Progress recognised with award for Covid work

Progress was named winner of Outstanding Support During Covid-19 category at the 2020 Best Business Awards.

We have been recognised for our approach to the nationwide lockdown caused by Covid-19 in March 2020.

As lockdown came into force, Progress prioritised the care of those that relied on us for critical support. We assigned drivers, offering a ring-and-ride service to our workforce to eliminate the use of public transport and minimise the exposure risks. Progress also offered a triage service to families, to deal with any crisis that might arise and made available some flats as isolation units (and offered that resource to local authority partners).

Progress has been able to keep all residents and staff safe; continue to provide essential services to families and challenge our creativity. Our community team started digital support sessions with young people, engaging in online training on anything from e-safety to managing anxiety, providing families with support and young people with consistency. Progress staff and young people have engaged with the measures we put in place and coped exceptionally well through what has been an uncertain and anxious time, adapting and responding to the constantly shifting sands.

The BBAs pride themselves on having a large panel of independent expert judges who select winners according to strict criteria for each category and sector.

Commenting on Progress, the winner in the Outstanding Support During Covid-19 category, the chairman of the judges said: “After seeing the devastation Coronavirus was causing in Italy earlier in 2020, Progress was quick to lock down earlier than other care homes to protect its vulnerable residents both young and old. Non-essential visitors were asked not to attend care homes, virtual forms of communication were set up so residents could keep in touch with loved ones, and community staff were reassigned to other roles such as drivers, helping staff to avoid public transport. Congratulations to Progress Care for having the foresight to act quickly and keep people safe.”

Upon receiving the Award, Claire Rogers, Managing Director of Progress said:

“We always pride ourselves on providing high quality care and support, but this has been even more important throughout the Pandemic, with the additional challenges this presented. Keeping our core values at the heart of our decision making has been our strength, providing a fixed point from which to navigate. It is wonderful to have been recognised for the outstanding support we have provided during this difficult time.”

The Best Business Awards are one of the UK’s highest profile awards and winning this accolade speaks volumes about the quality of your organisation. Due to its high profile, the Awards attract a wide range of entries from across all sectors from large international PLCs and public sector organisations to dynamic and innovative SMEs.

Growing up in foster care: Stephanie

Growing up in foster care is not easy for some children. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of the carer to create an atmosphere for a child to feel loved.

We asked Stephanie to share her experiences of fostering and tell us what it’s like to be in a new home.

In your foster placement, what are your favourite things?

I get to go to the park and take part in a lot of activities. I have so much fun riding on the rowboats, playing tennis and running around the track.

I told my carers that I love to read, so they bought me a lot of books. My favourite is BFG. My bedroom is a comfortable place for me to read and play. I also got to choose how I wanted to decorate my room. The room is full of teddy bears and other things that make me happy.

Do you feel encouraged and supported to do well at school? 

I get a lot of help with my homework. My foster carers always encourage me, so that when I am older, I can be whatever I want to be. Whenever I need support on certain subjects, I get it. I take part in a lot of after school activities such as extra English and maths lessons, as well as dance, karate, swimming and ballet classes.

What help do you get in difficult times?

I always sit and talk to my foster carers and ask them for help when I feel down. I enjoy my support sessions with my support worker too. I can now understand my feelings much better and learn why certain things happen.

What things are important to you, when living with a fostering family?  

They find out what children need to make them feel comfortable, like a teddy bear or a hug. I always like it when my foster carers sit with me and watch TV.

A foster carer should also encourage children to do things that they have not done before. This will make the foster child feel special, happy and loved.

If a family were thinking about fostering, what advice would you give them? 

Be kind and loving.

Ready to make a positive impact in a child’s life? Click here for more information

Why I foster: Joanna

In a new series of interviews we will be asking Progress foster carers why they choose to foster and why despite some challenges, fostering can bring a lot of joy.

Here’s Joanna’s story.

“You don’t help someone to get a pat on the back. My husband and I foster because we love it. Seeing a child smile because of the support we have given them makes us so happy.

