Whilst the majority of us look forward to Christmas spending time with our families and exchanging gifts, for many children in foster care it can be a time of very mixed emotions. Christmas can be very confusing or an overwhelming experience with some children missing their birth families and unable therefore to feel truly happy. Others having never experienced Christmas celebrations before, find the whole experience, whilst enjoyable, at the same time, slightly strange or bewildering. Even if the children have experienced Christmas celebrations before, given that each family does it differently and have their own traditions, it is likely that the child will have feelings that need to be considered and supported.

The charity, Fostering Network, invited foster carers and professionals involved in foster services to share their Christmas stories. They shared their experiences of trying to create a wonderful Christmas for fostered children and the many changes that needed to be made to their plans in order to accommodate the very individual needs of the child in their care.

The stories demonstrate the amazing expertise of so many foster carers and their absolute dedication to putting their own Christmas experience second to that of the children in their care. What is equally inspiring and tremendously heart-warming is the ability of the foster carers’ birth children, who show fantastic insight, patience and care for the children living in their home, putting their needs ahead of their own.

One social worker from Flintshire County Council states that “most Christmas eves, we get asked to place around five children and we are phoning our foster carers asking if they can care for another child over Christmas”. We too, have experienced similar demand leading up to this Christmas, as local authority placement teams try their absolute best to find a wonderful caring home for each individual child in need. However the reality is that we have no families available to offer as all are at capacity. The demand for new foster carers continues to be very high, with new children coming in to care at a rate of 90 per day across England and Wales.

Mark and Sandra, foster carers reported “Christmas of 2015, we woke up Christmas morning all excited, but our little boy didn’t know what to do and – his little face was blank.” He apparently opened his gifts very slowly with very little excitement, instead looking confused.  After Christmas lunch he told his carers that it had been the best dinner he had every had and it was only much later in the year that they became aware that little boy had never had Christmas celebrations before, “no toys, no special food and no family games”

Susan, another foster carer shared, “We had a five year old and a two year old one Christmas. They didn’t know what an Advent calendar, Christmas Cracker or Christmas dinner was.” She explained that afterwards when she had asked the older child what had been the best bit of the day, expecting to hear it was the lovely gifts, she was told it was the Christmas crackers and the dinner, because they had never had that before.

We are so grateful for the fantastic work undertaken by all foster carers and not just at Christmas time. But knowing that they are all going to the moon and back for the children in their care to ensure that their Christmas is memorable and the best it can be, is truly inspiring.  Their ability to be flexible and put the child at the centre of their day is what makes them amazing.

We thank our team of foster carers and their super families for their tremendous work and support which ensures that we enable young people every day to go on to achieve their true potential.

Wishing a Happy Christmas to you and your family

Angela and Alison xx



Parenting children when one or both parents are not living with a child can be fraught with tensions. At To The moon and Back Foster Care we work with children who are unable to live with either of their parents, but remain in some form of contact. This can sometimes be a bitter sweet relationship with children loving their parents and at the same time, hurting and feeling angry at them for not being there every day for them.

Our foster carers are asked to support and promote safe time with the children’s family and help a child maintain a positive relationship with their parents, siblings, grandparents and other members of their family. This is always done in a planned way that ensures children are at the heart of how this is done. We know that many of the skills, attitudes and tools that foster carers and ourselves use to manage this are transferable to parents going through separations or managing the challenges of co parenting a child with a parent who does not live in the family on a day to day basis.

We hope this blog helps both those thinking about fostering, who have concerns about working with birth families, but also parents wanting to do what is best for their child despite the relationship they may have with an absent parent or one where there is tension between the separated parents.

There are approximately 2.6 million separated families. That is a lot of families working to ensure the impact on a child, of not living day to day with a parent, is minimal. We know however, all of these children are potentially hurting, due to the day to day absence of living with a birth parent.

For many children the distress of parents separating is short term however the longer-term impact often depends on how this is managed by the adults around them.

Jeffrey Gitomer says

“Resilience is not what happens to you. Its how you react to, respond to, and recover from what has happened to you.”

Supporting children to understand the reasons why a parent and they are not living together, can be hard. We hope we can share some of our top tips.

In the short-term children may feel a profound loss and their early response can involve a number of defence behaviours, including: denial, disbelief, dissociation, hyperactivity, irritability and protest, alarm and panic.

Remaining focused on what your child needs is essential. Children want to feel loved, cared for and in a stable and safe environment. We advise our foster carers that the first step to supporting a child, is making their home life feel predictable. Routines allow a child to feel contained and this can be a first step in making sense of the difficult parts of their life.

Open communication is essential when children are not living with one or both parents. Children can tolerate the truth. They need to be reassured that whatever the circumstances, it is not their fault. Adults are responsible for how they manage the adult relationships. Children should be shielded from the tensions between parents and not be used as a middle person to pass messages or as a weapon to punish the other parent.

Children do not want to hear negative things about a parent, they potentially want to have a relationship with both parents. They do want to be able to talk about their parents and not feel guilty or disloyal to another parent. We find children may want see photos of their absent parent, may want to share memories and talk about how they feel. Children should be able to do this without the fear of letting someone else down or upsetting them.

