Young care leavers in west Norfolk will benefit from a new housing scheme and package of support that will help them to make the transition from their children’s home to independent adult living with the opening of the first ‘Staying Close, Staying Connected’ home in Kings Lynn. The house was officially opened by Jarone Macklin-Page, age 29 (a Break care leaver and Actor) on Friday 18 May. It will be home to three young care leavers.
Staying Close, Staying Connected is a partnership between regional children’s charity Break, Norfolk County Council and Cambridgeshire County Council. The aim is to change the way young care leavers are supported, by putting a framework around them when they leave their children’s home including housing, peer-to-peer support, mentoring, help with independent living skills and emotional support. Young care leavers have traditionally been some of the most vulnerable young people in society experiencing high levels of homelessness, isolation and mental health issues. ‘Staying Close, Staying Connected’ aims to address these issues and to fulfil the role of an extended family for young care leavers, supporting them for as long as they need.
The project focuses on young people from Cambridgeshire and Norfolk but it is hoped that it will become nationally recognised as best practice in support for young care leavers moving on from residential care.
The scheme has been made possible by a grant of 1.3 million awarded to Break by the Children’s Social Care Innovation Fund which aims to develop more effective ways of supporting vulnerable children, specifically those leaving children’s homes.
The project aims to open 20 houses in the next two years supporting 70 young people across the region.
Rachel Cowdry, Director of Business Development at Break says “This is a landmark moment for this very important project that will transform radically the support for young care leavers. We are really excited to be able to work in partnership with Norfolk County Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to support some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities. Break has already been supporting our own care leavers for six years through our Moving On Team and this builds on the experience we have built up in this area. The need to support young people who have lived in care has been evident for many years. These young adults are much more likely, than their peers, to struggle in all aspects of their lives such as finding and sustaining work, physical and mental health, and building positive relationships.”
Following the release of the Children's Commissioner's Stability Index, Barnardo's has issued the following statement:
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:
"Barnardo’s knows that children who benefit from our loving, stable foster placements have often come from deeply troubled backgrounds and many have suffered neglect and physical or sexual abuse.
The number of looked after children has increased steadily over recent years and our research indicates that the complexity of cases of children in care has also risen.
Sixteen per cent of children referred to us have issues related to child sexual exploitation, 17% were unaccompanied asylum seekers or had been trafficked and 6% indicated harmful sexual behaviour.
It is essential that resources are there to support the foster carers who look after these vulnerable young people to help them avoid multiple placements. It’s also crucial that they are matched with the right family to avoid further instability.
Ongoing professional guidance must be made available as even the most motivated and resilient foster carers need the appropriate support package to help them through challenging circumstances.
As an independent fostering provider Barnardo’s recruits, trains and supports foster carers to care for some of the most vulnerable children."
This Foster Care Fortnight we've been bringing your some of our Foster Carers' stories.
This week we heard from Beverley who has been a foster carer since 1992.
We asked her about her time with the agency and as a foster carer...
What inspired you to become a foster carer, and how has it impacted your life?
At 14 years old I helped at a local children’s home at weekends and school holidays. I loved it – the kids were fab!
I went on to marry my partner and we had 3 daughters. I went into childminding when our youngest was 6 years old. We began fostering in 1992 and in 1999 we adopted a little boy who had been placed with us at 4 months old. We continued to foster after this.
Fostering doesn’t ‘impact our life’, it IS our life. We absolutely love what we do and our children have always been so supportive.
What’s your favourite thing about fostering?
Seeing a child shine and blossom is hard to put into words. Those moments when a child or young person tells you that they feel safe, that they trust you. We’re still visited by some of the young people we’ve looked after who are now independent adults, and it’s so joyous.
What’s your favourite thing about Team Fostering as an agency?
Team Fostering is a professional but relaxed agency, with friendly and child-centred staff. Other foster carers and myself feel that we can approach the staff and managers with ease, and that the children and young people in placements with us are treat as ‘Team’s Children’.
The agency has a very good reputation for doing the very best for children, and our kids tell us the same thing.
What advice would you give to somebody who was thinking about becoming a foster carer?
