Phoenix Community Care runs a fostering service as part of its overall provision for young people and young adults offering high quality support, accommodation and education (where this is an assessed need & agreement is made regarding additional costs).
PCC was established in 1999 as a not-for-profit organisation. Initially our focus was to provide a service for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum (which we identified as an often overlooked and misunderstood area needing specialist support and care).
Responding to the request of a Local Authority, for whom we are the main provider of semi-independent accommodation and support for older children and young adults, we set up a fostering Agency specifically for unaccompanied minors who could thereby benefit from our considerable experience and expertise. This has resulted in us being able to offer an inclusive service to these young people, i.e.
- Accommodation suitable to their needs and age
- Placements that have considerable understanding of their experiences and cantherefore offer sensitively appropriate support and practical advice.
- An ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) school which can be offered asand when appropriate.
- A seamless service for young people moving from fostering to supported lodgings
Our Fostering Agency has now developed beyond this brief to include placing mainstream children and young people with our growing number of foster carers. We provide single child and sibling short break, bridging, short term, long term and permanent placements for children and young people aged 0 to 17. We also facilitate child / children and parent placements.
PCC takes very seriously its responsibility in providing children and young people with the very best possible care when being placed with one of our foster carers. Our emphasis is on quality, commitment and kindness. This is reflected in our:
- Stringent selection of which applicants we take through assessment. A comprehensive preparation course which addresses ‘Foster Care Standards’and the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018’.
- A high quality assessment of carers.
- High quality on-going support, supervision, training and development ofapproved carers.
- 24 hour support, 7 days per week support for carersWe consider that foster carers generally, and our carers in particular, are exceptional people who have chosen to enhance the wellbeing, emotional stability and life chances of children and young people they care for. We consider that they are a highly valued resource who, in order to do their job to the best of their ability, requires excellent management, support, training and development. Our Agency takes seriously the
responsibility to provide this. Alongside this we ensure that we approve carers who wish to, and understand how to, work in partnership with parents / birth families as well as placing Local Authorities.
We place great importance on safeguarding any child placed through our Agency. To this end we ensure that our carers are fully aware of and trained in ‘Safer Caring’ and understand their responsibility and role in this area. Our supervision of carers reflects this priority and monitoring their practice in this area is of paramount importance to us.
We support the principle of ‘placement choice’ and the placing of children within their own ethnic, cultural and religious birth family experience whenever possible. To this end we work to expand and value the diversity of our foster carers.
2. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
- To ensure that any child or young person placed with one of our foster carers is cared for kindly, respectfully and safely by highly skilled and informed carers so that the best possible outcomes can be achieved in order to empower and equip the child / young person of fulfilling his / their life opportunities.
- To recruit high quality foster carers from a broad range of ethnicities, cultures and religions who will undergo a thorough assessment to ensure their suitability to professionally care for and nurture a child / young person.
- To provide excellent on-going support, training and development to our foster carers.
- To provide a safe and caring environment for any child placed with us complying with legal and regulatory requirements and placing the greatest importance on the safety and protection of children and young people.
- Alongside providing a general high quality mainstream service to all children and young people, to provide a specialist service to unaccompanied minors.
- To provide a service to looked after children, foster carers and Local Authorities which values, respects and reflects the rich diversity of ethnicities, cultures, religions, sexual orientation and abilities.
- To provide a range of fostering placements to meet the need of young people children to include single child and sibling emergency and planned short break, bridging, short term, long term and permanent placements for children and young people aged 0 to 17. We facilitate child / children and parent placements with parents under and over 18 years of age.
- To recruit a modest number of foster carers, to manage, supervise and monitor their work in order to ensure that the care they provide to the children and young people is of the highest quality.
- We aim to recruit foster carers to meet the need for single child and sibling short break, short term, long term and permanent placements for children and young people aged 0 to 17. We also recruit carers that can facilitate child / children and parent placements.
- To provide an honest and attractive recruitment strategy to encourage and foster the interest of a wide range of carers in terms of ethnicity, culture, sexuality and religions in our society.
- To provide high quality assessments of carers within 9 months maximum of their formal application.
- To establish Training and Development profiles on all our carers reflecting their on- going achievement of skills and awareness.
- PCC expects all its foster carers to complete the TS & D training within a year following their approval.
- To provide supervision and support to carers to ensure their best possible practice to support any child / young person to achieve health, educational, emotional, social and economic well being. This will include a review after the first 12 months of fostering and will continue each year thereafter.
- To support and develop foster carers to work well and respectfully in partnership with parents and Local Authorities.
- To consult with children, young people, foster carers and Local Authorities to ascertain their experience of the service the Agency provides.
3. STATUS AND CONSTITUTION
PCC Foster Care Agency works under the umbrella of Phoenix Community Care. The management structure of the PCC Foster Care Agency is shown below.
