Working together to improve the future of children in foster care

IMPROVING the future of children and young people in foster care is at the heart of a new regional partnership.

Fostering services from the four local authorities of Carmarthenshire, Powys, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire have come together to form Foster Mid and West Wales.

The aim is to work together with local children to create a strong partnership and ultimately to improve the outcomes for young people in foster care. The key message is Local Carers, Local Children, Local Services.

A new regional fostering website has been launched together with a Foster Carers’ Charter which sets out a vision for future service delivery.

Mid and West Wales Foster workshop

Launched at the National Botanic Gardens at Llanarthne it was a celebration of the amazing work and dedication of the local authority staff, foster carers and their families across all four regions.

The event included a demonstration of the new website to help with the recruitment of foster carers throughout the region; and foster carers had the opportunity to share their personal foster care journeys.

Carmarthenshire’s Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “A regional approach brings together the joint experience and success of our individual fostering services to allow us to learn from each other and enhance recruitment and training opportunities for fostering across the region.

“Foster Mid and West Wales is passionate and committed to providing stable and nurturing homes to children and young people; providing specialist training and round-the-clock support to the exceptional team of foster carers and their families.

“It takes compassion, a sense of humour, flexibility and an open mind to foster and Foster Mid and West Wales is very lucky to have so many wonderful foster carers to help our children and young people become independent, confident and happy individuals, with great life choices ahead of them.”

Regional Foster launch with cakeCllr Rachel Powell, Cabinet Member for Powys County Council Children’s Services, said: “It was a great pleasure to be present at this event, with so many humbling accounts from the four regions, which emphasised the value of our foster carers and the unique, professional role that they provide for our young people who we need to care for.

“There are so many valid reasons to be a foster carer and as part of the Mid and West Wales Fostering launch, there is a firm welcome to further discussions from anyone wishing to find out more. The assumption that to be a foster carer you need to be part of a two parent family is simply not true. Fostering involves unique individuals who are passionate and genuinely want to support children and young people in their lifelong journey, which can be hugely satisfying.”

Cllr Catherine Hughes, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Children’s Services for Ceredigion, said: “Ceredigion County Council is proud to be part of the regional partnership, we’re committed in making sure that young people in foster care and foster carers are fully supported.

“The new website will be a great resource for existing foster carers and also anyone who may be considering giving fostering a go – it’s worthwhile to take a look.”

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Social Services Cllr Tessa Hodgson said: “Foster carers provide a vital service to children and young people across the region, a loving stable foster placement can turn a life around #changeafuture. 

“This new strong partnership and regional working will help to provide those critical placements and support for foster families.”

To find out more about becoming a foster carer in your local area visit the website for further information, as well as case studies and news visit foster.midandwest.wales

Why we chose to foster for Carmarthenshire’s Fostering Service

Carmarthenshire Fostering Service is recruiting foster carers for our children and we need the right kind of people who would embrace a child into their home. You would be surprised how many people feel that they haven’t got the skills necessary to become a foster carer, however if you have the right values and want to make a difference to a vulnerable child’s future, we would love to hear from you. You will be looked after from the first phone call that you make to our Team and will be fully supported through the application process if you choose to foster with our local fostering service based in the heart of our County.

We need long term foster carers, short term foster carers, respite foster carers and parent and baby foster carers……….basically if you feel that you would like to give a local child the chance to have a safe and secure future we would love for you to contact us.

Jackie and Marc, just two of our outstanding foster carers have shared their feelings about their own fostering journey since becoming approved foster carers for Carmarthenshire County Council in early 2018. Jackie and Marc chose to foster for Carmarthenshire following a lot of research into becoming foster carers and many phone calls and meetings. They wanted to foster a local child with a local fostering service to enable them to receive the right kind of support and friendly 24 hour service from a dedicated team of experienced, highly professional and skilled social workers. We are so grateful they chose to foster for us. We are lucky to have them.

In fact we are so grateful to all our foster carers for choosing to foster with us, but we are also passionate about the fact that every child who is looked after in Carmarthenshire has local support from a Corporate Service and this enables us to coordinate the right sort of bespoke care for every foster carer and child from one central base.

Our children need to have a local team around them and this is what happens within Carmarthenshire’s Children Service.

Jackie and Marc recognised the importance of being matched carefully with a child from Carmarthenshire who already had a strong professional support network around him. This enabled them to have confidence that Carmarthenshire’s fostering service had the right ethos and approach to enable them to provide care for our most vulnerable children. It also ensured that they had someone from a local team, whether it be the fostering service, someone from our specialist education service, the child’s social worker or one of our specialist therapeutic social workers on hand and only a short distance away if they needed support there and then.

