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Investors In People Gold

December 10th, 2013

Following an intensive assessment process over fourteen days which involved interviews with over one hundred and fifty staff and carers, I am extremely pleased to advise you the National Fostering Agency Group has successfully met the Investors in People criteria and has been award the Investors in People Gold Standard accreditation.

IIP GOLD

I am delighted with the outcome, as this extremely prestigious award externally validates our excellent practices in terms of potential and existing employees and carers. It demonstrates to the 98% of Local Authorities who have contract arrangements with the Group our ongoing commitment to our employees and to our carers in ensuring the level of wrap around support drives the very best possible outcomes for the children and young people in our joint care.

Attaining this level excellence is no mean feat as the IIP Gold award reflects the consistency of our processes and culture across the organisation as a whole, clearly confirming the overarching team culture we have as a Group.

Less than 3% of organisations of IIP holders achieve the Gold standard accreditation. The Gold standard requires evidence to be demonstrated across a total of 196 key areas which were verified through telephone and face to face interviews across all levels of the business, NFA regions and Partner Agencies.

My sincere thanks must go to all our carer households throughout the United Kingdom for embracing and living the people culture that we work so hard to maintain and that forms part of our ongoing aims to improve the quality of life for those we care for each and every day.

Iain Anderson
Group Chief Executive

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Bridge to Foster

November 22nd, 2013

The need to deliver positive outcomes for children and young people while managing cost pressures inevitably leads to a greater focus on the effectiveness of high cost placements for young people.  According to the latest Ofsted data set (March 2013) there are 2,050 children’s homes providing 11,781 registered places in England, with the highest number of homes categorised as providing accommodation for children with emotional and/or behavioural difficulties (EBD).

Residential placements can play a valuable role in the spectrum of provision, offering the highly specialised support required to meet some children’s needs and enabling others to spend time away from a damaging home environment.  There are a number of concerns about the use of residential accommodation and the impact on young people namely:

  • The consequences of living away from family and home community;
  • Vulnerability to abuse and neglect;
  • Difficult transitions beyond residential provision;
  • Inappropriate use of residential placements;
  • High costs; and
  • Poor outcomes for some.

Stepping Stones PictureWhile a number of children and young people require the intensive support and security which a residential environment provides, it is equally acknowledged that the opportunity to break behavioural cycles and improve outcomes for children and young people is better achieved in a family setting.

Through discussion with Local Authority customers, NFA recognised the need to develop a service which offered young people the opportunity to successfully transition from residential settings to a family environment.  Now some twenty-four months on, NFA Group has worked with fifteen different Local Authorities in transitioning just over forty young people from a residential setting.

NFA’s ‘Bridge to Foster’ service aims to enable children and young people to move from residential to foster care, where such a move is in their best interests.  A range of therapeutic services may be required to meet the psychological pressures involved in this change and assist the young person to re-engage in education, form relationships and make a successful transition.  Regular reviews take place throughout the programme to ensure that the bespoke pathway plan continues to meet the needs of the young person.  The programme is time limited to 14 weeks with the aim of a young person having four possible exit points: returning home, specialist or ‘long term’ fostering or moving to semi–independent living.

The Bridge to Foster service provides each young person with a clear pathway plan from residential to foster care by supporting the young person in making that monumental move into a home environment.  This enables the young person to have a positive and natural integration back into the community which is key to the success of the programme.

Recognising that this service requires highly skilled and specialist carers, NFA group launched its’ Carer Academy.  The Carer Academy looks to up skill foster carers with a range of therapeutic interventions, strategies and techniques to better manage complex and challenging placements.  The intensive programme includes modules covering NFA’s Therapeutic Model of Care (incorporating Solution Focused Brief Therapy and De-escalation Techniques), Communicating with Children and Young People (introducing Transactional Analysis and Neuro-linguistic Programming), Child Sexual Exploitation/Missing from Placement and Advanced Drug & Alcohol Training amongst others.  Reflective Practice sessions are central to the Academy model, enabling foster carers and social work staff the opportunity to explore and develop their understanding with professionals who can guide and enhance the learning provided.  Feedback from attendees to the Academy has been very positive and plans are well under way to deliver another programme early in the New Year.

The principle aim of the ‘Bridge to Foster’ service is to improve life chances for young people; the outcomes achieved have demonstrated that ‘Bridge to Foster’ has indeed delivered.  The experiences of two young people, who have benefited from this service are noted (below/ overleaf) and provide vivid descriptions of what it has meant to them.