No matter what is going on for a child, our top piece of advice for you as a parent or foster carer is to listen to the child in front of you and be resilient enough to cope with their emotions. This will help show them that they can talk to you about how they’re feeling.

Many would say they listen but you need to consider, if are you really hearing what they are saying? When children find their home circumstances change, they often find their adult care giver is also in emotional turmoil.  For example in separating parents, this may be your own hurt, anger or sadness at the losses you are experiencing.  For foster carers it may be the same feelings based on what you hear about a child’s situation or birth parent. Ask yourself a question, are my emotions helping this child? If the answer is no, then you may have to park up your own feelings in front of the child and have your own space and support to express these. Children need to see adults who are able to express emotions but can also contain them.  Finding an avenue to vent your own feelings is essential.  This should be through a supportive friend or family or through a service set up for parents going through separation.

We advise our foster families that at times of contact with a birth family, behaviours may change in their children, we want our foster carers to understand that the behaviour is communicating a feeling. So, when faced with anger and difficult behaviour, we ask them to provide love, understanding and support, this does not mean ignoring behaviour but putting it in context of the circumstances. It is important to create opportunities to discuss the child’s feelings and actions, define what is acceptable and what is not and work together on finding alternative and appropriate ways of dealing with angry or sad feelings.

Supporting children and young people to regulate their emotions is one of the key skills needed for their adult life. This is not always easy when there are tensions around parents working together. We sometimes find with the families of the children we work with, that they can feel angry at foster carers for having their children when they cannot and they may want to tell them how to parent them or sometimes say things to make their task harder. This may be similarly an issue also between separating parents. Thus finding ways to enable a parent to feel part of their child’s life is essential. Showing respect to a parent because of what they mean to the child in your care is not always easy, but it is in the best interests of the child. We find no matter what has happened in a family, children want their parents, in many cases, in their life and just want this to be safe and about them and not about the problems in the adults life. Children of separated parents often feel the same, they want to have a relationship with both parents and not want to feel that they have to be loyal to just one parent.

It is not always easy to work alongside a parent when there are tensions, we offer the following top tips which we share with our foster carers when working with a fostered child’s birth parents.

When tensions are rising between parents, take it somewhere else. It is important not to argue in front of children, whether it’s in person or over the phone. Ask the other adult to talk another time or drop the conversation altogether.

Use tact. Refrain from talking with your children about details of parent’s behaviour. It’s one of the oldest sayings around… “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

Be nice. Be polite in your interactions with birth parents. This sets a good example for children and young people and when you are perhaps on the receiving end of a negative comment or behaviour be gracious in your response.

Look on the positive aspects of the relationship, choose to focus on the strengths of all family members and encourage children to do the same.

Work on it. Make it a priority to develop an amicable relationship with your children’s parents as soon as possible. Watching you be friendly can reassure children and teach problem-solving skills as well.

If our blog has inspired you to find out more about the role of foster carers, check out our website at www.tothemoonandbackfostering.com.

At To The Moon and Back Foster Care we know that one of the biggest needs for our partnering local authorities is for families to care for teenagers, however despite the increasing demand, the families coming forward to foster are often anxious about fostering teenagers for fear that they will bring trouble to their door. We know that caring for teenagers can be exhausting at times but it is also one of the most rewarding times about parenting/fostering, because we can see the emerging adult develop.

Teenagers in many ways have always had a bad press. Stories of gangs, antisocial and risky behaviour can be regular news items. However, in 2010 an under published research highlighted that “75% of young people regularly volunteer to help others, and most have values far removed from the fame-and-fortune obsession normally attributed to the X-Factor generation.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/sep/02/youth-bad-news-stories

We know however that raising a teenager can be a challenge and it was for this very reason that in November 2018 we held a local conference with Dr Karen Treisman, a clinical psychologist and author and Poet Ben Westwood. At this conference we talked about how we care safely and successfully for adolescents. We trust that some of the information, advice and tips raised in this blog will help parents living with teenagers, or maybe encourage those out there thinking perhaps fostering might be for them, to consider fostering teenagers.

Adolescence is often linked to teenage years, traditionally starting as children move in to their thirteenth year and ending at eighteen, however if we link adolescence with puberty and the associated hormonal changes that often result in some of the presentations associated with teenage years, then this might start at an earlier age. Girls can start puberty between  8- 13 years of age, with the average age of onset being 10 ½  years old. In boys this can begin between 9 and 14 years with the average age being 11 ½ years.  https://www.verywellfamily.com/when-should-puberty-start-2632063

The onset of puberty is when the body starts changing and as a result the hormone levels in children raise to enable their bodies to start the process of maturing. This period is often associated with the emotional rollercoaster of the teenage years.

What can we expect from adolescence?

It is a time of change, one when young people begin to separate from parents and show signs of what kind of an adult they might become. There are surges of hormones combined with body changes. There may be a struggle for them to find an identity compounded by potential pressures from their friends and peers. Overall there is a sense of development of independence, but this is a confusing time for young people and can be very challenging for those caring for them. The hormones increasing in the body means that children can struggle to regulate their moods, they may present as changeable and struggle to explain why they feel the way they do. They may be withdrawn, sullen, snappy or quick to become angry. We also know for teenagers in the care system, there can be additional pressures placed on them around their identity after all they are separating from both birth families and foster carers and potentially with an added clash of family norms between their two worlds.

