The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) has been rated as Outstanding by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) for its fostering service in the South West of England. That is the highest valuation that Ofsted can bestow on a fostering service.
Ofsted described TACT’s ‘highly effective service’ and outcomes for their looked after children as ‘better than those of children and young people receiving a similar service elsewhere, and that it helps them to prepare for their eventual independence and increases their life chances.’
TACT was lauded for its support of its foster carers, with Ofsted reporting that ‘all carers receive high quality therapeutic and social work support, beyond what would normally be expected. This, together with bespoke training, has a direct positive impact on the children and young people because it helps to sustain those who are struggling with their behaviour in their placements.’
Scott Ruddock, TACT Executive Director of Children’s Services said: ”We are delighted by the praise received from Ofsted for the work of our South West fostering service, and the outstanding grade given. This has been achieved by the hard work and remarkable dedication of our staff. And Ofsted found our foster carers to be very skilled and well supported, resulting in the children they look after being happy, healthy and developing well.”
There are thousands of children in the South West who cannot be looked after by their own family. This could be because of illness or family breakdowns or because they have experienced some form of neglect. TACT is actively looking for foster carers across the South West to provide care and support to these children.
If you have a spare bedroom, a caring nature and energy to provide a child with a happy home, we believe you could become an amazing foster carer!
We particularly want to hear from prospective carers in Bath, Bristol, Somerset, North Somerset, Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire.
We would ideally like to hear from people who would like to care for children aged five years and over, sibling groups or children with complex needs.
If you want to know more about fostering please call us on 0330 123 2250.
A huge congratulations to those who received their GCSE results today, especially TACT’s young people who have excelled.
CJ from Yorkshire achieved two A’s in English and Biology as well as nine B’s in his other subjects. He has been in his placement since 2013.
TB, a young girl who has been in a TACT placement since 2014, obtained eleven GSCEs in total, including B’s in Maths, Welsh, Welsh Bac and Business Skills. Her carers had provided additional tuition as it was important to TB to prove that young people in care can do well.
B’s carers were ecstatic with her GSCE results, which consisted of a B in Art and Design, as well as C’s in Maths, English, Science and Religious Studies. B has had 16 placements since being in care, but has been in her current home for three years.
J has an un-diagnosed learning disability and has attended a school for children with disabilities for the past 3 years whilst being in placement. He has achieved entry level grades in Maths, English, Science, Food Studies, ICT, and Religious Studies. J also achieved a GCSE in Art and Design, grade D. He was accepted into college and will be starting in September.
SW obtained a number of GCSEs, including D’s in Maths, English Language and Art and Design, as well as a C in Home Economics. She also gained an A in one of her Home Economics controlled assessments.
H, an unaccompanied asylum seeker, came to the UK in 2015. He got grade 1 for GCSE Maths, and although he is waiting for the rest of his results, he is staying on in sixth form to do Level 2 in Engineering.
These students are among the first to tackle the new GCSEs, with School Standards Minister Nick Gibb claiming that they will “improve opportunities and the life chances of millions of young people.”
Our TACT young people have proven that being in care does not make you less likely to succeed, but the love and support of a foster family will help you go above and beyond.
I am a foster carer and I write on behalf of fostering and adoption charity TACT (The Adolescent and Chidren’s Trust).
When I began fostering in 2009 I could not have imagined how it would change my life in so many ways.
It was in February 2011, after my marriage had ended, that I found myself on a TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) foster training course, seated next to a knowledgeable and cheerful single foster dad called Dave. We instantly got on and together we got through the course.
Not long after that I had to be re-assessed as a single foster carer, so I could continue caring for the young person with me. The process seemed daunting, so my TACT social worker suggested I contact a fellow carer, who was going through the same reassessment, for support. That carer turned out to be the very same Dave I had met on the course. We exchanged supportive emails and both successfully got through the assessment.
