How the darkness of COVID-19 led Jackie to the brightness of fostering

Meet Jackie, one of the incredible foster carers at Progress, a place where she’s not just a foster carer but an integral part of an outstanding service that is supporting children and families across and beyond the Midlands. She’s all about making positive changes in kids’ lives, and she’s been doing it for over four years now. 

Just like several other foster carers, Jackie’s journey into fostering wasn’t planned out. It all started during the chaos of the COVID-19 lockdown. She’d always wanted to foster, but life kept getting in the way. “I’ve always wanted to foster, but circumstances never aligned until the lockdown,” Jackie reflects. When she and her husband had to stay home because of his health, fostering suddenly seemed like the right path. And it turned out, her husband had always wanted to foster too, so it felt like fate. 

Since then, Jackie’s been part of Progress. Just like several other foster carers with Progress, Jackie stumbled upon Progress online, and it’s been a perfect fit ever since. She talks about how everyone at Progress is always ready to help out, making it feel like a supportive community.  

“Everybody is always keen to help. You know nothing is a problem and if you have got a problem, they are all sorted out for you. There is always somebody there to help you out and so you’re not left on your own,” Jackie emphasises. 

What Jackie loves most about fostering? Well, everything! Whether it’s opening her home to children in need of emergency placement, helping families in need of a break, or committing to long-term care, Jackie is all in. To her, fostering isn’t just a job; it’s her calling. She says she gets so much joy from knowing she’s making a difference in the lives of children. 

“I just love it all. Whether it’s emergency placements, respite care, or long-term fostering, I embrace each opportunity with open arms and a nurturing heart.” 

And Jackie’s not planning on slowing down anytime soon. Even at 63, retirement isn’t on her mind. She is determined to keep supporting kids for as long as she can. “I get great pleasure out of doing what I do,” she affirms. 

Jackie’s story is inspiring. Her dedication to fostering with Progress shows just how much one person can do to help children when there is abundant support and guidance. Jackie and her partner are proving that a little love and care can make a huge difference in someone’s life. 

Do you connect with Jackie’s story or is your journey to considering fostering different from Jackie’s? Talk to us today and we will gladly support you to bring your fostering dreams to reality.

If you are considering fostering, please get in touch with Progress via to find out more. 

From student placement to managerial role: Nicole’s Progress journey

At Progress, Nicole’s remarkable journey from a dedicated care worker to a visionary manager spearheading innovative solutions for supporting and helping vulnerable children, resonates, inspires and endears.  

Her meteoric rise is an attestation to Progress’ prioritisation of enabling its workforce to achieve their goals, while being unwaveringly committed to supporting them to bring their passion into fruition all with an overarching goal of transforming challenges into opportunities and paving the way for positive change in the lives of children and young adults. 

Nicole’s journey began with a humble start in community care work, where she provided essential support to individuals in need. Her compassion and dedication quickly became evident as she navigated the complexities of caregiving, offering not only physical assistance but also emotional support to those under her care. As she recounts: 

“I started off as a community care support worker… providing that company, that emotional support, personal care, administering medication, ensuring they’re safe.” 

Driven by a profound sense of purpose, Nicole transitioned to working with children, particularly those facing mental health and behavioural challenges. In this role, she found herself at the forefront of providing critical care and guidance to some of society’s most vulnerable members. Reflecting on this period, she shared: 

“I worked my way up to Deputy Manager… working with children with mental health and emotional behaviour disorders.” 

One pivotal moment in Nicole’s journey was her decision to become a connected person’s foster carer, providing a stable and loving home for siblings in the care of the local authority. This experience deepened her understanding of the complexities of the foster care system and reinforced her commitment to improving outcomes for children in need of care and protection. She reminisced: 

“I was a connected person’s foster carer… I looked after two siblings for around six years.” 

Nicole’s passion for social work led her to pursue further education, culminating in a degree in social work and a subsequent role within Progress’ fostering team.  

At Progress, she honed her skills in assessment and support, gaining invaluable experience that would later shape her approach to leadership.  

“I joined Progress for my placement, following my placement ending, they offered me a job within the fostering team as a supervising social worker.” 