We know during this time that there are significant changes in an adolescent’s brain development which gives rise to some of the reasons why this period in a teenager’s life can be challenging.

Adolescence is a time of significant growth and development of the brain. The neuroscientists are now seeing that the brain does not actually fully mature until we are 24-25years old,  we might therefore think of adolescence as a period of time that lasts a lot longer than merely teenager years.


During adolescence the unused connections in the “thinking and processing” part of the young person’s brain (called the grey matter) are ‘pruned’ away.  In short the unused connections in the brain that have not been built are simply pruned in order to make space for other connections which are being used, in order for the connections to grow stronger. This is the brain’s way of becoming more efficient, based on the ‘use it or lose it’ principle. You may consider this as rejigging and decluttering a filing cabinet in order to make space for new and expanding files.

The front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, is remodelled last. The prefrontal cortex is the decision-making part of the brain, responsible for a young person’s ability to plan and think about the consequences of actions, solve problems and control impulses. Changes in this part continue into early adulthood. The mismatch of the emotional regulation maturing along with the growth and pruning of the brain is part of why we associate teenage years with a rise in risky and impulsive behaviour.

Put simply, as the brain is changing, the abilities of our young people, their thinking and ability to process and make sound decisions develop at a slower rate than the development of the part of the brain that regulates emotional responses. The consequences are likely to be impulsivity, lack of thought about consequences, living in the moment and a move away from parents who may push for reason and sensibility.

What does this mean for the parenting role?

Well, we can safely expect young people’s emotional lives to be like a roller coaster.  We also know that young people find their peer group become more important to them, in terms of what they believe, what they like and what they do. They are a significant influence on a teenager and can become more prominent in a young person’s life. Some might think that parents, carers and family become less important to them, but this is not totally true. What we do know is that a young person’s peers become more important to them and that the role the parent initially plays in socialising their young person, shifts, to be taken on by their peers.

However parents and foster carers have an important role to play in the growth and development of their teen throughout adolescence and into adulthood.  Studies have shown that teenagers who feel a secure connection with their care giver are better able to disengage and form healthy relationships during the rest of their life.

For foster carers, we know offering support through the teenage years can be harder because adolescents may have started life with less secure relationships with their own parents.  This may be because their parent had their own issues that became their preoccupation such as mental health challenges, addictions, or their own unresolved childhood traumas. Many teenagers may also have had the added pressures of supporting younger siblings in the family. Some of our teenagers have taken on the responsibility to parent younger children and they may try and continue to do this whilst living with foster carers. They may also have had less opportunity for their own needs to be recognised and consequently met by an adult.

The building of a predictable and empathetic relationship with the adolescent is the priority for the foster carer. It is a priority for a relationship to be built where there is sensitivity to the changes going on for the young person and an understanding of how this might feel for them. This is likely to contrast with the lack of consistent early nurturing care from their own family. When fostering teenagers, a carer may be the first person who is predictable, patient and in tune with them. They may identify key skills and talents and nurture them.

For all care givers, remaining committed and open to the relationship with a teenager whether they are your own or a foster child is the priority and not taking the changes in the relationship as a personal rejection.

Understanding more about a teenager’s development might help us think about how best to support a young person move through the teenage years feeling supported but not controlled or constrained. In order to achieve this we know that building strong communication links, having a sense of acceptance and an ability to help a young person regulate their feelings, are essential.

Here are some of our top tips.

Allow teenagers to take some healthy risk. New learning comes from feeling empowered and learning from mistakes. Risk taking has to be balanced against safeguarding young people but building in steps to manage risk is vital. New and different experiences help a child develop an independent identity, explore grown-up behaviour, and move towards independence.

Enabling young people to find new creative and expressive outlets for their feelings is important. Many teenagers find that doing or watching sport, listening or playing music, writing, painting and other art forms are good outlets for expressing safely how they may be feeling. Helping young people understand what is happening internally for them, can help them understand why they may need new outlets for their emotions.

Talking through decisions step by step with your young person and listening to what they need is a key task for caring for teenagers. By asking them about possible courses of action they might choose, and talking through potential consequences can encourage them to weigh up consequences for themselves.  Enabling the young person to take some of the control in decision making is essential, as young people are beginning to want to be more independent. For young people in care this is essential. Many young people in care talk of feeling like they are controlled and have little say with so many people involved in their care, this is a small way of helping them take back some control.

Use family routines to give your young person’s life some structure. These might be based around school and family timetables. Positive predictability allows people to feel safe through turbulent times. It can also help build an essential sense of trust in the adults.

Provide boundaries and offer opportunities for negotiating those boundaries. Young people need guidance and limit-setting from their care givers, but be open to reflection on what is working best and be prepared to offer some flexibility.

Offer frequent praise and positive rewards for desired behaviour. This reinforces pathways in your teenager’s brain.

Be a positive role model. Your behaviour will guide your young person about the behaviour you expect.

Stay connected with your young people. You’ll probably want to keep an eye on their activities and friends, by showing interest rather than control you are more likely to be able to keep the dialogue going. Continuing to be open and approachable can help you with this.

