For children and young people that are looked after by Team Fostering foster carers, there may be various reasons that they are unable to live with their own family. This will include traumatic past experiences that resulted in them being removed from their families.
Team Fostering is committed to providing children and young people with the opportunity to overcome such experiences. We understand that moving in to live with a new family can be a difficult time for children and that it is not easy to adapt to new routines and norms in their new environment. In turn this increases the challenges that foster carers need to overcome as they welcome children and young people into their home.
In order to help our foster carers provide bespoke care that meets the needs of each and every child, we provide carers and staff with training on The Secure Base Model. The model encompasses a therapeutic approach to parenting, which helps to support children by encouraging a sense of trust in those around them. By achieving this, children and young people are more able to:
The Secure Base Model enhances carers’ empathy and understanding of the needs and subsequent behaviours of children and young people in their care. Our staff are very experienced and have an excellent understanding of The Secure Base Model, using the approach in supervision with foster carers, to encourage caring for children and young people in a way that will support recovery from trauma and past experiences that they have gone through before living with our carers. Our supervising social workers work with our carers to think about how these needs can be met through supportive and understanding care.
The number of young people in foster care has steadily increased in the last few years. When thinking about these alarming numbers, it’s important to also reflect on what this means for those in care
Most of us can’t imagine the overwhelming experience of moving into care. Life is turned upside down and there is so much to process. At Action for Children, we want to make this transition more comfortable for young people.
We’ve launched a month-long Instagram campaign called My time in care specifically designed for young people who are moving into or already living in foster care. Each day, care leavers will explain a different aspect about being in care and share their own stories and advice.
As part of our campaign, we spoke to Connor, one of our care leavers, about his foster care journey and how it’s impacted his life.
How old were you when you started in foster care?
About five or six and I stayed in foster care until I was 16. Then I returned to one of my birth parents, but that broke down. So, I went back into care. After this, I went into a Staying Put arrangement until May last year.
How did you feel when you moved into your first placement?
I was in school, and my sister and I got picked up by a police car. And I think we were taken to a family centre, to say our goodbyes to our mum. Then we were taken to our new home. And I just remember going in, not knowing what was what, or what was happening. I didn't know what to think. It was a bit of mixed emotions, to be honest.
I don't think I ever really settled in any home. I guess I adjusted to make it work.
What would you say to a young person in care to help them adapt and adjust?
I guess I would say that things take time. And the foster carers, or workers if you're in a residential, should understand that. Do whatever you need to do. Whether that’s shutting yourself away for a couple of days, or, if you are wanting to talk, they should be there to talk to you as well.
In what ways you would say you’ve developed and changed as a person because of your experience?
I guess I can see things from different perspectives. I've got a good understanding of different types of people and how people work. I’m able to speak up and stand up for myself because of my experiences.
If you’re interested in hearing more about Connor’s journey, and stories of other care leavers follow the My time in care campaign on Instagram.
Today we are introducing you to a new staff member… but a strangely familiar face! Please join us in welcoming Patricia Moore as our Support Worker for our South-Central Region. Patricia has previously been a long-term Foster Carer with our South-Central team, before joining us as a Support Worker recently. We are so excited to welcome Patricia to The CFT staff team!
Patricia is very passionate about Fostering, and she believes the knowledge and experience that she possesses as a former Foster Carer will bring new dimensions to her support worker role. Patricia has also been conducting workshops for new Foster Carers to help them prepare them for their new fostering role.
We took some time to sit with Patricia (virtually) to get to know her better and find out how she feels about her new role, and her new insight into a different aspect of the organisation…
Tell us something about yourself Patricia?
“To start with, I will say I love what I am doing. I love children, and I am passionate about Fostering and helping children. I am originally from Argentina; however, I have been in England for 40 years, and for most of my life I have worked mainly in the education sector. As a person, I am passionate about helping people. When I lived in London, I worked in administration for different universities and usually dealt with day-to-day problems faced by students. I have also worked in a language school as an International welfare officer, supporting students from abroad requiring help with accommodation, medical, or sometimes visa-related issues. It was my job to assist them with any problems that they had, and my jobs have always involved helping. I have also done a lot of teaching abroad as well as in England, and I used to work in a college as a Spanish teacher. Even after all the different experiences I have had, I would say Fostering has taken me to a different level professionally.