For twenty-two years I was a primary school teacher, including a period where I was a foster mother in nurseries. Back in the 1980s I was also a foster parent but trying to devote time to three children of my own and a foster child was difficult. I’ve always felt that every child needs an equal amount of love and care and one should not be neglected over the other.

I learnt a lot working at the school. One of the biggest things being a child’s behaviour is not always down to them being unreasonable, it may be because they are not understanding their current situation or behaviour expectations. You can’t take things personally. I found that if I was able to nurture a child’s skills and behaviours things could change in a positive way.

Once I retired the idea of fostering kept coming back to me. Wherever I turned I saw fostering. Facebook, the internet, TV, it was everywhere! This was not a coincidence. I debated the pros with my husband, and we decided to go ahead and look for fostering agencies.

I first heard of Progress when I saw them at a summer carnival in Birmingham where I found the staff were friendly and open. I got to learn more about fostering and the different types of foster care we could provide. I went on to speak to another four agencies but found Progress the most professional. So, we chose them as our fostering agency.

The process of becoming a foster carer is rigorous. You have to be completely transparent as a couple and a family. My husband and I have been married for over forty years, so we took everything in our stride.

Once we were confirmed as foster carers, we decided that we wanted to provide short breaks. This type of fostering gives families or a parent without a support network a chance to recharge their batteries, especially when a child has a disability. Looking after my own grandchildren five days a week, meant we could make a realistic contribution to fostering of a weekend once a month without compromising our families or personal well-being. There is currently a huge demand for respite foster placements.

We ended up fostering two brothers. The younger boy was able to communicate but his older brother couldn’t. Of course, we were nervous when we began, however, you soon build a rapport with the children. Learning the fostering guidelines has helped as well as the support from Progress. We have taken part in a lot of training which has been essential for our development as foster carers.

The brothers are very active. We now take them swimming every month, go to parks, museums and nature trails – we have had some really great times.

We’ve also worked on how we could communicate better with the older child by restricting the amount of time he spends on his tablet (while in our care). We hoped he could join in conversations and use a visual timetable to communicate. I read stories to the boys and we play games like “I spy” in the car. One day I was reading the brothers a book and the little one was joining in. Suddenly the non-verbal older brother shouted – BOO! I nearly fell off my chair!

The children are now able to increase their vocabulary and interact with others. It’s wonderful when they tap me and try to say something or count.

Sometimes fostering can be hard. I make sure there’s enough time for me and my husband. We go for walks, spend time with my children and grandchildren and go to church too – we’re very close.

To anyone thinking of fostering I’d say having the ability to change a child’s future for the better is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Every child deserves a safe and secure family environment”.

Want to become a foster carer? Click here to learn how you can change a child’s life. If you would like to talk to us, email fostering@progresscare.co.uk, or call 01902 561066 and we will be happy to help.

 

What Our Foster Carers Say

We know how much time and emotional investment it takes to become a foster carer. From looking for a reputable independent fostering agency to going through panel, it is important that you are comfortable with the people around you.

We have close relationships with our foster carers and are there to support them at any given time.

At their latest foster carers annual review, the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) asked Progress’s foster carers about their experiences with the company.

Here are some comments from our carers:

  • Sarah and Russell commented that Progress are supportive as an agency and are pleased there have never been any problems in working with them. They appreciate the open relationship they can have with them and that they do not feel judged.

  • Mary feels she has a good relationship with Michelle who has supervised her for the previous two years. The information she gives is always reliable and clear.

  • Wendy said the support from the agency has been consistent. She has not had to use the Out Of Hours service and it is very rare that she needs to contact them about specific incidences. However, she has the number available and knows she would be able to get hold of someone.

  • James regularly attends the Progress social events for foster carers and enjoys them. He appreciates there is a forum to meet and share experiences with other foster carers.

Fostering can be challenging, but you’re never alone. We’ll always be there and whenever you need us, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Want to become a foster carer? Click here to learn how you can change a child’s life.

If you would like to talk to us, email fostering@progresscare.co.uk, or call 01902 561066 and we will be happy to help.