Recognising that Nicole’s experiences align with Progress’ commitment to providing better alternatives for children in crisis, Nicole was appointed to lead Progress’ latest innovative service that provides unique support to children. 

A sneak peak inside the Nicole-led innovative service

“I’ve always wanted to open my own children’s home… Progress presented me with the new service, which was opening. They want the service to be social work-led. That’s how I got here.” 

The service which is now fully operational and is open to welcoming similarly personate qualified individuals to join Nicole and the rest of the team, is not just yet another offering but is a manifestation of Progress’ unwavering commitment to ensuring that every child has access to safety, stability, and support during times of uncertainty. The service provides a lifeline when it is needed most. 

As the Nicole-led service continues to make positive impacts and positively transform lives, her story reinforces the power of visionary determination, and the critical roles of Progress in supporting and guiding the workforce to reach full potentials.  

From her humble beginnings as a care worker to her current role as a visionary leader, Nicole’s impact, enabled by Progress, on the lives of vulnerable children is undeniable. And as she looks to the future, one thing remains certain: Nicole’s journey is far from over, and her passion aligns with Progress’ values that continue to inspire the entire workforce and the people the organisation serves. 

 We have rewarding career opportunities for qualified professionals within Nicole’s team and across Progress children’s and young adults’ services. Interested? Visit or send your up-to-date CV to to find out more about our current roles. 

Celebrating Achievements: A Glance at Progress Fostering Service Awards Event

In a heartwarming celebration of dedication and compassion, Progress Fostering Service which includes the fostering team, foster carers and other stakeholders, recently gathered to commemorate the service’s remarkable achievements of 2023. Held with joyous spirits, the event not only highlighted the milestones but also served as a testament to the profound impact of fostering with Progress.

Among the highlights of the evening were the presentations of certificates of achievement, celebrating years of unwavering commitment and tireless support and services provided by the foster carers. It was a momentous occasion as those who had dedicated years to fostering with Progress were honoured for their remarkable contributions.

As the ceremony unfolded, the room buzzed with an atmosphere of appreciation and gratitude. The heartfelt speeches echoed the sentiments of the entire Progress Fostering Service community, acknowledging the invaluable role played by each foster carer in transforming the lives of children and young people.

Captured within the frames of the photographs are moments brimming with pride and camaraderie. Smiles adorned the faces of foster carers as they celebrated those that received their well-deserved accolades, their eyes gleaming with a sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing they are making a difference.

The event was a tapestry of emotions – from jubilation to quiet reflection, from shared laughter to silent tears of joy. The event was a celebration of foster carers’ stories of resilience, compassion, and unwavering dedication, weaving together the threads of countless lives touched and transformed through the power of fostering.

Looking back on these cherished memories reminded attendees of the profound impact of fostering – not just on the lives of the children and young people entrusted to the care of Progress Fostering Service, but also on the lives of people involved, especially the individual foster carers. Foster carers in attendance summarily described fostering as a journey that delivers the best rewards for everyone involved when it is defined and guided by love.

Indeed, the event was more than just a celebration of achievements; it was a celebration of the human spirit, of the profound capacity for compassion and kindness that resides within Progress’ foster carers. It reinforced the spirit of camaraderie and dedication that defines fostering, knowing that every milestone reached by a child is a testament to the transformative power of love and care.

Progress is Proud to Support Employees to Become Foster Carers

Progress Children’s Services Ltd and Progress Adult Living Services Ltd, collectively known as Progress, are happy to announce we are part of the Fostering Network’s ‘Fostering Friendly Employers’ programme and as such, we have implemented a fostering friendly policy for employees who foster or applying to do so. Through this policy, Progress offers up to five additional days of paid leave, to enable staff to complete their fostering commitments, training and other critical activities in the role or in the application and approval process.

Angeline Freer, Head of Corporate and Commercial Services at Progress explains “In addition to always looking for more ways to support our workforce, I felt it was important as a fostering agency to support this initiative and our employees to foster, given the critical need for more families for children who need them, which is ultimately why we exist”.

