Could you “foster for Leicestershire”?

Could you foster a child from your community?

Lynn and Gordon did – nearly 40 times!

The couple have spent the last 16 years helping to make a difference to the lives of nearly 40 Leicestershire young people by offering them loving, secure foster homes.

They have fostered around 20 young people on a longer-term basis and now focus on shorter-term respite work.FOSTER

Here’s their story…

“Fostering is incredibly rewarding.

It has been wonderful to see the confidence in the young people we’ve looked after grow. We treat every child we foster as individuals. We work with them, care for them and embrace their qualities.

And when we make a break-through, it really is amazing.

Our son passed away when he was just 10 and that’s when we first considered fostering.

We remember having a conversation with him about it while watching a television campaign appealing for carers. He had suggested that was something we could consider as we had a spare room.

That stayed with us and we realised we wanted to help; we had a lot of give.

Our fostering journey has been helped thanks to ongoing support from the council. We have our own social worker, access to a 24 hour helpline and regular, ongoing training.

Being a foster carer has empowered me to do things I wouldn’t have done before – I now have the confidence to run a foster carer support group, for example.

If you have spare capacity and are able to give young people care, stability and take an interest in them, then please do get in touch with the team  and find out more.” – Lynn

“Fostering is not always easy but once you have made a break-through the rewards are amazing.

When you see a young person grow in confidence and achieve things, it really is fantastic.” – Gordon

  • You can find out more and hear from foster carers at regular ‘find out about fostering’ events that are held around the county and every three weeks at County Hall.  Information on this, and fostering in general, can be found at: www.fosteringleicestershire.com

To speak to the fostering recruitment team call 0116 305 0505 or email fosteringandadoption@leics.gov.uk

 

Beacon Children in Care Council visit to Westminster

We are TJ and Rosie, we’re members of the Beacon Children in Care Council.TJ and Rosie

We recently attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Children in Care and Care Leavers at Westminster, to discuss the topic of stigma, stereotypes and care. The debate motion was, Care leavers should be willing to tell anyone they come into contact with that they have been in care.

The meeting is run by and for MPs and Peers, but the Who Cares Trust helps to organise it. It was chaired by Tim Loughton MP, the former children’s minister and a member of the APPG. One young person said she didn’t want to be treated any differently because she’s a care leaver, she doesn’t want it easy, she said she wanted equality between care leavers and everyone else.

Professionals shouldn’t ask questions about a young person’s background just because they want to know. Our information should be kept as confidential as possible.

We think we need more stories of children in care, or care leavers for who being in care has made their lives better and changed their lives in a positive way.

We thought about our friend who was in the Leicester Mercury and it was really positive, but we know lots of young people for who care has made their lives better.

The way the care experienced young people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland voiced their opinions in the meeting challenges stereotypes. They were eloquent in getting their points across and don’t match negative stereotypes of children in care being troublemakers who can’t achieve.

The Who Cares Trust is starting work with groups in from across the UK and Republic of Ireland to challenge the stigma and stereotypes which surround children in care and we want the Beacon to be part of that, because children in care can make a difference and achieve what any other young person can!

Anti-bullying team climbs up Stonewall top 10

By Sue Bosley, Anti-Bullying Strategy Manager at Leicestershire County Council

For the third year running, the county council’s anti-bullying team has been recognised by the national LGBT charity Stonewall for its work to tackle bullying in schools.

The Leicestershire team was featured sixth in the charity’s annual Education Equality Index – rising three places from ninth last year. The Index showcases local authorities that excel at celebrating difference, preventing and tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools and supporting LGBT young people within their local communities.

Leicestershire County Council’s new task group to tackle anti-homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying has been recognised as an example of good practice for its cross-border work with Leicester City Council and Rutland County Council by promoting better joint working with key partners. The group also provides an arena in which to share good practice and develop resources for schools, parents/carers and children and young people.

In addition, Leicestershire has redesigned its online anti-bullying hub, www.beyondbullying.com, making it easier for young people to use. The site now features a dedicated page on transphobic bullying which has been developed in consultation with the Leicester LGBT Centre’s Young Transgender Centre of Excellence.

