With Christmas almost upon us it’s that time of the year where we take stock of where we are, as well as preparing for where we’re going in 2019.
The end of 2018 will see the Trust with over 175 children placed and a total of 120 approved Foster Carers with another 20 families currently in assessment. Quite an achievement in many ways. However, I’m always somewhat reluctant to ‘celebrate’ achieving targets regarding the numbers of children we have placed lest we forget why they came into care in the first place. That said, once they arrive at the Trust I know that our wonderful Foster Carers and dedicated staff do their very best to make them feel welcome, safe and truly cared for.
It remains my firm belief that becoming an outstanding Foster Carer is not a journey for the ‘faint hearted’ or for those who wish to simply earn an ‘income’. It’s a ‘vocation’ not a job. As such our Carers work tirelessly 24/7 to ensure our children are well cared for, experience a sense of ‘belonging’ and achieve their potential both in the short and longer term. Having spent some time this year observing panel in a number of regions it’s been a very ‘humbling’ experience to be able to listen to some of the extraordinary challenges our Carers have had to deal with and continue to face on a regular basis. What I took away with me from these stories was a continued sense of enormous pride in the work we carry out at the Trust. The amount of ‘goodwill’ freely given by our Carers, (past and present) our staff, panel members and trustees is what makes the Children’s Family Trust unique, long may it continue.
Since January we have been inspected by Ofsted in three regions. All three received an overall judgement of ‘Good’. These inspections are the Trust’s first experience of being inspected under the new Inspection Framework. This means that instead of being given a two week notice period informing us we are to be inspected we are given 48 hours-notice. ‘The journey of the child’ is the focus of the new inspection framework, as such these recent inspections have provided a real learning curve for all involved. However, an overall judgement of ‘Good’ is a fantastic result and one we should quite rightly be very proud of, well done one and all!
Moving into 2019 recruitment will remain a big part of our focus and drive. Sourcing good quality Foster Carers alongside highly skilled staff continues to be a challenge. The Independent Fostering sector is now enormous and as such potential Carers have an enormous array of agencies to choose from. However, having carried out our own relatively extensive research into how we measure up against our competitors it would appear that we’re up there in the top five agencies regarding the package of support and renumeration we provide for our Carers. This has been confirmed further by the increasing number of Foster Carers that have transferred over to us from other agencies in the past year or so. Alongside this the number of Carers we’ve recruited this year purely through ‘word of mouth’ has been higher than ever before.
In less than 2 years the Trust will reach its 75th birthday! At the same time we will quite possibly have over 200 children in placement. As such we are certainly entering a further period of development whereby our infrastructure becomes ever more vital. Our new HR database will go ‘live’ early in the new year with all things HR becoming accessible to staff and Carers where appropriate. Our Policies, Procedures and Foster Carer Handbook will also go ‘live in February via the Tri-X database giving our staff and Carers online access to this information. We have recently purchased the online App called ‘Momo’ (Mind of My Own) for our children. This App will allow our fostered children and young people to have a ‘voice’ and be able to participate fully in their own care. Training on this will be provided for both Carers and staff early in the New Year. Foster Carer Reviews increase in number year on year. As many of you will know this process is both regulatory and enormously time consuming for all involved. With this in mind we are currently in the process of recruiting a number of Independent Reviewing Officers to cover each region. These sessional workers will carry out all of our Carer reviews next year, providing a much needed ‘independent element’ for both the Trust and our Carers.
2019 will see us welcoming a number of new trustees and panel members. Both roles being vital to the ongoing development, growth and future of the Trust. Our former CEO Tom Gormley will join our board of trustees in January alongside Simon Paley and Liz Jermy. Simon is a former panel member of CFT and a Foster Carer of many years. Liz Jermy is a former Foster Carer of the Trust and was born into a CFT family as her mum Julie Kirby is one of our wonderful Life time Carers. I have no doubt that all three new trustees will bring a wealth of experience, expertise, wisdom and generosity to the board.
Looking ahead our next stage of development will undoubtedly bring its own challenges, but we enter it with a belief that what we do every day is making a significant difference to the children we care for. With this thought I would like to sincerely thank our staff for all of their hard work this year and our Carers for their continued commitment to the children they care for and for their dedication to the Trust in its mission to provide a ‘Family For Life’ to every child entrusted to our care.
Wishing you all a very happy and joyous Christmas and a peaceful, healthy new year, my warmest wishes and huge thanks to you all,
–Marina Mulholland – CEO