The Fostering Network, a membership body, is the UK’s leading fostering charity. Their Executive Chair, Mervyn Erskine says ‘becoming a fostering friendly employer is something to be really proud of. Foster carers are the bedrock of children’s social care, for the difference they make to the lives of children. It is important that this vital role is not only recognised, but also encouraged by employers.  

Angeline added, “By supporting our employees to foster, be that through us or another agency, we can help to address the thousands of extra fostering households needed in the UK, for the children who need them most”. 

The fostering community is open to people from all walks of life, no matter your age, gender, relationship status or sexual orientation. If you are considering fostering, please get in touch with Progress via to find out more. 

Progress is Supporting The Care Workers’ Charity

Progress Children’s Services Ltd and Progress Adult Living Services Ltd are proud to be supporter members of The Care Workers’ Charity. According to Neil Flack, the National Accounts Manager for The Care Workers’ Charity, this collaboration goes beyond mere financial assistance. Instead, it embraces a holistic approach to support the dedicated care workers the charity supports.

The Care Workers’ Charity, founded in 2009, has been on a steadfast mission to amplify the voices of care workers. Actively participating in government discussions, policy forums, and academic centres, the charity is committed to providing a robust voice for care workers. Neil emphasises, “As the UK’s charity for Care Workers, we are invited to represent the care workers’ perspective, translating the workforce’s experiences into high-level analysis and guiding sustainable reform”.

Renowned for its diverse support initiatives, The Care Workers’ Charity places a significant focus on mental health and overall well-being. Neil highlights, ” The CWC offer Care Workers access to free mental health counselling and non-repayable one-off crisis grants.” Our confidential guidance acts as a safety net for care workers, supporting dignity in times of adversity.” The comprehensive financial support extends to various needs, from utility bills to unexpected expenses like car repairs, replacement white goods or daily living costs.

The aim is not solely to address immediate financial needs but also to provide ongoing support for the broader well-being of care workers.

“Progress is delighted to direct our social responsibility focus to The Care Workers’ Charity and their critical support of the amazing and dedicated care workforce on which we, and the individuals we exist to support, completely rely,” said Angeline Freer, Head of Corporate and Commercial Services, Progress Children’s Services Ltd and Progress Adult Living Services Ltd.

By actively engaging with The Care Workers’ Charity, Progress is also enhancing the overall well-being of their staff, recognising the broader impact on mental health, job satisfaction, and work-life balance.

“Supporter membership enables care providers to show their commitment to the sector and opportunities for active engagement” … Supporter members can be asked to nominate Care workers to attend panel discussions, participate in Professional Care Workers’ Week and receive regular updates on events and opportunities,” Neil said.

UK care workers can also access free therapy sessions, providing a confidential space to discuss job-related challenges or personal issues. Progress’ support for the charity is also intended to create a supportive environment for their care workers.

Neil emphasises the critical role of effective communication and the distribution of relevant information within care organisations. He notes, “Ensuring the guidance material is well distributed in areas your team can easily access is vital.”

As the collaboration unfolds, Neil expressed a commitment to ongoing communication and a readiness to address any needs or concerns that may arise.

The partnership between Progress and The Care Workers’ Charity aspires to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of care workers within and beyond the organisation. Together, they aim to foster a culture of support and well-being, creating a ripple effect that resonates across the UK care sector.

Progress Employee Transforms Career Through Apprenticeship Programme

From Farming to Facilities: Ian’s Journey to Success 

Regarded as a beacon of determination and resilience that shines bright, Ian is part of Progress’ facilities maintenance team, and his journey epitomises the transformative power of apprenticeship programmes. As National Apprenticeship Week dawns upon us, Ian’s story serves as a testament to the opportunities and growth these initiatives offer. 

Ian’s journey began with humble origins. Raised in a nomadic fashion due to his father’s military service, Ian’s educational path was anything but conventional. With a string of school changes and no formal qualifications to his name, he found himself thrust into the world of farming at a tender age, where hard work and grit became his constant companions. 