Talking with your young person about his/her developing brain can help them see what you are doing and why. Having an understanding about this important period of growth might help young people process his/her feelings. It might also make taking care of his/her brain more interesting to them.

Last of all, but one of the most important top tips, is to look after yourself. As a trauma informed organisation we see the impact raising children can have on adults. Children can be exhausting and fostering children can bring additional stresses. Self-care and protection from burn out are so essential. We believe in this so strongly that we have dedicated our next conference to self-care and protecting from secondary trauma when supporting people who are fostering or parenting children who may present as challenging at times.

Don’t Take Our Word For It

Once you have decided that you want to find out more about fostering a child, it’s a good idea to have lots of information available to you and to be able to talk to someone who is already fostering. Choosing a foster agency that suits you best, involves research and the asking of the right questions. We asked our foster carers a few questions so that we could get an honest opinion of what they feel about fostering with us.



How long had you been thinking about fostering before you decided to apply? 

—We had talked about fostering for ten years or so and when we finally found ourselves in a position to start, we went for it.

Like many foster carers they had been thinking about fostering for a long time before they approached a fostering agency. Ten years is not uncommon in our experience. The decision to foster is one of the most -changing decisions life a person can make, so no wonder it may take a while. According to a survey undertaken by Fostering Network in 2013 What is known is that most foster carers share a common set of values. They are principally motivated by an intrinsic desire to ‘do the right thing’ and to contribute to improving society.



What made you choose To The Moon and Back Foster Care as your agency?

— When we embarked on finding the right agency that suited our family we created a questionnaire for ourselve and we asked each agency questions over the telephone… in effect we interviewed them for the role! Once we had shortlisted 3 agencies, we met with them all separately. Alison’s passion, coupled with the ethics of To the Moon and Back as a company, shone through and it was a very easy choice for us.

The ethics and passion of our organisation is an overwhelming attraction for wanting to come to our agency. The carers in this case were very confident in their approach when selecting their agency of choice. We actually loved the fact that they interviewed us.

According to the survey undertaken in 2013 foster carers share similar values but fall within three main categories, however their values are markedly different from those held by the rest of our society.

The outcomes of the survey were detailed, but I recall at the time the report came out, I found them unsurprising. What I learned was the need for ensuring individualisation of our service to foster carers and always working with authenticity in the making of relationships with foster carers.

We have a strong set of values which enable us to maintain our ethical stance and go the extra mile for our foster carers and young people.



How did you find the assessment process? Some people call it free therapy. 

— Not sure that we’d ever class the assessment process as free therapy but there were moments of enlightenment and enjoyment. It was an easy journey though, as the ultimate goal to foster stayed in our sights throughout.

The assessment of new foster carers is on the whole a very enlightening process. It is very detailed and has to meet various regulations set to ensure children are protected. We make the assessment comfortable and work with flexibility for the potential foster carers. We explain everything and work with empathy.



What was it really like to go through the independent panel questioning?

— As a couple in our late 40’s and early 50’s we felt comfortable discussing openly our reactions and feelings. We have had a lot of previous experience and we were happy sharing it and answering questions that the panel posed us.

We felt we could learn from what was shared by the people on the panel, we held them in high regard. We had an all-female panel and we fed back that we would have found it useful to have had a male panel member too. We were asked formally to feed back our thoughts after the panel so we felt our voices were heard too as part of the process.

The process of being interviewed by our independent Panel is seen by some as very daunting, however in reality it is a very friendly meeting and they work hard to put prospective foster carers at ease. Their questions and suggestions are intended to helpfully identify the carer’s strengths and areas where support may be useful.  



After approval, how long were you waiting before you had a child placed with you?

 — We were waiting for around 2 months. This was mainly due to our matching criteria, we have our own family and we were encouraged by the agency to make thoughtful decisions when looking at referrals of children, so that any children joining us would fit well in to our family. We were matched for siblings and made preparations for them, but when the case went to court the court order wasn’t awarded and therefore the children didn’t come to us.

We work hard to provide local placements for local children. It’s important to us that we make good matches of families to children. In our first inspection this year Ofsted highlighted our thorough process for matching.

We have a duty of care to match families as best we can. A good match enables better outcomes for children by ensuring that they have consistency and an opportunity to build strong long-term relationships.



How involved were you in the decision to have children placed with you? 

— Very. Alison certainly made sure it was our decision to welcome our first young person, but in order for us to make the decision, she gave us good advice and guidance, as she always does.

Ofsted when inspecting us against the latest standards said in September this year this independent fostering agency is good because

  • Carers identify and are able to meet children’s individual needs.
  • Work undertaken by the agency and the carers reduces risks to children.
  • Placement matching is careful, considered and completed in partnership with the foster carers.
  • Practice is innovative and child-centred. Children are at the heart of all decision-making.
  • The agency’s statement of purpose is embedded throughout its work.
  • Children develop interests and hobbies and have positive, family-based experiences.
  • The agency has a strong focus on keeping children safe.
  • Foster Carers describe strong support from the agency
  • Children form good relationships with their carers

Children develop interests and hobbies and have positive family based experiences



How much training and development have you had in the first year, how has it helped you in your role?