The role is a life changing role that requires commitment and staying power to overcome the challenging moments. But, the good times and achievements make the few tough times just seem like a tiny blip and I could never see a day not fostering.
Team Fostering has amazing staff and truly the best foster carers with great training opportunities. If you become a foster carer, my advice would be to enjoy it!
Rebecca and Gareth – TACT Foster Carers since 2014, Wales
Seven years ago, despite only being in our 20’s with two small children, my husband Gareth and I decided we wanted to foster children in care. Some people might have thought we were mad to take on that extra responsibility, but for us it was one of the best, most rewarding things we have done and continue to do, as a family.
We already knew about what was involved with fostering because Gareth’s father was a foster carer for with TACT, so we knew which agency we wanted to contact and what to expect.
When the time came to finally have our first placement – two sisters aged two and six – we felt a little nervous. But we need not have worried. They were with us for two weeks during summer holidays and we had a lovely time together.
We are now long term fostering two boys aged 14 and 17. And because Gareth’s father recently retired as a foster carer after 15 years, we are also caring for his 13 year old former foster daughter.
A house full of teenagers can be challenging, but it’s good fun as there is always something going on. At first we were nervous about caring for teenagers, due to a lack of experience, but we soon found out it’s a great match for us. They are always open to new activities and experiences – we enjoy going rock climbing, go-karting, or just swimming in a leisure centre together.
Our birth children, who are now 8 and 10, also enjoy these family days out and making their older foster siblings feel welcome. I think fostering had made our own children more resilient and accepting of others. Our oldest Ruby was fairly quiet before we started fostering and now she is a confident, funny young girl. Our youngest Georgia has developed her loving, caring side and she always makes sure everyone is involved in activities. For us fostering is not a job. Our foster children are our extended family.
What I love most about fostering is seeing the progress in the children we care for. The change we have witnessed in the 17-year-old boy who has been with us for two years has been such a pleasure to watch. At first there was a lot of anger inside of him. He would go out without telling us where and who he was with, and when he was home, he would argue with us or just slam the door. He was missing time at school and wasn’t really interested in education. However, with time he began to trust us, and now he lets us know every time he goes out, calls us when he is running late, and talks about his friends with us. He is really engaging with college as well. During parents evening his tutor said he couldn’t believe the change in him. He has a built a particularly lovely relationship with Gareth, as before he came to live with us he’d never had a male role model in his life.
Thanks to the flexibility of our jobs, we’ve managed to stay employed while fostering; I work part time as a teaching assistant and Gareth runs a business from home. We appreciate that not many people are able to continue working while fostering, but the flexibility of our jobs means we are always on our toes ready for when times get challenging. However, when they do, I know I have an excellent partner and fantastic support from TACT.
Read more foster carer stories here.
Fostering is a life changing decision for many people.. however it can be a truly rewarding experience. Our Foster Carers, Martin and Anne Wilkinson, tell us about why they took the leap into to fostering for us….
“For a long time we talked about Fostering. We have one son and each evening after his bed time story we would tuck a happy little boy up in bed, he knew he was loved, his tummy full and most of all he knew he was safe. We knew that life isn’t like that for many children and we would see the adverts on the TV depicting children with sad faces and squalid surroundings suffering at the hands of those who should have been giving the love and protection that all children deserve.
We knew that we could provide a safe and caring environment but felt that in order to do our best for the children entrusted to us, we would need the expertise of professionals who could help us to understand and deal with the complex needs of these children, and who would be there to offer training and support to us. We contacted an independent fostering agency “The Children’s Family Trust” (CFT) who visited us in our home and talked frankly about the reality of being foster carers. They explained the challenges and also the rewards of being a foster family.
We became foster carers five years ago, and the reality of everyday life for many of the children in our care shocked us. We soon realised the value of the training and support which enabled us to help and change the lives of the children in our care. While some carers take children for life we made the decision to become short term foster carers which means the children can be with us from a few weeks to 18 months. We have so far looked after over 20 children ranging from a young vulnerable mother and her new born baby to different sibling groups of all ages. The reasons for them being in care are varied as are their experiences and individual needs, but just imagine how it must feel to one day find yourself taken from everything familiar in your life and being placed in the care of strangers. The early days are very difficult for many children until they start to trust us and feel safe with us. This is where the training and support from our agency becomes invaluable and understanding why a child may be presenting in a particular way is the key to giving the appropriate help, also knowing that if needed 24 hours a day we can speak to a member of our support team who will give support and advice and if we required would attend in person.
