NFA East is one of the largest and most well-established agencies in the group. Despite covering an extensive geographical area, it provides localised groups and events so that foster carers feel well-supported within their locality. There are three separate regions each covered by its own Team Manager and with its own programme of events.
The East of England is full of local children and young people looking for foster homes. To help them, join the family of foster carers who, according to Ofsted, create ‘Outstanding outcomes for children’.
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Novice foster carers are buddied with more experienced carers, as well as their supervising social workers so there is always someone they can turn to for help. They have weekly contact with their social worker and monthly meetings. Social workers themselves have regular practice forums where they share lessons learned and good practice.
Foster children, too, are well-supported and encouraged to have their say. NFA East recently launched a participation group so that children can contribute to the running of the agency. Currently it is open to over 12s but it plans to launch an under 12s group, too, from the agency’s Lowestoft office.
Three quarters of all our placements are long-term and around 85% of our children routinely attend school, which is a fantastic achievement. I’m proud of the way our foster carers go out of the way to support the children and, in return, we do whatever we can to support them, particularly out of hours when things can be difficult. During the Covid crisis, one of our carers had to self-isolate because her daughter tested positive for the virus. She had children with special needs in the house. Our social workers stopped being social workers and became friends. They did the family’s shopping, bought things for the children to keep them entertained, and were on the phone 3 or 4 times a day to check that everything was OK. This is more than just a job for them.
Ann McKendrick, Registered Manager
It is crucial for children to feel safe, protected and happy with their foster families and the agency is proud of its safeguarding procedures. Members of the management team and supervising social workers have considerable experience in this area. If any concerns are identified they are thoroughly investigated, in conjunction with supervising social workers and Local Authority partners, and acted on if necessary.
Many of the foster carers have been with the agency for more than 10 years and its supervising social workers, too, form part of a stable staff team. It works hard to establish good and lasting relationships with carers and supports them to provide what foster children need through training and specialist back-up.
The agency is built around values such as honesty, integrity, reliability and confidentiality. Equally important, however, is humanity. It values the different approaches and experience that different people bring and everyone is encouraged to contribute. In working collaboratively, the agency believes that it is only as good as the weakest member of the team. For this reason, it goes out of its way to support staff and give them the confidence to develop. Managers role model the behaviour they would like to see in other members of staff.
NFA East recognises that mistakes happen and people are encouraged to be open if things go wrong so that lessons can be learned. There are structures in place for dealing with any problems that arise. The agency takes its obligations to children very seriously and is relentless in working to ensure that they get what they need. “If you demand for foster children what you would demand for your own children, you can’t go wrong” says the Registered Manager.
The agency believes that being part of the National Fostering Group is the best of both worlds. It has the flexibility and autonomy to do what it believes is right for its own region, but with the back-up of centralised services and clear lines of communication and accountability.