New Face… Same Values
Here at The Children’s Family Trust we are very excited to announce the launch of our new branding!
In 2016 it was decided that the organisation would undergo a ‘rebranding’ exercise, following market research about the ways in which the public interpreted our logo and strapline.
The purpose of the re-brand was to more accurately reflect the work we do as an organisation and make us more easily identifiable as a children’s charity to the public.
Since we began in 1945, the organisation has had lots of different logos and straplines, but the ethos and mission of the charity has always stayed the same: to provide children with a loving and stable home and to provide support to them for as long as they need it. Primarily a Christian based organisation, many of our logos, including our most recent one have had slight religious connotations. You can see copies of all our previous logo’s displayed right.
Moving forward, we wanted to ‘neutralise’ our logo to be more inclusive to all members of the public and felt that the addition of children was more indicative of the work our charity undertakes. In addition to this, we felt that changing the strapline meant that we were not only able to have a play on words for our organisation name (C.F.T), but we could also project what our charity sets out to achieve for children in ‘Changing Futures Together’. Although we have changed the main ‘identity’ of our brand, we have still kept our long-standing corporate colours in orange and blue and our organisational values have remained the same.
The rebrand has seen the creation of more up to date information for prospective carers, new promotional items and a new website among many other things.
Overall we are very happy with the way our new branding has turned out and hope that you will embrace our new image! We would like to thank everyone for their hard work in helping with this transition and hope that all supporters of the organisation will spread the word of our new brand, helping us reach new audiences and allowing us to continue recruiting foster carers who can help us continue Changing Futures Together.
Following the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, the government is advising local authorities and social and private landlords to assess all buildings over 18 metres high (approximately six storeys) to identify those with external cladding made of Aluminium Composite Material.
If you are a foster carer, and you live in a property of 18 metres or more, the landlord is responsible for checking for the presence of Aluminium Composite Material. If identified, the landlord should submit a sample of the cladding for testing as set out in this letter
The government has also issued advice on the immediate steps owners and landlords should take if it is assessed that they have buildings of 18m or higher with ACM cladding of the type that would not meet limited combustibility requirements. This is summarised in the guidance referenced below.
Regardless of the size of the building or use of cladding, it is vital that owners/landlords have robust fire assessments in place for their properties. If you have any concerns about the fire safety of your residence, you can contact your local fire and rescue service who will be able to carry out an inspection and provide advice on improving fire safety where necessary. Please read the full guidance on the gov.uk website.
Mums and dads are counting down the days to the beginning of the school holidays. At the school gate, all conversations seem to revolve around summer getaways with the children, mixed with anxiety about childcare arrangements for when work intrudes. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and even neighbours will play their part.
Our own children are grown up but the summer holidays loom large in our lives. We are foster carers, and we want the children in our care to look forward to the break with the same degree of excitement as their friends. We want them to return to school in the autumn refreshed and bursting with stories about a wonderful, happy summer to share with the class.
But the long summer holidays present unique challenges for foster families, and for children and young people unable to live with their own families. This is particularly true when a permanent arrangement has yet to be agreed, so living arrangements are temporary, as is the case for thousands of looked-after children.
When school shuts down and after-school activities take a break, the harsh reality of living in care can be overwhelming. Separated from classmates as well as their own families, and without term-time routines to fill the day, life can feel lonely and unforgiving.
For many children and young people in care visits to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins are out of bounds. They are likely to be placed some distance from the family home, so contact with mates in their old neighbourhoods is often lost and frequently discouraged. And while children generally are able to enjoy carefree days out with mum and dad, children in foster care are limited to parental contact sessions in the company of a social worker or specialist supervisor. These are unlikely to be the happy-go-lucky play days of idyllic summers.
Young people trying to follow the process that will determine their future have the added frustration of knowing that little or no progress towards a resolution will be made during the summer, when children’s services and the family courts seems to be on hold for all but the most urgent business.
Foster carers must navigate a way through the summer without the networks that typically support mums and dads. Relatives are sometimes willing but unable to help, either because of formal restrictions or because the children do not know them well. Foster carers may not have had time to form trusted relationships with other parents before the holidays begin, which makes organising summer activities difficult.
