Meet Mandy & Sharon…

One thing that is apparent when stepping into Mandy and Sharon’s home is that family is important to them. The walls are filled with photographs capturing moments shared between family and friends, many of those including the three young people who are currently in their care.

For Mandy, fostering was something that she knew would be part of her future and she had been considering it for 15 years prior to making her initial enquiry. Mandy was in the Air Force for years until she qualified as a nurse and became a midwife. Following her career as a midwife she joined the police force and worked in child protection which really sparked her interest in fostering after seeing first hand the need for more foster carers. Until she met Sharon, Mandy had always envisaged fostering as a single carer. Fostering was never something that Sharon had ever thought about until Mandy discussed her intentions with her and it didn’t become a reality until the couple gained some experience of caring for a young family member and realised that the time was right for them to take the plunge and embark on their fostering journey.

As someone who had considered fostering for a long time and had worked with foster carers and children in care Mandy wanted to explore how different fostering providers could support her. What stood out about Alliance Foster Care was that educating their foster carers is high on their list of priorities which Mandy felt was especially important to her, alongside practical support and being respected as a professional. Additionally, Mandy felt that whilst Alliance Foster Care were open about the fees received when fostering and were practical about remuneration available to foster carers this was not something that they promoted as a motivation to foster.

Mandy and Sharon have been part of the Alliance Foster Care family for two years now, although to them it feels like they have been fostering for a lifetime as they couldn’t imagine life without the three young people who are now settled and will remain with them. It hasn’t always been easy though; Mandy reflected on the night before the first young person joined them. She worried that everything was in place and knew that their initial meeting could be awkward but she hoped to draw on her personal experiences and felt that she may be able to relate to how unsettled he would feel as Mandy had experienced many moves as a child. Although Mandy’s initial worries are commonly experienced by carers, Mandy and Sharon’s first placement went from strength to strength and the couple welcomed a sibling group a year later too. Due to careful matching, the family unit has since thrived and the three young people will continue to live with the couple as a family on a permanent basis.

When reflecting on the successes of fostering Mandy feels that the couple’s daily logs are a great place to look back on their experiences and achievements. She often has ‘lightbulb moments’ when reviewing them and notices the subtle changes in behaviour that can make life changing differences to a child but acknowledges that this isn’t always clear when in the midst of a situation. Since their fostering career began Mandy has been impressed with the support that she has received from Alliance Foster Care, particularly from her Supervising Social Workers, noting ‘they want you to succeed and give you the confidence to do so’. When Mandy and Sharon began their fostering career little did they know that two years down the road that success would result in them sharing not only their home but their lives with 3 young people who they now consider family.

If like Mandy, fostering with Alliance Foster Care is something that interests you please don’t hesitate to get in contact today. Find out more about how you can take steps to welcome a child or young person into your family.

Click here to make your enquiry online.

Caring Kids – February 2018

Caring Kids is a group set up specifically for the birth children of Alliance Foster Carers. The group is held twice a year and provides an opportunity for children and young people to come together and discuss how fostering affects them.

On Wednesday 14th February, Alliance hosted a Caring Kids rebranding event. This was an opportunity for the birth children to take ownership of their group and make any changes that they felt would be beneficial. The session began with an activity that involved 2 well known types of biscuits (custard creams and bourbons), everyone was asked to select their preferred biscuit but not eat it. Then they sat in groups according to their biscuit choice and were asked to say what the biscuit represented to them and how could they rebrand it. Despite the group thinking it was an unusual task, they came up with some fantastic ideas, including different flavours, thinner biscuits and more exciting packaging. The groups then presented their ideas to one another, by the end of it we were thinking they could all secure themselves a job in the biscuit industry!

The group were then asked what they thought of caring kids and if they would like to start thinking of any changes that could be made to improve it. They were also given the opportunity to break through the existing Caring kids wall so they could rebrand themselves as a group. Initially the group were reluctant to share their ideas, so we suggested that they may want to change the name of the group. They wanted a name that encapsulated their role within a foster family, they then floated the possibility of being called Timothy. This raised much laughter within the group especially when Will (support worker) wrote it in tiny writing on the suggestions board. It was decided that the group would continue to be known as Caring kids but they would have their own mascot called Timothy, and he would be a blue turtle. Ideas and thoughts were shared with plenty of hilarity over some of the suggestions and possibilities.

The group discussed the format of the caring kids sessions and whether they wanted them to continue as they were or do something completely different. The group decided that it was ok to cover important issues in the morning and do something fun in the afternoon. After all this heavy thinking (and laughter) it was time for lunch and to write their thoughts about their morning on the feedback wall.After lunch we played a game of catch and going down on one knee if you dropped it, this proved popular and enjoyed by all.

