Member News: Community Foster Care in the news - An increase in demand sees foster care charity move to bigger premises
Community Foster Care (CFC), has moved into larger premises so that they can accommodate an increase in demand for foster carers in West Cumbria.
The new space, which is located on Tarne Howe Building West on the Derwent Howe building estate in Workington, will allow the local team to meet the needs of more young people who need loving homes, as well as the foster carers who look after them.
“The decision to move reflects the need and our growth in West Cumbria,” said Emma Weaver, a Registered Manager for CFC. “Our ethos is to ensure that wherever we operate, we have small caseloads for our social workers and have strong, solid local support in place for all of our amazing carers.”
Community Foster Care’s new home will house a dedicated area for play sessions, as well as space for monthly carer support groups and regular training events.
Viv Gibson, CFC’s placement support worker in West Cumbria, said, “We want to be accessible to our carers and children, and we want to provide a warm family feel too. This new space has a wonderfully welcoming environment so people can pop in for coffee and have a chat.”
Currently, there are about 700 young people who are looked after in Cumbria. Around 160 of them are from Allerdale and 150 from Carlisle.
“When CFC was set up in 1989, we wanted to do things differently,” said Emma. “Our goal was to disrupt the status quo around foster care recruitment and provision.
We continuously challenge ideas about who can foster because we think it is so vital that children in care have the chance to stay in their local area with people from similar backgrounds. As a result, we work with a variety of carers, but we need more.”
In particular, CFC is looking for people who can look after sibling groups, older children, and parent and child placements. Specialist training is provided for all carers, along with access to monthly support groups, financial allowances, and regular consultations with a child psychotherapist.
Supervising Social Worker, Loren Hannah, said, “This move is so important on several levels. But one thing I’d say is if people want to find out more about fostering – just come along and see us – the kettle is always on.”
Member News: Barnardo's - Political leaders must solve social problems leaving children ‘scarred for life’
On the day of the next Election Debate, 140+ children’s organisations are calling on political leaders to set out their solutions to the social problems that can leave millions of children ‘scarred for life’, including child poverty, mental health, domestic abuse and serious youth violence.
In an open letter to all political parties, organisations including the National Children’s Bureau, NSPCC, Barnardo’s, Action For Children and The Children’s Society, say children are being ‘crowded out’ of the discussion of the nation’s future, leaving their needs overlooked and their voices unheard.
As party leaders set out their visions for the future, the letter urges them to put children at the heart of this election, and take action to prioritise them in the next Parliament.
There are nearly 14 million children living in the UK, of whom over four million live in poverty. A child is taken into care every 15 minutes and one in eight 5 to 19-year-olds have at least one mental health condition. The charities say the services vulnerable children such as these rely on are facing a ‘funding crisis’ as the number needing help continues to rise. The Children’s Commissioner for England estimates it will require £10bn of investment to turn this situation around and support our children to thrive.
The organisations insist children should be put at the front of the queue for increased funding. The letter calls on political parties to focus on preventing crises in the first place by providing early support for children and families, to prevent their problems spiralling out of control and requiring more expensive services later.
On the day of the second televised Election Debate, children and young people are raising their voices along with children’s charities, using the hashtag #IfIWerePM to share their priorities for Government.
Geraint (aged 18), a member of the National Children’s Bureau’s Young NCB, said:
“I like the idea of votes at 16, but there needs to be more education about politics for young people (and everyone else!). We need to learn about the parties, how to vote, and the issues. If I were prime minster, I would push for greater political education.”
Bilkis (aged 20), a young trustee for The Children’s Society said:
“If we start to put money towards a child’s early development and learning, as well as funding for youth engagement services and clubs - I believe there will be less gang related violence and anti-social behaviour in the community. Instead young people will be learning life skills, having fun and feel inspired to give back to the community.”
