Dee transferred her fostering approval from another independent fostering agency and joined To the Moon and Back Foster Care in 2020. She is a single carer with adult children. She commenced her fostering career many years ago, fostering for her local authority for 15 years where she provided what was then a very newly designed service caring for young people from 12 years upwards.
The young people she cared for met a very clear set of criteria which included experience of drug taking and consequential challenges associated with risky behaviours and exploitation. She explained that there was a lot of support available as part of the specialised service and that she felt part of a successful team achieving good outcomes for the young people. She said that it had been disappointing when she realised that her skills and services were not as valued as she had first thought and after fostering for 15 years, she decided it was time to leave and took a break from fostering.
She has always valued honesty and transparency in relationships and that was one of the things that she had liked particularly about To the Moon and Back Foster Care.
Transparency and honesty matters in a relationship
Dee has many skills acquired over her lifetime and tremendous experience from working in a variety of roles. When she stopped fostering, out of necessity to fund her children’s plans to go to university, she commenced work in sales. She explained that she had always valued honesty and transparency in relationships and that was one of the things that she had liked particularly about To the Moon and Back Foster Care. She said that she found, when she was working in sales, that buyers appreciated her honesty. She said her determination to be honest at work, was initially frowned upon by her sales colleagues who believed when something was likely to put a buyer off purchasing something, that you shouldn’t t tell them. For example, she said that she pointed out flaws on a second-hand car to a buyer, when others in the sales team felt she was naïve.
However she became the top selling salesperson in the team, liked and valued for her honesty and transparency by those who purchased from her. She said honesty and transparency enable trusting relationships to be built and that honesty was a vital component in a successful relationship. When Dee decided that she was ready to foster children again, she knew that she did not want to go to a local authority after her last experience. She had heard about To the Moon and Back Foster Care from a friend, who was also considering fostering with us. Her friend recommended To the Moon and Back to Dee and Dee got in touch.
At the time she initially enquired, we were a relatively new agency and were developing the support services we felt were essential to support foster carers caring for teenagers. We had to be honest with Dee and told her that we were not, at that time of her first enquiry, able to offer the level of support we felt was essential for foster carers supporting teenagers with complex needs. We didn t want to hold Dee back from doing what she was clearly good at, especially knowing how many young people would benefit from her experience and we had to be honest that we needed more time to develop our support package suitable for the fostering she had chosen to do. We appreciated that she would likely look elsewhere for an alternative agency as she was keen to foster again. It was the right decision for her, as sad as it was for us that we thought we had lost her for good. Dee said that she had appreciated our honesty, and that whilst she was disappointed, she understood what we were saying, believing us to have integrity. She contacted another large independent fostering agency and they immediately said that they could give the level of support she was hoping for and shared lots of reasons why she should choose them.
She said that hindsight was a wonderful thing and looking back she recognised that there had been some things that she hadn’t felt comfortable with. She explained that the experience with her previous fostering agency had been very different from the experience she had had, with To the Moon and Back Foster Care, and that on reflection it had felt very salesy but that she had been promised a package of support and remuneration in return for her skills and experience. As we know, there is a real need for foster families who are committed to care for teenagers and unsurprisingly, the foster agency couldn t wait to get her on board.
We do what we say we will do
Sadly for Dee, and it seems others around her, the support and remuneration she was promised didn’t actually transpire and she had to challenge the agency to get what she had been originally promised. She explained that she had been unaware that at the time of her assessment, the agency had been inspected by Ofsted and has she later found out had been rated inadequate. She became connected with other new foster carers during their assessment process and they were already showing signs of feeling that they were not being treated as they had hoped. Dee said that she was sad for them and believed that they would be better supported elsewhere and recommended To The Moon and Back Foster Care to them. When the carers contacted us, they mentioned Dee and how she had been very positive about To the Moon and Back Foster Care. Dee had believed that Moon and Back was not an option for her to transfer to because of the last conversation we had had with her. However, she was relieved when she contacted us to learn that we were perfectly equipped to support the complex packages of care that she was going to provide and consequently she had no hesitation in commencing transferring her approval to To the Moon and Back Foster Care.