After our game it was time to head over to Irchester Jungle Parc. It was a freezing cold and wet day but nobody seemed to mind. The bravery of Team Timothy was phenominal and each and every member of the group did incredibly well. Cries of Timothy could be heard through the trees as the group tackled the dizzy heights of Jungle parc. Everone completed the courses and were rewarded with a hot chocolate in café.

Meet Debbie & Maureen…

 …Valued members of the Alliance fostering family since 2015

Debbie can remember her first placement like it was yesterday. She described the experience of welcoming the first young person into their home as ‘terrifying’, but beneath her initial worries Debbie revealed that she would soon have a lot in common with the little stranger she was presented with as they would share a life changing fostering journey.

Fast forward 9 years and Debbie and Maureen are now experienced foster carers who have cared for 8 different children within their fostering career. They transferred to the Alliance team 3 years ago after moving to the local area. Due to their experience they knew exactly what that they were looking for in an agency and excellent support was top of their agenda. The couple importantly wanted to feel that they were fostering for an agency who not only supported their needs, but also the needs of the child in their care and since fostering with Alliance Debbie commented, ‘Alliance is a small organisation but is big in terms of support and care. If there is an issue you are supported not only by your own supervising social worker but every member of the team. Everyone knows who you are and you are not left to cope alone’.

Debbie describes fostering as ‘not just a job but a life’ which is one of the things that interested her in the role when she first considered becoming a foster carer. Debbie came from a retail background which she enjoyed but it was not fulfilling her need to care and make a positive impact on people’s lives. Upon approval Debbie left the retail sector to become a full time foster carer, with Maureen supporting her alongside her role as a police officer. Since making the change Debbie hasn’t looked back. When asked about one of her most memorable fostering moments Debbie can’t choose just one; ‘It’s the little things, like when they ride their first bike, being able to sleep at night or seeing them building new relationships. There’s lots of successes with fostering, often it’s not all about the big steps, but taking baby steps, that’s what really makes a difference’.

As carers who have looked after children aged from 18 months to 17 years Debbie has learnt that the fostering role is one that has to change with each child, regardless of their age. Debbie enjoys the guidance and support aspect of fostering that is required when looking after older children and feels that it can be equally as rewarding as fostering little ones. ‘Fostering teenagers is about giving love and care, guidance and support. About helping them to make the right choices and teaching them that their experiences don’t have to define who they are’.

So after nearly a decade of fostering would Debbie still recommend the role? ‘I would definitely recommend fostering with the provision that it can be challenging at times, but also great and often the challenges can be satisfying as when you get through them, you have been on a journey with that child and at the end you’ll have got through it together, as a family. You can’t be afraid of the challenges as they are what lead to the great times’.

If you would like to find out more about how you can make an amazing difference to a child or young person’s life just like Debbie and Maureen make an enquiry today by calling 0808 1680 180 or click here to make your enquiry online.

February Holiday Club

Screen Test club – Part 2

On Monday the 13th of February we held the second part of our Screen Test Club in the Hub at Alliance. We had initially held the group in October half term and our young people had shared their experiences and ideas on staying safe and risky behaviours but had run out of time to complete their scripts and film. The original group was then invited back in February so that they could finalise their scripts and shoot their short films.

There was some slight changes to the group, but they adapted their ideas accordingly. Initially we played a fun warm up team game involving a ping pong ball, a straw and a cup. The group divided up into groups of four and competed against one another to see who could move the ball into the cup first. The young people all had great fun and demonstrated some resourceful ideas of how to transport ping pong balls into a cup.

Once the groups had completed their first task it was time to present them with their next challenge (obviously this was met with some initial reluctance). The group were given 11 short statements and they had to decide where there would rate them on a scale of ‘Safe to Unsafe.’ This activity prompted lots of discussion and it was fantastic for the young people to debate their opinions about seemingly ‘normal’ situations, which all contained elements of risky behaviours.

The group then got together in their previously established groups and they chatted about ideas and they decided that they wanted to use one of the statements from the earlier activity and base their script around that. Once their creative juices began to flow, both groups came up with a script and began rehearsing their ideas in preparation for them to be filmed.

When the filming was complete, the groups celebrated by playing an impromptu game of catch with some weird and wonderful twists. There was lots of laughter to be heard and it was a good opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves.