As of August PCC Foster care has five permanent members of staff: Pauline Hawkes, Gena Areola, Lisa Denton, Ian Mitchell and Al Coates. In addition, we have suitably qualified and experienced sessional workers.
Gareth Hawkes Responsible Individual
Gareth grew up in a household that fostered and has worked within Phoenix Community Care (PCC) for the over 20 years. Gareth is the current Chair of Directors and is actively involved in monitoring and auditing the Agency.
Miri Burnett Agency Decision Maker
Qualification BA (Hons) Social Work 2011
Experience Post qualifying Miri worked as a supervising social worker in the PCC fostering team before managing PCC supported accommodation for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Miri became a director for PCC in 2019 and became the Decision Maker in 2020.
Pauline Hawkes Registered Fostering Manager
Qualifications: NVQ Level 3 | Caring for Children & Young People
NVQ Level 4 | Register Manager
Experience: Pauline has 15 years previous experience as an ‘Enhanced Foster Carer’ for Haringey Social Services. Pauline also served Haringey as a lead member of their foster carers association for a further five years.
Al Coates MBE Registered Manager / Reviewing Officer
Qualifications: BA (Hons) Social Work 2013
Level 5 Leadership and Management of Children’s Social Care
Non Violent Resistance Advanced Practitioner
Experience: Al and his partner worked as foster carers for three years for a local authority in Northumberland. He has experience supporting adopters and foster carers who care for children with challenging behaviour. As a student he undertook social work placements in Children’s Social Care, Residential Adult Mental Health and supporting parents of children in the care system. Al is a member of the Department for Education’s Adopter Reference Group.
Gena Areola Supervising Social Worker
Qualifications BA (Hons) Social Work 2016 (2:1)
Teacher Training with an ESOL Bias
Management Level 4 NVQ
Experience Gena has recently completed her studies in BA Social Work. She has worked with children and young people in different arenas for over twenty years. Prior to studying as a Social Worker Gena taught ESOL classes to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum and Literacy and Numeracy to young offenders. Gena had also been a foster carer for 11 years.
Lisa Denton Supervising Social Worker
Qualifications BA (Hons) Social Work 2016 (2:1)
Access to HE Diploma (Social Studies & Humanities)
Experience Although beginning her social work carer later in life, Lisa acquired extensive personal life experience and skills through previous employment in the conferencing and hospitality sector and then more recently as an interior designer.
After leaving university, she managed Hackney Local Authority contact centre for looked after children and their birth families for 5.5 years. Here she gleaned much experience in working with parents of children in the care system, foster carers and professionals from the sector and legal system.
Ian Mitchell Supervising Social Worker
Qualifications 1984 BA (Hons) Politics and Social Administration (2:1)
1989 Teaching English as a Foreign Language
1996 Diploma in Social Work/MA in Social Policy/Erasmus Certificate in Social Work
2006 PGCE in Further Education
2016 PGCE in Higher Education
Before qualifying as a Social Worker Ian worked as a youth worker, motorcycle courier, and taught English as a Foreign Language in a variety of settings in the United Kingdom and Europe. Following qualification as a Social Worker Ian has worked with children and adults experiencing issues with Substance misuse in both voluntary and statutory settings. He set up and ran his own training and consultancy business before working as a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Teesside and Northumbria Universities
4. RECRUITMENT OF FOSTER CARERS
The Agency’s foster carers are recruited mainly through advertising in local media, direct enquiries through our website and referral by our existing foster carers. The Agency’s policy in recruitment of foster carers will target a range of applicants who can best meet the diverse needs of children referred to the Agency by local authorities. Analysis of referrals from contracting authorities and commissioners will inform the Agency’s priorities in recruitment direction. However, recruitment and consideration of all applicants to foster for the Agency is carried out in accordance with the Agency’s equal opportunities policy.
All applicants are assessed according to standard Agency assessment procedures, using a competency approach originally based on that provided by the CoramBAAF. The assessment process provides a basis for the collection, collation, analysis, presentation of data and the demonstration of competences required to foster. The assessment format and a bespoke Preparation to Foster course developed by the
Agency are used in the selection during the assessment by both the applicants and assessors to demonstrate these competencies and capacity.
Applicants who register an interest are visited by a social worker. The purpose of this visit is to provide an opportunity to share information about the fostering task and the Agency and to act as an initial assessment. If it is mutually agreed at this point the applicant will be invited to complete an application form and the formal process of assessment will begin on receipt of this form.
Assessments are made of the qualities, competences and aptitudes for fostering of applicants in relation to those qualities identified in the ‘Minimum National Standards for Fostering Services’. The assessment process and the timescales involved are based on a ‘contract’ or agreement drawn up between the assessing social worker and the applicant(s) at the outset of the assessment. Feedback about the assessment process is sought from applicants who have been assessed. The whole process is monitored and overseen by one of the Agency’s senior social workers and manager.
