What have been the biggest challenges this year?
As a relatively new organisation, started only 3 years ago, we had a very clear plan to build collaborations that would enable young people in our care to exceed expectations. Alison and I were very clear of what we wanted To the Moon and Back Foster Care to become. We set out to be an ethical company, where our foster carers could feel safe and secure and be part of the decision making.
We are known for the relationships we have built and it has been very difficult to maintain some of them during the long periods of lockdown and social distancing. However, we were able to adapt our systems so that we could smoothly move over to a more virtual communication system. Nevertheless, we still like connecting and miss the ability to see people face-to-face.
We had a great pipeline of new people wanting to become a foster carer. With the new Covid 19 rules, we had to adapt our assessment and approval processes. This slowed down the process initially. The government changed legislation to enable the sector to continue to recruit new foster carers. We were unsupportive of the changes, which we felt compromised the safeguarding of children and thus we maintained the highest standard of processes we have always worked with. We feel that our newly approved foster carers have felt better prepared to welcome children into their home as a result.
We had to risk assess our visits to families, so initially we were limited in the foster home visits we were able to make but we were able to provide virtual forums for our foster carers to chat to us and each other. The impact of Covid 19, at times severely tested the young people, interrupting their schooling and freedom to move and meet with their family and friends. Whilst the majority have engaged well with virtual ways of communication (particularly with family contact), some young people struggled with lockdown. Foster carers were exceptional in their efforts to support home schooling and maintain stability for the young people in their care. We continued to provide valued respite and sessional support when other agencies were struggling, thanks to the dedication and peer support from our foster carers, who provided local solutions to enable children and young people to have changes of scenery and develop strategies for coping with the challenges that lockdown brought.
What have been the achievements you are most proud of this year
We are proud of the fact that 69% of our young people have long term placement stability with our foster carers, with many of them either placed permanently or with a plan in place for permanency to be achieved in the coming new year. This is a remarkable achievement at any time and therefore extra special during this year given the challenges it brought. It is testament to how well we match our families to the young people requiring foster homes and how well we work together therapeutically, to ensure the success of our foster carers. We have increased our number of foster carers too, enabling us to offer even more children and young people the opportunity to have a safe and loving home for as long as they need it.
It was humbling to have been invited to contribute to the writing of two academic books this year. One book written by Dr Karen Treisman highlights the trauma-responsive culture we have developed. Our Trauma-informed approach is sensitive to the fact that most of us carry trauma and that we will all benefit from kind, caring and supportive relationships.
The second book by Lisa Cherry evidences our approach to attachment, how children develop relationships with their parents/care givers. We shared our values of daring to care and our relational approaches to fostering and professional love. All of which, when combined, enables us to achieve the outstanding outcomes for children that we set out to achieve when we first established our fostering agency.
Both books are available in Spring 2021. Dr Karen Treisman: “A Treasure Box of Creating Trauma-Informed Organisations” published by Jessica Kingsley and Lisa Cherry: “Conversations That Make a Difference for Children and Young People – Relationship-Focused Practice From the Frontline”.
We were also proud to have been nominated for an award and are finalists in the Children and Young People Awards 2020. The final results have been delayed due to Covid 19 restrictions so we will have to be patient and wait until April 2021 to see if we are successful, but to have been a finalist is wonderful.
What does 2021 look like for To the Moon and Back Foster Care
We have developed our team over this last year and we are delighted to have been joined by three new colleagues who have brought a wealth of additional talent and experience. We received many unsolicited enquiries about joining our team and we are looking ahead to our ability to provide exceptional support for foster carers that will enable us to continue to grow and remain true to our values and ethics. As we continue to grow we are keen to attract more talented people to join our “can do” and forward-thinking team.
Alison and I are grateful for the help and support we have received this year and the collaborations we have made with the new professionals and organisations assisting us with development and innovative support packages for our young people, ensuring they reach their true potential.
We pay tribute to our amazing foster carers who have gone above and beyond in this testing and challenging year to support our young people. We thank them for their dedication and look forward to being able to get all together again under one roof. Our foster carers along with our support team have truly been worthy of the title heroes.
We remain ambitious on behalf of our young people and look forward to speaking to more people who want to join our team of heroes. We look forward to being more innovative and creative and ensuring our foster carers remain successful in their role.