Foster Carer Stories: Short Breaks Fostering

Short Breaks Foster care is a temporary placement while future plans for the child / young person(s) are confirmed. A placement can last from a few days to a few months.

But how does this all work in reality? We spoke to one of our foster carers Jane on her experiences (the name Harvey has been created to protect the child’s identity).

short breaks foster 

Jane and Mark with their Progress Supervisor Social Worker: Michelle

Why Short breaks fostering?

My name is Jane. My partner Mark and I are approved Progress short break foster carers; specialising in children who have profound disabilities and challenging behaviours.

Short breaks fostering gives families or a parent without a support network a chance to recharge their batteries.

There are many reasons why a family or parent may need this kind of support. For Harvey’s mum, it was because of her need for a monthly break. With Harvey’s diagnosis of Syngap1, she had a lot to deal with, especially being on her own.

Whether you are a birth parent or carer, a problematic home environment can be very stressful without a break. So, as a short breaks foster carer, we give them support when they need it most.

There is no time limit for short breaks fostering. It can last a day, a weekend, or sometimes a week or more. The duration all depends on the needs of the family.

Our first visitor was Harvey

Despite Harvey being small and angelic looking, he was a perplexed and angry little five-year-old.

Harvey’s mum loved him dearly, but needed help. She contacted Progress and then their fostering team contacted us.

After his first visit, we were exhausted. Having gone through 48 hours with only two hours’ sleep, Mark and I really questioned ourselves as to whether we could carry on. Harvey had great difficulty sleeping, which was mainly due to his inability to self-regulate.

However, over the next five years, my partner and I became very attached to Harvey. We found him endearing and a lot of fun to be with. You learn to adapt to a child’s needs. There were times Harvey could not deal with new people being brought into the house, so all visitors were banned when he was here. That was just how things had to be – he had to be put first.

So, how did we cope?

My partner and I developed our own strategies. Generally, this involved lots of exercising and fresh country air. Get something that works for you as it will pay dividends for your well-being and ultimately, for the child or young person you’re caring for. 

Coming to an end

Harvey’s mum met a new partner and got married. The wedding day was special. We took Harvey to a country hotel and dressed him in a full wedding suit, including tail and cravat. I held Harvey’s hand as he led the wedding party up the aisle.

All the family and friends commented on how well he had coped with the day. As we left the wedding venue, my partner and I felt a lot of emotion. We were so happy Harvey was there for his mum.

We stopped caring for Harvey at aged 10. His mum was managing better, as she had the support from her new partner.

We look back on the five years we supported and cared for Harvey as a pleasure.

Ready to make that first step? Click here to find out how you can become a short breaks foster carer. 

Working in Care Stories: Kim

Kim is a Team Leader at Progress’s Children’s Short Breaks service, Stourbridge House.

This is her story.

It was Kim Williams’ younger brother who inspired her to work in care. ‘He is autistic and I grew up caring for him,’ she says. ‘I love him to bits, he is such a character and I wanted to help people in a similar situation.’

Kim was just 18 when she became a volunteer for Progress, helping out with activities in the community to gain experience before she started studying for a social work degree. When she went to university, she was a support worker for Progress in her spare time. She then decided to focus on moving forward with her career full time.

‘Progress is a lovely company to work for. I think you are really valued as an employee,’ she says. ‘My line manager identified I had the ability to progress and supported me. I feel that support has been ongoing ever since.’

Kim went on to a senior position in The Hub, helping young people to develop their independence.

Now, at 22, she is team leader at Stourbridge House, which provides short breaks for children aged 5 to 18, giving families a break from day-to-day care. Stourbridge House provides a range of activities like trips to the seaside and theme parks, as well as supporting children and young people to move towards independence and grow in confidence.

Kim’s role involves managing and supervising staff, helping to run the home and supporting the young people. ‘No two days are the same,’ she says. ‘We have 40 different families, so every day different combinations of children come in. It’s really enjoyable to work with children with a variety of needs. Some days we have a child with severe challenging behaviour, other days it’s a child with severe learning difficulties and physical disabilities.