— Just about enough, we have felt that what we have had and continue to have is enough to make you feel ready for the job, but we haven’t been snowed under as yet!

Development is a key area for new foster carers. There is a lot to learn initially, but it is in bite-sized chunks and individualised. It doesn’t need to be academic learning, it can be very practical or reflective. We have provided a variety of conferences where we all learn together alongside other professionals from within the community which has proved to be very successful as well as fun.



How have your own children adjusted to fostering?

— They love it. Our 3 year old, 8 year old and nearly 10 year old have slipped into this so easily and naturally, it’s really surprised us in a positive way.

The provision of support for foster carer’s birth children is very important. The support of the foster carers by their supervising social worker includes monitoring of birth children in the family so that we can ensure their wellbeing is promoted and that they are able to contribute positively in the family.



What does good support look and feel like from the foster agency? 

— “Alison”! Having someone to talk to, almost anytime and being able to get quick answers to questions when faced with situations relating to our foster children is great and having a feeling that someone’s got your back and is willing to really help you when required.

Alison role models the individualised support we offer our foster carers, working pro-actively with tremendous sensitivity and encouragement, building great relationships on a platform of trust.



What advice would you give to someone looking for a foster agency?

— Do lots of research, take your time and don’t be swayed by large remuneration packages, they may well look good on the face of it, but please, please, do not judge an agency by what they pay, rather look at what you get as a whole to support you in your fostering role.

We have created a checklist for people looking for a fostering agency, which can be downloaded from our website. Going back to the survey Why Do Foster Carers Care 2013, financial remuneration is not high on the list, but fairness around pay is considered by some and providing that, comes down to the agency using the resources available to them to offer the best support for the child. The ethos of a company is important and it goes beyond what the marketing says.



What have been the biggest fostering challenges?

 — The “system” – dealing with the local authorities in their procedural ways, can be a challenge as they feel antiquated at times but that’s just our opinion of course. We know it’s a different way of working and we have had to make some adjustments about our expectations, with help from Alison.

We all work together as part of a multidisciplinary team around the children we support. As foster carers you are considered equal in the team, but as such are expected to play an equal part. It’s important to learn about the different ways we all work so that we can ensure we challenge where required. There are legislative parts of our work that cannot be changed and it is done for a reason. Whilst potentially frustrating when not used to it, it is our role to explain what is happening and why, because ensuring understanding is part of the foster carers development that we are here to support. 



What have been the absolute fostering high points for you?

— Watching a young person grow and change before your eyes, into the person they should have always been allowed to be, themselves. Priceless!

We couldn’t have put this better ourselves. It is indeed priceless, seeing young people grow. Polish doctor and pedagogue Janusz Korczak said

“Children are not the people of tomorrow, but are people of today. They are entitled to be taken seriously. They have a right to be treated by adults with respect, as equals. They should be allowed to grow into whoever they were meant to be – the unknown person inside each of them is the hope for the future.” Janusz Korczak (1879-1942)

Why Foster Carers Care Fostering Network 2013


We are saddened when we hear the stories of foster carers feeling unhappy about the agency they have chosen to foster with. When first looking in to fostering, most enquirers are understandably unaware of what to expect and the specific questions to ask. It is an area of unfamiliarity and unless enquirers know other people who are fostering, they have little personal experience to draw upon.

Searching for a foster agency in the first instance can be challenging as there are so many to choose from.  Once fostering, foster carers understand more about the sector, what should be available to them and the levels of support they may need. It was for this reason that we created our To The Moon and Back free downloadable article “What To Look For in a Fostering Service” to help demystify the process.

I read a recent article published on LinkedIn, written by a professional who supports foster agencies to improve their foster carer retention. In the article he depicted the levels of unhappiness of foster carers and that he felt some foster carers had felt misled by their foster agency. They felt that when they had first enquired, they were given unrealistic expectations about what they could expect once approved and sadly once they had children living with them, they didn’t have the levels of support or resources that they had been led to believe would be available to them. We have always believed that honesty was the best policy when recruiting new foster carers. It is unacceptable to encourage potential foster carers to sign up for something without full honest information. We share all relevant information so that applicants can make a fully informed decision about whether fostering is right for them. We are very proud of feedback from those who foster with us. Our recent Ofsted inspection report highlights that everything we promised to foster carers was delivered.

Worryingly , I have heard other comments that relate to foster carers who, although feeling unhappy with their agency, feel unable to move to another fostering agency, as they are concerned that the foster children they have living with them, may be removed from them if they choose to leave the agency.  This goes against the transferring protocol that most fostering services have signed up to. This sets a clear principle that “Foster carers have the right to freedom of movement between fostering services.”

We are aware that some foster carers choose to stay, despite feeling unhappy, because they cannot face having to be assessed a second time. Whilst the assessment when transferring is very thorough it doesn’t have to take as long as the original assessment, as so much of the information is already available. We are required to identify with foster carers what they have learnt, how they have supported young people and what they, as a family need. We work with foster carers on collating and making sense of this for the future of their fostering career. This information provides a new assessment that identifies more clearly your fostering skills and proven track record and this goes to the independent fostering panel. We understand however, that it is important to provide a level of extra support for a transferring carer during this process because once they have notified their agency of their intention to transfer they may feel that they are in no-man’s-land.

