The Foster Care Co-operative is imploring people to consider linking their lives to the fostering world and ‘Make A Connection’, during Foster Care Fortnight™. Starting on Monday 1st June, and ending on Sunday 14th June.
Foster Care Fortnight™ is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness raising campaign, led by leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network. Established for almost 20 years, it highlights the need for more foster carers to care for a range of children, with the highest demand for foster carers for older children, sibling groups and disabled children specifically.
This year’s theme is ‘Make A Connection’ and foster carers and staffing teams are encouraged to highlight their association with fostering; whether it be the length of time they have been foster carers or how many children they have supported – the connection is not always professional, it could be a neighbour, family member or another form or support network.
Jaimie, age 20, a recent Foster Care Leaver said, “I was taken into foster care at the age of 12. Most young people will feel alone and confused at some point during their childhoods; and living with the feeling that you have no family, home or hope is truly devastating.
My foster mother taught me an indispensable amount of life skills in a very short amount of time; hygiene rules - I had to brush my teeth twice a day, a bedtime routine - go to sleep earlier, and discipline - to not answer back.
I’m currently studying to go to University, and I feel so blessed that all these individuals have been so charitable to me, and have pushed me to places I never thought I could reach. Being a foster child was one of the scariest, most life changing, but positive roads my life could have taken and I am so grateful to all of the foster carers who gave me a home, and the people who work so hard to make it happen.
It saddens me to think of all the children out there who are feeling hopeless and that they do not belong - like did as a child. I hope that in the future more people can reach out and help, like I have had happen to me, because every child deserves to be happy and feel loved.”
The campaign is fortunate to receive the backing of celebrities and politicians from across the UK, including author of Tracey Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson, star of stage and screen and son of foster carers, Gareth Gates, chef Lorraine Pascal, sports personality Gabby Logan, and ministers across the UK lend their support to our campaign.
Foster Care Fortnight™ is also The Foster Care Co-operative’s opportunity to showcase the commitment, passion and dedication of our foster carers and staffing team, and campaign to improve foster care for all. Over the next two weeks, we will be publishing real life stories, different connections to fostering, case studies, and 'a day in a life of a foster carer' accounts.
Jackie Sanders, director at The Fostering Network, said: “As each year passes, we see more and more children coming into care. We need people who can open their heart, and their homes, to vulnerable children and young people who need support at a critical point in their young lives.
“A good foster carer will believe in the ambition of the children in their care in the same way they’d believe in the ambition of their own family members. A childhood is too short to waste, and foster carers can help those who haven’t had the best start begin to enjoy their life and grow into the adults that they want to be.”
The team behind 'Protecting our Children' will look at the lives of social workers and foster children in Dorset council
Following the success of the documentary series, Protecting our Children, BBC Two will next month air another fly-on-the-wall social care series, this time about the lives of foster children and the social workers and carers who look after them.
Protecting Our Foster Kids, which begins at 10pm on Sunday 7 June, will follow Dorset council’s fostering service.
Inner-dymanic of placements
It’s been made by the team behind Protecting Our Children in 2012, who will no doubt be hoping for a similarly positive response (the series was widely praised by social workers and nominated for a prestigious BAFTA).
The first episode will follow 14-year-old Amy as she movesintoo her fourth foster placement in as many years. It is also expected to show the inner-dynamic of how the placement is affected when her older sister, Natalie, is moved in for emergency care.
The BBC promises “unprecedented” access to the families, fostering service and professionals involved in the children’s lives, as well as an exploration of the complex nature of fostering teenagers “at a time of huge national shortage in carers”.
The first episode is particularly timely, airing in the middle of Foster Care fortnight, which runs from June 1–14.
Over the past few months, we have been meeting with various creative organisations, after a successful Creative Tender process. We can now proudly announce that going forward we will be working with Cynergy, who will help us with the design and production of our Foster Carer information and recruitment brochure, and other innovative opportunities.
Ian Brazier, Executive Director for The Foster Care Co-operative said, “I am delighted to welcome Cynergy’s successful bid to help us with the design and production of our new brochures. It is particularly appropriate that they, as our new partners, operate within a similar ethical framework as the FCC as well as offering both excellent design and value for money. The understanding of who and what the FCC are is key to the value of our brochures, for our potential Foster Carers and in recognising the exceptional achievements of our existing carers and children. It is clear that Cynergy have that core understanding. We look forward to working together.”