Gabby (aged 17), a young supporter of Action for Children, said:
“There needs to be more of a focus on the things that affect us like mental health. It seems like Brexit is all that is talked about now and we weren’t allowed to vote on that even though it’s going to massively affect us. Our views aren’t taken into account at all. A lot of politicians don’t understand the pressure we face and think we should just get on with it.”
Louise (aged 17), a member of Barnardo’s South East and Anglia Region Our Voice Youth Forum, said:
“I’m really passionate about the mental health care in this country and how restrictive it is. It needs improving so that early intervention can happen. I understand from a different perspective because I’ve been one of those individuals in care of CAMHS, which finishes when you are 18. That’s a major crisis point for lots of individuals like me.”
Fostering is an amazing role and one that can be incredibly rewarding, but it is certainly not without challenging times. As a foster carer you look after children and young people in your home as part of your family, and while our foster carers describe the experience of watching them grow as incredible, some of these children have come from traumatic backgrounds that impact their emotional wellbeing, behaviour and development.
For many, Christmas is an exciting time as children and adults alike look forward to time with loved ones, festive cheer, gifts and celebrations. Sometimes fostering a child who hasn’t experienced this before can give you the opportunity to introduce them to the many festivities of Christmas day, which can be exciting and fulfilling. However, it can be a difficult time for those who may not understand why they aren’t at home with their parents or who are overwhelmed by a festive buzz that they aren’t used to, stirring up a range of emotions that might be challenging for you to manage.
Where possible, speak with the child’s social worker about what Christmas meant for them before coming into your care. Was it celebrated at all? Were there religious elements to their Christmas? What about their experiences with gifts, Christmas food or other traditions? This isn’t to say that you’ll match their past experiences bit by bit, as there will be many whose previous neglect at Christmas (and throughout the year) will shock you, but it is useful to understand how different your own traditions may be, so that you can prepare to accommodate them and welcome them without overwhelming them.
Over the festive period you’re likely to have more guests in the home than usual or be out and about at the homes of friends and family. It might be worth, if possible and where you haven’t already, introducing the child or young person you’re looking after to many of these people ahead of festivities so that they aren’t overwhelmed with lots of new introductions in a short amount of time or in a small and busy space. Team Fostering’s foster carers also advise remembering to be patient and understanding. Recognise that when things don’t go to plan it’s not yours or the child’s fault, but a result of a lot of emotional challenges and past experiences that are often heightened at this time of year. Remember your support network, your fellow foster carers, supervising social worker and friends, and remember that you are entitled to support from your agency at any time of the year, day and night.
At Team Fostering our 24/7 support service runs throughout Christmas and the New Year so that foster carers are never without a local support worker to contact for help and guidance. Over December we host Christmas events that allow children and young people to celebrate with others in care and with similar backgrounds, where last year a child commented ‘the best part of today was knowing I was around people that were like me’.
We wish everyone the best over the festive season and look forward to spending some time with foster carers and young people.
Team Fostering is an independent, not-for-profit fostering agency that recruits and trains foster carers across the North East, Yorkshire and East Midlands. If you're interested in fostering we're here to answer any questions you have about the pay, support and training you will be given by us.
Reach us by:
calling 0800 292 2003
submitting an online enquiry by clicking here
Member News: Action for Children - Thirty years later, is it time to revisit the guiding principles of the Children Act?
Thirty years ago this month a critical piece of legislation received Royal Assent. The Children Act 1989 changed our approach to the way children in the UK are cared for and protected by making the welfare of the child paramount.
Children’s views and wishes must now be taken into account in any decision. Fundamentally, the Act viewed that children are best cared for in their own families, but it also put in place a system to protect children when at risk of harm. At the time, this marked a significant change of approach: children as simply needing protection, to individuals with their own rights.
This was a change that Action for Children welcomed. We provide many early help services supporting families to build healthy relationships and individual resilience, and we see the difference that this type of support can make in preventing issues from becoming more serious.