Apart from my work, in my free time, I love walking. I love nature and living near the beach gives me the fortune to enjoy both. I enjoy reading and I also have a keen interest in politics. Apparently, I am a good cook, so I love cooking and preparing meals. My legacy is cooking, and all my foster children love the food I prepare. It’s a real passion of mine”.
You were initially a Foster Carer and now you are a Support Worker. How do you feel now that you have a different role within the Fostering world?
“Well, I love Fostering. I absolutely love looking after children. Many people have asked me “What is the best thing about Fostering?” and without a doubt, I would say the children. Children are definitely the highlight of Fostering. After 6 years in Fostering, my husband and I decided to retire to spend our time with family. So, when I heard about this role, I thought this was a kind of natural progression, as it comes as second nature to me. I feel that I will be able to help more children in this role by supporting the Foster Carers and I feel this role means that I can still make a difference. I have always loved The CFT and am thrilled that I can continue to work with the organisation.
I have lots of ideas of how to support Foster Carers and feel that my previous experience of a carer allows me to relate to any issues they are facing with more understanding. When a Foster Carer talks, I understand that he/she may be stressed or feeling overwhelmed, and I also know that it is temporary. Fostering can feel a little like a roller coaster at times, and carers just need the right support to help them through this, which CFT provide. I would have never made the change from being a Foster Carer to a Support Worker if I hadn’t believed in The CFT.”
What attracted you to become a Foster Carer?
“Now this is a bit of an interesting story. When I first moved into my current home, I was chatting with my next-door neighbour over the fence and she told me she was nervous. When I asked her why, she explained that she was a Foster Carer and that she was getting her first placement that day. Later that day, I saw a young 14-year-old boy arrive and long story short – I became really close to him. I loved talking with him and saw a real change in him, and this led me to think that maybe I could foster.
It’s big commitment to bring a child into your home and I want to be sure that I had the necessary qualities to be a foster carer. I had teenage children at that point (20 & 17), and they wanted to be sure that it is not dangerous, so I did my research. It was very important to me that my family were supportive of our plans, and so we had many discussions before making the decision together as a family to foster. I had initially approached a few independent fostering agencies and found that they were not the right fit me for. Shortly afterward, my neighbour introduced me to The CFT and from within 5 minutes of the CFT Social Worker walking into my home, I thought yes, they are the agency for me”.
Tell us something more about your Fostering experience?
“I had a very successful placement for five years. He left our home two and a half years ago, but he still calls me nearly every day. He is part of my family, and he is very successful now. It’s great to see how he has transitioned into being an adult over the years, and it is very impressive. Fostering is so rewarding because of that, and I can say I am as close to him as any mother should be. When he arrived with us, he was so confused, upset, and angry, and now he has joined the Army, and he is doing well. It’s amazing to see how he has grown.”
What inspired you to pursue the career you have today? What motivates you at work?
“I believe in a better world and I also think that we can all do well in life. If we have the right conditions and believe that we can all help others, we can all live in a better society. I believe children are the future of any community and if you invest time in children, you will invest time in the future.”
What do you like so far about the organisation?
“The fact that The CFT is a non-profit charity organisation and always trying to improve the service. I also like the ‘family for life’ Ethos of the organisation, as this is what I exactly do with my foster children.
I also like how much CFT cares for their staff, which I have noticed from day one. I enjoyed talking to different people in the company when I first started, and everyone was very friendly.”
What skill do you think everyone should learn- as a Foster Carer and Social Worker?
“I feel that being organised and empathetic is essential to both roles. It is also important to be reflective, because there may be occasions where you can look at a situation and think ‘I could have done this differently or better.”
What do you hope to achieve during your first year with the organisation?