In October, I attended another TACT course and was very pleased to see Dave there as I had become fond of him. The following weekend we went on a date, and that was it, BAM!
The first three years of our relationship were part time as we lived 60 miles apart and had kids and foster children to consider. My fosterling moved on in April 2012 so I resigned from TACT to continue my job in a solicitors. I commuted three times a week to be with Dave when my children were at their dad’s. Dave still had his fosterlings, and at weekends and holidays we spent time as a large “family” and went to bonfire displays, days out and family parties. We had many challenges to face with the kids falling out, vying for attention, growing up, getting into scrapes and the odd personality clash, but we worked hard at getting through those times to do the best that we could for them. Our relationship just got stronger.
In October 2014, Dave, who had cancer several years before, was re-diagnosed. We were told it had spread to several parts of his body and to “enjoy the next 12 months”. Devastating news, but we were given hope with a drug trial that was available. We decided not to tell the children until after the treatment. Dave had been fostering the same children for 11 years, and knowing them so well, he felt they would find it difficult to cope, especially as we didn’t know ourselves what was going to happen.
Dave made a bucket list of things to do “just in case”. The first was for us to get married. We did it three weeks later in November, wearing jeans, with close family and friends, including our ‘Cilla Black’ TACT social worker who had brought us together. Our families pulled together to make sure the children were none the wiser about the illness.
Dave started treatment on 2 January 2015. By then, the older fosterling had moved on so we decided once treatment finished, Dave and his remaining foster child - 14 year old J, would move to Manchester so we could properly begin our married life, be a family and deal with whatever was coming together.
In March, a family member looked after J, while we struck off number two on the bucket list - a three-night honeymoon in Venice. Shortly after, his results came back and his tumours had shrunk and were almost undetectable. Happy days! We started our life together on a wonderfully positive note.
With the children now living under the same roof there were definitely problems and issues to iron out but we managed. By July, we had a new school for J, everyone was settled into a routine, and we got on with living life as a family. We had a holiday to Majorca in August, the first time J had been abroad and the first time we had all been away together. So again, there were challenges and clashes but nothing we couldn’t handle together.
Our first Christmas as a family came and went and life was good. However, in March 2016 our world came crashing down when Dave found another lump. For the next few months, Dave tried a new treatment which seemed to work, until more lumps appeared. It was a rollercoaster, but he never complained. He was such a committed step and foster dad, remaining strong so that the kids had no idea what he was going through.
In December, Dave’s eyesight started failing and just after Christmas we were told that the cancer had spread to his brain. We knew it was time to tell J and naturally he was devastated. Dave had been a father to him for 13 years since he was just two. We played the harsh reality down a little, but also tried to be realistic to prepare him for what would eventually happen.
Dave looked well during treatment, no-one would have known anything was wrong apart from him wearing an eye patch. He called himself Captain Dave Sparrow, still always being hopeful, still making us laugh.
In March 2017, Dave deteriorated suddenly and within 24 hours we were told nothing more could be done. I brought him home. Our two families came together and stayed at the house and between us all, we supported J, the kids and each other. We spoke about whether J wanted to be there when Dave passed, which he did, so we supported him during Dave’s final hours and because Dave’s sister is a nurse we had the medical answers to his questions. More than ever, J just needed to know he was safe, secure and supported.
Dave passed away peacefully with us all around him on 31 March. He was the most amazing man I have ever met. With regard to J, Dave dedicated every inch of his being to giving him the best of all his time, guidance, laughs and love and I am carrying on Dave’s legacy, to ensure that J grows into the fantastic man his foster dad was.
The Department of Eduction (DfE) has awarded TACT up to £1.2 million over three financial years, to support the commissioning out of Peterborough City Council’s (PCC) fostering, adoption and permanency service to TACT. Peterborough and TACT propose to secure permanency without delay for all children and young people in care, or who may become looked after, by offering children and families the same high levels of assessment, preparation, training, support and review regardless of legal status.