The county council has a proud tradition of championing equalities and taking a zero tolerance approach to bullying, which permeates through our work. Earlier this year, Leicestershire County Council was voted as the most gay-friendly council to work in the UK. Securing a top 10 spot for three years in a row is testament to the high-quality work of the anti-bullying team, which is helping to improve the lives of children.

‘Shelf Help’ – Reading Well for young people

By Ruth Pointer, Locality Manager, Communities & Wellbeing

I was really pleased to have been involved in the local launch of ‘Shelf Help’ the new Books on Prescription resources, aimed at Young People, last Monday.

Reading Well for young people is a national scheme, which provides 13-18 year-olds with high-quality information, support and advice on a wide-range of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm, and difficult life pressures, like bullying and exams.

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Each of our 16 major libraries will now have copies of titles such as Mind your head, The unlikely hero of room 13B, I had a black dog and The perks of being a wallflower, until the end of May.

The reviews we have had from young people so far have been very moving and it’s really encouraging to see that young people are getting a lot from the titles they are reading.

Georgia, aged 13, did a review about Mind your head’;

“This whole book is one great big stonking potential trigger. I loved this book the moment I read that line. It’s a great mix of humour and advice, differing from the more formal help books that you might read. It won’t necessarily defeat your problem, but it will hand you the sword and encourage you to do it yourself. As a girl that came from a deep background of bullying, you know things won’t always stop overnight. You can’t expect a book to kill off all your monsters, no matter how much we would like it to, and this book understands that”.

To find out more about the scheme and titles available, please visit Shelf Help, Books on Prescription.

 

 

 

 

‘I pledge to do everything I can to keep children safe’

By Councillor Ivan Ould, Cabinet Member for Children and Families

Following the launch of the CEASE pledge back in February, along with over a thousand others, our councillors have been texting and pledging online to do all they can to stop child sexual exploitation (CSE).

At the end of a members’ briefing yesterday morning, I encouraged councillors that hadn’t already pledged to do so via text, online or by signing one of the thousands of paper hands which have been distributed across the county.

CEASE is a major multi-agency drive aiming to get everyone who lives and or works in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland to sign a pledge to combat CSE. It builds on the progress already made by ourselves, other councils, the police, health and other partners to tackle CSE and is running alongside a local awareness-raising drive called ‘spot the signs’.

Messages such as ‘I pledge to always keep children safe’ and ‘I promise to do all in my power to protect all of our children’ were written in support of this key campaign.

I would urge others to play their part too, by coming together to make a very public commitment that such abuse and exploitation of children will not be tolerated and help ‘spot the signs’ to prevent young people coming to harm.

To show your support, either text CEASE to 87007 or visit www.leics.police.uk/CEASE.

 

 

 

 

New ways to support CEASE

By Lesley Hagger, Director of Children & Family Services

As part of National Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day there are now two new ways for people to pledge their support to end child sexual abuse.

Alongside the CEASE – the Commitment to Eradicate Abuse and Sexual Exploitation – online pledge, you can now support the campaign by texting CEASE to 87007.

Thousands of CEASE hands will also be distributed across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, in places such as community centres, libraries and doctors surgeries, for people to sign.

I have pledged my support for CEASE and I urge you to do the same.

 

 

Family is extremely important to me

By Sue West, Team Manager – Fostering & Adoption (Assessment & Permanence).

This week is #LGBTAFW (LGBT adopting and fostering week), so I wanted to talk about my experiences, and our drive to recruit more LGBT foster carers.

Family is extremely important to me – both my own and the families I work with – I’m a manager in the fostering and adoption service at Leicestershire County Council.

I faced a unique challenge with my own family – having to come out to my husband and children. My experience was a positive one, I’m still friends with my ex-husband, and both my children have been nothing but supportive. I’ve learned that it’s never too late to be who you really are.

My job at the county council has a huge family focus. I help to make sure that children in the care of the council are placed with loving foster carers on a long term basis, or in some cases, adopted by their ‘forever family.’