Jayne Lee, Director at Cynergy, adds “We are delighted to become a creative partner to The Foster Care Co-operative. Their team is an enthusiastic and ethical one which makes them a fantastic match for us. The FCC has a strong brand and lots to shout about so we look forward to helping them do just that, and are particularly excited to get involved at a time coinciding with Foster Care Fortnight™ (#FCF2015) when the need for more Foster Carers is hard to ignore.”
Olympic, Commonwealth and World Championship medallist Kriss Akabusi MBE has joined forces with Milton Keynes Council to support national Foster Care Fortnight, which starts on 1 June.
The former athlete, TV personality and motivational speaker gave an exclusive interview to Milton Keynes Council about his own experiences as a child in care and why he is encouraging local people thinking of becoming foster carers to take the next step.
He also shared some words of wisdom for current carers, who he says do an invaluable job for the young people they look after, as well as for the community.
"Being a foster carer is a sacred responsibility" says Kriss. "Regardless of what you see today, the person you have in your care can really make you proud in the future."
Kriss, who was placed with a number of private carers during his childhood when there were fewer regulations than there are now, has had both good and bad experiences, but says that they all made him who he is today. And this is why he is keen to help the council encourage anyone thinking of becoming a foster carer to give it a go.
He said: "If you are unsure, do it! Even if it turns out it's not for you a year or so down the line, you've had a go, you've made a difference in that time. You may take to it and if you do you'll be doing a service to the community and to a young person who will live a great life."
Reflecting on his own experiences, for Kriss, the key to a young person's success is to focus on their strengths.
Kriss added: "Find out what their personal strength is and welcome it; be positive and give them credit for what they're good at. Of course as any parent would, you must give them guidance and instil a sense of responsibility, but as well as that give them praise, focus on their talents and you'll be surprised where life will take them, thanks to you."
As part of the campaign, the Milton Keynes Council Fostering Team will be running a local 'drop in' on Wednesday 3 and Tuesday 9 June in the reception area in Saxon Court, 502 Avebury Boulevard Central Milton Keynes from 5-6.30pm.. Anyone who would like an informal chat about becoming a foster carer is welcome to go along.
Anyone who is unable to attend the drop in can call the fostering duty line 01908 253206 or visit www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/fostering
Our Foster Carers have been doing further training this week, on how to complete Life Story Books with the children and young people they care for.
This course aims to explore how direct work with children and young people can help them to understand and make sense of their past, cope with current uncertainties, develop a clearer sense of identity and contribute to plans for their future.
The course content has been developed with reference to the latest research, legislation, standards and good practice and the delivery of knowledge and skills is designed to take account of a wide range of different learning styles.
Learning outcomes will include participants being able to:
• Understand the impact of children’s earlier experiences on their capacity to express their feelings and needs
• Understand the importance of life story work for looked after children, and its emotional impact on children and all those supporting and caring for them
• Apply a holistic approach to life story work being done with the child or young person rather than for or to them
• Describe and use a range of life story work tools with children and young people
• Demonstrate improved communication skills in order to engage in a positive and meaningful way with children and young people
Some of their comments on the course:
“It’s given us a broader view on how we can help our foster daughter learn about herself, and in time her birth family.”
“I came out of the session with lots of useful material, which will stop us stumbling blindly. I know have some very good ideas, and will put them into practice.”
“Reading the sample life stories has helped me immensely, I’m looking forward to making a start.”
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but found the course very interesting. I will now be able to do a life story book and know what to put in it.”
“It was great to gain an understanding for the carers as to what they can do to start the life story work. More children in foster care should have more awareness of their life to help them understand about their heritage.”
“Well presented content, delivered with a human approach. I really enjoyed this course, and it has given me lots of food for thought that I know I will use with both children and adults.”
“I feel ready to start the children’s life story work now, which I was apprehensive about before. I now know what content to put in, relevant to their age, and know we can develop and make this more detailed as they get older – it’ll be something for them to look back on.”
An investigation has revealed that that the number of councils placing babies under a special guardianship order has tripled in the past two years.
Data obtained by the BBC, found that the number of babies being placed with family, friends or foster parents rather than being adopted has risen from 160 in 2012 to 520 in 2014.
Fostering and adoption charity TACT told the BBC that while children living with extended families could be beneficial, there are concerns over whether assessments were detailed enough.