“I want to establish myself in this role, as it is the first time the south central team have had a support worker. Currently, I am working remotely, which is an experience, but I like new challenges. I would like to get to know the children a little better, as I already know many of the foster carers. I am also getting to know some of the newer carers because I am doing a lot of training with them, so that’s good. I have become part of the team quite quickly, which previously I was worried about because they were the ones supervising me before, but after working with the team, my worry is long gone.
I want to be able to help Supervising Social Workers as much as I can, and I am also open to trying different tasks within the role. We deal with people, so our role is quite evolving, and I am happy to grow according to the requirement of my office.”
We would like to thank Patricia for taking the time to speak to us and for her work so far with the organisation.
On behalf of all of The CFT, we would like to extend our warmest welcome and best wishes to Patricia!
Member News: Barnardo's - Children in need of Barnardo’s fostering services up by more than half during coronavirus pandemic
The number of children in England urgently needing foster care from Barnardo’s has risen by more than half during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK’s leading children’s charity says as it appeals to potential carers to come forward.
From April-December 2020, the number of children referred to Barnardo’s fostering services in England rose by 57% compared to the same period in 2019.
During that time there were 13,030 referrals to Barnardo’s fostering services in England, a figure which shot up from 8,302 for the same period in 2019.
Barnardo’s says children who may have experienced abuse and neglect are waiting for places with loving foster families. Without more potential foster carers coming forward, hundreds of children referred to Barnardo’s will not be placed with a family.
The UK’s leading children’s charity believes the pandemic and lockdowns have increased pressure on vulnerable families, with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health all leading to family breakdown. Children have also been in lockdown in homes where domestic abuse and sexual abuse are taking place. These pressures will likely impact more families as the pandemic continues.
Barnardo’s is releasing these figures as part of their fostering week campaign, which runs from 25th January. The charity is calling on people over 21, who have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child to get in touch and consider fostering a child. Barnardo’s welcomes foster carers from all walks of life, including single people, those from the LGBTQ+ community and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
The charity also wants to make it clear that foster carers will be supported every step of the way by Barnardo’s, and will also be eligible for financial support including carers’ allowance.
To find out more about fostering with Barnardo’s, go to https://www.barnardos.org.uk/foster or call 0800 0277 280.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
“Vulnerable families have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, with many reaching crisis point. This means more children than ever need a safe and loving foster family to care for them.
“Barnardo’s has over 100 years’ experience bringing vulnerable children together with loving foster families, who provide the vital love and support children need to thrive. If you become a foster carer with Barnardo’s we will support you every step of the way with training and a dedicated social worker. You’ll also receive financial support, including a carer’s allowance.
“Today, there are hundreds of children who have been referred to Barnardo’s and are waiting to be placed with a foster family. We urgently need more potential foster carers to come forward. If you’re over 21, have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child in need, please do consider getting in touch today.”
The Education Secretary launched the long-awaited independent review of children’s social care. It’s what the sector has been waiting for since the general election
The review will look at a wide range of experiences of children and young people. From the beginning stages of when they’re first referred to social care, to children who need to go into foster care or children's homes. This is ambitious, but vital.
What the review will cover
Our 2017 research found that only one in four children in social care were later referred to early help services after their case was closed. These services are vital in helping children and families before they reach crisis point.
Children’s journeys through, and interactions with, social care aren’t always linear. The majority of children who leave care go home to live with their birth families. It’s important that children and their families receive the right support at such a significant time. It's encouraging to see the review’s Terms of Reference touch on this. Especially as the situation is urgent with over 80,000 children in England now in care.
The review will look at how children’s social care works with key partner agencies, including the police and health bodies. We know that domestic violence continues to be the most common factor of need identified at the end of relevant children’s social care assessments. If children are to be supported as they should be, key agencies have to understand the impact of domestic abuse on children.
The review is offering us what the government has called a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform children’s social care. We have the chance to make sure the system works more effectively for the children and families who engage with it.