Foster families planning to take their foster children on holiday can face significant hurdles, particularly when a youngster’s long-term future remains undecided. Parental consent, when it is required, cannot be taken for granted. Trips abroad with children of different surnames are likely to meet frequent challenges from authorities concerned about the relationship. And whether you opt for a staycation or a foreign holiday, securing accommodation that is both appropriate and affordable is a logistical nightmare.
If I paint a particularly bleak picture of a typical summer in the world of fostering, I apologise. Yet these are some of the concerns that preoccupy the UK’s 55,000 fostering families as they prepare for the end of term. This summer they will carry much of the burden of caring for society’s most vulnerable children alone, with little help from their communities. I just thought you should know.
We have been foster carers for almost nine years, and some 12 children have been welcomed into our family for significant periods of time. Some of our happiest memories of foster care are of summer holidays spent with children and young people discovering the joy and beauty of a world they had known only as toxic and threatening. We strive to create the happy memories that will nourish and comfort them as they continue their journey.
We will spend this summer in the company of two children whom we expected to be a step or two closer to their forever family. They end this term not knowing whether they will return to their beloved village school in the autumn. One is too young to understand, but the other asks questions to which there are, as yet, no straight answers. After 18 months as part of our family, this will be a defining summer, for them and for us.
The obstacles I faced when applying to universities weren’t just the obvious, economic ones. They were cultural and psychological too
• Vashti Kashian-Smith studied philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 2014
I wore a miniskirt and fishnets to my registration at the University of Cambridge. Not for any particular reason: they were just items of clothing I had to hand. I woke up, got dressed, slipped on my tattered cherry-red Doc Martens and headed to the Old Library. There, I was greeted by a row of students all dressed in suits and ties, or demure black or navy dresses, and gowns.
I had no idea that registration at Cambridge, and the four-course meal that follows it, is a formal dress affair. That was my introduction to Cambridge life: sitting in an oak-panelled hall, wearing a borrowed gown, swarmed by cutlery and glasses (they have one that is just for port), listening to the misadventures of someone who’d spent her gap year volunteering at an art gallery in New York.
As one of the 6% of care leavers who attend university, and one of the just 2% of Oxbridge pupils who come from a free school meals background (13% of secondary pupils receive free school meals), I could tell you a dozen more anecdotes like this. So last month’s verdict from Les Ebdon, director of the Office for Fair Access, that Oxford and Cambridge need to do more to improve access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, came as no surprise to me. Of course there are access issues at Oxbridge. But for progress to be made we need to understand this issue as cultural and psychological, not just economic – albeit a culture that’s intrinsically linked to one’s economic background.
The most pernicious assumption that’s made about those of us who are marginalised is that certain things are simply “not for the likes of us”. This often isn’t a subtle message, either. A good number of people I encountered when I was still in care told me this was the case: from the admissions staff at the prestigious grammar school who categorically said to me that they don’t take students from “unsettled circumstances”, to the Oxbridge access adviser who informed me that most applicants had seven A*s at GCSE, and that with my own paltry five, I shouldn’t put myself through the pain of applying.
But it’s not just those above you who lower your expectations and make you doubt your aptitude. Indeed, I’ve often found that it’s my peers who have proved the fiercest doubters. Yet these doubts often stem from a lack of understanding. To illustrate: a friend of mine, who’s also spent time in foster care, and who’d never considered university for himself, was amazed to hear about loans and grants. He’d just assumed the costs came out of your own pocket. Lest you think he was stupid, you’d do well to consider how much you know about life choices you’ve never contemplated. I certainly didn’t know about the full extent of financial support available at Cambridge until after I’d arrived.
These issues are only compounded by the experience of growing up in the care system. Children in care have often been the victims of neglect, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, bereavement or other traumas. The experience of repeatedly being told – or made to feel – by those responsible for your care that you are worthless, stupid or unwanted is almost impossible to describe if you haven’t been through it first hand.
Many solutions have been proposed, such as lowering entry grades for students from marginalised backgrounds, which I support. But such remedies will only ever help the tiniest fraction of those targeted, as so few care leavers even get to the point where a lower grade requirement may allow them to apply.