This project is unique as only PCC have contracted out their permanence services so this will be the first opportunity for an outside agency to implement an entirely fresh approach to supporting families who look after children who cannot live with their birth parents. By contracting out to TACT who have a sole focus on children in care, the service will not suffer from the higher call of child protection services for organisational resources and managerial expertise and time. Taken together this service makes it more likely that more vulnerable children will benefit from stable, loving and permanent homes.
The funding comes from the DfE’s children’s social care innovation programme.
Today is a landmark day for the provision of foster care in Wales. The three biggest charitable providers of foster care – TACT, Action for Children and Barnardo’s, have come together to launch a new initiative that will improve outcomes for children in care.
Under the name of ‘The Charitable Fostering Partnership‘ the organisations involved are committed to working together to tackle the big issues that the sector are facing in Wales, including the increasing dominance of the ‘for profit’ sector in foster care.
A special launch event will be taking place today from 12.30pm at the National Assembly of Wales with support from prominent figures within the Welsh Government and Local Authorities.TACT, Action for Children and Barnardos will be presenting the aims of the new partnership.
Watch the full event live here
The Commissioner for Wales – Sally Holland, has given her backing to a consortium of leading Welsh charities established to improve collaborative working and raise the profile of the charitable fostering sector in Wales.
In a supporting statement Sally Holland said:
“I’m delighted to hear that Barnardo’s, Action for Children and TACT will be working more closely together, and pleased to note their desire to work in collaboration rather than competition to provide the best provision in foster care.
We are entering new territory in Wales with a National Fostering Framework and I know that the third sector will work in collaboration with local and national government to develop an enhanced foster care sector in Wales.
Young people have talked to me about their concerns about profit being made out of their care. I’m therefore particularly pleased to support a desire to reduce or eliminate for-profit provision in foster services. I am also pleased that the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee are looking into quality and value in looked after children’s services and I will be encouraging them to look at issues of profit in this sector.”
Member News: TACT - “I can remember the exact day we decided to stop talking about fostering and start doing it”
My wife Sue and I had talked about fostering for many years before taking it up seven years ago. Neither of us were raised by our birth parents, I was adopted as a baby and was very lucky to become part of a very loving family. Sadly for Sue, she had a very chaotic childhood, and was in and out of foster care for most of her early years.
We have always thought we would like to help young children probably for different reasons. I felt that I would like to give something back because I felt I had been so lucky in my childhood and Sue felt that she would like to provide the sort of care and love that her early years were so short of.
Looking back, I can remember the exact day when Sue and I decided to stop talking about fostering and start doing it. We were sat in a very empty and quiet house on the morning of the funeral of my step-father and we were talking about how the old house was always so full of life and noise, with all the children and family gathering there, but now with mum in a nursing home and the old boy having gone, it was a bit sad. We both said how lovely it would be to hear the laughter and noise of youngsters again and at that point we saw an advert in a local paper for TACT and that is how it all began.
The application process and panel meeting came as no shock or problem, the team at TACT had told us exactly what to expect and were there to help us through every stage.
When the time came to welcome our first placement we were very excited, but it has to be said we were also nervous. We learned that the young lady about to join us had been at numerous placements in the last year or so and could be described as having somewhat challenging behaviour. But after several years of school, police and court visits and appearances she came out the other end and into independence with a reasonable set of GCSE’s and a slightly less angry approach to life.
She now lives with her boyfriend and we miss her enormously. The bond between her and Sue is still very strong and we are now Grandma and Granddad to her two-year-old little girl. We have an enormous feeling of pride for her. Admittedly fostering has been very challenging at times, but when you are handed a little baby and hear the words “go to granddad”, there are simply no words!
We currently have two little men as a work in progress. One is a teenager and has been with us for six years and one a ten year old lad joined us three years ago. Both of them are long term placements and came from very chaotic backgrounds. They can at times be rather challenging, but we wouldn’t be without them.