All that was left to do after the game was to christen the new feedback wall. The young people really enjoyed being able to draw on the wall and provided us with some great feedback on the event.

We are currently in the process of working alongside two of our young people from the group to come and edit them and put some professional final touches to the work. These videos can then hopefully be used in CSE training for foster carers.

Alliance Hub & Easter Fun

Alliance Foster care looks to recruit foster carers who can provide a high level of care to the children and young people that we care for. To better support our foster carers and provide young people with opportunities to improve educational attainment, develop life skills, prepare for adult life or receive therapeutic support this year we have expanded the services that we provide.

We have a program of additional services that run 52 weeks a year from the Alliance Hub. The Hub is staffed by experienced staff who have a wealth of experience working with children and young people living in foster families. The team includes a social worker, youth worker, support worker, teacher, psychotherapist, all of whom have experience of working in social care, education and youth services.

We use the Hub to deliver a number of workshops and Group work that include: Sexual Health, Protective Behaviours, Being Healthy and Staying Safe. In addition, we invite a community based groups to come and talk to young people about a range of topics including Drug Awareness, Child Exploitation, Staying safe on Line. Young people receive a certificate of attendance for all our workshops which they can use to support job or further education applications.

We recognise that we are very lucky to have our Hub, it’s such a great space to work with children and young people and an amazing base to host lots of social gatherings such as our Easter event where all of the Foster Carers and children came together for a day of fun.

The sun was shining and we all enjoyed an Easter egg hunt, games and a picnic on the large garden area that surrounds the office and Hub. Throughout the day there were 2 workshops running in the Alliance Hub; drumming and African mask painting. The drumming sessions were a great success with children able to let off some steam and make lots of creative noise. The craft workshop was a calm retreat where the children and young people spent time making beautiful African inspired masks with the help of a local artist, Mikki Longley, who joined the team for the day.

Everyone who attended was presented with an Easter egg from the team at the end of the day and there was the opportunity to win a prize by entering a poster competition. Children and young people were tasked with creating some art work which communicated ‘what makes me happy’. There were lots of fantastic entries, so many that it was decided that everyone was a winner and were awarded with a gift to thank them for all of the hard work and thought that was put into their entry.

To keep up our energy levels we had a huge buffet made up of everyone’s individual contributions – there was little left at the end of the day! The day was a huge success and a great opportunity for carers to come together. An Easter event was the perfect way to capture the fun, inclusive atmosphere that we feel is the heart of our Alliance family. A great introduction for a couple who were considering fostering. They had such a warm welcome that they decided that Alliance was the place for them and made the decision to join us as foster carers.

This is an extract from our 2017 Year Book, designed to take you through a year with Alliance Foster Care. To find out more and order a copy click here .


Caring Kids

February’s ‘Multi Media Mash Up’

Caring Kids is an initiative which started 10 years ago at Alliance to allow the birth children in fostering families the opportunity to come together in a safe space to discuss topics and issues that are important to them. We know that research into the impact fostering can have on the sons and daughters of fostering families highlights the importance of having an opportunity to discuss perceived difficulties, not just with parents but with other professionals involved.

We hold our Caring Kids days twice a year, usually in February and October and the days are facilitated by Alliance Foster Care’s Support Workers, Will and Nicola. The day generally starts with a morning session covering what it’s like to be part of a fostering family and how this has impacted on them individually. The children talk openly about the highs and lows of fostering; this can be both light hearted at times as well as a bit sad when discussing the foster children moving on and how much they are missed. To end the day the children and support workers have lunch then enjoy a fun afternoon activity; these have previously included zorbing, bowling, trampolining, laser zone and escape rooms.

February’s Caring Kids day was titled ‘Multi Media Mash Up’. The day started with a group session where the children and young people were invited to discuss their thoughts and feelings on sharing their parents. Following on from the initial discussions it was then suggested that their opinions could be transformed into a poem or rap focusing on the reality of their experiences within a fostering family. Some of the children felt confident enough to have their creations filmed for everyone to enjoy on the big screen before lunch. Then lots of fun was had bowling for the rest of the day.

In addition to Caring Kids we also have our Children’s Consultation group which has been very active this year helping Alliance to develop the services and support provided. The group have been very much involved in the activities that we have provided and listening to the young people has meant that they have an important role to play.

Fostering not only affects Foster Carers and the children in their care but also the carer’s birth children. Foster Carers whose children remain in the home often credit their children with fostering alongside them. Caring Kids is an excellent opportunity to give the children of fostering families the chance to discuss their experiences, frustrations and successes with other children and young people who are going through similar situations. Not only that, but the day also allows Alliance to say a big thank you for their contribution towards creating happy homes.