In the last couple of years, the number of adoptive families with gay mums or dads has increased rapidly. We did a successful recruitment campaign to encourage same sex couples to adopt. Our advertising featured two mummies or two daddies as the norm, not as a token gesture.

The ‘make up’ of adoptive families has seen significant change in the last few years. It’s very diverse – straight couples, lesbian couples, single gay men, single women…but fostering, where we urgently need to recruit, isn’t attracting LGBT foster carers yet. Applicants can expect a very fair, open and honest assessment with us and social workers that don’t make assumptions about them. As a senior ‘out’ manager at the county council, I know that I have made a difference with the help of my team in creating a service that celebrates diversity, and hopes that that this starts to filter through in their fostering recruitment drive.

My own experiences have helped me grow in confidence in terms of supporting other LGBT people. Workwise, the big step we need to take is to recruit more LGBT foster carers. We need loving foster families and homes for the children in our care. LGBT people can provide those homes and be those families that make a difference to a child’s future.

Sue is now one of Leicestershire’s #LGBTRoleModels…find out more about Sue and the other role models at: www.leicestershire.gov.uk/lgbt-role-models.

 

 

Recruiting foster carers can be tough, but also magical

 As the recruitment lead for the Fostering and Adoption service I strive to find the best possible carers to provide love and support to children in the care of Leicestershire County Council.

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Keeping children safe is at the root of my role, and I passionately belief that it should remain so.

Last week, we held one of our regular ‘find out about fostering’ events, which are informal and welcoming and provide information for people about life as a carer. These are held every few weeks throughout the county and at County Hall.

As usual, some of our foster carers joined us to talk about their experiences. They provide moving, honest and real accounts of the ups and downs of fostering. We believe that this, along with our information, helps people decide whether or not they should pursue their interest.

There are lots of different types of fostering – and many ways to fit it into your life, from short stays to more specialist care.  And our rates of pay reflect the different types of care you could provide. It usually takes about six months from expressing an interest to being approved as a foster carer. Our assessments are robust and part of our role is to be fair and realistic with applicants and let people know early on if they’re unlikely to be successful. Most importantly, it has to be based on a clear and defined understanding that our role is to keep children safe.

Recruitment can be tough, but it can also be a magical piece of work. It is one that ultimately impacts on the lives of the children in our care. Their safety consistently remains our priority, when searching for the absolute ‘best’ carers and encouraging them to foster or adopt with Leicestershire County Council.

Denise Lacey, Recruitment Leader

 

 

 

Life on the frontline: Child protection

In this week’s blog, one of our child protection social workers outlines a day in her life.

Today is a busy one, starting with our weekly team meeting. Here we share important updates on cases and “map” a case. This means presenting information about a new case and then the team asking questions to “map” out what life is like for that child, what the worries are, what is working well and what needs to happen to make them safe. It is really helpful doing this together so we can support each other and come up with new ideas. This week we mapped two new cases.

Woman working with laptop placed on the wooden desk

My job involves attending fostering meetings where relatives or friends who are caring for a child are assessed. Both cases today involved grandparents. The second meeting was a difficult one as the assessment was not straight forward, and the panel had concerns. These meetings can be hard and some family members can take the issues raised as criticisms and can feel interrogated by professionals. It is difficult as we have to apply regulations for foster carers to family members who just want to look after children in their family, but legally we have to do this and apply the same rules.

I then had a difficult phone call from a father who was angry about conversations he had with his ex-partner. His two young children are subject to child protection plans because of domestic violence concerns. The couple is now separated but they continually argue about when this father can have contact with his children. The child protection plan is attempting to resolve these issues so that they can see their father without witnessing further violent incidents.

Evening and weekend working isn’t unusual, and today I finished at 7.30pm after three visits. Sometimes we need to visit when parents don’t expect us, to ensure that agreements in place for the children’s safety are being adhered to 24/7. This can be difficult if parents might present a risk by being aggressive or threatening. If so, we always go in pairs for safety and make sure someone else in the team knows where we are and when.