Why Foster Carers consider Transferring to another agency

  • They are dissatisfied with the relationship they have with their agency, maybe as a result of feeling unsupported, or as a result of a particular incident or worker.
  • They feel they are not been given the development they feel they should be getting.
  • The fostering agency has been taken over by another organisation and the culture they were looking for has subsequently changed as a result.
  • The foster carers are not being offered the young people that they feel they can care for
  • The allowance is insufficient

When a foster carer feels unhappy, they are likely to feel undervalued and as a result whilst still giving their best to the children they care for, there is likely to be some impact in the foster carers wellbeing which will eventually affect the children, no matter how hard the foster carers try to hide it. We truly believe that happy and successful foster carer lead to a better experience for young people.

Our Transferring way

If you are feeling unhappy with the agency you are currently fostering with and considering whether a transfer is going to be better for you, what should you do?

Once you feel that you have exhausted all avenues available to you in order to remedy any issues that you are unhappy about, there is probably no other choice available to you, other than finding an alternative fostering agency. Obviously no one wants to see foster carers leave their agency, but certainly no one wants to see foster carers leave fostering all together. We feel that transferring is an opportunity for you to get what you feel is going to enable you to be more successful in your role.

Transferring to another fostering agency involves a piece of work which can be undertaken, in our case, relatively quickly, it can be undertaken in as little as 6 weeks. There are formal processes that are required to be undertaken and the processes follow a formal Transfer Protocol. https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/policy-practice/recruitment-and-retention/transfer-protocols

We recommend that you consider the kind of relationship you are looking for and how you feel you can be best supported to be successful in your role. Happy supported foster carer’s leads to a greater likelihood of happy supported young people, able to achieve their true potential.

At some point you will need to speak to someone about your thoughts regarding transfer to another agency. The conversation should always be totally confidential and you should feel satisfied that there is no commitment at this stage, it is purely a fact finding exercise.

What actually happens if you decide you want to transfer to another agency and you have a child or young person already placed with you?

As a foster carer thinking of transferring, you will have specific reasons for this and will have (as suggested above) researched other agencies and what they can offer you.

Once you have decided on an agency that you feel will be able to offer you what you are looking for, in order for this transfer process to commence you are required to formally give notice of your intention to transfer to, your existing agency and the placing authorities of the children you are caring for. If you do not have children in placement you are required to give notice of your intention to transfer just to your current fostering agency.

What happens after you have given notice of your intention to transfer?

Your current fostering agency will formally acknowledge your notice of intent to transfer. The agency you are intending to transfer to, will arrange for your current agency to have authorisation to look through your fostering file. This is a file which contains information about your fostering career. This can only be done with explicit consent from you. This is an important part of the initial transfer assessment process for the new agency to start “The getting to know you” process and to confirm that there are no reasons why you should be unable to continue fostering.

Once this has been done and the new agency you have chosen to transfer to is satisfied that you are able to continue fostering, they will engage with everyone involved in the care of the children you are looking after, in order to arrange a meeting, sometimes called a protocol meeting.

What happens once the new agency is satisfied you can be considered to transfer to them?

If transferring to us, we will want to ensure that you fully understand the process and will meet with you formally to share the transfer process and the timescale for each part of the process. In the same way that when you first decided you wanted to foster, we are required to undertake a formal assessment of you and once complete, the assessment is shared with the agency independent panel and you will be required to attend panel. Formal checks will be undertaken on your behalf, including references. This is regulatory requirement for transfer, however we find that this is much shorter than your original assessment, because so much is already documented about you.

Will you be required to undertake any training before transfer to The Moon and Back.

Most fostering agencies suggest that skills to foster is not required for transferring foster carers as they have usually done it before. We do not believe that you should complete the full course as a formality, but we will explain areas of specific training that we cover as part of the course and ask if you would like to undertake any part of it. You will be invited to a half day workshop which we find, new transferring foster carers coming to us find very informative and enables you to refresh your general fostering knowledge and understand what is available to you at our agency. We consider this as an agency induction day for you.

You will be required to be compliant in all mandatory training as set out in fostering legislation. This should be discussed as part of the transferring assessment process to be presented at Panel. It is a simple process to get fully up to date if for any reason you have fallen behind on your mandatory training.

What does a Protocol Meeting actually involve and will you be included in this?

Once you have served notice of your intent to transfer, a protocol meeting date will be set. The meeting can be convened by the placing authority/authorities – this may include commissioning/contracting officers as well as the children’s social worker, representation from your current agency, representation from us as the fostering agency you are choosing to transfer to and of course yourselves.

Where there is more than one placing authority responsible for the children in your care, the authority that has had children placed for the longest period with the foster carer will be generally be considered the ‘lead’ authority, but this is only done by agreement.

Why is a protocol meeting needed?

The meeting is usually led by the placing authority for the children in your care. The aim of the meeting is to determine that the transfer you are intending to make will be in the best interest of the children in your care. The local authority acting as the corporate parent for the child in your care must be satisfied that the welfare of the child can be continued or improved as a result of the switch to a different fostering agency and that the agency you are choosing to go to, can continue to provide the level of support required for you to continue to be successful as a foster carer.