This is an extract from our 2017 Year Book, designed to take you through a year with Alliance Foster Care. To find out more and order a copy click here .


Support Is Key

Corby Support Group

By Diane, Supervising Social Worker

The Corby Support Group has been running for 5 years and takes place on a monthly basis, alternating between workshops in a local community centre and lunches in a local pub.

This group has grown together and whilst I take a lead on organising and setting up the sessions, the carers play a part in determining what sessions look like and how they would like them to run. Every January there is a session where carers will suggest issues that could be discussed and local services that will come and speak to us.

We have had sessions on Emotional Regulation, Solution Focussed Interventions, the benefit of horse riding for Looked After Children, Theraplay, Child Sexual Exploitation, Internet Safety, The Role of Appropriate Adult, Managing Teenagers, Virtual School workshop…the list goes on. We also take the opportunity to complete some mandatory training on occasions.

What is becoming increasingly important to carers in this group, however, is the opportunity to share experiences and be able to express any concerns or worries they have around fostering within a trusted and safe environment. The advice, support, guidance and reassurance provided by their peers is something that is incredibly valuable; I have had many times when carers have been upset and distressed but have found comfort from others and leave the group re-energised. Their sense of humour often helps them through very challenging situations and laughter is generally not far away when this group meets.

The group know each other very well but are also welcoming of new carers coming along. They will offer their telephone numbers to those who may need some local support and will make themselves available for a chat or a cup of coffee. There are a number of carers who meet up regularly outside of the support group and have forged firm friendships.

I thoroughly enjoy being part of this group and know that we will go from strength to strength.

This is an extract from our 2017 Year Book, designed to take you through a year with Alliance Foster Care. To find out more and order a copy  click here to give us your details.

Alliance Foster Care Year Book, 2017

Maria, Registered Manager of Alliance Foster Care introduces our brand new year book…

Since Alliance Foster Care was established fifteen years ago, it has grown from strength to strength, and each year we endeavour to build on the successes of previous years. 2017 was no exception.

As often happens, we gather lots of photos and mementoes through the year, but up until now we have never collated them into an album. This year we started working with a wonderful organisation called iLifemyLife. They showed us some great examples of how they collect and keep memories alive for the children that we work with, and we thought it would be a great idea to do this for the agency.

This is the first year we have done this and it’s been wonderful to look back on some really special times and to acknowledge so many of our achievements.   In fact it’s been so much fun we have decided that we will save all our memories each year in a year book.

We really hope that you enjoy reading our 2017 year book, and by the end you will have a greater insight into what we are all about.

To order your copy give us a call on 0808 1680 180 or click here to give us your details.

Foster Carers and HMRC

For anybody who is considering becoming a foster carer, and for those that are already fostering, you have been invited to take part in a free webinar hosted by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The webinar aims to help you understand tax responsibilities and any National Insurance issues that may arise for a self-employed foster carer.

The free, hour-long webinar will take place at 11am on the 14th February and will include an interactive question and answer session.

The webinar can be accessed from all laptops, iPads, iPhones or tablets, provided you have internet access.

Spaces are limited and reservations are necessary.
To register, please visit HMRC Foster Carers Registration

Saying ‘Goodbye’ To A Foster Child

The time between the beginning and the end of a placement with a foster child can feel like no time at all. Saying goodbye can be one of the biggest challenges faced by foster carers, as well as for the young people in their care.

Having looked after a person for a period of time, you celebrate their successes, are a shoulder to cry on and you watch them grow up. They become a substantial part of your family.

The Importance of Staying Positive

Whatever the reasons for the departure, it’s normal for foster carers to experience a range of emotions when a child leaves their home. It’s important to realise that having stayed with you for a period of time will have benefited their lives for the better.

If they’re an older teenager and they’re now ready to live independently, you will have probably played the part of an important role model. You would have helped teach them valuable life skills such as learning to cook, clean and manage budgets in preparation for them to live their life on their own.

For younger children who move onto more long-term, permanent placements, it’s important to remember that moving on is in their best interests as it’s eventually helping towards placing them with their ‘forever family’.

Dealing with Grief

Losing a foster child is likely to provoke feelings of grief, so give yourself time to recover and also to celebrate the journey you’ve had together. Being open about these feelings with friend, family and other foster carers will help you to heal.

How We Can Help Foster Carers

If you are a foster carer or are considering becoming a foster carer, we can provide a range of training on how to deal with foster children moving on. Contact our team for more information by clicking here.