‘Bridge to Foster’ can offer a solution in achieving improved outcomes for children and young people while supporting Local Authorities to more effectively manage budget pressures.  By making use of the ‘Bridge to Foster’ service, fifteen Local Authorities have secured huge savings of over £1m (compared to their residential spend for the same period) demonstrating that this service offers Best Value for Local Authorities and a realistic choice for young people to turn their lives around and make positive transitions into family life.

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Case Study – KH

November 22nd, 2013

KH was a young person who was placing herself and others at significant risk in her residential placement. KH was engaging in risk taking activities such as absconding and self harming, which prior to her residential placement had not featured in her life. She was also displaying aggressive behaviour towards her peers and staff. KH had had previous foster placements which where successful and she had indicated to her social worker that she would like to be placed back into a family setting.

It was felt by the LA that K needed an experience of positive family life that would give her a window of opportunity to receive support and intervention to enable her to make better choices for herself. This was essential if K was to manage situations and relationships positively. The overall goal was to bring about positive change and support K’s transition to a long term Foster Care placement.

Fundamental to the success of the BtF placement was K’s willingness to engage. K’s initial referral described a child who had a very limited sense of belonging, no self worth, which at times reflected and presented as attention seeking behaviour; Ks world was that of unpredictability, which further contributed to her fears and anxieties.

K has been given an opportunity to experience positive family life and feel the benefits of being a fourteen-year-old girl. At the outset of the placement K had real difficulties with managing her behaviour and had a history of aggression / physical violence toward adults and children alike. Professionals described K as a young person whose anger went from 0 to 10 very rapidly. An independent social worker was assigned to work with K to look at her aggressive behaviours and to help her develop strategies to deal with negative feelings and behaviours. By the end of her placement, K’s behaviours were on the whole no different to that of normal adolescent behaviour. K was able to develop strategies to regulate her emotions and manage her behaviour to a positive end. K has achieved significant positive change and thus has been able to achieve her ultimate goal of moving to a long-term foster family, where she can remain until she reaches adulthood. The assessment formulated throughout the BtF has enabled K to be matched alongside experienced foster carers who can support, maintain and sustain her continued progress.

Outcomes

Comment

Be Healthy

K was registered with GP, Dentist and Optician. K was given guidance and support around sexual health by her carer and subsequently received a contraceptive implant. K was introduced to a regular bedtime routine and was encouraged to eat healthily and exercise. Mother was involved inall decisions regarding K’s medical care and accompanied her for her contraceptive implant. K, at the outset of her BtF placement, came with a history of not engaging in necessary health appointments, self harming behaviour, i.e. drugs, alcohol, solvents and absconding daily. The child that arrived at the placement had over a twelve week period grown and developed in so many areas that the initial referral no longer reflected the same child. K adapted to the household routine and because she was eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise, her overall appearance improved which in turn, helped her self-esteem and overall confidence.

Stay Safe

K when first placed had a much-distorted belief around adolescent behaviour. She lacked emotional maturity and insight into adults’ responsibilities and concerns around keeping her safe. K felt that attempts to keep her safe where deliberate acts to make her comply with something she did not believe in. Work was undertaken with K by her foster carer, a support worker and YOT workers which resulted in K gaining an understanding of why she needed to keep her self safe. As a result,K recognised that she needed help to make the right choices in order to have a better life for herself. She responded positively to making her foster carer aware of where she was and who with, which continues into her current long tem placement.

Enjoy and Achieve

K at the outset of her placement had not engaged in education since September 2011. By the fourth week in the BtF placement she was participating in two mornings of home tuition and one full day at a Local PRU. K has developed a self-belief that she can achieve in education and her goal is to work towards a full time provision in September 2012.

Make a Positive Contribution

K has been given an opportunity to experience positive family life and feel the benefits of being a 14-year-old girl. At the outset of the placement K had real difficulties with managing her behaviour and had a history of aggression / physical violence toward adults and children alike. Professionals described K as a young person whose anger went from 0 to 10 very rapidly. An independent social worker was assigned to work with K to look at her aggressive behaviours and to help her develop strategies to deal with negative feelings and behaviours. By the end of her placement, K’s behaviours were on the whole no different to that of normal adolescent behaviour. K was able to develop strategies to regulate her emotions and manage her behaviour to a positive end.K has achieved significant positive change and thus has been able to achieve her ultimate goal of moving to a long-term foster family, where she can remain until she reaches adulthood.

The assessment formulated throughout the BtF has enabled K to be matched alongside experienced foster carers who can support, maintain and sustain her continued progress.

Achieve Economic Independence

K has a savings account and has been given the trust and encouragement to manage her pocket money sensibly.