The meeting will include discussion about fees, this is to ensure that the current fee situation can be met as a basic, but by this point you will have had meaningful conversations with your transferring agency of choice and be reassured that this will be ok.

Are you expected to present all of this information at the meeting?

You will not be expected to bring or present this information. The professionals in the meeting are required to prepare for aspects of the meeting agenda. In the event that lots of information is required, we will always consult you, during its preparation, so that it is accurate. We prepare transferring carers in advance of any protocol meeting, so that you are fully informed of what is likely to be discussed so that you can feel less anxious and can continue to focus on the children in your care and your family during the transferring process.

What happens next

After the protocol meeting discussed above, the local authority will make their “in principle” decision about whether the transfer can go ahead. It is in principle because the final decision about the transfer, once the local authority is in agreement, lies with the agency where you are transferring to. Just as when you first became a foster carer, the transfer assessment has to go through the agency’s independent panel process. Once panel are happy to recommend approval, the final decision will go to the Agency Decision Maker after the Panel meeting.

Are you free to transfer once the Agency Decision Maker has said yes to approval?

At the point that our Agency Decision Maker has approved you to transfer to our agency, you are then required to give 28 days’ formal notice of your intention to leave your current agency. This is a formal contractual process and formally states your date of leaving one agency and joining ours.

 Foster carers have the right to move to another foster agency at any time. The transfer protocol is there for a reason and is embraced by local authorities and IFA’s

When we are approached by foster carers who are considering transferring, we are very respectful that they will have taken a long time to consider the implications before getting in touch. We want them to make the right decision.

As far as we are concerned transferring can be straightforward and can happen quite quickly once  you have informed your agency that you are looking to transfer. With us you do not have to be involved in conversations with your agency about the process as that is what we do on your behalf in order to support you in the process. We belief once you have made the decision to transfer, It is in the best interests of everyone that the process is quick and smooth.

When a foster carer chooses to foster with, us we feel very special. We appreciate that foster carers have a choice and that they have a right to exercise it. We work very hard to ensure that foster carers never want to leave us, we work in an individualised way to enable foster carers to succeed.

If you are considering transferring, you can talk to us in complete confidence by contacting us at hello@moonandbackfostering.com

Or call us for an informal friendly and confidential chat 01223 800 420

It takes a village to raise a child is an old African proverb which suggests that the raising, teaching and supporting of a child is the responsibility of the whole community

I believe it to be wholeheartedly true and in particular true for children who find themselves, through no fault of their own, in foster care.

ThemPra Social Pedagogy

There are a significant number of key relationships in our lives that impact on us, inspire and enable us to be the best we can be and alternatively in some cases influence us in a negative way which results in low self-esteem, anger, sadness or worthlessness. I have been lucky to have met people who have encouraged me and given me opportunities in life, all of whom have contributed to who I am today.

I grew up in a village surrounded by our grandparents, aunts and uncles and family friends who we called aunts and uncles too. These people looked out for me and my siblings.

We had love, friendship, knowledge and wisdom and were closely supervised from a distance, unbeknown by us, by people in the community. So although we acted independently and took personal risks which helped us grow, we were ultimately safe. We felt part of the community, and felt a sense of belonging.  We experienced citizenship as we contributed, running errands for older neighbours, helping clear gardens and earning pocket money by helping in local shops and businesses.  We were not saints… we got in to scrapes, we were chastised when needed and given boundaries, but solutions were worked out as we learned how to deal with conflict and reach compromises when needed. We were not a very well-off family, but we felt rich.

I now reflect that the community around me helped me and my family be resilient, we could weather any storms around us knowing that there were people who had our backs. Social workers would call this a protective factor.

Supporting and parenting a child of our own is a challenge, this is magnified when supporting a foster child. The support of family friends and the local community of professionals is an asset for a foster family. As a society it is in all of our interests to support our young people, providing them with inspiration and access to new experiences and opportunities. The children in care do not always have access to the same life chances that their peers have and as a result they can fall behind them. In a stable foster care placement with lots of community support, resource and encouragement, children are more likely to achieve and succeed alongside their peers.

A pilot by Fostering Network is being undertaken called Mockingbird, it is an alternative method of delivering foster care with the potential to improve the stability of children’s placements ensuring safety and permanency for children and young people in care and to improve support for, and retention of, foster carers. To us at To The Moon and Back, this pilot embraces the saying

 “it takes a village to raise a child” and uses it to increase positive outcomes for children in care.

According to the Fostering Network “Mockingbird increases the protective factors around children through the simple provision of an extended network of family support. The building of good relationships between foster carers and children are central to Mockingbird, alongside other professionals such as school teachers and social workers. The community of foster carers “the hub” empowers families to support each other and overcome challenges before they escalate, offering children a more positive and consistent experience of care. It also builds links with other families important to the children’s care plans and to resources in the wider community which can provide them with enhanced opportunities to learn, develop and succeed.“ To us at To The Moon and back, this is not rocket science but a common sense approach to supporting our foster families and therefore the children in our care.