Instead, what is needed is a radical overhaul of the way we conceive of social mobility in this country: from the merely economic, to the cultural. On Oxbridge’s part, this would entail a far more extensive outreach programme, making sure marginalised students are aware, from a young age, that Oxbridge is for them, and that money needn’t be an issue when they apply. Just meeting another student from a similar background can be an amazing encouragement (and not doing so can be a discouragement). And the government needs to ensure that everyone – no matter their postcode or budget – has access to culture, literature, art, politics and science: not just at school, but in their neighbourhood and community. Studying these subjects needs to feel possible for children and young people from all backgrounds.
There’s a reason why I’ve succeeded where others like me have stumbled: a reason that’s not related to my hard work, tenacity, or intellect. I was born to two middle-class, university-educated parents. How I entered the care system is a story for another time, but for most of my childhood I was surrounded by books, art and culture. It was not a lofty dream for me to apply to university; four of my five older siblings had already done so, and almost every member of my extended family expected me to do the same.
In my experience, nobody gets anywhere worth going without some degree of privilege. Our most important job is not to celebrate those who might have “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps”, but to ensure that those born with little social privilege have access to the information and cultural advantages that most people reading this can probably take for granted.
The aim of the placement is to provide support and guidance to the parent, usually the mother, so that they may eventually provide independent care for their child.
Parent and Child Fostering is an alternative to putting young parents in residential units and helps to provide the support they need at the early stages of this relationship.
Without this support these relationships can often break down and lead to separation of the parent from their child.
The Benefits of Parent & Child Fostering
A foster carer can help with the development of a crucial bond between the parent and child at an important stage in their child’s life. This can be extremely rewarding for the foster carer, who is able to see the attachment grow first hand.
The support given by the foster carer throughout the placement provides the parent with an insight into the lifelong parenting skills required so that they can look after their child independently.
Providing this support in a stable family environment helps the parent to focus on looking after their child and provides them with vital resources they wouldn’t have access to elsewhere.
In turn, the child benefits from the extra support received by the parent giving them the best start in life.
Fostering Parent & Child at Team Fostering
Being a Parent and Child foster carer can be challenging but is a very rewarding experience. Within Team Fostering, Parent and Child Fostering is considered as a specialist role and is treated accordingly. Whilst you will be working one-to-one with young parents, you will not be alone when carrying out the task.
As a foster carer with us, you will be:
Qualities of a Parent & Child Foster Carer
To be a Parent and Child foster carer you will need to be approved to do so at our Foster Panel. If the relevant experience is demonstrated throughout the assessment, a carer can be approved to care for Parent and Child immediately. Alternatively a foster carer can choose to look after Parent and Child as their fostering career evolves.
To foster a Parent & Child you will:
What resources are available for anyone wishing to find out more about this?
If you would just like to find out more about fostering with Team Fostering you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your local office.
The new character has the potential to shine a light on a group of children that people might not otherwise consider
Fans of Doctor Who started to learn about the Time Lord’s new companion a year before her first appearance. In that time, we learned quite a bit about Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie, and much of the media focus rested on the fact that she is the first openly gay companion.
What no one knew until the first episode was broadcast is something that resonates with me on a professional level. I work at Celcis – the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland – an organisation that works to make positive and lasting improvements in the wellbeing of children and young people who, for a variety of reasons, are looked after by the state, for example in foster care – children like Bill Potts.
Viewers first find out about her circumstances in a low-key way in the first episode, when she tells her foster mother, Moira, about the Doctor: “You know you’re my foster mum? He’s like my foster tutor.”
I was keen to see how this aspect of Bill’s character would be received by viewers, given that media portrayals of foster families are sometimes problematic.
The first thing I noticed is that Bill is a working adult in her 20s, but still lives with her foster mother, Moira. Young people in care are often expected to become self-sufficient more quickly than their peers, but Bill’s situation is a nice example of the recent shift in policy that recommends young people have more gradual transitions to adulthood. Although we see Bill move out in episode four, this doesn’t work out, and by the sixth episode she is back living with Moira. I wonder how many viewers are aware that Bill’s experience isn’t the norm? How many would question the apparent ease with which Bill returned to live with her foster mother? In Scotland, less than 3% of young people eligible for support after leaving care remain with their former foster carers.