Letting children and families with lived experience share their thoughts
Crucially, it's the children and families who not only need to be at the heart of the review, but be empowered to shape it.
We’re so pleased that the participation of ‘experts by experience’ is being considered. This will allow members to share ideas on the best way to gather the views of people with lived experience. And to help develop the recommendations the review will eventually lead to.
The review’s chair, Josh MacAlister, is independent of the government. He has expertise in this area and founded the social work charity Frontline. His initial Call for Advice will give young people, families, professionals and organisations the chance to influence his approach to the review at this early stage of the process.
Josh MacAlister, Chair of the Review of Children’s Social Care, said:
“I want to use this Call for Advice for you to guide me on what I should be spending my first few weeks and months reading, how best to hear directly from children, young people and their families, who you think I should be talking to, and what questions I should be asking. There’s lots that I don’t know so please share your advice generously.”
The big challenge for the review will be money. It's clear that funding cuts have had a damaging impact on children's social care. Local authority spending on early intervention services fell from £3.5 billion to £1.9 billion between 2010/11 and 2018/19. A 46% decrease.
Concerns about the avoidable costs this generates for the taxpayer in crisis spending do not appear to be fully realised by government, particularly the Treasury. An expansive, ‘once in a generation’ review, informed by evidence and experience, which seeks to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children is precisely what is needed.
Action for Children are looking forward to working with Josh MacAlister and his team in the year ahead. And helping him make the case for the funding that’s needed to turn ambition into reality.
The government made a manifesto commitment of a ‘bold and broad review’ of the care system that prioritised stable loving placements for children in care.
Many of the care leavers we speak to say there is a lack of love in the care system. The review must address the stigmatisation, discrimination and loneliness that care experienced people experience.
Radical change has been promised but after years of austerity cuts and the impact of the pandemic on local authority resources, the review must not seek to remove further funding from children’s services. Instead, it should look at the effects of the marketisation of care.
We welcome the ‘Experts by Experience’ and look forward to working with Josh MacAlister to make sure that the care experienced people in the North West have their voice heard.
Scotland’s bold and participatory review of their care system has shown us what’s possible, so this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make meaningful change for children and young people in the care system.
Mark Lee, Chief Executive said: “Care experienced people deserve the best possible life chances but the care system often does not allow that. The Care Review for England offers the opportunity to change that.
“The North West has some of the highest levels of looked-after children in the country so the review must address the need for early intervention and robust support for families in crisis.
“We want to see the care system transformed, with love at the heart and care-experience people making decisions. We look forward to working closely with Josh MacAlistair to make that happen.”
Vernon Building Society and Imagine Radio announced back in November that they had chosen to support the Together Trust for the second year running with their Christmas Toy Appeal.
There was an amazing response to the appeal last year, with hundreds of presents donated at Vernon Building Society branches in the run up to Christmas.
We were mindful that this year might not have the same response due to the pandemic however within 10 days we had exceeded expectations and raised over £1,600. Businesses supported the appeal donating the value of their secret Santa gifts, individuals donated after they heard the radio appeal and we were overwhelmed with the generosity of the local community.
Vernon Building Society pledged to contribute an additional £5 for every £5 or more donated but they decided to boost their contribution to an extra £10 for every donation of £5 or more, to match the generosity shown by the local community in recent weeks.
Together we raised an amazing £6,000 which meant we could provide over 300 children with gifts.
Vernon’s marketing and brand manager, Alex Deakin, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of residents and businesses across Stockport and Greater Manchester yet again this year, so we thought it only right that we should boost our own contribution.
“We’re thrilled to hit the £6,000 total to help make Christmas special for some very deserving families in what’s been such a tough year.”
Lily, a Fundraiser from Together Trust said “It was quite emotional to see how kind people were. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who listened and donated. In what has been such a hard year for so many people this has really brought a smile to everyone’s faces and shown us that even in the hardest times there is still such a strong community spirit and unbelievable kindness”.
We would like to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who donated, shared our social media posts and spread the word about the appeal over the last few months. We truly couldn’t have done it without you all.
