I take a first look at my emails for anything that has come in overnight that might need my immediate attention and then check social media for any comments, or interesting articles that I feel our foster carers and staff might find interesting.
We encourage flexible working
I rarely eat an early breakfast; it tends to be a fruit snack or some porridge later in the morning. Working from home because of the pandemic has changed my daily routine so much from my days driving to Cambridge and sitting in traffic whilst eating whatever looked best in the service station… We encourage flexible working in our team, enabling our staff to attend to the everyday things as required, because we know that our staff team are always ready to take calls and support our foster carers when needed. It’s important to be able to respond positively when needs arise, and part of being able to do that is knowing that everything else is taken care of, so that when needed we can be truly present to support foster carers.
The staff team meet virtually, every Tuesday at 09.00, to check in with each other, find out what is happening and get support from each other as required and importantly during these times when getting together isn’t so easy, to connect and feel part of what is going on. The team are great fun, we are small but together we achieve a great deal and it’s good to have giggle and share what else is going on outside of work too.
I enjoy listening to people’s stories
I will work solidly at my laptop in my little home office unless I set my alarm to regularly ensure I move and drink. The challenge with working from home is that work becomes very dominant and it’s important for our mental health that we embrace the discipline needed to walk away and have a break so that we can continue to be the best version of ourselves.
I work to ensure that any enquiries about fostering, are picked up quickly and that involves speaking to a lot of people. It is truly inspiring talking to anyone who is considering fostering. I enjoy listening to their stories and sharing information about how fostering might be able to work for them. There is a lot of legislation we work to in fostering, so it is important that we record well and provide the right information within the correct timescales.
It’s heart breaking because we do not have enough families
I ensure that our foster carers and team get paid on time and that our local authority partners are able to access everything they need in order to ensure the children we care for, on their behalf, are able to be continued to be cared for by our wonderful foster carers. I occasionally help Alison with placements and will read referrals of the children and young people who need a foster family. It is heart-breaking because we do not have enough families to meet the demand. We know that the number of children and young people coming into care is likely to continue to increase and the demand for foster carers is the highest it has ever been.
I work with Maz, our creative person, to update our website and share information that we think might inspire someone to think about fostering. There are so many myths about fostering. Foster carers come from all walks of life and there are different types of fostering too. We try to raise the benefits that fostering can bring for the children, but also for the foster carers too. We have seen more people consider fostering during the pandemic, some because they like working with children and see the potential of fostering replacing their usual work, and others who want to give something back and see fostering as a way of serving the community.
We know that the number of children and young people coming into care is likely to continue to increase and the demand for foster carers is the highest it has ever been.
I am the minute taker at panel meetings, where our new fostering applicants will as part of the final part of their assessment, meet panel and be asked some questions relating to their life and future fostering. Applicants are often quite nervous, but our panel are very supportive. Because I have often been the first person, they have talked to about fostering with our agency, I am a familiar face and I try to put them at ease. We have been holding our panel meetings virtually throughout the pandemic and everyone is very experienced now.
We both remain very involved
Lunch is usually soup or a sandwich. I might have a little walk or a short run. Those I meet after lunch will know if I have been for a run, because my face is red!
Afternoons are often a good time for reviewing policies, updating financial information, or writing articles. It’s good to work with such a great team of support staff. I work closely with our bookkeeper and administrator both of whom are fabulous. We are a small team, so Alison and I pick up a lot of things that need doing, between us. As we have grown, we have slowly introduced more people to the team, but it’s very important to us that we both remain very involved and continue to be closely linked to our foster carers. Every two weeks we have a virtual foster carer support group meeting, these are very informative and interactive. They tend to bring out the best in our senses of humour but are a great place for foster carers to share and support each other.
The work day ends usually around 6pm unless meetings have over run or new referrals of children have come in later in the day, or I am chatting to potential foster carers. I facilitate a regular virtual session to learn more about fostering, which is in the evening or the weekend, to accommodate people who work or have family commitments.
Our purpose is to ensure that foster carers are successful
My phone is never switched off, it’s important that I can be contacted if needed. That said, I like open swimming, even in the winter months and it’s great to float, with my phone safely on the shore, looking up at the sky and feeling alive, although sometimes feeling very chilly.
Working with foster carers is something I came late to in my career, having previously been a nurse in paediatrics and later leading services for older adults. I wish I had come to it sooner, as it is so fulfilling. When Alison and I came up with the name for the agency, we felt To the Moon and Back was the distance we were willing to go for our young people and foster carers. Our purpose is to ensure that our foster carers are successful in their work and feel valued and cherished.
I climb into bed, about 10.00pm, usually after a Netflix binge. I am lucky that my partner enjoys cooking and will often create something wonderful for dinner, more often plant based as we rarely eat meat now. A quick look of what’s coming up the following day and then hopefully sleep…