What is your current role?
Director, Responsible Individual and Agency Decision Maker. I chose to move to the independent sector to give children more choices and better futures.
Did you need to study for your role? If so what did you study?
I studied Philosophy and Psychology for my first degree, worked with children and young people in residential care whilst I took a Diploma in Counselling and later took a masters degree in social work. I have worked for the Local Authority in Child Protection, been a foster carer within my own home, worked for a charity that was a fostering provider in 1992 and set up and worked in schools for children with special needs before returning to the fostering sector in 1999. The children, the service users and foster carers have all taught me alongside the academic learning.
What do you love about your job?
I am proud that my generation of workers have transformed the fostering sector and achieved status and recognition for foster carers that has enabled them to look after children in a way that was not possible before the Independent Fostering Sector was formed. I have been part of a movement to recognise the achievements and possibilities of foster carers right from the start of the independent sector and have been able to be a positive influence on fostering across Local Authorities and the Charity sector by pioneering changes from an independent position and by remaining committed to carers and children for such a long period of time.
What is the hardest part of your job?
For me, the hardest part is the erosion of individuality and creativity to have tailor-made packages of care for each child that has arisen since large contracts that stipulate terms and conditions that hinder this creativity. This is combined with the influx of fostering organisations run by owners more interested in financial matters then children who alongside Local Authorities to undermine the advantages for foster carers and children that have been hard won over many years.
Please, could you tell us one of your happiest working memories?
Some of my happiest memories are about outcomes for children and young people, children who achieve things that are usual for most of us, like holding down a job, learning to read, children who feel loved for the first time and part of a family, workers celebrating a placement of a child, carers achieving the impossible over and over again, young people returning as adults with their own children who have learned how to be a parent from their carer. As a foster carer I loved the privilege of introducing children to experiences they had not had before like caring for animals or going to the beach or reading them stories and one of my favourite memories was also one of my most humble when at a review with all the things and activities he could have selected a child said that the thing he valued most about foster care was ‘that you got dinner every day’.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of fostering?
To foster for an organisation that is owned and run by someone who cares about foster carers and their own families as much as they care for foster children. To talk to organisations and existing carers and to ask all the questions they need and want to ask by contacting us.
What qualities do you think a person needs to be successful in a role like yours?
To care, to have experienced all the different roles, to respect and value people and to be very, very, stubborn too!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering a similar profession to you?
That each of us can make a contribution as a carer or as a social worker and that our contribution will be towards something that is hard word, difficult and very worthwhile.