What a difference 7 years have made

Our purpose is to ensure that foster carers are successful.

Having founded To the Moon and Back Foster Care with Alison Kindred Byrne back in 2017 it’s been an amazing journey of developing a constantly improving organisation we can be proud of. Founded on values that remain as valid today as they did in the beginning, we have continued to challenge ourselves to do the right thing at the right time and dare to care deeply. Has it been easy? Absolutely not! Has it been worth it? Yes.. in so many ways!

Our focus has always been to encourage new people to consider fostering and learn about what it entails. We have been honest about the impact of working with children and young people that have experienced neglect or abuse. There is so much more to fostering children than having a spare room and love in our hearts, but with knowledge and meaningful support, we have seen foster carers achieve amazing things and enable children to succeed, despite their earlier experiences. There are so many examples of children coming who are not used to regular meals, gaining weight and height because they are safe and have access to what we take for granted. There have been children who have struggled with attending education, who are now achieving academically. There have been children unable to sleep at night, who with kindness and care are going to their friends for sleepovers like any other child.

It’s all about relationships and a sense of community

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. We take it in turns to be on call for our foster carers outside of usual office hours, because it is important for foster carers, if they need help, to be able to speak to someone they know and who knows them.

Working in a relational way is something we care deeply about. Being in a relationship with anyone has ups and downs, but where relationships succeed, it involves honesty and commitment to achieving something positive together. A couple of years ago we were invited to contribute to Dr Lisa Cherry’s book, Conversations that Make a Difference for Children and Young People, Routledge.com (We are in Chapter 4), in that chapter Lisa invited us to talk about professional love in the context of the work we do, working with risk and still doing the right thing for children. Sometimes relationships  can be messy, but when worked through, they can become stronger. Relational working is part of any therapeutic approach.

We work therapeutically, which is simply recognising that each child and young person requires an individual approach and consequently we work to identify the best, evidenced way forward with everyone in the team around the child. There are so many ways we can work with a child and we have intentionally looked for what works well for children but also foster carers. Led by Alison we have worked closely to develop our therapeutic model. We have worked closely with Sarah Lloyd and her BUSS team to offer our foster carers an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of children who have experienced developmental trauma. We have worked with families to build undeveloped sensorimotor systems in children who have experienced disruption to their early development. If we think about how we raise our babies to achieve milestones like sitting and walking, it starts with tummy time, enabling a child to develop their core skills and strength, so they can sit comfortably because they can hold their head up. When a child is unable to have this ability, it is difficult for them to sit for long periods comfortably, or be able to walk upstairs efficiently. These children are often seen as clumsy, over-energetic,and possibly disruptive. Our work with children has proved to be remarkable, and we have seen huge improvements in a matter of weeks of commencing programmes of focused play. Sounds easy… it’s not, it requires a lot of focused time, but the benefits are worth it! We have invested to enable foster carers to learn about the model, so that they can, through a variety of play activities, make a difference to how a child feels in their body.  One of our children was able to have a speaking part in a school play having previously felt by the teachers that the child was better not even being in the audience, such was the capacity to disrupt prior to the play activities being commenced.  Like everyone else we are acutely aware of the waiting lists for mental health support, but this work with the BUSS model is helping children and giving hope to foster carers that we can make a difference. Bussmodel.org

Our team are fabulous, we are small, but together we achieve a great deal. We have always had a trauma informed approach and continue to work with curiosity when working with children and our foster carers. We have always known that the impact of working with a child’s trauma will likely affect everyone around the child at some point, we are human after all. Our work to build close relationships with our foster carers, gives them a safe base to work from and that starts with our team being able to work with a smaller than usual group of families, so that our team can be available when needed most. That said, we expect a lot from foster carers too. Fostering is regarded as a professional role and we support our carers to be recognised as a professional by everyone around the child.

We aimed to develop a version of the Mockingbird model that could work for our community. We have created communities of like-minded foster families, who come together and share experiences, helping each other to overcome challenges. We have said before… It takes a village to raise a child! The benefits for our young people have been great too. We have fabulous foster carers who provide short breaks for young people, and this results in young people feeling they are part of an extended family, extending their feelings of safety and security.

We have held some fabulous events with our families over the last year, the winter celebration was a highlight with a disco… but the summer event was fabulous, not deterred by the weather we played games and watched young people making friendships and foster carers building support networks.

The shortage of foster carers remains a challenge

We have continued to ensure that any enquiries about fostering are picked up quickly and that involves speaking to a lot of people. But we had seen a drop in the number of people considering fostering. Not surprisingly, covid, the financial crisis and conflict in parts of the world has impacted on the ability of people wanting to foster. It is truly inspiring to see people considering fostering again.

We enjoy listening to stories and sharing information about how fostering might be able to work for people. We provide opportunities for a no pressure conversation about fostering. We hold virtual open sessions to ask questions about what fostering is like. It’s no secret that there is an enormous shortage of foster carers and It’s heartbreaking that we are unable to help more children, but we simply do not have enough families.

One of the questions people ask is how we match children to foster families

We work hard for the placement of children with foster families to be successful. It involves getting to know foster carers very well and identifying their strengths. Children come into care through no fault of their own and deserve to be able to feel a part of a caring family. We are proud of our success in getting matching right. It avoids children having to move again before they are ready.

The last 7 years have flown by. We have plans to build on what we have achieved so far and to increase the numbers of children we can help. We look forward to meeting new foster carers over the next 7 years!

If you would like more information about becoming a foster carer or our short break fostering option get in touch.

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