Being a foster carer is not always easy but the rewards are great as we see these children relax into a home life where they don’t have to worry anymore and can concentrate on being a child. They start to do better at school and learn that they are important and wanted.
Martin and Anne Wilkinson.
If you would like to know more about fostering for us, please contact us through our website or call 0300 111 1945.
Chief Executive of St Christopher’s Fellowship, Ron Giddens, has announced his decision to retire in 2018.
Ron began working at St Christopher’s in 2000 as a Director responsible for our services before taking over as Chief Executive in 2016.
During Ron’s time at St Christopher’s the charity has grown from a small provider of residential and housing services in London to a significantly larger, specialist and more diverse organisation working across South East England, the West Midlands and on the Isle of Man providing supported accommodation, children’s homes, fostering, education and specialist support services to children in care, leaving care and on the edge of care.
Ron said: “Over the past 18 years I have been enormously privileged to work with dedicated colleagues right across the organisation, delivering and supporting amazing services to many children, young people and their families. This dedication, expertise and passion is so evident to anyone who visits our services and talks to our staff.”
“Thank you to everyone for your support and your continued commitment in providing services we can all be proud of to the children, young people and their families that we work with.”
Chair of Trustees Hanif Barma said: “Ron has brought new energy to St Christopher’s as Chief Executive. He’s led innovative initiatives, worked with Trustees and the Senior Leadership Team to create a strong and positive culture, and improved financial stability. His experience and enthusiasm will be missed, and I will be looking for his successor to continue where Ron leaves off.”
Although retiring as CEO, Ron will continue in a part-time capacity, undertaking specific areas of work to enable a smooth transition for his successor with the support of St Christopher’s leadership team.
The recruitment process will take place over the coming months, with the aim of having a successor in post by the end of the year.
Break featured in Sunday Times Best Companies list 2018
Regional children, young people and family's charity Break features in the Sunday Times Best Companies List, ranking number 15 in the Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to work for. The list, which features not for profit organisations from across the UK, recognises the charity’s commitment to personal development, family friendly working and a culture of celebrating the achievements of the young people and families it supports.
Scoring highly in the following areas, my manager, personal growth and my team, Break has also achieved 2 star accreditation for outstanding levels of workplace engagement. The charity works in a number of different areas including services for children in care, young people leaving care, children and young people with disabilities and families who need support.
The Best Companies List is based on a series of employee engagement surveys and captures how people genuinely feel about working for their organisations.
82% agreed that Break offer staff a comprehensive training plan with a range of mandatory and developmental programmes available. Break has its own accreditation centre to deliver work-based qualifications at levels 3 and 5 enabling personal growth for staff.
Break works hard to ensure that employees have a positive work/life balance and that consideration is given to colleague’s wellbeing in recognition of the challenging nature of some of the work. In the survey, 92% agreed that their team is fun to work with.
Break is run on strong values where employees have a clear sense of purpose and understanding of the direct impact their work will have on the children, young people and families they support. In 2018, the charity celebrates 50 years of changing young lives.
Hilary Richards, CEO of Break says, “This is a great achievement for our staff who work hard to create a great working environment. Break strives to provide staff with benefits to enhance their working and home life including flexible working and school hour contracts. It also shows our workforce are motivated by our overall ethos, to support vulnerable children, young people and families.”
Member News: The Foster Care Co-operative "A model of how to be authentic as a non-profit: values, purpose and the work of the Foster Care Co-operative"
I had the pleasure recently to visit the Foster Care Co-operative, whose head office is based in Malvern, and which is a vibrant and successful non-profit brimming with purpose and values.
The co-op was set up in 1999 by Laurie Gregory after 30 years working with local authorities as a senior social worker and finishing as a Deputy Director of Children’s Services. Over that time, he also had personal experience of fostering, looking after a child with disabilities for 13 years. He saw the need to offer an alternative to private and venture capital funded agencies as foster care was increasingly outsourced to the market.