The chair of Community Foster Care's fostering panel, John Powell, has retired. We would like to thank John for all his hard work and the role he has played for the last seven years. Below are a few words from John on his experience.
"I have, in December 2020, retired from my position as Chair of CFC Fostering Panel, a post I have held for the past 7 years.
Throughout that time I have always been impressed with the very professional approach taken by the agency, in terms of being strongly child centred, ethically sound and supportive.
I am particularly pleased to be leaving an agency that has a single panel approach, that is robust in nature, independent, transparent and has significant knowledge about the Fostering Task. Panel has grown, with the support of CFC always available. It's a Fostering Agency that I would recommend as having the right balance of care, innovation and good professional standards.
I have really enjoyed being the Chairperson and will, forever, remember the qualities they bring to enhance the lives of children looked after by their excellent set of dedicated carers ."
At the core of our work is relationship building and having the communications of the child or the young person understood. We need to understand what makes them tick and what they are trying to tell us.
Break's Therapeutic Services is made up of a team of social workers, therapists, therapeutic practitioners and emotional wellbeing practitioners, providing one-to-one support for children, young people, their caregivers and families. Working together, we provide a spectrum of emotional support to children who have experienced past trauma, abuse, neglect and are sometimes unable to live within their own families.
Jo Shepherd, Break's Head of Community Services, gives an insight into the support we provide:
"We work from a relationship-based perspective; seeking to strengthen the key relationships that will support the longer term emotional well-being of our children and young people. The young people often present with challenging behaviours and struggle to engage with opportunities or education. We can work together for anything from 12 weeks to 3 or 4 years. The help and support we provide is very much about meeting the needs of the child or young person – not fitting the child into a ‘one size fits all’ service, and seeking to support their relationships with their main care givers.
Sessions are typically one hour per week, providing consistency and predictability. For younger children we will use a range of creative approaches- play, sensory work, using sand trays, art or ‘small world’ play to explore directly and indirectly what the child understands about relationships, their feelings and experiences. Some of our care leavers might prefer going for a walk, in order to feel safe and start building trust. Flexibility and creativity is a must.
It’s amazing how a child innately knows what they need to process – they describe how they do things, or what is going on in their own world by making up stories, reflecting on their experiences and what sense they make of it. These unconscious processes provide information to us so that we can work on in overcoming any past trauma and experiences.
One young chap in foster care we worked with had experienced unimaginable trauma throughout his early years. We worked with him over a period of a couple of years. He would create worlds and stories – no one fed it to him, but his imagination would go wild. Over time we would review the stories and ‘worlds’, reflecting with and talking to his parents. The work we did helped to strengthen the relationship at home with his foster carers and helped him to work through his experiences.
For me it's a form of alchemy. Something magical happens.
We see behaviours as a communication. So often the desire of society is to stop a behaviour, but we very much are asking ‘what are they trying to communicate with that behaviour?’ - Are they scared? Unsafe? Possibly on hyper alert a lot of the time, waiting for something bad to happen to them?
Many children are referred to us with the school communicating that the child can’t access school work or is disruptive. From school referrals to the most traumatized young people in our homes, it is the same story across the board regardless of the label. For us their behaviour is a communication: the young person is completely full of past, or current, experiences and they live in a constant fight or flight state as they never feel safe.
Break's Therapeutic Services is about helping these young people to process and make sense of their experiences. Our work is informed by an understanding of the importance of early experiences on brain development, even from as early as 12-14 weeks of life, which can have a lasting impact on the individual.
We have to ask the question through our work – is it that the young person won’t or that they can’t. This absolutely shifts the dynamic – what do they know and what is unconscious, played out as behaviours."
To read about how you can help support this service click here.
November 2020 brought the evaluation of Break’s Staying Close, Staying Connected project for young people leaving care.