There is just on more member of our extended family, a young lady who came to stay with us for a respite break some four years ago and has visited most years since then and still stays in touch regularly.
Sue and I are a good fostering team. While she works as a part-time hair stylist at a local hairdressing salon and I am the stay at home ‘lead carer’, we very much play an equal part in caring for the boys. We have an excellent support network in TACT and our two grown up sons who are back-up carers when needed.
Fostering is pretty much as we imagined it would be, we both have a way of planning our lives around the boys.
Probably our best advice to offer new foster carers would be to learn as much about attachment disorders as they can, and possibly more importantly, talk to people who are already fostering. Oh and hope for the best but plan for the worse.
Steve and Sue
TACT Foster Carers
Ahead of next week’s General Election we are launching our manifesto, asking policymakers and public servants to bring the needs of children in care and care leavers to the forefront of social policy.
At TACT we believe that the voice of children and young people should always be heard in the design of policy for children in care. As such, the proposals included in our manifesto were shaped by the children, young people and foster carers at TACT, and are designed to help the state fulfil its responsibility as corporate parent to so many vulnerable children.
Click here to read TACT’s Manifesto for Children in Care and Care Leavers
In addition to our manifesto, TACT’s Senior Policy Advisor Jasmine Ali has produced a briefing that looks at the manifesto commitments made by each of the main UK wide political parties on issues pertinent to children in care and care leavers: early years, schools, further education, and children’s services.
The briefing covers the manifesto pledges on children’s services from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties, including the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru relevant manifesto proposals.
Click here to read the full Manifesto Briefing
For more information about TACT’s Manifesto or briefing contact:email@example.com
FFP Member News: Delegated authority is good for children and good for local authorities – but social workers are too often failing to empower foster carers
Article about delegated authority published in Community Care by TACT CEO Andy Elvin
Delegated authority was introduced in 2013 and allows foster carers to make everyday decisions about the children and young people they care for, just as parents do.
When it was introduced, the Department for Education (DfE) was clear in its initial guidance that day-to-day decision making should be delegated to a looked-after child’s carers “unless there is a valid reason not to do so”.
However, while there are examples of good practice, at TACT we still regularly see situations where this does not occur. The consequences of social workers not properly and fully delegating authority are felt by children, young people and their carers.
Why delegated authority is important
The idea is that foster carers can agree to their foster children going to friends’ houses for sleepovers, sign consent forms for school trips and activities without involving the social worker.
All of this is vital as it removes daily reminders for children that they are “different” because they are in care. Nothing is more frustrating for foster carers than having to say to children: “Sorry, we’ll just have to check with the social worker.”
Children’s social workers are hard pressed and hard worked. They neither need to, nor should want to, get involved in the everyday life of foster children.
Foster carers are thoroughly assessed, committed, caring and expert parents. We trust them to look after some of the UK’s most vulnerable children 24/7. Not trusting them with the decisions regarding their child is nonsensical.
When children are placed under section 20 or care proceedings are ongoing, the views of the birth parents are equally important.
However, unless there is a valid reason why not, it should be delegated to the foster carers to liaise with birth parents to check they are okay with the everyday things and that they are kept informed.
Inserting the social worker as go-between or gatekeeper is a waste of the social worker’s time and is likely to cause delay and frustration on all sides.
In truth, we find that birth parents rarely block permissions. It is more often the case that social workers do not prioritise getting quick agreements.
Where the child is on a section 31 care order then the local authority has legal parental responsibility, and can fully delegate authority to the foster parents.
This is important as foster carers never have parental responsibility for a fostered child, so they can only take decisions about the fostered child where the local authority and/or the parents have delegated that authority to them.
Clarifying who is best placed to take everyday decisions depends on many factors: the young person’s age, views, legal status and care plan, the parents’ views and the experience and views of the foster carers. Collaboration and consultation are essential for a successful working partnership.