But while we should celebrate the achievements of the Act, we should also acknowledge that we have much further to go to fully realise the Act’s vision. Legislation is always implemented in a context; the context of the last decade has made achieving the original aims of the Act particularly challenging.
Under section 17, the Act states that local authorities should promote the welfare of any children whose development is at risk. This recognised in law the importance of services that support children, young people and families to promote long term wellbeing.
Over the last decade, available funding for local authority children’s services in England has decreased by £3 billion (29 per cent). Demand for children’s social care has increased, with significantly more children now on child protection plans and being taken into care. Intense pressures on local authorities have inevitably led them to prioritise more intensive statutory services, with early help support bearing the brunt of cuts. Social workers have said that their decisions are now being influenced by the lack of resources, meaning that some cases that would have previously received support under section 17 are less likely to.
This means that thirty years on, a key intention of the Children Act, to promote the welfare of children when there are early signs of a problem and to support families to help keep them together, is still not a reality. In effect, we are rationing the help we give some of our most vulnerable children.
Our ‘Revolving Door’ reports found that as many as 36,000 children who were referred to children’s social care in 2013/14 and did not receive it, were then referred again the following year. 23,000 were then found to be in need, suggesting early opportunities to provide help were missed. We also found that only one in four children who were assessed by social services as ‘no further action’ in 2015/16 were referred onto early help, leaving 140,000 without support. Without early help, problems go unresolved, and vulnerable children are left to suffer until crisis point is reached.
Thirty years on, we are therefore calling on the government to revisit the guiding principles of the Children Act and to re-balance the focus of policy around early intervention and prevention. To make the Act’s vision a reality, the next government must ensure local authorities have the resources to invest in high quality, evidence based early help. They must also introduce a statutory duty on local partners to provide early help, to ensure all children, young people and families get the timely support they need.
Community Foster Care’s Rebecca Robson has won a top national award for her outstanding work as a social worker.
She clinched the honour at an awards ceremony run by The Fostering Network – the UK’s most prestigious foster care awards which shine the spotlight on those who make an exceptional contribution to the sector.
She was nominated by CFC foster carer Andrea Jones who said: “Rebecca is dedicated, caring and so very often goes way above and beyond any expectations of a social worker. She is an all-round fantastic example of a decent human being and exceptional social worker.”
The judges concluded that Rebecca, based in our Lancaster office, is an outstanding social worker in how she exceeds expectations time and again. For example, when a child was in hospital, she sent the carer home to get some much-needed rest and sat in hospital with the child until almost midnight. The next evening, on her day off, Rebecca returned to offer support and stayed until 3am.
Rebecca also takes time to consider the feelings of the birth children of foster carers, sometimes taking them out to give them an opportunity to talk about how things are going.
Even when off duty, Rebecca keeps her phone on and will answer if you need her. She is there for every support group, training day, day out and fostering event.
CFC CEO, Mark Kingston, said: “We are enormously proud of Rebecca. She is an outstanding social worker who emulates the charity’s values. She really does go way above and beyond any expectations we might have of her.”
Rebecca has been a social worker with CFC since 2018. She previously worked in the child protection and court team in Cumbria and Lancashire.
The Fostering Network’s Fostering Excellence Awards ceremony took place in London on 23 October.
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: “Social workers play such an important role in foster care and particularly in the lives of those in care. That’s why it is so encouraging to meet social workers like Rebecca who are totally dedicated to their role, foster carers and young people. Rebecca’s commitment to helping carers and young people in times of difficulty is a real credit to her and exemplifies the impact she has had everyone she has worked with.”
He is pledging to fundraise £50,000 for Barnardo’s as part of a new appeal to help support care leavers, the children’s charity announced today.
Lennie, best known for his roles in Line of Duty and The Walking Dead, is becoming Barnardo’s first Ambassador to help represent children who are in and leaving care.
The actor went into care aged 10, along with his older brother, when their mother died. They spent time in a children’s home and were later fostered, growing up in Tooting, South London.
