment provided by foster carers to children and young people. All of this is funded by our not-for-profit status.
There are many ways in which this makes a difference. For example, we provide:
Fostering is not a decision that is made lightly. It is a commitment and a job like no other and foster carers should feel that they are going into this from an informed position, and with the agency that shares their values.
If you are thinking of applying to foster and you haven’t yet made up your mind which agency to go to, I hope that one of the questions you ask is “what do you do with your profits?”
If you share the values that I have described, please get in touch with us at Team Fostering as we’d very much like to hear from you.
Vicky Davidson Boyd
We are delighted to announce that, following our recent inspection, Young People at Heart have been rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted in their report published today.
Gary Cox, Founder and Chief Executive of Young People at Heart, said it was a wonderful achievement for a new agency to be rated ‘good’ and he thanked the staff team, Panel and, most importantly, the foster carers and their families for their dedication and commitment in making a difference to the lives of young people in care.
The full report can be downloaded from the Ofsted website via the link below and will available on our website shortly:
FtSE Member News: TACT - Children in foster care aren’t waiting for a loving home – they are already in one
Andy Elvin – TACT CEO, shares his views on the Government’s new adoption strategy.
The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, unveiling the new adoption strategy over the Easter weekend, said: “We cannot stand by while children spend months in care waiting for their new family, when loving parents are available.” But children in foster care are not “waiting” for a loving family: they are in one.
Foster care isn’t a substandard second-best to adoption, it is the permanence option for 75% of children in the care system. It offers stability, consistency, care and love and delivers fantastic outcomes for children. Sadly, I suspect some bright young thing cynically judges that contrasting loving adopters with the evil care system plays well with the party base. Such reductive thinking disheartens the tens of thousands of foster carers who look after more than 50,000 of the UK’s most vulnerable children and do a fantastic job.
The Department for Education’s paper itself is nuanced and includes some excellent proposals, so it is sad that the new vision came with a side helping from Morgan of the old divisive rhetoric.
To the DFE’s credit it has recognised there are a variety of placement types that can meet the long term needs of vulnerable children and that each case must be judged on its merits.
The paper states: “Where birth parents cannot meet a child’s basic needs it is one of the state’s most important responsibilities to step in and ensure that children can have a childhood which keeps them safe and enables them to flourish. The right permanence option for a child will always depend on their individual needs and circumstances. If they cannot live with their birth parents, there are a number of placement types – foster care, living with a special guardian, kinship care arrangements and residential care – which can all provide the right placement.”
The DfE rightly notes in the paper that “permanence, stability, quality of care and avoidance of delay are the factors which most affect children’s welfare and their future chances in life”.
It is vital that we find the right placement for every child as early as possible, whatever it is. It may be back with the birth parents. If so, it is crucial they are given the same level of support that would be available if the child had been placed with relatives, adopters or foster carers. It is a continuing failure of the system that the level of support varies so widely between children in different types of placements.
Children do not see legal orders. They only see, and feel, the quality of the care, stability, consistency and love they get. As professionals we must not allow ourselves to be steered into silo thinking with children receiving different levels of service because they happen to be placed on a special guardianship order, not an adoption order or a section 31 care order. The education department has accepted the recommendations of the working group that TACT was part of by extending the adoption support fund to special guardianship placements. This is very welcome but the funding now looks thinly spread.
The announcement also bought news that Andrew Christie, commissioner for children’s social care in Birmingham, will be the next chair of the Adoption Leadership Board. This is an excellent appointment and will hopefully see the board lead on permanence and look at making improvements for all children in the care system, not only those who go on to be adopted.
Christie says: “Having spent four decades working with some of the most vulnerable children in our society, I know how important it is to provide them with the support and stability they need to help them realise their full potential and guide them into adulthood.”
This inclusive approach towards all vulnerable children, rather than separating them into silos, gives me hope that we could see the start of a transformation for all children in care or whose permanent home has been decided by the family courts, whatever their situation.
Break launches new Fashion Label at Norwich Fashion Week
A chance conversation during GoGoDragons! with Fiona Muller resulted in the opportunity for Break to create a new fashion label for Norwich Fashion Week and the rest as they say is history!
On Tuesday 15 March, the collection made it to the catwalk as part of Norwich Fashion Week in the Designer Show.
Staff and volunteers met before Christmas at Break’s Norwich office taking over the training room with bags and bags of clothes, materials, ribbons, bows, wool, jewellery, footwear, tents, hoola hoops – you name it and the rummage began. Fiona outlined the project which was a circus theme with eight outfits to be made.
We met again in January and the ideas that were coming together were amazing. But what were we going to call our collection? Area Retail Manager, Lorraine Mills came up with CYL – changing young lives and Jen Glas, Retail Administrator made the logo from the Break branding designed by Osbornenash and had the labels made for the outfits.
Every couple of weeks through January and February the group met with their work and the finished outfits started to appear.
Lesley Leigh, Retail Business Manager took a bag of zips in blue, pink, black and white and created the zip skirt, which she teamed up with a blue jacket with pink buttons and a leather cap, worn by the Manager of Break’s Queen’s Road, Norwich shop, Sarah Parnell.
Hilary Codd, Assistant Manager at Break’s Thetford shop made her outfit taking a gold sequin top from a dress and attaching it to a skirt made from layers of black net and silk with gold chains and gold sprayed animals, a trapeze artist with a hoola hoop in the back hem making a bustle, worn by Madara Laska.
Sue Mullan, Assistant Manager at Break Queen’s Road shop took a standard lamp shade and with a job lot of men’s ties donated to the shop. She turned it into a stunning outfit, with braces, worn with a onesie with complementary fur round the ankles and in the head dress, worn by Liz Richards, Senior Communications & Marketing Officer. Sue also created an outfit from a dress adding blue and pink netting and re-configuring a jacket with braiding, worn by Tabitha.
Sally Adams, who created Dragtabulous Delores for the Holiday Inn, Norwich North for GoGoDragons! designed two outfits on a Cosack theme. She took a skirt which she attached to a T shirt and grafted two pairs of boots together with the upper part studded with ‘jewels’ topping the outfit off was a hat with material she also used in her second outfit, a long red coat, collar and cuffs. She embroidered a horse on the back and finished the outfit with a frilly white shirt, leggings and leg warmers and a hat made our of white faux fur with a medallion. These outfits were modelled together by Sally and Jack, Communications and Marketing Officer.
Michelle Garman, Manager of Break’s North Walsham Rd shop took a bridal gown, left the train and stitched it to wide pants in black with white spots, added black roses and topped it off with a black hat. Thanks Judith for modelling this for us.
Finally, Jen Glas, Retail Administrator created the outfit featured in the EDP. She took a corset and made a pair of sequined shorts with a voile train, and a feather fascinator with white wedge boots and wore it with real sass.
This has been an amazing journey culminating in showcasing our outfits at Norwich Fashion Week, Designer Show.
We are really keen to keep the label going and hopefully have a new collection for next year!
We have just been asked to make some Break teepees – is there nothing we can not turn our hands to?
Photos available on Break FB https://www.facebook.com/BreakCharity/ Watch this space and follow for updates on FB, twitter and www.break-charity.org
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