Heath Farm is an independent fostering agency with a holistic, wraparound care approach for children who have complex needs. We work with more than 70 foster carers and over 100 foster children. Part of National Fostering Group, we are based in Whitstable, Kent and operate throughout London, Kent and Essex.
Heath Farm was founded in 1993 and was one of the first independent fostering organisations in England. Specialising in therapeutic foster care, we grew and adopted the model of multi-disciplinary working operating from a single site – a wraparound service for looked after children.
This wraparound model of care supports children who have complex needs, while working closely with local authorities and the child’s family. Heath Farm pioneered this approach in the early 90s.
We’ve worked hard to build strong, well-established links with local authorities and we were rated as OUTSTANDING in our latest Ofsted inspection. As a proud member of NFA Group’s fostering family of agencies, we are LILAC certified, in honour of our high quality standards.
“Therapy runs through the veins of Heath Farm. Our staff members are trained in therapeutic practice and all our foster carers undergo training in therapeutic parenting. The aim of this approach is to look beyond the child’s behaviour to understand why they are behaving in a particular way. By depersonalising the behaviour, it is possible to work with it differently. The language we use is important.
“We avoid words like ‘bad’ and ‘naughty’ and we rarely use the term ‘respite’, preferring instead to call it a sleepover which has a more normal feel. By saying to children ‘help me to understand the way you feel’ we hope to encourage a discussion rather than apportioning any blame.”
Neil McCarthy, Registered Manager
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 Heath Farm, please get in touch with us today.
Our aim is to provide children with stability within their foster family. We have a highly qualified therapy team on hand to support foster carers and staff teams, working on an informal pop-in basis or via formal, structured appointments.
With an outstanding team of carers and staff, who specialise in providing therapeutic care for children with complex needs, we provide four key services. These are:
We work alongside six independent therapists who support children affected by trauma and difficult past events. The majority of children are tier 2 and tier 3, who tend to have complex needs and require a package of support, including therapy.
Each child’s therapeutic journey begins at the point of referral and 40-50% of foster children have face-to-face therapy. The therapeutic approach is based around an evidence-based theoretical framework, led by clinical psychologists.
We equip our foster carers with everything needed to do a great job – to offer children and young people in your care the best opportunities to live the life they deserve, and prepare them for a happy and independent adulthood.
A high level of support is crucial for foster carers. You can pick up the phone 24 hours a day and talk to someone who knows them and their circumstances. Our foster carers receive exceptional training and support to make the role a genuinely rewarding experience for you and your family, and equally positive for the child in your care. This includes core training and development courses, plus specialist training to support you to cope with particular challenges.
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.
“Support is about having confidence in your fostering agency that you will get a robust response to your issue or concern or simply a listening ear.”
Neil McCarthy, Registered Manager
Heath Farm is one of five independent fostering agencies in the UK that run the Mockingbird model, which was developed in the US and is underpinned by university research.
Foster carers work within constellations of a maximum of 10 foster homes. There are four constellations within the Heath Farm region – three in Kent and one in Essex. Within each constellation there is a hub carer who has two bedrooms vacant in their home. Families in the constellation socialise together, support one another and bring their foster children together to get to know each other.
If a particular child is having challenges, their foster care can call on the hub carer who can either go into foster home as additional support or provide overnight accommodation for up to four nights to give the foster carer a break.
The idea is to break the cycle of challenging behaviour and enable the foster carer to undertake repatriation work. The model has been shown to stabilise placements and help children have a better experience of being within a foster family.
We have developed a new contact suite, with 15 facilitators who can support children who have contact with their birth family. For older children, the suite is used to provide mentoring support to prepare them for adulthood, with a range of specialist workshops such as cooking and CV writing. We also have contact facilities off site and we are in the process of developing a new office, opening early 2021!
We agree upfront, all-inclusive costs with local authorities to cover the full amount of a child’s care. This means there is no need to go back to local authorities for additional funding to cover therapy or mentoring, which causes unnecessary delays. If therapy is required, it can be provided within 24 hours by our specialist therapeutic team.
Heath Farm aims to normalise the experience for children in care, reducing any institutionalised elements and making our agency feel like a family as much as possible. A youth participation social worker encourages young people to get involved in recruiting and training foster carers, interviewing and developing the foster carer handbook and digital children’s guide.
In order to deliver a high quality child-centred service, our philosophy is that by looking after its staff team really well, we are able to support foster carers really well, who can look after children really well. Everyone is encouraged to raise issues or concerns as soon as they arise to prevent them becoming bigger problems.
Heath Farm is proud to be part of the National Fostering Group. Being part of such a large organisation gives us access to a range of additional support services that benefit our foster children, including Duke of Edinburgh Awards, British Explorers and Britannica. We continue to be run according to the same principles and models as we’ve always been, with the additional benefit of specialist support services and backing.
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.
In May 2021 we opened a new family time contact centre, and with fifteen supervisors we maintain a high-quality service reflecting the needs of children/young people and their birth families, ensuring that children’s needs regarding family time are promoted.
Also providing additional support to carers and children/Young people with the outcome of increasing stability of placements.
We have secured accreditation with NACCC National Association of Child Contact Centre.’