As a very experienced foster carer, I was interested to learn from Dee what she felt she had been looking for from an agency. Dee was returning to fostering with a wealth of experience and I wanted to understand more about her expectations now, compared the expectations she had as a relatively new foster carer.
It’s important for her to feel that she was part of the team and much more than a number in a large organisation
Dee said it was important for her to feel that she was part of the team and much more than a number in a large organisation. She wanted to ideally be in a smaller foster agency where there was a family feel and she felt that she was looking simply for an honest relationship. Sadly, she felt from an early stage that, honesty and the level of relationship she wanted, was not in place at the agency she had originally chosen. She explained that she had a great social worker, who helped her and appreciated how Dee felt: but that she was unable to influence anything that clearly needed changing. She explained that she felt that there had been a distinct gap between the sales team, with whom she had first spoken with about fostering, (and what was promised to her, if she joined) and the reality of the poor relationship and support being delivered. Dee acknowledged that she hadn’t initially known that the agency had been rated Inadequate but once she was aware of the inadequate outcome of the Ofsted inspection, she could see what was happening more clearly. Staff were leaving or planning to leave and the local authority responsible for the young person, then in her care, was having to justify the use of the agency for the care of their children. Dee said that she knew it was not a good situation and that transferring was necessary for her, but was more importantly, in the best interests of the child in her care too. She explained that once she was in the transfer process and had been allocated an assessor from To the Moon and Back Foster Care, that there had been gaps identified in her previous assessment and that additional support for the young person in her care was identified as needed. She explained that when she had been approved to foster with To the Moon and Back Foster Care, that there were more areas identified as things that could and should be improved and she was able to see how differently we worked compared to her previous agency. She commented that “what became increasingly obvious was that To the Moon and Back Foster Care were different from other agencies”. When asked how we were different, she said that “the relationship was more authentic, and that more time had been allocated to building the relationship with me”. She said that she felt in a safe relationship where she felt supported and involved in decision making. She was quick to say that her previous social worker was equally lovely and had good knowledge, but she said she too had left the agency now.
Dee has been assessed for fostering three times and I asked her how she had felt about undertaking the assessment for a third time when transferring To the Moon and Back Foster Care. Dee explained that the thought of doing another assessment, was worse that the process itself. She explained that she is a very private person normally, that having to go through the assessment again did mean revisiting areas she had visited before, but she said that her allocated assessor, who undertakes lots of assessments for the agency, was very experienced and identified gaps in her assessment with the previous agency and that there was no way that the gaps could be avoided and as a consequence the assessment had felt more thorough but had been more pleasant.
As a result of the pandemic in 2020, legislation was changed in some areas to support foster carer assessment and child protection in the lockdown period. As an agency we decided to maintain our original standards, therefore not compromising our assessment process in any way. We maintained that the time for foster carer assessment could not be shortened and our panel processes should be as rigorous as they were pre pandemic. We believe as a result that foster carers are better prepared for fostering. Dee was not required to attend our Skills to Foster Course, having been through two in her fostering career already, but we were able to evidence her skills, experience and knowledge as part of the assessment process. Some transferring foster carers have been highlighted as likely to benefit from attending the course we provide and feedback highlighted that our Skills to Foster course covers a lot of what other agencies cover, but that we had shared trauma informed approaches in addition, which had been very useful to foster carers joining us.
Dee obviously had insight in to what foster carers valued and needed from their fostering agency for them to be successful in their role. When asked what advice Dee would give to foster carers who were feeling unhappy with the agency they were fostering with, Dee said “it’s important to choose the right agency, choosing one that fits with your values is crucial”. She said “what looks great on the surface, is not necessarily what it feels like underneath” and that it is important to research. She advised “to be cautious of speaking with sales teams rather than the people that foster carers will be working with on a day-to-day basis, because that is the relationship that will be most relevant, and regardless how lovely the sales team are, it was unlikely that once approved anyone will need to speak to them again”.
