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!
Tiffany and her younger brother Callum came into care after experiencing severe neglect. They were initially placed with the same foster family but spent a lot of time arguing with each other, even though they said they did not want to be separated.
Things were not working out in their current foster family so their social worker needed to find a new home. For a short time, the siblings were placed with different sets of foster carers so that their individual needs to be identified. That’s when Tiffany first came to live with St Christopher’s foster carers.
Tiffany was placed with a foster family where the main foster carer was a man. He built a trusting relationship with her based on boundaries and safe care. This was the first time Tiffany had experienced a positive, caring male role model, so she was able to address her previous unsafe behaviour around males.
To begin with, Tiffany wasn’t allowed to go out on her own unsupervised as she didn’t understand ‘stranger danger’. Gradually the foster carers showed Tiffany how to keep herself safe outside the home and that they trusted her, so she was able to do more things independently. Because they praised Tiffany when she behaved in a positive way, she responded by sticking to the boundaries.
Being trusted by her carers boosted Tiffany’s confidence and helped her to flourish in other areas. She started a new school, made strong friendships, and joined a gymnastics group.
A few weeks later, Callum moved in with the same St Christopher’s foster family as Tiffany. He had been struggling at school, so the main foster carer made sure to sit with him every evening to help with homework. The carer identified triggers that made Callum more likely to give up or become angry when doing homework, and worked with the school to develop tactics that would make tasks more manageable.
Callum and his foster carer also discovered a shared love of football and golf. Playing and watching these sports has taught Callum about discipline and sportsmanship – sometimes it is OK to be angry, but it does not need to ruin relationships with people you care about and who care about you. He now uses sport as a way of safely expressing himself and using up his bags of energy.
Living together with their new foster family has strengthened Callum and Tiffany’s sibling bond. The foster carers make sure they both receive individual attention and have been consistent in their messages, so the children have settled in well.
Foster carers for siblings
Foster children usually need their own bedroom, even if they are siblings. Sometimes, if a foster carer with more than one spare room isn’t available, brothers and sisters are separated.
Things worked out for Callum and Tiffany, but we are looking for more people with multiple spare bedrooms who want to become foster parents. Could you be one of them?
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.
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.
Fostering has been in the news a lot recently. We could mention the recent stories concerning the ‘cost’ of placing children with independent fostering agencies to be wildly more expensive than if the child is placed with in-house local authority carers.
Other stories have tarred all independent fostering agencies with the same brush, unfortunately labelling them as organisations who make huge profits from the misery of children.
The Foster Care Co-operative is an independent not-for-profit fostering agency. It is unique in the UK due to its co-operative status – giving staff, carers and children a voice in the organisation. We are a member of the Fairer Fostering Partnership that brings together ethical, not-for-profit fostering organisations. We operate simply to run the service – so any surplus income is reinvested to provide more support and training for our carers. We are a transparent, honest and fully child focussed fostering agency.
We thought we would put together a list of myths vs. facts, at least from our own approach to providing foster care. Most are concerned with the perceived barriers to fostering, but there are some about the sector – that will hopefully dispel any general misconceptions.
Myth: I need qualifications to foster.
Fact: you don’t actually require any qualifications, as full training called ‘Skills to Foster’ will be provided. This training will take place part the way through your assessment to become a foster carer. Then, if you are approved, you will have the opportunity to undertake further training to widen your skill set.
Myth: I can’t foster as a single person.
Fact: you can be married, single, living together, in a civil partnership or divorced.
Myth: I have to own my own house to foster.
Fact: you can rent or own – just as long as your home is safe, welcoming and comfortable.
Myth: I can’t foster as I have a regular job.
Fact: you can foster and work – but a certain amount of flexibility would be helpful as school or nursery runs may have to be undertaken.
Myth: The Foster Care Co-operative is not-for-profit, so I won’t be paid as a carer.
Fact: we pay a professional carer fee. Any surplus income after expenses is ploughed straight back into providing more support and training for our carers.
Myth: I have my own children, so I can’t foster.
Fact: Many carers have their own children – we carefully match a child to your household. Having your own children gives you valuable childcare experience that could be useful when a child is placed with you.
Myth: I heard that LGBT people can’t foster.
Fact: anyone can potentially become a carer, regardless of sexual orientation. Fostering should be inclusive and diverse.
Myth: I need childcare experience to foster.
Fact: although childcare experience would be beneficial, full training called ‘Skills to Foster’ is provided. You may actually have a certain amount of experience looking after or interacting with a friend’s child!
Myth: I’m 60, I’m too old to foster!
Fact: age is just a number! A health assessment, that all potential foster carers have to take as part of the application process, will help determine if you are physically able to foster.
Myth: I can’t foster children with different religious beliefs to my own
Fact: differing religious beliefs should not be a barrier - as long as you respect a child’s beliefs if they are different to yours. The most important thing is providing a safe and caring home environment.
Myth: all independent fostering agencies profit from foster care.
Fact: some agencies do profit from foster care, but there are a number of charity and not-for-profit agencies that constantly reinvest and don’t make a commercial profit – including The Foster Care Co-operative!
Myth: it’s more expensive to place a child with an independent agency than within a local authority.
Fact: some independent agencies charge more than others, but the cost to place a child has to include the running costs of the organisation such as staffing, insurance and premises costs. Local authorities still have to pay these overheads, but when cost comparisons are made, they aren’t included – making the cost to place children with local authority carers seem a lot cheaper.
Myth: I think I am too young to foster.
Fact: You can actually apply to be a foster carer when you are 21 :-)
Myth: I can’t foster because I have pets.
Fact: A lot of children love pets, so other than any known allergies or fears, pets can be a good thing!
Myth: I can't foster as I have a disability.
Fact: As long as you are able to care for a child, a disability shouldn’t preclude you from fostering. The Foster Care Co-operative are currently participating in some research aimed at breaking down possible barriers that may stop disabled people from considering or becoming foster carers.
Myth: I can’t foster as I live in a flat.
Fact: The type of building you live in is irrelevant, as long as you have a spare bedroom and the flat is generally suitable for a child this shouldn’t be a barrier to fostering.
We hope that this has put the record straight in many areas concerned with the fostering task. You can talk to us about any of the above points by calling 0800 0856 380, or you can contact us here.
If you are interested in fostering, and want to receive an application pack with no commitment, you can complete our short preliminary form which is here.
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