The media response to Bill’s family background was interesting. One review read:
"Moffat’s decision to write Bill as someone who has failed to get into the university that the Doctor has been lecturing at is troubling. Why is such a bright young woman shovelling chips onto the plates of students, rather than learning alongside them? Such a storyline feels somewhat quaint and patronising today … it’s a shame that Moffat reinforces the notion that a person from a tough background ... will have a hard time pursuing higher education."
I can understand why the reviewer feels this was the wrong approach. Being looked after should be no barrier to accessing university, college or any other opportunity. It’s a sad reflection of reality, however, that the pursuit of higher education for young people who have been in care is still challenging. Bill herself tells us that she “never even applied”, although she’s “always wanted to come here”. We never find out why she didn’t, but lack of support or encouragement could have played a part. By reinforcing the notion that someone with Bill’s background might struggle to access higher education, I hope Steven Moffat has encouraged some viewers to wonder why that might be.
There were also some interesting comments about the relationship between Moira and Bill. One suggested Moira was “neither warm nor nurturing”. Another described her as “emotionally absent”, and a third as a “neglectful foster mother”. At first this was quite a leap to judgement, but episode six confirmed something hinted at in the first episode: Moira is oblivious to Bill’s sexuality. Their relationship isn’t as close as it perhaps first seemed. Although we find out that her mum died when Bill was a baby, we don’t know how long she has lived with Moira; perhaps, like many young people in care, Bill has moved several times and hasn’t lived with Moira long enough to develop a truly maternal level of closeness.
Bill does have a sense of connection with her biological mother, though. The Doctor, who learns that Bill has no photos of her, puts his time-travelling capabilities to good use by going back to get some. As social care professionals know, having photos may contribute to Bill’s understanding of her history and identity, which can be important for her wellbeing.
Bill’s mum is only alluded to briefly a few times, but in episode eight Bill’s ability to focus her thoughts on her mother is vitally important.
In a speech at this year’s Scottish Institute of Residential Childcare conference, Lemn Sissay spoke about the long tradition of fictional characters from “substitute care” backgrounds, and suggested that “the kid in care is used in popular culture because they feel so much”. Bill has amazing potential to shine a (fictional, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey) light on a group of children that people might not otherwise consider.
Leanne Mattu is a research associate at the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland
On Sunday 2 July, New Routes Fostering marked 25 years of supporting children and young people with a celebration at Coleshill Town Hall.
Invited foster carers past and present, as well as children and young people currently placed through the service, joined us for an afternoon tea party. Also attending were young people who have left the scheme, Trustees, former employees and panel members.
Guests were free to drop in throughout the afternoon and were greeted with a glass of bubbly or juice on arrival. The event was busy from start to end and there was always something to keep people entertained. Craig from MagicAParty helped get everyone into the swing with a magic show and balloon modelling that entertained children and adults alike. There was a display of photos from previous events and guests were delighted to pick out familiar faces from the old pictures.
Tamworth Voices choir, which included our very own Angela Notman, gave a wonderful performance, singing a variety of musical numbers. After the choir finished guests tucked into lunch while Anna Rooney, Head of Children and Family Services, took to the stage to give a speech.
Anna called two sets of carers up to the stage to celebrate them reaching some big milestones, having fostered for twenty and fourteen years. They were presented with certificates, flowers and trophies by Kevin Caffrey, who set up New Routes Fostering in 1992 and who is now a Trustee. Anna also thanked everyone for coming, and those who helped out including Megan Adams, who had catered the event and provided a fantastic celebration cake, Martyn Adams the volunteer photographer and Muhammed the face painter.
After the speeches, a DJ provided music for the rest of the afternoon while guests chatted and reminisced. Usha Mehta, Team Leader, said, “It was an opportunity for carers to chat and have a reunion. We spoke to some people who retired from the service. It was nice to find out what they are doing now.”
Everyone who went had a great time celebrating the achievements not just of New Routes Fostering, but of the children and young people who have passed through its care and the dedicated foster carers, without whom nothing would be possible.
To find out more about fostering with us, complete our expression of interest form or call 01675 434033 to speak to a member of the team.
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.
Break, a Norfolk children’s charity, are honoured to announce that we have just been awarded a Department for Education grant for £1.3 million to improve services for children leaving care in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.
The grant comes from 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 funding will pay for a pilot project in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to test out effective ways to support children leaving care over the next two and a half years.
