A Foster Carer’s Story: Pauline

It was late one evening when Sasha arrived. She was just a year-old, dressed in a pink padded coat and carried through the door. ‘She looked so scared and dirty,’ says Pauline who was there to open her heart and give her a home.

Later as Pauline gently placed her in a warm bubble bath, Sasha smiled at her for the first time. For the next few months, she clung to Pauline, never wanting to be put down. Pauline was determined to give her as much love as she needed.

She bought her a pink coat and pink blankets, and at night she read stories and sang songs to her as she drifted off to sleep.

‘I just wanted to look after and protect her. She was absolutely beautiful,’ Pauline recalls.

For almost a year Sasha slept in the corner of the cot on all fours, and Pauline slept in a bed in the same room watching over her. Then one morning she found Sasha sleeping on her back, it was almost as if she had finally relaxed.

Gradually as she grew, Sasha became more confident, playing in the garden or running around in the park. When she was three, she was adopted by Pauline’s sister, and she became Pauline’s niece. There was a happy ending for all of them.

Pauline started fostering seven years ago and has already welcomed five children into her home.

She knew it was what she wanted to do when she was a young child, brought up by her grandmother in the countryside in Jamaica. ‘I used to say that I was going to have a child from every nation,’ she says.

When the first of her two daughters went to university, there was space in Pauline’s three bedroom house, so she gave up her job as a beautician to become a foster carer.

‘I wanted to give a child a chance, to give them support and love,’ she says.

She admits she has a big heart, that she is kind and loving and caring.

Pauline says the rewards come from seeing a child gaining in confidence ‘knowing they can be loved and there’s nothing wrong with them,’ she says.

When Pauline first met Tom, he was less than a year old and being looked after in a children’s hospital. Every day for months she went to visit him before he was allowed to come and live with her. ‘From the time he came home he was happy,’ she says. ‘It was just as if he had been here all the time.’

Tom suffered from a condition which meant he had to wear a mask and was attached to monitors when he was asleep because of the risk he could stop breathing. Carers came into her home to stay with him during the night, and at times Pauline stayed with him instead, sitting in a chair next to his bed or lying in a sleeping bag on the floor.

‘He was always loving,’ says Pauline. He called her ‘mum’ and ran up to sit on her knee if she was watching television. It was hard for her when he left to be adopted two years later, but Pauline knew he was going to a good home with people who loved him. He was adopted by two nurses. ‘I was happy for him,’ she says. ‘I loved him to bits.’

Another little boy arrived when he was six, and Pauline had a big party for his seventh birthday. She hired a room in a soft play centre and gave him a “Spiderman” party so that he could celebrate with his school friends. ‘He had never had a birthday party,’ says Pauline. ‘He said it was the best day of his life.’

Pauline, who is a Fostering Ambassador for Progress, is keen to encourage other people to become foster carers.  ‘I think everyone should have a home,’ she says.  ‘There are loads of children out there that need help, and I can’t have them all.’

Inspired to become a foster carer? Click here to learn how you too can change a child’s life. If you would like to talk to us, email fostering@progresscare.co.uk, and we will be happy to help.

Working for Progress: Bria’s Story

Bria joined Progress as a Student Fostering Social Worker and has become an important member of the team. We recently caught up with her to see how she’s been getting on in her new role and hear more about what attracted her to a career in Social Care.

“My Mum and my Stepdad are both social workers, so entering this world was a natural thing for me to do. Whether it’s helping an individual, families, or groups of people, I feel it’s important to look for ways that can improve people’s lives.

I did Health and Social care at school and through different experiences had worked with children too. By the time, I got to University my focus was to gain a degree that would enable me to develop a career in Social Work.

I did a BA in Primary Education at Birmingham City University and then followed this up with an MA in Social Work at Wolverhampton University. While at Wolverhampton, I was lucky enough to do over a hundred hours of placement within a Social Work setting. This gave me great exposure, but I still felt something was missing. It was great learning about aspects of the sector but being able to get hands-on experience is what I needed and wanted.

I came across the Progress Student Fostering Social Worker role via the internet and applied straight away. Having got through the recruitment process, I was delighted when I was offered the job. I could finally get stuck in!

Day one was nerve-racking, but since then I have had so many great experiences. From supporting and supervising foster carers to working with children and young people, it has been an eye-opener to see what fostering is all about. I have worked closely with four foster carer couples who represent a cross-section of society. To see them thanking you for your help is really humbling.

My colleagues at Progress are very supportive. Having been able to shadow them, I feel I’m now more informed about social work rather than having to infer things. For example, I’ve learnt to be professional in the circumstances you would normally let emotions get the better of you. Things like this are only learnt “on the job”.

Working for Progress allows you to grow your social and people skills. I have met a lot of interesting people whose lives we are impacting positively. My academic studies did not cover fostering in any detail, but my positive experiences with Progress means I’m positively reassessing my career and look at fostering as a career path.”

If you too would like develop your skills and build a career in social care, please click here to apply for one of our roles today.

What is the Hub?

We want the young people in our care to have a great start to life and are supported as much as possible.

We are continuously looking for areas where we can improve our services. This helps us achieve our goal of being the best we can be.

This is where The Hub comes in; created around four years ago after families and young people advised us they were not getting enough respite. Identifying the needs of the people in our care and their current levels of support, we were able to highlight where they needed an extra helping hand and adapted our services accordingly. Community support has grown substantially into a thriving umbrella of support.