Decisions about delegation of authority should, of course, take account of the looked-after child’s views. Consideration must be given as to whether a child is of sufficient age and understanding to take some decisions themselves.
Making a difference
How’s this excellent idea working out?
Where this is making a difference for many carers is with the little things.
This includes being able to sign for a school trip so the child, like almost all of their peers, can take the form back the next day. Going on sleepovers is no longer a big deal. Things like this really have made a big difference.
Where it is properly used it’s a real positive for the children in foster care.
For example, a placement recently made with TACT involved a 10-year-old boy. The local authority social worker came prepared at the placement-planning meeting and immediately delegated reasonable and proportionate authority to our carers and recorded this in the placement agreement.
The child is very active and enjoys sports, and because they had delegated authority, our carers could support him to start making good links locally in their area and enrolled the boy at a local sports club. The child loves spending time there and is settling well and developing friendships at the club. Our foster carers feel empowered and valued by the local authority.
Sadly, for every one story we hear about delegated authority working as it should we hear about three where it is not.
We recently had a new placement for an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child. The local authority social worker arrived at the placement meeting without paperwork. Our staff carry copies of all placement paperwork as a back-up for occasions such as this.
However, the social worker refused to sign off on delegated authority because he did not believe he had the power to do so. He tried to call his manager but could not reach them. The social worker took the paperwork away but failed to return.
Our carers then had to seek emergency medical treatment over the weekend for their young person. A consultant advised immediate surgery was necessary but medical staff refused to proceed until they had something physically signed, this had to be done via the emergency duty team.
This all caused unnecessary delay and distress for the young person and our carers.
Another carer household of TACT’s had two girls placed with them. Both were booked on a residential arts course, the money was all agreed from their education allowance, and the carers were happy to take the lead in organising the trip as the social worker was overwhelmed with other work.
As it was a 5-day course, the foster carers did not have the delegated responsibility from the local authority to sign off on it. They sent all the paper work to the social worker in good time and reminded them by phone and email. However, the social worker never got around to signing the consent form so the girls missed the course. This all could have been avoided had responsibility been delegated.
Finally, we look after a young asylum seeker who had a great sporting opportunity, which he earned through his talent and hard work.
The opportunity was to train with a professional sports club and would have helped his integration into the local community and his self-esteem. However, the local authority didn’t sort out an identity document for him so he couldn’t attend.
This last example is a common issue with passports for British children being another frequent bone of contention. Our experience is that when foster carers are delegated the authority to obtain such documentation then it happens.
Delegated authority is empowering, good for children and good for hard-pressed social workers. All local authorities need to return to the basic idea that it is automatically agreed unless there is a valid reason why not.
It is ludicrous that we trust our foster carers to look after vulnerable children 24/7 but don’t trust them to make everyday parenting decisions.
Perhaps the regulations should be strengthened and enforced by independent reviewing officers at the first review to make sure that defensive practice, overworked social workers and maddening bureaucracy don’t curtail any more opportunities for our children.
I always knew I would embrace fostering disabled children because my son had been born with severe disabilities. Sadly he died when he was just six, leaving a huge gap in my life.
My fostering journey started more than 25 years ago, when my first husband and I worked as child minders. We began offering respite to children with special needs and we so enjoyed having the children in our home. Despite having four children of our own, the house always seemed so empty when the children in our care returned to their families. So we started fostering. With such a large family, people could not understand how we were also able to also look after a disabled foster child. Fortunately, our social worker had four children herself and was very supportive, believing we could do it.
Our first placement was an eight-year-old girl with severe learning and physical disabilities, and no speech. We were told she would not live to adulthood, so we thought long and hard before she joined our family, knowing that we would ultimately be putting our family through loss in the not so far future. She was beautiful and made people smile. When she died at the age of 24 it broke our hearts, but it helped that we have such wonderful memories of her.
Our second placement was a boy aged seven with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. We had befriended his family when he was just 5 and when he went into care at the age of seven he came to live with us. Twenty years on, he still lives with us. He is happy but still needs a lot of support with his disability.