Keeping children within their communities is so important and enables them to feel safe and connected to their roots. This is vital for their future wellbeing and it’s very rare for a child to need to be placed far away from their community. Jackie and Marc fully recognise that supporting a child to enable him to remain in his own school and access local services and clubs has had a huge impact on how successfully they have managed their first year with us. They are one of our outstanding foster carers who are doing an extraordinary service, but would just say that they are ‘caring for a child as one of their own’. To them it’s not extraordinary, however we see the bigger picture and ensuring stability for all our most vulnerable children is our goal.

Carmarthenshire’s Fostering Service has had a 100% record of satisfaction from our foster carers during their first year of looking after our vulnerable children and this is something that we are very proud of.

We value our foster carers like Jackie and Marc and we completely understand that becoming a foster carer is just the start of a journey that will hopefully last for many years.

Jackie and Marc foster carersJackie and Marc

‘My husband and I have two grown up children together we are both teachers and facilitators in personal development we are both passionate about helping others to reach their potential.

We decided to look into becoming foster carers initially offering respite care, we looked at a variety of agencies offering training and support.

When we contacted Carmarthenshire County Council fostering Network, we felt instantly at ease with the friendly yet professional approach from the team.

At each stage of the training process we were given relevant information and tailored support. We felt that the Fostering Team and the inclusive and diverse approach they offered fitted with our own values and met our needs giving us the tools to enable us to grow into our roles as full time professional therapeutic foster parents.

Our thoughts of being respite carers changed through the training process and we were introduced to a wonderful young boy who after several visits came to live with us full time and has fitted in to our family life perfectly.

We were carefully matched with our first placement and the process was robustly managed by the fostering team to facilitate a smooth (as possible) transition for all involved.

Fast-forward a year and returning to panel has given us time to reflect on our journey. Becoming foster parents has had its challenging moments and without a doubt it has also enabled us to grow as a family, our new family has taught us a lot about ourselves as individuals and has made our family stronger as a whole.

We feel valued as part of the fostering team, and privileged to be able to offer a safe and secure home making a positive contribution to the wellbeing of children within our community.

We are glad that we chose Carmarthenshire Fostering Service, having looked at several other agencies beforehand.’

Children who foster

Carmarthenshire’s Fostering Service recognise that it’s not only the grown-ups in the family who foster.  Children who foster are a huge part of making our placements such successes and their role cannot be underestimated.  Quite often it’s the sons and daughters of our foster carers who make placements work and their ability to support their foster siblings can make a huge difference to children who are looked after.

Gwen is a young person who fosters and she, along with her sisters have supported many children over the years. She totally embraces fostering and we are lucky to have children and young people like her.

Gwen has let us take a peek into her life at home.  This is an article from Thrive magazine which is the publication by The Fostering Network who helps us support young people who foster and Gwen shared her honest account of what it’s like to foster

Thanks Gwen!

 

thumbnail of Thrive Magazine Gwen

Foster Care Fortnight 2019: 13th to 26th May

#changeafutureIt’s an annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and to show how foster care transforms lives.  To launch the start of Fostering Fortnight the Foster Mid and West Wales team were at Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo from 11-3pm on Saturday 11thMay. #changeafuture

Remember that you can meet some of our fostering team at the HWB’s in Carmarthenshire during fostering fortnight, between 9am and 1pm. The HWB in Ammanford is at 41 Quay Street, Llanelli HWB is at 36 Stepney Street and Carmarthen HWB is located in the council offices in Spillman Street. Cal the fostering bear has also been putting in an appearance so come down and have an informal chat with our team members, we are looking forward to seeing you.

Fostering Fortnight TimetablePDF icon


The Foster Mid and West Wales team were at Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo from 11-3pm on Saturday 11th May:

Respite foster care

David and Tracey Willard from Mynyddcerrig have been providing respite foster care since 2015, here is their story.

After years of careful planning, Tracey and me retired and moved to Wales in 2015 with a view to relaxing to a life of gardening, DIY and travel. However, after a few months, we both felt that perhaps we should look for something meaningful to do with our spare time, and as we were both involved in care before retirement we started thinking about how we could use this experience to support others.

It was on a journey home from Carmarthen that we saw an advertisement by Carmarthenshire Council for people who were interested in supporting children by becoming foster carers. It was then that we began to think that perhaps this was the opportunity we were looking for, and therefore contacted the fostering team and after a brief chat we were invited to an information evening.

Following the information evening, we attended a three day induction program on becoming a foster carer, and even though we were keen to move forward to become foster carers, we still had reservations about whether this was the right move for us.

However, on day three of this program we both felt that we could balance the responsibilities of being a foster carer with the responsibilities we had to our family and personal goals, by becoming respite carers.

What really impressed us was the support available, the structure of the team at Carmarthenshire Council and the enormous training available to you, once you were approved.

Following a few months of interviews and references, we were ready to go to panel for approval and once we had gone through this process, we were registered to provide respite care.

As with all new situations, it’s not until you are put in the position where you have to put these new skills into practice do you begin to doubt your abilities, however, we had a great mentor we could contact for help as well as our supervising social worker and the added support of the out of hours team.