The spokesperson for the Department for Education said: ‘Councils have told us the way they use SGOs has evolved over the 10 years since their introduction, including a rise in orders for younger children in more recent years.
‘That is why we are taking the opportunity to ensure SGOs are only used in the right circumstances, as well as reviewing the existing good practice and support available for special guardians.’
Official figures show that the number of adoptions have fallen in England, from 960 in June 2014 from 1,830 in September 2013.
The number of babies being made subject to special guardianship orders in England has tripled in two years, according to data obtained by the BBC.
The measure sees a child placed with extended family, friends or foster parents until they reach 18 instead of being adopted or fostered.
The number of babies involved rose from 160 in 2012 to 520 in 2014, while most of the children are aged four or under.
The number of children placed for adoption has been falling.
The Department for Education says it is reviewing the situation.
But a spokeswoman said the orders were effective in many circumstances.
'Party of support'
Special guardianship is a long-term placement and can be an alternative to adoption or care for children whose parents neglect or abuse them.
The process can be "quite speedy" and "is not nearly as thorough" as adopting, said BBC Today programme reporter Sanchia Berg.
Groups working with families have welcomed the fact more children can live safely with relatives or friends - but there are concerns too.
Andy Elvin, chief executive of fostering and adoption charity TACT, said children living with extended family "is a good thing".
But he said there were concerns over whether assessments were detailed enough, saying some family members may not be close to the child before the process begins.
He also raised concerns the level of "post-placement" support was not as high as it was after adoption.
Cathy Ashley, chief executive of justice charity Family Rights Group, said there was evidence that being placed with extended family was beneficial.
But she said it "isn't right that there isn't parity of support".
'Clear and confident'Hugh Thornbery, chief executive of Adoption UK, said special guardianship had provided "permanence" for many children.
He said: "The research evidence points to their success when used in the right circumstance and where the right support is provided to the carers."
But he added: "Adoption UK's concern is that the drop in adoptions could be partly as a result of over-reliance on special guardianship orders in cases where they may not be appropriate or provide the lifelong permanence that adoption provides."
The last official set of figures for adoptions in England were released in November 2014. They show that in the three months to June 2014, there were 960 initial decisions to place a child for adoption, compared with 1,830 in the three months to September 2013.
There has been a delay in publishing more up-to-date statistics because of the election, but figures cited by the Independent newspaper this month suggest the trend has continued.
The British Association for Adoption and Fostering told the BBC that recent court rulings had underlined local councils' need to consider all options, such as placing with birth relatives before seeking adoption.
The Department for Education said: "Councils have told us the way they use SGOs has evolved over the 10 years since their introduction, including a rise in orders for younger children in more recent years.
"That is why we are taking the opportunity to ensure SGOs are only used in the right circumstances, as well as reviewing the existing good practice and support available for special guardians.
"We will report back in due course."
May has already been a busy month for our Foster Carers, taking part in mandatory training to assist them to be more confident, prepared and informed for their role.
Safer Caring & Managing Allegations Training
The course provides information on safeguarding principles and legislation; covering guidelines for the realities of life in your own home, what happens if a child makes an allegation about you, someone in your family or team. Also, using examples and case studies to think about particular difficulties foster carers may face caring for children in their own home.
Foster Carer comments:
“A good all round course – spins your eyes and refreshes complacency.”
“The course gave me a lot more ‘food for thought’…reflecting on my own safer care policy and potential vulnerability. It highlighted a decision we made as a family – which was the right thing to do.”
“This course has made me think and rethink lots of my practice. The examples some of the other foster carers brought up, I hadn’t thought about.”
“You always need reassurance that you’re doing the job correct. I think all foster carers need brushing up on safe caring and allegations, you never know everything.”
Safeguarding & Child Protection Training
The course is essential for those working directly with vulnerable children. The course covers everything our foster carers need to know about what might concern them, how to respond to those concerns appropriately and to consider a safe working practise. Topics covered include legislation and guidance on safeguarding children, the recognition and types of child abuse and how to respond to concerns and what to do in the event of a disclosure.
Foster Carer comments:
“The course brought me right up to date on the latest procedures in safeguarding – also new information was very worthwhile. I found the group exercises, interacting with other foster carers, most interesting.”
“I always look to increase and review my knowledge – the course exceeded my expectations.”