Sharing a home with children with disabilities has helped our birth children to develop into adults who have a loving and accepting approach to disabled people. We are so proud that they have all gone on to become support workers helping young people with disabilities in need of support. Two of my children are our back up foster carers, so that our foster children can remain in their home whenever my husband Neville and I need a break.
After my husband and I divorced I was a single carer for a few years, before getting married to Neville seven years ago. He has taken to fostering so well. We faced our biggest challenge in 2012 when I was diagnosed with cancer. I couldn’t bear the thought of the children moving out. We dealt with the questions asked by the children. I was extremely unwell and had very intensive treatment, but throughout all my bad days Neville supported me with keeping the children at home. Our TACT and local authority social workers were fantastic, trusting and supporting us to maintain stable family life during a very difficult situation. I am in remission now thank goodness.
Kassie joined our family when she was eight and our house was starting to struggle for bedrooms. Attics were converted and extensions were added to accommodate our large family. We built a cabin for our birth daughter and converted our garage for our birth son to live in.
Our new girl was very different to fostering boys with learning disabilities but we loved having her with us. She left at 16 to live with her boyfriend, but we remained close. Two years ago I had the pleasure of walking her down the aisle, a very proud day for me. Neville and I are Nana and Grandpa to their two boys.
Next, a four-year-old boy with learning disabilities and autism joined our family. We were only meant to have him for a weekend, but when he held my hand on the way home from school my heart melted. So he stayed. He is now 19 and we are supporting him through transition to college where he will be working towards achieving independence and life skills.
Another young boy with learning disabilities joined the family when he was eight and left two years ago when he was 18. He is still very much part of our family spending weekends, Christmas and holidays with us.
Finally, a 15-year-old girl joined the family last year. She is very bubbly and its very refreshing to have a girl in our home again.
As you can tell, fostering means everything to me. We have a large loving family and it can be hard work, but so very rewarding. We have always known a busy house full of toys, noise and love. My children call me Earth Mother.
To anyone interested in offering a disabled child a place in their home I say give it a try there is no skill just caring and being there for them.
TACT Foster Carer
It is The Fostering Network’s Foster Care Fortnight and Lorraine Pascale – celebrity Chef, author and former foster child, is backing an appeal by fostering and adoption charity TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) for more people to consider fostering sibling groups.
There is a major shortage of foster carers prepared to look after siblings. TACT is concerned that the impact of placing brothers and sisters in different foster homes can have a negative impact on children and young people when they are already suffering feelings of abandonment.
TACT Patron Lorraine Pascale said: “I had a positive experience of foster care, but I know only too well the issues faced by looked after children. Being taken into care can be a confusing and upsetting time, add being split from your brother or sister in the mix and the situation can be even more distressing.”
Andy Elvin, TACT CEO said: “Sometimes brothers and sisters will be separated because it is in their best interests, but in general we know that it is important for siblings to remain together where possible, when they need a foster care placement. Children placed in foster care tell us this is what they want. Fostering sibling groups can sometimes be challenging and demanding, but it is also extremely rewarding.”
TACT foster carer Rob can testify to the rewards of fostering siblings.
Rob said “Bob and I love fostering. We went from zero children to three siblings, and at first it was a bit of a shock, our daily routines changed drastically. By offering them our time and attention they have really blossomed as individuals and their personalities have developed so much. The children have enriched our lives beyond recognition and we have learned so much over the past year. We would recommend fostering siblings to anybody.”
If you are thinking about fostering sibling groups please be aware that it is a requirement that only same sex siblings can share bedrooms.
Most people are capable of making a positive difference to a child’s life; we need carers from all cultures and religions whether married, single or living with a partner. And there is also no upper age limit to foster; some people foster well into their 70s.
If you want to find out more about fostering please go to www.tactcare.org.uk or telephone 0330 123 2250
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