The star, who appeared in movies Snatch and Blade Runner 2049, is currently in the UK filming the second series of smash hit gritty drama series Save Me 2 in South East London. He took time out today to visit Barnardo’s YouthBuild Academy in Lewisham, where he met care leavers learning construction skills.
This evening Lennie will be talking about his life and explaining the reasons for becoming an Ambassador at an ‘In Conversation With’ event at the Bvlgari Hotel in Knightsbridge.
Barnardo’s is about to launch an ambitious fundraising campaign, aiming to raise funds over the next three years to support young people leaving care. Lennie and his wife Giselle have chosen to support the campaign by setting up their own fund named after Lennie’s birth and foster mums Phyllis and Pam which will aim to raise £50,000 in its first year for Barnardo’s Positive Futures appeal.
“I’m honoured to become Barnardo’s first Children In and Leaving Care Ambassador.
“The fear and vulnerability of going into care is etched in my memory. What made the difference was the support of those who looked after me and helped shape who I am today. Without doubt care leavers have challenges to overcome, but a child’s future doesn’t have to be defined by their past.
“I was lucky to become an actor - if children have a stable and loving experience while in care, and then get the right support when they leave the system, they can go on to achieve and have fulfilling lives. I passionately believe this, which is why I am looking forward to highlighting and supporting the work of Barnardo’s. My fund is named after my mother Phyllis and my foster mother Pam. In different ways they both gave me life.”
Care leaver Callum Nicholas , 20, from Beckenham, said:
“It was great to meet Lennie. YouthBuild Academy has been a brilliant programme for me, my colleagues and for the community in my local area. It’s been great that Barnardo’s has provided this opportunity. As a young person who has grown up in care, I know it’s not always easy to access education and training, which is why YouthBuild Academy can make such a big difference.”
Currently around 10,000 children leave the care system every year without the support that most young people take for granted, such as advice, emotional and financial support from parents and a family home. In total there are around 40,000 care leavers aged 17-21 in the UK.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:
“Young people leaving the care system have often experienced trauma such as bereavement, neglect or abuse, and many face additional challenges when it comes to education, employment and training. These vulnerable young people are also at greater risk of poverty and homelessness, and are more likely to struggle with isolation and mental health issues.
“At Barnardo’s we believe that with the right support all young people can achieve a positive future. But we rely on the generosity of supporters like Lennie and Giselle so we can provide the services care leavers need. We are delighted to welcome Lennie on board as a Barnardo’s Ambassador, and look forward to working with him to raise awareness of this important issue.”
If you’d like to support Lennie’s work with Barnardo’s you can make a donation towards his fund here.
It is National Care Leavers Week, and TACT – the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity, is using it as an opportunity to mark the fantastic first year of TACT Connect – an innovative service for care experienced people.
TACT recognises that leaving care is a challenging time for young people, especially as many will not have the help of a supportive family network. As a child in care they are surrounded by professionals dedicated to their welfare, but once they leave care that level of support fades away. So, TACT has set up a program called TACT Connect that provides a model of support for care leavers, enabling them to achieve positive outcomes.
TACT CEO Andy Elvin said: “It’s important as a parent that you stay in touch with your children throughout their lives. The state can be a not so great parent because once people have left care, it doesn’t know what’s going on in their lives. So, TACT Connect is our way of addressing that.”
TACT Connect has built an impressive network of care leavers that support and celebrate one another, while keeping in touch with TACT. TACT Connect offers the chance to meet other care experienced people, learn and access new skills and get support in reaching their aspirations. By becoming a member, care leavers receive newsletters packed full of helpful advice and shared experiences, plus invites to events, and the opportunity to be involved in shaping the scheme.
Mark Riddell – National Advisor for Care Leavers has welcomed TACT Connect. Mark said: “Initiatives like TACT Connect are important because they are led by the voices of care experienced young people. This is a new concept and it would be good to see similar work happening elsewhere in the country. We need to be ambitious about how we support care experienced people, and TACT Connect is a really good starting point.”