 

Outcome

The outcome of the Bridge to Foster service in this situation has been to achieve a significant positive change for this young person. Through the work put in by K, BtF carers and the professional team around her, she has now made a positive transition to a mainstream placement. It has been life changing for K to be placed in a family environment and it has impacted on her all round development.

K has been in her long term main stream placement for a number of weeks. Her behaviour can be challenging at times but no more than would be expected from a young person of a similar age. She has been placed with very experienced carers who continue to offer her the support and guidance she will need to grow into a responsible adult.

Comments from K’s Social Worker:

“I just wanted to send a quick e-mail to say a massive thank you for the last twelve weeks on behalf of the team and K. The BtF project has been life changing for her and I am truly grateful for all of the hard work, effort and planning that you have all done on her behalf which has allowed her such a great opportunity. The project is unique of anything that I have experienced before, and I hope that it long can continue to allow other young people the same chances that K has now been given. Again thank you.”

Social Worker, Kate

 

Comments from K:

Good Bits

  • Family home and boundaries, I have stuck to them, make me feel better about myself.
  • It has helped me to settle down.
  • Got all my medical stuff up to date.
  • Living here has given me the chance to see the sort of family I want to live with.
  • Have got on with all the people here, had my fall outs but that’s normal and it’s been good meeting P’s  family, like her Grandchildren.
  • I have got some education.
  • Break out was great.
  • Home tutor, I did it, got on well with him.

Bad Bits

  • I miss the drama and the banter of the children’s home.
  • Living so far away from my family, but I have coped with it well.

What would you advise someone who is thinking about BtF?

“Get your arse into gear and give it a go, you never know you might like it. I thought I would hate living in a family again, but I like it.”

 

Case Study KH Picture

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Case Study – LG

November 22nd, 2013

Providing a cost effective and outcome driven solution for a young person, LG (female) aged sisteen. The Bridge to Foster (BtF) Service was considered by a NFA customer Local Authority, to support a young person who had been subject to multiple placement breakdowns and also a residential placement.  It was felt by the Local Authority that L should live within a family setting and re-establish her network of support nearer to the birth family home.

Outcomes

Comment

Be Healthy

L is registered with GP, Dentist and Optician.  L also has a number of issues regarding her sexual health, which needed addressing.  L has been encouraged to eat healthily and exercise.  L has recently re-engaged with CAMHS regarding her emotional and mental health issues.

Stay Safe

Safe Care Policy in place; all risk issues have been assessed.  L was initially supported in the community until she felt confident to travel independently.  Support for carers regarding keeping L safe is on-going.

Enjoy and Achieve

Carers have given lots of support with basic skills work.  Carers have also supported L in applying to do voluntary work at the local animal sanctuary. L has also attended an Apprenticeship Day at the local college and has shown an interest in some of the work on offer.

Make a Positive Contribution

Achieved significant positive change for L and has enabled her to experience family life.  The long-term aim was to enable L to live independently at some point in the future and re-establish links with her extended birth family.  L has now transitioned to a mainstream foster placement with the same foster carers.

Achieve Economic Independence

L has a savings account and she has been encouraged to understand and manage her own money.  L gets £30 per week, which she manages herself.

 

The NFA received the referral for LG as she has been placed in a residential establishment after many foster placement breakdowns.

L was removed from her birth mothers care when she was very young as a result of neglect and failing to keep her safe.  L then went into a number of short term foster placements before finally being adopted at the age of four.  The adoption lasted two years and resulted in L being sexually abused by the adoptive dad.  After this broke down L was then moved to a succession of fostering placements.  During her early teenage years her behaviour spiralled and the only solution was for her to be placed in a residential unit with on site education.  During the last two years of her placement there it was felt by the LA that L would benefit from re-engaging with family life and a foster care placement was found where L went every weekend and school holidays.  This arrangement lasted until she finished her formal education in July 2011.  Up until then contact with her birth mum was sporadic as was contact with her birth brother, who lived in a Residential Unit in the North West.  After L left school in July 2011 she continued to live with the foster carer on a full time basis.  L would regularly abscond from the placement ending up in various parts of the country.  On further discussion with her Social Worker, L shared that she wanted to move nearer to her mum and brother.  She also felt it was very isolated where she was living and wanted to move back nearer to a big town or city.  L also shared that she felt she could now have a flat and live independently.  L presented with extreme challenging behaviours that included criminal activity, sexual exploitation, missing from home periods, self harming, not in education or training, substance misuse and had significant attachment issues.

