At National Fostering Group, we’re proud of our family feel. It’s no secret how we do it – it’s by creating exceptional support on a local level. This is the job of our local fostering agency teams. Meet Family Placement, also known as fp.c.
Just before the country went back to working from home where possible, the team at fp.c had a Christmas/Moving-in party at their new office. After around two decades in Witney, they’d moved to new premises down the road in Wantage.
“The party was lovely”, says Ami Ford, Carer Recruitment Officer for the fostering agency, “even if the central heating wasn’t working!”
It was something that Registered Manager Hannah Blay had been determined would happen for her team after 20 months of disparate working during lockdown.
Similarly, in-person events for foster carers, families and foster children also took place before going back online. Throughout the challenges posed by the pandemic, being there for each other is top of the list.
A fostering family
Established around two decades ago and part of National Fostering Group since 2019, the fp.c team supports foster carers across a wide area around Oxfordshire.
It’s a close-knit team, which undoubtedly helps to create a sense of family throughout its area. While the Christmas/Moving-in party might be the only face-to-face event the team has for a while, several of them meet on Zoom for coffee every morning “to start the day together”.
They recently held 6 different events, including trampolining, to help foster carers build stronger connections and have fun. While we’re not in lockdown, face-to-face events are ongoing.
“We got lots of lovely feedback,” Ami says. “It was the first real face-to-face time we’d had like that. Some of our foster carers had been approved during lockdown and it was a time when they could actually meet others.”
Day-to-day fostering support
Ami’s role is Carer Recruitment Officer for only part of the week. She also job shares with Christina, who is a Family Support Worker, which means she’s able to build relationships with the foster carers over time. As Family Support Workers, her and Christina also work directly with the foster children and the birthchildren.
Much of the day-to-day activity currently goes on over Zoom or on the phone and each foster carer has ongoing support from their supervising social worker. However, Ami calls foster carers up regularly too.
“I’m not after anything,” she laughs. “Our foster carers like it when they get a call that’s just a friendly chat. I like to check they’re okay – it matters.”
Ami started at fp.c in 2020, a month before the first lockdown. She previously worked in various roles at Swindon Borough Council’s fostering team, including as a children’s social care worker. She’s worked with children since she left school and a degree in working with children and families.
Aside from Hannah and Christina, the rest of the team are social workers. Everyone at fp.c is equally well-qualified and experienced and they understand both the joys and the challenges of fostering. Specialist support for foster carers is also available in the form of child psychologists.
Business as usual – almost
The requirement for foster carers hasn’t diminished during lockdown – nationally, around 8,000 foster children are waiting for foster homes where they can be safe and thrive.
The pandemic has brought challenges, but National Fostering Group quickly created processes that have supported existing and foster carers, their families, and the foster children. This includes:
- An application process that has more of an online focus, as well as a home visit
- Maintaining the day-to-day support activities as well as the fun, social stuff online
- Creating an 8-week fast-track application process to complement the standard 16-week application
- Making its excellent free training courses available online
Ami has been at the frontline on this, in both her roles. She conducts the initial visits for prospective foster carers in Oxfordshire, maintains regular contact with individual foster carers, and supports individual fostering families with problems.
She’s also continued, with the team, to organise the usual activities that strengthen the family-feel that’s synonymous with National Fostering Group. Online isn’t quite the same, but it’s quickly become an essential component to operations.
Children in Care Council Meetings
Ami explains: “This is a way of getting voices heard. Our foster children give us their opinions, do activities, have fun, and meet other foster children.
“They give us their opinions on everything, like foster carer recruitment, and do reports about their placements. They’re redesigning this at the moment so it’s not just a boring form!”
Foster Carer Forums
Fp.c covers a large area, each of which has a representative foster carer who attends the forums. This also helps get voices heard and supports the entire network of foster carers, birth children and foster children.
It’s not all online! Ami says: “If we hear a child has achieved something special, we fill out a Wow Card and post it out to them. It’s nice to get something through the post that you can hold in your hand. We can send it to both foster children and birth children.
“Recently, one of our birth children had helped a family with COVID. It was amazing so she got a gift voucher too.”
Fostering in Oxfordshire
Fp.c is a local fostering agency and part of National Fostering Group, which is the largest independent fostering agency in the UK.
Like all our local fostering agencies across the country, this means fp.c can offer better support, training and benefits to foster carers in Oxfordshire than any other provider in the country, helping you be at your best in this important role.