“I found the going over the process of disclosures most useful, and listening to the different types of abuse. I think this will really aid the support I give in the future.”
“I enjoyed working with and talking to the other foster carers – hearing their experiences gave me good insight to support my current placement.”
“Covered all areas, especially what child protection is and how to report on it. Listening to the other carers share their experiences is always incredibly valuable.”
It is with great pride (and excitement) that we can announce that we have been shortlisted for the ‘Co-operative of the Year’ award, from our friends at Co-operatives UK.
Our nomination entry as ‘Co-operative of the Year’ can be read below. The Co-operatives UK have told us that the calibre of nominations was incredibly high, which included some of the UK’s most successful and interesting co-operatives.
The website is live, and we need your votes! As well as our members, foster carers and those we work in partnership with; members of the public are encouraged to vote. Those voting will need to enter their name and email address.
*** VOTE HERE *** http://www.uk.coop/coopoftheyear/
Nominations end on the 19th June and the winner will be announced at the Co-operative Congress being held this year on the 26th June in Birmingham.
Please spread the word & VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!
The Foster Care Co-operative (FCC) have been recruiting and expertly training foster carers for the last fifteen years, which has provided vulnerable children with safe, caring and loving homes throughout England and Wales. Making a difference to children’s lives is at the heart of FCC; this year they have been given opportunities to excel in their creativity with short story competitions and art exhibitions on national platforms, alongside continued educational support. As a not for profit organisation, children are placed with foster carers based on their needs (which are often complex and challenging), rather than to reach a financial target which happens elsewhere in the sector – which has meant the stability of placements within FCC is nine times higher than the national average. Any surplus income is re-invested to provide more foster care support, recruiting more foster carers and more training – which so far this year has included new topics such as ‘The Benefits of Social Media’. Over the last year member participation at training, support groups and events – such as Family Activity Days – has increased, making a difference to the children’s lives. FCC is achild-focused organisation and will continue to be local, loved and trusted.
The Who Cares? Trust has launched a new guide for foster carers on how to support children with special educational needs.
Children in care are nine times more likely to have special educational needs (SEN) than other children, according to the charity’s guide, while parents often call the SEN system complex and confusing – a situation that can be even worse for foster carers.
Here are some top tips from the guide on how foster carers can navigate the system.
1. Understand the types of SEN
SEN can come in many different forms, and can refer to a child with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, a child with learning difficulties, communication and interaction needs, sensory and/or physical disabilities and needs.
2. Know how to identify it
Signs may vary, but SEN can be “specific as well as wide-ranging”. A child may have difficulty with one area of learning – such as letters or numbers – but show no other signs of struggling with their education. Alternatively, they might have problems relation to children or adults, but not display other difficulties.
3. Raise your concerns
If you think the child in your care may have some form of SEN, raise concerns with professionals quickly. It’s important that it is professionally diagnosed so they can get appropriate support.
4. Know your authority’s ‘local offer’
Each local authority has to publish a ‘local offer’, which sets out support available for children and young people (0 to 25) with special needs and disabilities in the local area. Foster carers, you will be able to use the guide to find out whether there are additional support services in the area, which could benefit the child in your care.
5. Request an Education, Health and Care assessment if necessary
Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans have replaced SEN statements as the way of ensuring support for children with SEN.
You, the child (if he or she is aged between 16-25), the child’s social worker, a teacher and any other professional who thinks the child might have SEN can request an assessment.
If you and the social worker disagree over the need for an assessment, speak to the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).
6. Plan for transitions
At 16, children can stay in school, move on to college or pursue apprenticeships. If your child has an EHC plan, they will receive support until they are 25.
However, wherever they move on to from school should be planned “well in advance”, so the child knows their options and can make an informed decision
7. Know where you can get your support from
It’s important to remember you’re not on your own. A child’s teacher and school special educational needs coordinater (SENCO) should keep you informed of what the needs of the child are.
Social workers can help you with practical things, like arranging meetings. External agencies are also available, such as child and adolescent mental health professionals, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists.
Caring for a child with SEN can be stressful, it can be demanding on both your energy levels and time.
“Your desire to ‘always do the right thing’ for the child may occasionally be in conflict of your own needs to relax,” the guide points out. But don’t forget that time to relax and unwind is “vital”.
For more information, “Supporting children with special educational needs” is available on The Who Cares? Trust website.
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