Children First is an independent agency formed in 1999, providing National Fostering Group services across South East England, including Essex, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, parts of London and parts of Kent. We provide high quality foster care for children and young people aged between 0 to 18 years old and currently work with more than 50 foster carers and over 55 children.
With a Basildon head office, we also have centrally located carer hubs close to Milton Keynes, Luton, Colchester, Ipswich, Southend and in London to ensure dedicated fostering support is always close by.
Children First is a multicultural fostering agency, with passionate foster carers looking after children and young people from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds. Wherever possible, we aim to find the foster families for children who have experienced similar cultural and societal backgrounds.
“We have a really close and cohesive team, all of whom are encouraged to take an active part in the running and development of the agency. Each staff member has a back-up buddy and all staff participate in regular meetings at which every foster family is discussed. It’s important to me that staff feel listened to and valued and have an opportunity to contribute to the agency in a meaningful way.
“This means everyone in the agency is aware of the circumstances of our foster families and has an understanding of any issues they might be facing. If foster carers or young people make contact with us, this means staff can respond appropriately without having to ask them to explain from scratch.”
Zazie Chesters, Registered Manager
Our agency’s size means the team is able to have a personal relationship with every foster carer, foster child and birth child. There is regular interaction at consultations and engagement events throughout the year.
Around 76% of our foster children are in long-term stable placements; some foster carers have been with the agency more than 20 years and there is a good level of recruitment of new foster carers via word of mouth.
People from all walks of life can become a carer. You can help to inspire a generation of vulnerable children and young people to find their way in the world. You can help us build an incredible future for them. If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer with Children First, please get in touch with us today.
As the foster care provider of choice for many local authorities in the region, we work in partnership to match the right foster carers to the needs of each child and young person.
We pride ourselves on continuing to create a lasting legacy of children and young people who have grown both personally and academically under the caring influence of foster carer role models.
We give our foster carers a high level of support, including a dedicated social worker who will guide you through your foster carer assessment process. Once approved as a foster carer with us, you will have access to experienced practitioners providing therapeutic and educational advice, supporting you to provide a child in your care with everything they need to enjoy a happy, healthy and fulfilling time with you.
We recruit, assess, train and support foster carers to provide the best homes possible for our children and young people, being committed to turning our foster carers into fostering experts who are dedicated to encouraging positive outcomes for those in their care.
Our foster carers can claim a wide range of perks and benefits, like free membership to The Fostering Network, Max Cards,high street discounts, invitations to family activities and events, and much more.
We have a close and cohesive team, consisting of a registered manager, team manager, two team support workers, six social workers and two admin staff, along with a placement officer in a West London hub. All staff are involved in the day-to-day running of the agency and we have dedicated support structures in place to facilitate this.
We are keen to maintain a comfortable, family feel. The upstairs rooms of our offices are equipped with comfortable seating, games and books, and decorated with children’s artwork, writing, and achievement boards. The aim is to make people feel welcome as soon as they walk through the door.
Our staff also work hard to provide a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, including keeping in regular touch with new applicants throughout the assessment process. A quote and comments book kept in reception is filled with positive feedback, reflecting how much foster carers, children and support workers appreciate our warm, friendly ethos.
Children First provides hands-on support for foster carers 24/7 as well as 24-hour emergency placements. Foster carers value being able to talk to a member of the team who knows them and their family if they are experiencing a crisis. Rather than having to explain their family circumstances to a stranger at a time of emotional intensity, they are able to speak with someone who knows their name, situation and history and understands the issues they might be facing.
We are constantly looking at ways we can expand our service and develop new initiatives to support young people and foster carers. For example, we recently considered how looked after children can keep precious memories safe and developed a new initiative, with training for foster carers.
A new programme for 14-18-year olds will help them develop life skills to support their move towards adulthood. We describe our approach as fluid and responsive, with all members of the team being encouraged to suggest ways to support young people or foster carers.
Over the past 12 months, we have developed a children and young people’s council to help shape our services. We have invited children aged 8-16 to join the council, as these will be the children who will have the opportunity to develop the group, forge lasting relationships, and benefit from changes made due to their input.
Five children – 10% of the total we care for – are currently on the council and have helped to rewrite a new feedback form for the annual foster carer’s review, as well as designing the Welcome Box for new foster children placed with Children First.
Children also now play a key role in asking questions during the foster carer assessment process, either joining the Fostering Panel in person, via phone or video link, or by supplying the Chair with the question they would most like to ask.
Children First works closely with all stakeholders. Honesty and integrity underpin everything we do. During the matching process, for example, we are careful to provide an honest assessment to the foster carer, of any challenging behaviours and the support that will be provided.
We work with local authorities to ensure they pay the correct rate for a child, acquiring an enhanced rate where there are escalating complex behaviours and reducing rates where not. Children and young people are given accurate and honest information about their rights. Honesty and respect are crucial in supporting us to maintain the highest possible standards.
If problems arise, we respond quickly and assess how we can resolve the issue, ensuring good communication between key individuals. The whole staff team takes ownership of managing problems together, offering support irrespective of whose case it is.
In addition to one-to-one supervision with their line manager, social workers have peer group supervision with a psychologist, who can help to unpick difficult issues. Whatever the problem, we work hard to see it through, following correct processes, assessing how well it was managed, and taking learning from the outcome.
Children First believes that being part of the National Fostering Group enables us to retain independence and autonomy, but provides an invaluable body of resources. In particular, we value the support of the quality assurance team, human resources and training department, which ensure we are kept abreast of latest legislation and policy updates.
The National Fostering Group have partnered with Acorn Digital Learning (ADL) to provide 8 weeks free access to their specialist online school to provide an education bridge into care.
Find out more here