The organisation, ThemPra use the Relational Universe model to illustrate the significance of relationship-centred practice when working with children who are in care. Children in care have unique individual experiences which will influence their making of relationships. When creating a relational universe for an individual the individual is placed in the middle, the key people in their lives are stars or other planets in their universe. Their distance from the individual on the universe map, determining the closeness and influence on the individual.

Our universe according to ThemPra starts at birth, “where as a baby it consists of our parent(s) and expands as grandparents, relatives and family friends enter it. That universe continues to grow throughout our life as we develop relationships with more people, evolving in ways that are highly individual and unique.

For children in care, their universe includes many professionals who have involvement at different times, often entering the close universe and latterly moving to a more distant position as their role changes. This doesn’t mean that this relationship which has been established disappears; it may be that the gravitational pull of this professional decreases, but they will still remain within the universe and perhaps move closer again as the needs of the child change. For example, a foster carer may move into the further reaches of the universe, but when the young person experiences a crisis after leaving care they may re-establish this relationship by having their former carer in their near universe for a period of time for support they can offer. Even if not in close proximity, the knowledge that this support is there, may in itself be sufficient. It is therefore crucial that we professionally support such ‘planetary movement’ in children’s relational universe.”

It is well documented that family life has changed over the last 50 years.  Geographical distances between family members, family breakdown, multiple caring responsibilities, and the culture of working longer hours have resulted in people feeling less connected. The increased feelings of isolation and loneliness amongst many people, regardless of age, in our communities is again well documented.  We are poorer for the fact that many people are parenting without family or even friends nearby. This means we have to work harder to build key reciprocal relationships which will give us the richness of support we need for our own well-being as well as the raising of our children.

Whether we surround our children with a village or a universe, what is clear is that the combination of our positive experiences and relationships with other people in our lives, enable us to feel safe, grow and reach our potential. Children in care experience significant loss and hurt as a result of being removed from their family. Their ability to make relationships is often a challenge for them as a result of their reduced trust in grown-ups. The making of effective relationships by foster carers with children is a skill and requires significant and sustained focus. Having the support of others around them, enables foster carers more opportunity to succeed in building effective long lasting relationships with children and maintain their resilience leading to greater stability for the children in their care. Today we build a village…. tomorrow the universe.

Angela Hunt
Director of To the Moon and Back Foster Care Ltd

Supporting the rallying call for local people to support foster children

At To the Moon and Back Foster Care we are strongly supporting the rallying call from Fostering Network for more foster carers to consider providing support for children requiring care in and around Cambridge

The call for more people to consider becoming foster carers in and around Cambridgeshire came as no surprise to us. We specifically based ourselves in Cambridge because of the increasing number of local children needing foster care and because we are aware that nearly 42% are having to be placed outside of Cambridge because sadly there are too few foster carers available in Cambridgeshire.

Only last week Fostering Network, a national charity identified that across the East of England there are 2,700 fostering households offering homes to 4,755 children and that a further 530 new fostering families were needed across Cambridgeshire and East Anglia to provide for the increased number of children requiring care.

Children and young people find themselves in the care system through no fault of their own. The children have often faced considerable trauma as a result of abuse or neglect and desperately need caring people who can empathise and connect with them to support them to understand and overcome the dreadful start to their young lives. So many people would make great foster carers but they are generally unaware of the difference they personally could make to a young person as well as the financial benefits of fostering.

Whilst fostering is regarded a vocational role, payment is given to foster carers and these payments are subject to limited taxation which means that foster carers can receive tax free sums. The payment varies depending on the specific care need of the children as well as the fostering agency policy on payments. Foster carers working with To the Moon and Back can expect to earn on average £21,000 -£24,000 per child per year*

Fostering a child is a serious role that requires an ability to connect with a child including being able to empathise, motivate and support a child who has had a difficult start in their young lives. We hear from foster carers how they have enabled a child to see the opportunities in life and how they have gone on to college, an apprenticeship or university against all the odds. They talk about the first few days of a child being placed with them and the challenges that arose out of a child getting to know them when they have been abused and lost all trust in grown-ups. They talk about the teenagers who have been neglected and forced to become parental role models to their younger siblings, but suddenly with a foster family, having their own ambitions considered and encouraged. They talk about the young mum who herself has been in care for a while and after having a baby being unable to look after him because she has no parenting skills, but with the help of a foster carer, able to learn what being a mum really is and how to care for her baby so that her baby does not have to go into care too. Lastly they talk of children being able to go back to their family after they have cared for them but staying in touch and remaining a part of their continued lives.

Without the support of great foster carers, children in care are unable to have a family life where they feel safe and secure and able to have access to everything their peers have.

To the Moon and Back have developed a different approach to supporting foster carers in Cambridgeshire. By understanding the real cause of a child’s emotional behaviour we support the child to recognise where their feelings come from and how they might be able to overcome these feelings, leading to greater acceptance of what has happened and an opportunity to rebuild their confidence. This will ensure foster carers can support the children to grow as individuals rather than encouraging them to conform to social norms which may be at odds with their unique outlook on life as a result of their experiences. (see more in our blog about Social Pedagogy)

* assumes that the child is placed for a whole 52 week period