The independent evaluation of the project was carried out by Jo Dixon, Caroline Cresswell and Jade Ward from the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, below is the extract of the summary:
“The SCSC project supported young people to develop and build the skills to prepare them for independent living. Feedback from the young people and workers showed that young people’s life skills had improved after six months of entering the project. In addition there was evidence that young people showed increased happiness with life over time, had better stability in their accommodation (most had lived in their house-share for six months or more) and there was increased participation in activities, whether education, employment or getting involved with other activities in the project.”
Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York
How did the project come about?
The transition from adolescence into adulthood is a learning curve for all young people but is often much more challenging for those moving on from residential care. Without the financial and emotional safety net families often provide, research has shown that those leaving residential care tend to be poorly prepared for independent living and are particularly vulnerable to risk. They are at greater threat of housing instability and homelessness, lower engagement in education and employment, are more likely to be involved in criminal activity and experience mental health difficulties and loneliness. In recognition of this, eight Staying Close pilots were developed under the Department of Education (DfE) Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme, with Break’s Staying Close, Staying Connected (SCSC) being one of the largest and based in two local authorities*.
Launched in January 2018, SCSC supports residential care leavers aged 16 to 21 who were preparing to leave or had recently left residential care. The project provides the young people with individualised transition support with the aim to help develop the skills and support networks required for independent living. The support package shared houses with others from the project and provides a team of professionals to support them in all areas of their life.
Not only is the project aimed at supporting care experienced young people in their transition to adulthood and all the responsibility that brings, but also works to help them maintain relationships with their previous residential placement or someone of their choosing. Those in the programme are allocated a Transition worker who is instrumental in helping to support and build community and family links and connection to previous children’s home.
Break’s belief in treating young people as individuals and not implementing a ‘one size fits’ all goes to the heart of its approach with SCSC. This not only means the ability to adapt the level and frequency of support as required but the co-produced element to the project means that it could take on board feedback from the young adults and tweak the offerings as the project went along. With the aim of not only improving the service this also gives the young people some ownership in their decisions, choices and involvement in the project itself.
Evaluation report and its findings
A variety of methods were used to measure the impact on those participating in the study of the project. This included but was not limited to measuring their mental and physical wellbeing; happiness; improvement of life skills competence; employment and training status; risk taking behaviour and cost saving impact on the local authorities.
Some young people who had experienced post-care instability in between moving from residential care into their SCSC property, had since settled. Nationally, 41% of young people leaving care are homeless at some point in their first year. As described by one SCSC front line worker, “some young people have stayed within the SCSC project longer than they have been in any other placement” (staff survey).
After feedback from those in the project Break employed a dedicated employment, education and training officer who built links and sourced opportunities that made a difference, and young people talked highly of this support.
The findings showed that one of the areas that showed the greatest improvement was how happy young people felt about the future. One young person said of the project “they’ve changed me as a person for the better. All young people who have been through care deserve this
Voice of young people
When asked what advice they would give to other young people leaving care and thinking of entering the SCSC project “Don’t rush anything, don’t try and become independent all at once then try to move out in six months. Stay as long as you can, learn as much as you can.” Another young person responded:
“Listen to your transition worker. Every bit of help that you get, that’s going to help you a lot and it’s going to get you on your way a fair bit. I tell you it will get you on your feet. From when I started the Break SCSC team, I couldn’t do nothing. I couldn’t even cook pasta for God’s sake. Now me and [the transition worker] are cooking roast dinners and stuff like that.”
Although the evaluation did highlight some challenges the project faced along the way it found that overall the project was successfully set up with evidence showing improvements in all outcome areas. The report also praised the staff stating that the success of the project “was helped by the experience and expertise of Break and the SCSC project workers, who had a range of professional experience”. Alongside the improved outcomes for young people, the project delivered significant savings to the public purse. In the independent evaluation it was found that for each £1 spent, the project could prove £2 of savings.
Break has received funding to continue to run the SCSC project and have plans to further develop and widen the offering to be able to support a wider number and range of care-leavers.
*Break SCSC launched the project in a third local authority but as it joined the pilot scheme towards the end of the evaluation report it was not included in the findings.
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