Work on TACT Connect began in October last year, with the creation of a steering group consisting of care leavers, foster carers, young people in care and TACT members of staff. Right from the start the development of the scheme has been guided by care experienced people, who are naturally in the best position to know about the needs of Connect members, so they have taken a prominent role in tailoring the service. Care leavers are also solely responsible for editing the TACT Connect newsletter, which was launched in March.
In February, work began on the “Peer Mentoring” scheme by providing training to prospective mentors. The scheme allows care experienced people to mentor 15-16-year-olds to help their transition to independence, by offering their own experiences and learned wisdom, as well as being available any time the young people need someone to talk to who may have faced similar challenges to them.
In April, TACT Connect was officially launched at an art gallery in Birmingham where TACT care leavers displayed works of art that they had created themselves with the theme of “message to my younger self”. Those present also built a road-map of their accomplishments, helping to put their experiences in context and define themselves in a way which recognises their many assets.
TACT young person, Channon, said: “It is great to be given the opportunity to connect with other young people who have been in care and have similar life stories. Creating my art piece made me think a lot about my own story, I found it very therapeutic.”
In May, TACT Connect created its database of TACT alumni to establish a network of care experienced people that continue to support each other throughout their lives.
Shortly after the launch, TACT Connect began piloting it’s “Enabling Grants” scheme, which is a grant available to care experienced people to help improve their access to both education and employment. Government statistics found that care leavers aged 19-21 are three times more likely to not be in either education, employment or training compared to their peers. Often this is due to financial insecurity, and the “Enabling Grants” scheme aims to address this issue by providing assistance to those looking to take their next steps but are struggling due to a lack of resources. Applications are assessed by a panel of care experienced people, foster carers and the TACT Connect coordinator Verity.
TACT Connect has made fantastic progress over the past year, but this is just the start. Ambitious plans are in place to grow and meet the needs identified by its members. Plans include regular regional events shaped entirely by members (the next being in Wales in November 2019), a money management workshop, the creation of an online portal for members and the recruitment of regional TACT Connect Advisors made up of care experienced people who organise activity in their local community and engage in research and campaigns.
TACT Connect wants care experienced people to know that leaving care does not mean that they are forgotten, they will continue to be supported throughout their life by those who have had experiences similar to their own, as well as TACT.
TACT care leaver Samantha summed up the scheme: “TACT Connect isn’t just about having a supportive community, it’s about having a friend for life that you can turn to whenever you need help or are feeling lost.”
St Christopher’s is delighted to announce our Staying Close pilot is being extended for another year to offer continued support to young people leaving care.
The Department for Education announced on Wednesday 23 October that further funding will be provided for all the Staying Close pilots running under their Innovation Programme, which includes St Christopher’s project.
We work in partnership with the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow as well as a private children’s home provider to ensure young people in the area have a smooth transition from residential care to independence. Mental health charity MAC-UK provides clinical supervision.
Our project centres around keeping young people in touch with the people who they want to maintain a relationship with. Young people are supported by our worker to develop a Staying Close plan so they can outline what type of contact they want, whether it’s a weekly phone call or popping back to their old children’s home for dinner.
This service is part of St Christopher’s strategic aim to promote lifelong learning and thriving for children and young people. We want them to enjoy happy, fulfilling lives when they leave care as part of our mission to create brighter futures.
Chief Executive Jonathan Whalley said: “Leaving care is a journey, not a one-off event, so we are thrilled that this funding will support us to work alongside more young people as they make this transition.”
“With the support of my foster carers, I’m now following my dreams”
I moved in with my carers, Albert and Joyce, shortly before my 10th birthday and have been with them ever since. Albert and Joyce are brilliant carers, right from the start they made me feel safe and supported. I now refer to them as my mum and dad. By a strange coincidence we share the same surname, which makes me feel like I’m even more part of the family!