So, we then had our first placement, a mother and new born baby. We felt like new starters at any job, nervous, lacking confidence and wondering why we put ourselves through this stress, but you know what, it was ok. The mum and baby were lovely and all our nerves and worries disappeared and we began to enjoy ourselves. Yes, it was formal, but we both had interpersonal skills, a grasp of a common language and all wanted the best outcome.

And so our journey had begun, but it wasn’t all about caring for others, we became aware of our own shortfalls and so we started attending the extensive training we now had access too, and like I have always found, the more you get to know, the less you realised you knew. The training itself was excellent, but it also brought us into contact with other foster carers and that proved as important as the training, they shared their own experiences and gave me and Tracey valuable advice which we benefited from enormously.

Three years on, we have had the pleasure of caring for children of all age groups, backgrounds and more recently children with complex medical needs, in addition to having met many likeminded individuals who genuinely care about the welfare of children. We often reflect on our fostering journey and the people we have come into contact with and we never cease to be amazed how much pleasure and personal satisfaction we get from being foster carers

 

Men who foster

Father with girls paintingThe role of a foster carer can be both extremely rewarding and at the same time emotionally strenuous, requiring resilience and an ability to build on training and experience while working as part of a team.

For many children in care living with a male foster carer may be their first positive experience of a male adult.

Pembrokeshire Fostering Team recently held a successful training event for Men who Foster where participants shared over 67 years of fostering experience. Those attending really valued the opportunity to share common themes and discuss topics from a male perspective. With further sessions planned it is hoped these links will serve as a platform to build on existing levels of support, by creating opportunities for mentoring and shared activities.

If you are interested in finding out more about fostering call the fostering team on 01437 774650 to find out more. Remember fostering changes lives – you could make a difference.

Sibling Foster Care

Carmarthenshire’s Fostering Service needs to recruit foster carers who can provide a safe and loving home to siblings. The bond between brothers and sisters is so special and that’s why we try our best to make sure that they grow up together.

We rely on our amazing foster carers such as Anita and Phil who have embraced caring for siblings and would like to share their story.

Continue reading “Sibling Foster Care”

Scarlets Event

Once again we were invited to be Community Partners at Parc Y Scarlets for their game against Edinburgh on 6th April 2019. This is the 3rd time we have been involved at Parc Y Scarlets and the staff, foster carers and children love the event.

Prior to the match we had a stand in the Barn and children enjoyed decorating wooden door plaques and fridge magnets on our craft stall organised by our wonderful foster carer mentors Debbie and John Sears. Staff also helped children make badges.

Thank you to carers Ed and Clare who loaned us a giant connect four game and jenga which the children loved.

Cochyn paid us a special visit and seemed to get on well with Cal the fostering bear.

Carers and children were provided with tickets to the game which they thoroughly enjoyed, (although not the result!)

5 Hospitality tickets were donated by Thomas Cook, we drew names from a hat and one lucky family were treated to a meal in the Scott Quinnell Lounge.

We all had a great day out and look forward to doing it all again next season. Thank you Scarlets!

Ella and Rhys

Baby holding handsWell it’s been 11 years since we started fostering, I can’t believe it. I always wanted to foster but it took a few years to persuade Rhys. All our children were grown up and I suppose it was a bit like empty nest syndrome. We chose fostering because we wanted to make a difference in a child’s life.

We are approved for short term placements of older children, although our main role has developed into providing Mother and Baby placements which we really enjoy. This role fits in well with our family since the placements are planned and are for a set period of time. I just love supporting the “Mums” and this way round I don’t get too attached.

Mostly I support the mum with life skills, helping them to make good decisions and being available for that guidance and reassurance. Building their trust is the key to helping them to relax in our home and putting them at ease so they can come to us with any concerns.

Our family are great, my children are a massive support. My grandchildren are used to people coming and going and we always encourage the young mothers to join in any family activities.
My house is always busy with social workers and other professionals calling, so the kettle is always on!

All my mothers have their own stories to tell and make such an impression on us. They always leave a bit of themselves behind. I am so pleased if they get to take their babies home.
I have gained so much experience from doing this role. I have always been keen to access training and will take away any bit of advice and put it into practice.

Fostering Mother and Baby placements has had a massive impact on our daily lives, you have to be able to think on your feet and sometimes the role can feel a bit restrictive through the level of supervision and support these young mothers need.

Giving them the space and time to parent their child means everything. They have given us so much back in return through the life lessons they have taught us. Drawing out and re-discovering the young person at a level they are comfortable with has been such a learning curve and trying not to “kill them with kindness” is really difficult for me, since they need to stand on their own two feet.

We both love what we do and would advise anyone thinking of doing this to keep an open mind. Perhaps start slowly and dip your toe in the water, maybe through respite or short breaks, to find out if it’s for you. Since you won’t know if you like it until you try it! So give yourself the chance to decide.