The National Fostering Agency Midlands covers a large geographical area and employs 50 staff. Its office is in Solihull in the West Midlands, with supervising social workers based from home so they are closer to foster families. Despite its size, the agency has a family ethos and has an established, close-knit team with a broad range of knowledge and experience.
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1750 Solihull Parkway
Birmingham Business Park
In addition to the support from their supervising social worker and fellow foster carers via local support groups and buddying, all foster families have access to an inhouse psychologist and support workers who can assist with foster children and birth children.
We have a lot of empathy for our foster carers. They are doing a tough job and we only see a small snippet of the work they do. They benefit from the support of our stable and experienced team, including our supervising social workers some of whom have worked in child protection or with unaccompanied asylum seekers. We offer a blended training programme, local support groups and a regular programme of events to help them build relationships with other carers. Every foster carer is allocated a buddy when they are approved, who can provide guidance and emotional support. There’s 24-hour support from a manager and qualified social worker and we have an open door policy for foster carers, actively encouraging new ideas and approaches.
Debbie Blount, Registered Manager
The agency is particularly keen to retain and develop its staff and is proud of the many opportunities for career progression, training and development. It has good links with local universities and provides placement opportunities for social work students. It believes all foster carers have individual strengths and aims to help them develop and expand on these strengths so they can provide the best support for children. Once a month, the agency nominates four foster carers as “Everyday Heroes” for going above and beyond in their work. They receive a certificate and a hamper. Four children a month are also nominated as Mini Heroes and receive recognition for their achievements. By building expertise at every level of the organisation in this way, The National Fostering Agency Midlands is able to offer the best support for foster carers and the best outcomes for children.
The agency is committed to openness and transparency. All staff and foster carers are encouraged to share their ideas and to express any concerns. Children’s views are sought in a number of ways, including the annual survey and carers annual review. Feedback is carefully assessed and acted on where necessary. Supervising social workers see children every three months outside their foster home, if possible, to ensure that everything is going smoothly and to ask whether anything more could be done to support them. All children are invited to be part of the children’s forum which provides an opportunity to express how they feel and share ideas.
The agency has a busy programme of events, including an annual celebration day for achievements big and small, from exam success to learning to tie shoelaces. Children – including birth children – receive a certificate and can choose a book and have their photograph taken. There are lots of fun activities throughout the day, including baking and Makaton signing. At Halloween, the agency organises a party with “scary” buffet and at Christmas Father Christmas brings presents to every child. Events are held across the region, with up to 10 events per celebration. It is a major undertaking but crucial for helping foster carers and children to build support networks, receive recognition for their achievements and have fun.
The agency aims to ensure that children’s interests are fully supported and that they receive a rounded education. They are encouraged to participate in sports and activities and supported to pursue their next adventure, whether it is attending dance classes or independence workshops to enable older children to make a smooth transition into adulthood.
The National Fostering Agency Midlands believes in dreaming big. It feels supported in this vision by being part of the Outcomes First Group and in particular by having an approachable senior management team which is open to new ideas and encourages its commitment to delivering on its promises to children, foster carers and staff.