Rachel Cowdry, Director of Business Development at Break says “This is a really exciting opportunity for us to work in partnership with Norfolk County Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to support some of the most vulnerable young people in our counties. Break has already been supporting our own care leavers for five years through our Moving On Team. The Department for Education grant will enable us to develop this project to benefit many more vulnerable young people. We hope that this project will have positive repercussions for care leavers in our region and beyond”.
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. Sir Martin Narey, the former Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, conducted an independent review of children’s residential care in England, published in July 2016. This report stated the importance for the young people to “Stay Close” to their children’s home and the trusted relationships they had with the staff after they had to leave. The Break project will test out different ways to support these young people including “Staying Close” and will provide new training for staff working in residential care homes, more accommodation for care leavers with intensive support, including focusing on their emotional wellbeing, so that care leavers can acquire the skills and resilience they need to live independent, successful lives.
Robert Goodwill, Minister for Children and Families, said:
“Through the Innovation Programme, we continue to fund exciting and pioneering projects that look to shake-up our traditional approach to social care.
Together they proffer a broad and balanced portfolio which both test new innovations, and scale and spread those that have been successful in Round One of the programme.
I am delighted that we have supported these projects, and look forward to continuing to hear about their great work in the future.”
St Christopher's Fellowship has secured government funding to pilot a new Staying Close provision in West London aimed at improving the experiences of children and young people moving from care to independence.
They will be partnering with the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow, the West London Alliance and mental health charity MAC-UK to open a new service within existing children’s homes and their community.
They have secured funding for their Staying Close project through the Department for Education Innovation Programme, which provides financial support to children’s services providers who have developed a new way of addressing a problem within children’s social care.
Two types of accommodation will be available: firstly, shared semi-independent housing for care leavers within walking distance of their former children’s home; and secondly, ‘pop home’ bed spaces reserved for a young person temporarily returning to their most recent children’s home. This could be after a relationship breakdown, job loss or other difficult period in their life, but also when they want to celebrate an achievement with the people they have close relationships with.
There will be a key switch in the way staff interact with young people who have moved into the Staying Close semi-independent service. In children’s homes, residential workers and young people have a more hierarchical relationship where decisions are made by the adult. Instead staff will be supported to take on peer mentoring roles, which will make their relationships with the young people sustainable for life. MAC-UK is on-board to support staff in this learning through clinical practice supervision and will be training two young people to facilitate these reflective sessions in the future.
St Christopher’s is also investing in app to aid young people who will be moving further away but still wish to stay in touch with their key workers. This allows them to maintain that positive relationship using a safe, secure platform.
One of the most innovative things about the project is that young people will be owners of their futures by deciding when they are ready to move on, rather than a third party making the choice for them.
There is a striking disparity between care leavers and their peers which this project aims to address. They become trapped in a cycle of surviving, rather than living, and this is not helped by data showing that 62% of care leavers have some form of mental health issue. Once they have left care and are no longer in the security of a residential or fostering placement, they can feel isolated, unsupported and low in self-worth.
These experiences are particularly prevalent in London, where the high cost of housing prevents care leavers from living affordably near to the communities they have grown up in and feel part of. Living far away from the key people in their lives means relationships suffer – even small journeys across the city costs money that young people just out of care do not have to spare.
St Christopher’s has a long history of working to support children and young people as they prepare to transition to living independently. They run four children’s homes and eight semi-independent supported housing services in the capital, all of which provide meaningful participation activities, opportunities to achieve AQA certificates, and build resilience so that young people can cope with whatever happens in their lives. Their social pedagogic model of care emphasises the importance of staff forging meaningful, lasting relationships with young people to bring out their full potential.
St Christopher’s has successfully applied for Innovation Programme support before, securing funding in 2015 to set up two innovative children’s homes for young women at risk of child sexual exploitation and other serious community threats.
Chief Executive Ron Giddens said: “We are thrilled to have received support from the government to pilot our new Staying Close service. Support for young people can drop off once they leave care, and it can knock their confidence if they feel as though they haven’t coped with a situation well on their own. Our new provision will give young people access to that extra support as and when they feel they need it.
“We are especially looking forward to developing the pilot in partnership with children and young people so that we can ensure it meets their needs and addresses the problems that they are most concerned about.”
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