5. APPROVAL OF FOSTER CARERS
A rigorous assessment process of applicants to foster is carried out by qualified social workers who are experienced in child care and fostering and who will receive training in competency based assessments. During the assessment references are taken up and referees are interviewed. Checks on applicants are carried out with the Disclosure and Barring Service, the local authority of the area where the applicant lives, employers and other appropriate bodies and agencies. The applicant undergoes a medical examination to ensure physical and mental fitness for the task and the Agency is advised by a qualified medical adviser.
At the completion of the assessment the social worker compiles a report using our assessment report format (as described above) and makes a clear recommendation with regard to the general suitability of an applicant to foster for the Agency and the numbers of children and type of placement appropriate to the child care experience which match the skills and circumstances of the applicant. The report and other relevant documents are then considered by the Agency’s fostering panel, which is described further below. Both assessing social worker and the applicant(s) attend the panel when the application is being considered.
Some applicants, for a number of reasons, may be ‘counselled out’ as unsuitable to foster before the assessment is considered by the Agency fostering panel.
The fostering panel comprises both Agency representatives and other persons having experience, knowledge and skills in child care and fostering who are independent of the Agency. The panel is chaired by an independent professional person with experience in family placements. It acts according to the relevant regulations, the Agency’s panel protocol, confidentiality bond and operational procedures to ensure fairness, consistency, and rigor in its decision-making. The Agency seeks to ensure that membership of the panel generally reflects the communities from which the children placed through the Agency are drawn.
After consideration, the panel recommends to the Agency decision maker whether or not an applicant is suitable and any conditions which should be attached to the approval if given.
6. TRAINING OF FOSTER CARERS
All prospective foster carers are to attend the ‘Preparation to Foster’ training.
- Child development
- Loss and Separation
- Feelings of Birth Parent
- Role of a foster carer
- Professional working
- Safer caring
All foster carers are expected to undertake the Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care. The Agency makes arrangements for foster carers to undergo training to develop new skills and knowledge. Provides courses and seminars to update foster carers where important changes to legislation are introduced (or where there are significant developments in the fostering field or role). In particular, all our foster carers are required to complete a series of ‘core training’modules.All Agency training for foster carers fits within a framework of equal opportunities, and anti-discriminatory practice as required by the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services. The Agency provides practical and other assistance to facilitate attendance on training courses by carers, and also organises the times, venues, etc. to maximise attendance by its carers.
7. SUPPORT FOR FOSTER CARERS
Following approval, each foster carer signs a formal agreement with PCC Foster Care. This agreement outlines the expectations for each party, and the main features of the relationship. Carers are given written policies, procedures and advice relating to their role as a foster carer. The Carers’ Handbook gives detailed advice and direction on a number of important aspects of caring, such as payments and allowances, child care reviews, child protection procedures, restraint policy, missing children, etc.Each foster carer is also directly supported by a named supervising social worker employed by the Agency. The social worker advises and offers support to the foster carer and monitors the standards of care given to the child or young person. The social worker visits the carers at least once every month to offer support and monitor
how a placement is progressing. The social worker reports any concerns or difficulties in the home or with the placement to their manager or liaises with the placing authority about any issues needing attention or discussion. Additionally, PCC Foster Care staff will contact foster carers by telephone at least weekly to ascertain whether there are problems or a need for assistance of any kind.
Supervisory visits are a forum whereby the carers can raise any issues of concern arising from the fostering task. Often it is the main carer who is seen on these visits. However, research informs us that a significant factor leading to placement breakdowns and carers deciding to give up fostering is the effect fostering has on the children who foster. Social workers will ensure that all the members of the household are seen at least every three months.
Social workers will make a least one unannounced visit to the foster home every year. The Code of Practice recommends that regular joint visits are made to the children / young people in placement by the supervising social worker and the child’s social worker. It is expected that a joint visit will be made at the following intervals:
● Within four weeks of placement
● Within three months
● Every six months
Social workers will maintain regular contact with carers who do not have children / young people placed. Home visits will be made monthly. Social workers will also visit each child / young person in placement every eight weeks to seek their views on all aspects of the care they are receiving.
In addition to the supervising social worker allocated to each carer, the Agency offers 24-hour telephone contact, support and assistance to carers with urgent need of advice and / or support.
A support group for foster carers is established and facilitated by the Agency.
8. FOSTER CARER REVIEWS
All foster carers are reviewed when necessary but at least annually. The first review of the carer and each 4th review shall be submitted to the fostering panel for their recommendation. When undertaking a review the Agency shall make such enquiries and obtain such information as is considered necessary in order to review whether the carer continues to be suitable to act as a foster carer and that the household continues to be suitable.