We used to go out shopping, to the cinema and to restaurants as a family, this was my favourite thing to do with them. Having these experiences, I felt as though I was no different from any other child. They have also taught me basic life skills such as cooking, cleaning and generally looking after myself.
When I first arrived, I was a very angry child. I wasn’t able to express myself or talk through the things that I was feeling. As well as giving me a safe and supportive home, Albert and Joyce helped me to learn how to control my behaviours and emotions. I think it’s really important that people don’t bottle up their feelings and have someone they can trust. Throughout my nine years living with them, I’ve seen them have the same positive effect on other children in their care.
Participating in TACT events was also a very positive experience for me. I was among children from across the UK to take part in TACT’s Children’s Champions meetings, which is an opportunity for the charity to learn from children in care’s views and experiences, to help shape its work.
I also attended TACT’s Big Weekend, which brings children together to experience outdoor activities and bond with their peers. It was a great opportunity to make friends and try new experiences, and helped me to build up my confidence and challenge my fears. I had always been scared of heights, but after finally gathering the courage to do a zipwire during Big Weekend, I absolutely love doing it now. This year I went as a mentor to one of the children, and it was great to see everyone getting along as always.
I continue to live with Albert and Joyce through Staying Put and I’m now following my dreams. I used to think I wasn’t able to do anything with my life, but through my own determination and the support of my carers I got into the university of my choice and I hope to soon teach English as a second language in Japan.
I have always wanted to be a teacher of some sort growing up. Teachers are so important and there just aren’t enough of them. I like to help people and care for them, so I am absolutely determined to make my dreams a reality and become a teacher. Japan is a really fascinating country that I’m really excited to experience. I’ve already started to learn some Japanese and Chinese, and I intend to visit soon.
My advice to others in care is to reach out to your carers if you have a problem, no matter how or big or small. They are there to support you and it’s perfectly OK to admit you need extra help. I also think it’s really important that people have the belief in themselves to achieve what they want to achieve. I think the reason that so few care leavers go on to attend university is because they think that they can’t do it. I remember thinking that I would never get the grades I needed, and some college teachers even told me as much, but I did and I’m now in a really good place in my life.
Every year, Team Fostering promotes the national campaign as part of the agency's commitment to looking after young people as the get ready to leave care, continuing to invest in their futures post-18.
This year, IMO's theme for the campaign is future aspirations, following a successful 2018 focus on younger selves. Last year, young people about to leave care were encouraged to think about what they would say to their younger selves if they were given the chance, contributing to IMO's #DearYoungerMe. For 2019, care leavers all over the country were invited to contribute to a #DearFutureMe campaign, sharing what they would like to say to themselves in 10 years time.
Team Fostering held one of its residential activities for young people in care earlier in October, which proved a great opportunity to get those approaching 18 to contribute their own thoughts. They considered what their inspirations were for the future, employment and personal goals, as well as general kind thoughts that they hoped they would remember in 10 years. These were written across postcards provided by IMO, shared nationally as part of their campaign, and you can see our top Team Fostering picks below.
As an agency, Team Fostering is committed to offering support and guidance to children in care as they approach, and pass, 18. As well as working with foster carers to provide 'staying put' agreements up to the age of 21, we also have designated 'life skills workers' who work with these young people to support education and employment applications and interviews, independent living skills and more. What's more, the agency has a fantastic team of foster carers, many of whom keep in touch with young people they've looked after following their moving onto independence. In fact, throughout the week we'll be sharing some examples of young people that are still in touch with foster carers several years after leaving their care!
Team Fostering is an independent, not-for-profit fostering agency with ethical aims that strive to put children's futures first. Operating in this ethical way means that more funds can be invested in the support, services and benefits offered to our foster carers and the children that they look after.
To learn more about becoming a foster carer with Team Fostering, contact us by:
calling 0800 292 2003
submitting an online enquiry form by clicking here
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