We are always looking for creative ways to ensure young people are getting the most out of their support. Although each facet of the hub is different, each service feeds into the next. The goal was to create a wraparound approach so that we can provide holistic respite to all those that need it. Not to mention the added benefit of keeping costs down for Local Authority. Our four areas of The Hub are as follows:

Home Care or Community Support/Buddying

Our home care services are also focussed towards the young people out in the community. A committed support worker will spend time with them participating in activities they enjoy with the view to progress and enhance their lives. This type of support is an ongoing service, adapting to the young person as the complexity of their diagnosis changes and they get older. It’s all about giving them something fun to relish to provide them with a break from their typical routine and trying to help them live as normal a life as possible.

Community Activities

Across the Midlands, we enable young people to access community leisure and social facilities and also run a variety of activity groups. These groups are all about the children and young people socialising and having fun with peers of a similar age and mindset. Integrating young people with others that have comparable or varying disabilities gives them the confidence and the freedom to be themselves. They choose an activity for them all to enjoy and we go with it. It gives them the opportunity to let off steam in a controlled and supportive environment. Given that for the most part, the young people’s lives can be more rigid and structured than for those without disabilities, with boundaries and restraints. It’s nice to give them the chance to be as noisy as they want to be in a safe and nurturing environment.

Residential Overnight Short Breaks

We noticed a trend in the number of families of young people with complex care needs that needed short-term help and support. As a result, we launched our residential overnight short breaks service.

We have an outcome-oriented, activity-led approach with a core bank of staff that remain in the accommodation. The benefit is that even though the care isn’t continuous, the staff team is. They work closely with children and young people when they come and stay with us. This means not only is the level of care consistent, but the individual is familiar with their key workers.

Independence Training

As with most services within the organisation, our idea of our adult accommodation grew from the needs of one of the young people in our care. As he was getting older, we were becoming concerned about how his quality of life would be maintained when he outgrew Progress, so we decided we must tailor our services to adapt with him. Coming over a few nights a week to stay with us, gave mum and dad a bit of a break while he had a chance to socialise while getting the support he needed. He got to learn valuable life skills and domestic duties in the process and can arrange to attend with another young person and share the cost.

Our hub services have been put together with the aim to help children and young adults with disabilities get the absolute most from life. For more information, give us a call on 01902 561066 option 1, email enquiry.hub@progresscare.co.uk or check out https://progresscare.co.uk/the-hub/

A Foster Carer’s Story: Gail


Fostering with Progress
Gail with Tina (Progress Operations Manager)

Foster carers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Opening up your home and heart to children is not easy, but as Gail explains, it’s a rewarding experience.

Gail, a foster carer, was in the kitchen when Amy received the telephone call to say she had passed her GCSEs.  Amy was a teenager who had no confidence in herself. ‘Why do you bother with me?’ she used to say. ‘I’m useless. I’m no good.’  But Gail believed in her. And she was there to throw her arms around Amy when she heard the good news. ‘She couldn’t believe that she had achieved those results. I was just pleased for her,’ Gail recalls. ‘And that’s when you think this is worth it.’

Gail, who is divorced, has been fostering as a single parent since 2010. She enjoys long term fostering and looking after teenagers. Her house was always full of teenagers as her own two children were growing up and when they left to go to university it seemed quiet. Gail, who also used to run the local Brownies, decided to start fostering.

‘I have a big house,’ she says. ‘I felt quite privileged and I wanted to put something back. I like to be busy and to have people around me.

‘Sometimes I find it hard work and a challenge but I also find it a pleasure. It enriches your life.’

She says it is the challenges that make fostering worthwhile and also the difference she can make to the lives of young people.

‘They come with all their worldly goods, and sometimes it is not a lot, which is quite sad,’ she says.

One twelve-year-old boy was smoking 60 cigarettes a day and wouldn’t go to school when Gail gave him a home.  ‘He had tantrum after tantrum,’ she recalls. ‘He was quite a challenge.’ Gail showed him that she cared. ‘I would sit for hours talking to him,’ she says. He had a hood over his head and his arms folded. ‘When he left here he wasn’t smoking, he was a smart young man, he was at college, he was doing really well, and he was really proud of himself that he had turned his life around’ she says.

Gail knows that Progress are always on the other end of the phone, day or night, whenever she needs help. She has received training and been on the courses they offer and also goes to regular support group meetings where she meets other foster carers.

She has held open days at her house to recruit more foster carers. ‘I believe it is important,’ she says.  ‘I think it is better for a child to be brought up in a family environment. There are lots of children who need homes.

‘I want to recruit foster carers who want to give a child a home, not just a room to live in.

‘I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t fostering. It has given me purpose.’

In the evening Gail and the two teenagers who live with her eat together in the kitchen at the heart of her home. Amy gives her a goodnight kiss every night and says: ‘love you.’ Sarah gave her a card with a heartfelt message inside: ‘Thank you for everything you do.’ Gail cried when she read it.

She tells the girls: ‘I know I am not your mum but you are part of my family.’

‘I love them dearly,’ she says.

If you would like to become a foster carer, please click here for more information. If you would like to talk to us, email fostering@progresscare.co.uk, and we will be happy to help.