She said that she would have been unlikely to have transferred, had she been unable to move with the child in her care, because she cared so much about the young person’s welfare. Foster carers have raised this before and is a real concern for foster carers when considering transferring to another agency. This should not prevent foster carers transferring, as fostering agencies are required to follow the transfer protocol which acknowledges that foster carers have the right to transfer their approval to another agency, and where deemed a transfer is in the best interest of the children living with them, this should be supported. Dee said that having moved, that she now felt so much more supported and in a better relationship, that she would advise carers to transfer, “because as a foster carer when you feel better, the children feel better too. She explained that she had got so used to dealing with things by herself that she had to adapt to being supported by the team at Moon and Back and working in a positive relationship. She said that she felt that there was trust and advocacy for her from day one and that she felt so much supported.
For foster carers looking to transfer their approval to another agency, we have developed an advisory document which will help with what to look for. Fostering agencies are required to sign up to the transfer protocol which recognises the right of foster carers to work for an agency of their choice and that where it is recognised to be in the best interests of a child being fostered, that everyone should be supportive of the foster family moving with the child too and having made the decision to transfer, to ensure that the process is a swift as possible.
Dee said that she had thought when she was returning to fostering, that she would have preferred a small independent fostering agency and that she had been disappointed that she hadn t been able to come to To the Moon and Back Foster Care at the outset as she had wanted. She said she felt that the support she was receiving now, was much more than that offered by the agency she had recently left, despite being promised so much more. She explained that from early conversations with To the Moon and Back Foster Care, that she had liked the way that the agency dealt with her enquiry, unrushed and personal, with no pressure to commit to anything until she felt ready. She said that she liked how the agency was planning to grow, in a controlled way. She said that she felt confident that To the Moon and Back Foster Agency had good values and provided great service to their foster carers. She said that she had no hesitation recommending us because of how we had made her feel and that it was good to hear that other foster carers were equally experiencing good service and were willing to talk about it. She said that she had acted on a recommendation herself and that it was good to look for recommendations from people already using the agency before making any decisions.
We appreciate that transferring to a new foster agency, is a difficult decision to make and no one wants foster carers to move and realise again that it doesn t fit with a foster carers expectations or values. Dee explained that “fostering takes over a foster carer s life, in a good way, and that it’s important that the agency employees appreciate and value foster carers as a significant part of the professional team around the child”. Dee felt very frustrated by the way she was treated by her previous agency, but she was assertive enough to successfully challenge them and she stated that fostering is a way of life, so much more than a job. She said what had been very disappointing for her at her old agency, was that she had shared so much information about herself but that when she was approved and allocated a supervising social worker, that the social worker knew nothing about her at all and Dee had to almost start again in the relationship building. She explained at the previous agency, that she had found out about the outcome of the Ofsted inspection, just two days before she went to panel and had no choice but to go ahead, but that she knew later, that local authorities had expressed concern about making placements and it was therefore a concern for her. She said it is a relief to now be where she felt she belonged all along, and that it just took a little longer to get to her original agency of choice.
To the Moon and Back Foster Care are a purpose led agency, focussing on what is required for foster carers to feel successful in their role. Foster carers live to a certain extent in a goldfish bowl with lots of people looking in. Foster carers can feel scrutinised, insecure and vulnerable. The team at To the Moon and Back Foster Care work with 10 households per supervising social worker so that we can invest in the building of a great relationship. This doesn’t mean that that there are no debates to be had, of course like any relationship its important to be open and discuss things, the difference is that we remain curious and non-judgemental, enabling foster carers to feel safe to say how they are really feeling.
Our thanks to Dee for sharing her experience with us. Does this sound like you?
If so, you have come to the right place and could be the type of person our looked after children need. We are very keen to hear from people who want to foster or find out more about what it entails.
To get in touch you can call us on 01223 800420 or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively fill in the form on the right and we’ll get back to you when it’s convenient.