It was agreed by L and the LA that she would be placed on the Bridge to Foster Scheme and that the main aim would be to re-engage her with the local community and also help her with the skills to move on to independent living.  NFA’s carers, C&D P, were ideally placed to offer L a placement as they had a wealth of experience dealing with challenging behaviour and also moving young people onto independence.

Prior to the placement commencing NFA carer C and the Supervising Social Worker visited L in her existing foster care placement.  Introductions would have been planned for longer but due to the remote location this was not possible.  C took lots of photos of the house, family etc so that L could see where she was coming to.  At this first contact we talked to L about the placement and what she wanted out of it.

A planning meeting then took place when L was in placement where a bespoke plan was identified early in the placement involving L, the LA Social Worker, the BtF Carers and NFA’s Supervising Social Worker (SSW).  Discussions that had taken place with the residential unit and previous foster care placement were also considered.  The LA Social Worker was keen for the BtF carer to work on improving and supporting L’s independence, reducing the risks to L when/if she absconds.  It was also felt that work needed to be done with L regarding her relationship with her mum and brother.  It was also noted that L needed lots of care, TLC and time to reflect and this was an area where NFA’s Support Worker would fit.

Twelve weeks on

It was agreed that L should remain with the BtF carers until she is ready to move to independence.  The placement immediately changed status and became a ‘mainstream’ placement at the twelve week stage.

Since being placed on the BtF Scheme L has made significant progress.  L has become engaged with the family and has formed good relationships.  She now trusts them and recognises and values that they are not trying to ‘control’ her.  L listens to what the carers are saying and will happily share her thoughts and feelings.  Carers negotiate with her and the LA Social Worker regarding how often she can spend nights away from the family home to stay with her boyfriend – this has been very successful as L now feels she has some form of control whist respecting that people are worried about her.  This has resulted in L not absconding from the placement.

L has also begun to show an interest in her future.  She has now realised that she finds in difficult to go into a college environment and the large numbers of people that entails.  She has however applied to carry out voluntary work at the local Animal Sanctuary.  L has also visited an Apprenticeship Day and she has shown an interest in following up a number of opportunities.

When L arrived in placement she had a number of medical issues largely related to her Sexual Health.  These have now been addressed and the carers have supported her (and her boyfriend) in dealing with these.  Carers have kept track of hospital appointments and ensured that she has been there.

The biggest area of improvement for L has been to her self esteem.  The Support Worker worked hard in establishing their relationship.  They did lots of things together that may seem insignificant (getting her hair cut, nails done etc) but this improved L’s self worth dramatically.  The Support Worker was also (along with the carers) able to equip her with the skills to deal with a violent relationship.  L talks to the carers more and more regarding what she should do in certain situations.

L is also learning and increasing her independence skills.  She now manages her own money and is enjoying taking part in the shopping and cooking of food.

Outcome

L realised herself that she was not ready to move on to independent living.  She recognises now that she would not cope and is enjoying being ‘looked after’ and cared for, for the time being.  As a result, L asked when the Bridge to Foster Placement came to an end if it would be possible to stay with the carers C&D.  After some discussion all parties felt this was very appropriate and L continues to be in their care now.

L is also going from strength to strength.  She has recently brought charges against her boyfriend regarding his violent behaviour and the case is ongoing.

The outcome of the Bridge to Foster service in this situation has been to achieve a significant positive change for this young person.  It has been very positive for L to be placed in a family environment and it has impacted on her all round development.

Quote from LG:

“When I came to my new placement I settled really well and got on with the carers.  I feel this placement was different to other placements I have had as the carer helped me make choices rather than making choices for me.  My carer helped me to join a training scheme and helped me organise contact with my family.  My carers give me space and freedom whilst taking care of me I feel safe and I can tell my carer all my worries and fears and they support me.”

Feedback from the Local Authority Social Worker on LG’s placement:

“When L was placed in the Bridge to Foster placement she had moved from a residential placement and presented with extreme challenging behaviours that included criminal activity, sexual exploitation, missing from home periods, self harming, not in education or training, substance misuse and had significant attachment issues.

She was placed with carers and with support from the agency she was able to settle very well and build up positive relationships.  The plan for L was for her to move on to independence, however, L was able to accept that she was not ready for this and needed extra time.  Her placement worked on independent skills and choices and as a direct result of the carers L agreed to move to a general foster placement.

L addressed issues of substance misuse and was supported to engage with education and training.  Her self harming reduced and she has not been reported missing since the start of the placement.  L is now accessing CAMHS and Barnardos and is not involved in sexual exploitation.”

Case Study LG Picture

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