“I instinctively did not wish to start a ‘for profit’ company and, after meetings with my Chamber of Commerce and invaluable advice from Co-operatives UK, I chose the model of a multi-stakeholder co-op” he explained. “We have grown slowly by bringing new people to fostering.”
The staff are unionised with the GMB, and it is a stable and happy team; it was a pleasure to meet. There is a sense of dignity across the work, in the central team, across the foster carers and in their contact with the children who are looked after.
More widely, foster care is in difficult times. The contracting model of the outsourced market focuses less on the issue – the development of young people – and more on the management of the issue. With pressures on budgets, one of the challenges that commissioners face is matching cost and quality. The shift to look for the lowest cost, scoring less for quality can then generate other costs and unintended consequences, including worse outcomes for looked after children (an added challenge is the tendency of local authority commissioners to take an annualised view of budgets rather than look further out, planning more effectively over the years that a child might be with a foster carer).
“I have been to meetings where commissioners talk of unit costs, or annual unit costs. Call them children please, I say” comments the co-op’s Director, Ian Brazier.
In the current market, with a cut down model, national agencies are dominant – structured and financed through loans via Luxembourg to cut taxes, with taxable profits lost in the repayment of loans to the same owners. It was to understand the costs of a quality service that has been at the heart of a recent government stocktake of fostering (in England) – the Foster Care Co-operative was one of a handful of agencies to share data on an open book basis, to help them do that.
The co-op has contracts with 54 local authorities, but it refuses to bid for contracts that are set up to deliver a quality that is lower than the values of the co-op would countenance.
An example is the dedicated resource the coop employs to support foster carers with education and schooling for the children. One young person said: “The support my brother received from our carers has resulted in him going to university. After visiting him there, I think going to university is something I would like to experience too.”
The two outstanding indicators of the co-op’s success are the length of time spent with a carer and the outcomes in terms of what children go on to do when they reach adulthood. The average for a placement nationally is just four to six months. With the Foster Care Co-operative, the average is three and a half years. And every child that has left the co-op in recent years has gone on into work or education.
While foster care has to be seen as a later stage of support for children, stepping in where families can’t cope, the power of co-operation still makes a difference. The co-op is collaborating with other non-profits in the sector, working on the basis of shared values, and has launched a successful training programme in a joint venture with increasing take-up, to spread good practice. It is also piloting, with the local university, a programme to bring in foster carers with disabilities into the sector – a great potential example of asset-based social care.
The Foster Care Co-operative is an authentic non-profit, led by values and shaped by the participation of those involved across what is a vital service for young people in need.
Young People at Heart will be opening an office in Yorkshire in May 2018!
Following the success of the Essex and Herefordshire offices, Young People at Heart have decided to open an office in Barnsley, Yorkshire. Sue Williams, an experienced and well respected Registered Manager in the region will lead the office, which is currently applying for its own Ofsted registration, and will initially support foster carers and young people in the wider Barnsley, Doncaster, Leeds and Sheffield areas.
Gary Cox, Founder of Young People at Heart, said the not-for-profit and family ethos of the organsiation had found favour with Local Authorities and foster carers in the areas where Young People Heart was established and it was now time to offer the organsiation’s services, and ethos of putting young people before profit, in the Yorkshire area. Gary said that with Sue’s reputation for providing an outstanding service, he was confident Young People at Heart would soon start to achieve great outcomes for young people in care in Yorkshire.
If you would like to be a foster carer with Young People at Heart, whether you are new to fostering or you are an existing foster carer with or without a young person in placement, please get in touch with us via the ‘contact us’ form on this website, or call us and we’ll happily to talk to you about joining the Young People at Heart family.
Every year, Co-operatives UK welcome nominations for Co-operative of the Year.
As the only not-for-profit co-operative operating in foster care in the UK, we thought we would go for the Inspiring Co-operative of the Year award.
You can vote for us here. Simply click on the Inspiring Co-operative of the Year category, and give a few reasons as to why you are voting.
Nominations close on 29th April.
Thank you for your support!
News & Policy
News & Policy from our member agencies, the fostering sector and the world of child protection and safeguarding as a whole.
Browse News Categories
Browse News Archives