However, fate had more in store for Ian. Two years ago, he embarked on a new chapter by joining Progress, a decision that he said would alter the course of his career and life. Initially hesitant about formal education, Ian’s perspective shifted when he began a Progress-sponsored apprenticeship programme that is tailored to his needs—a property maintenance course offered by a local college. Under the guidance of his line manager, he seized this opportunity to broaden his skill set and start a journey towards gaining the qualifications he once lacked. 

In a candid interview at Progress Head Office, Ian reminisced about his journey, recounting the initial uncertainties and subsequent triumphs. He shared, “I’ve never been without a job. I’ve got loads of experience but no qualifications. So as soon as I came to Progress, they found this property maintenance course for me in a college, they put me on it.”  

Ian’s thirst for knowledge was palpable as he delved into various activities, from mastering bricklaying to relishing his foray into electrical work. He added, “That is what I really enjoy. I enjoy that more than bricklaying, but I love bricklaying, and I like slabbing and fencing but I really enjoy doing the electrical side of it.” 

Crucially, Ian’s story wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the unwavering support of his line manager Vanessa, head of department Angeline, and the entire Progress team.  

Vanessa emphasised the importance of Progress’ apprenticeship initiative, stating, “What we want to do is be able to give him the qualification to be able to progress his career in any way he chooses.” She continued, “His apprenticeship covers a wide range of different trades, so he gets to try lots of different things, because his job requires him to have a wide range of skills.” 

As Ian looks ahead to the future, especially his graduation in 2025, his ambitions are bold and unwavering. At 44 years young, he envisions himself not just as a skilled maintenance officer but as a leader within the maintenance team—a beacon of inspiration for others embarking on similar paths. His transformation to education-loving, forward-thinking, ambitious and aspirational proficient person is a testament to the power of perseverance and lifelong learning that apprenticeship can provide. 

At Progress, Ian’s journey stands as a reminder that with determination and support, anyone can rewrite their story.  

“As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, I am inspired by the stories of growth and achievement within our organisation. Progress is not just a workplace; it’s a learning environment, and we are dedicated to providing unparalleled support for our team members pursuing apprenticeships,” said Claire Rogers, Managing Director, Progress. 

As National Apprenticeship Week unfolds, Ian’s tale serves as a rallying cry for organisations to invest in their employees’ potential and nurture talent from all walks of life.  

For Ian, the sky’s the limit, and with each passing day, he moves one step closer to realising his dreams, fuelled by the unwavering belief that this is indeed within reach. 

Would you like to join our amazing team? Check out available career opportunities at Progress here.

Empowering Careers: Phil’s Journey of Growth and Development at Progress

As National Apprenticeship Week unfolds, it is essential to shed light on success stories that exemplify the transformative power of apprenticeships. Phil Mcdonald, the Head of Adult Services at Progress, shares his remarkable 15-year journey within the organisation, and highlights the pivotal role apprenticeships play in professional development. 

Phil’s journey at Progress commenced 15 years ago when he joined as a Senior Support Worker. His initial role within the organisation involved providing care and support. Over the years, he progressed through various roles, including a Registered Manager for short breaks and later expanded his responsibilities to oversee The Hub service. 

As Progress evolved, so did Phil’s role. Services flexed to expand their reach and Phil found himself managing different facets of the organisation.  In his current role as Head of Adult Serivces, he is able to utilise the wide range of experiences gained from the breadth of opportunities afforded to him within the organisation. 

Phil’s Commitment to Learning 

One of the key elements that fuelled Phil’s upward trajectory was his commitment to continuous learning. Progress, recognising the value of upskilling its workforce, supported Phil through various management qualifications. Phil embarked on a journey to complete his Level 5 management qualification, and he has even begun a Level 7 qualification, showcasing Progress’ commitment to providing opportunities for professional growth. 

“Because of the nature of the job that we do, there’s a lot of new things all the time. So, you’re experiencing and learning a lot,” Phil said. 

An essential aspect of Phil’s success story lies in his ability to strike a balance between his work responsibilities and the pursuit of qualifications. With the support of Progress, he managed to allocate time for off-the-job learning, integrating his newfound knowledge seamlessly into his daily responsibilities. This balance is crucial for any employee looking to enhance their skills while maintaining their professional duties. 

Phil emphasises the importance of recognising people’s interests and tailoring apprenticeship opportunities accordingly. Whether it’s a subject specifically focused for your role or a specialised interest that just may add something extra, Progress identifies potential apprentices based on their commitment and passion. Phil encourages a culture where individuals are not afraid to think differently, allowing for lateral movements within the organisation to support personal development. 

As Phil reflects on his journey, he acknowledges that the nature of the job at Progress involves constantly learning and adapting. He envisions a future where more individuals within the organisation embrace apprenticeships, recognising them not as daunting commitments but as integral parts of their day-to-day lives. 

Phil Mcdonald’s journey at Progress is a testament to the organisation’s commitment to fostering a culture of continuous learning and development. As National Apprenticeship Week encourages reflection on success stories, Phil’s narrative stands out as an inspiration for aspiring professionals. Progress, through its unwavering support of apprenticeships, continues to shape the careers of individuals like Phil, contributing to the growth and success of both the organisation and its dedicated workforce. 

“As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, I am inspired by the stories of growth and achievement within our organisation. Progress is not just a workplace; it’s a learning environment, and we are dedicated to providing unparalleled support for our team members pursuing apprenticeships,” said Claire Rogers, Managing Director, Progress. 

Would you like to join our amazing team? Check out available career opportunities at Progress here.

Progress CEO Honoured as Business Woman of The Year

Balwinder Dhanoa, the Chief Executive Officer of Progress, was recently bestowed with the title of Business Woman of The Year at the highly acclaimed Signature Award event held in Birmingham. This prestigious recognition serves as a testament to Bal’s exceptional leadership and unwavering dedication to excellence in the business realm. 

Following the official announcement, Bal shared her genuine surprise and gratitude, stating, “I think one can never be prepared on how to receive the news of being a winner. I was honestly surprised and even a little bit shocked to have been selected, as the competition for the award of ‘Business Woman of the Year’ was strong.” 

Bal’s journey to success has been marked by resilience, vision, and a profound commitment to empowering women in the business arena. Reflecting on her achievements, she expressed her aspiration to elevate more women to positions of influence and recognition, stating, “In winning the award, for me, it raises the bar to empower more and more women to excel and be recognised for their work, and building a strong foundation in business.” 

One of the hallmarks of Progress under Bal’s leadership has been its dedication to fostering a culture of inclusivity and empowerment, particularly for women. Bal stated, “I am proud that as a business we employ many strong women, and some have a seat at the senior executive level and beyond.” 

Bal and Claire: Progress CEO and MD

Looking ahead, Bal outlined her vision for the future of women in business, highlighting her commitment to providing support and mentorship opportunities. She revealed her involvement in  ‘Business Women of Influence,’ a platform aimed at enabling women to achieve their business and leadership goals. 

Over the past 24 years, Progress has established itself as a beacon of reliability and excellence, winning awards, garnering accolades, recognitions and commendations for its outstanding services. Despite facing numerous external challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, Progress has remained resilient under Bal’s guidance. She attributes this resilience to the company’s prudent financial management and unwavering focus on maintaining stability. 

As Bal emphasises, “We remain strong through all the challenges because we are focused, and we balance our financial resources efficiently, making sure we never place the company into any financial risk.” 

Operating primarily in the domain of care and outcomes, Progress relies heavily on seamless collaboration between its Operations and Corporate teams. Bal underscores the pivotal role of the workforce in driving the company’s success, emphasising the importance of investing in employee support and development. 

Behind the scenes, Bal assumes multiple roles, including providing strategic vision and guidance. Her tireless dedication to ensuring the continued growth and success of Progress is evident in her hands-on approach to leadership. 

Bal’s remarkable journey from founding Progress to being honoured as Business Woman of The Year is a testament to her exemplary leadership and unwavering commitment to empowering women in the business world. Her insights and accomplishments serve as a motivation for aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders alike, underscoring the importance of vision, determination, and a steadfast commitment to excellence. 


Would you like to join our amazing team? Check out available career opportunities at Progress here.