‘It’s lovely to see the children make progress and to see the families being able to have a break, with confidence their children are being well looked after. The children make a lot of progress here.’

Kim has encouraged others to follow in her footsteps and work for Progress. ‘Progress provide such a variety of support,’ she says. ‘It gives you the chance to find your niche and see what you enjoy. I was able to pinpoint where I wanted to be.’

She is hoping to continue moving forward in her career with Progress and one day she would like to manage a home. ‘At the moment I’m really happy in the role I’m in,’ she says.

Kim says it is more a way of life than a job. ‘I absolutely love it,’ she says. ‘It’s a homely environment and you are coming to support children. The children are all absolutely amazing. They are such a joy to work with and every single one of them has their own qualities. You build relationships with them. When I have annual leave and I have been off for a couple of weeks I miss it. I can’t wait to get back and see the kids. It’s a really rewarding role.’

Are you inspired by Kim’s story? A career in care awaits you. Start your journey by clicking here to apply for a job at Progress today.

How To Choose A Foster Agency

Deciding which foster agency to choose can be hard.

There are so many factors to consider. Charlotte is currently waiting to become a foster carer for Progress and spoke to us about the process she went through in deciding which foster agency to choose.

What is your day job?

I am an assistant headteacher in a mainstream secondary school, with responsibility for special educational needs and disability, known  as SEND, along with inclusion. My primary role is to help young people with the curriculum, putting in place the appropriate provision to meet their needs. 

How long have you thought about fostering? 

In the last two years, it’s been something I’ve seriously considered. But I’ve thought about fostering, on and off, for many years.

Why now?

It came from a conversation I had with friends who already foster. I did have some reservations, but they answered all my questions and gave me a rounded view of what life is really like as a foster carer. This really helped. So, I took a deep breath and contacted Progress.

Why choose a private fostering agency and not a local authority? 

It wasn’t a conscious choice to go with a private agency as opposed to a local authority. However, because of Progress’ experience, I knew I would be in a safe pair of hands.

So, you were recommended to Progress by an existing foster carer?

Yes. I have close friends who have experience of other agencies and now foster with Progress. They gave me positive feedack and recommended I get in touch. I trust their judgement that this agency is excellent.

How have you found the process with Progress? 

I was initially filled with trepidation because you do have an uneasy feeling of not knowing what you’re letting yourself for. I may work with children, but this process is way out of my comfort zone. However, the process so far has been positive.

From the first telephone conversation to the initial visit, references, checks, meeting my assessing social worker, ‘skills to foster’ training and now preparing for the panel, everything has been clear and transparent. Because I feel supported by the Progress fostering team, I now have the confidence to embark on this fostering journey with the help and advice of the team every step of the way. 

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.

 

 

What does foster care mean?

To foster care you provide a family life for children who are unable to live with their own parents.

Across the UK, foster carers open their hearts and homes to children in need of love, care and attention. Sara has been a long time foster carer for Progress and spoke to us about what foster care means for her.

Foster care isn’t like raising your own children no matter what anyone tries to convince you. Your own children haven’t felt themselves lost into a world they hadn’t created or asked for. A world they aren’t to blame for.

This was the world my foster son couldn’t trust, from the moment he moved in he was scared every time he left the house. Scared he would be moving again, scared he wouldn’t be coming home.

It took time, understanding and a whole load of patience to build his trust. Most of the time, we would go out of the home, to one place then back. Just building the reassurance that yes, he would be coming home.

A visit to the shops then home.

A visit to relatives then home.

School then home.

No detours, just home.

This took time, in fact this took months but I never forget the day when after eating lunch out I asked if he wanted to go home and he signed later. He then asked if we could visit with family. I double checked, I tripled checked but he still replied later.

It may not seem a lot but in that moment, I knew he trusted us. He trusted in us and he felt safe. I didn’t let him see the emotion in me but I promise I could have cried.

Being a foster carer involves many different things but one of the most important to me is making sure a child feels safe and secure and trusts in me as a carer.

This was that moment and I remember it like yesterday.

“Home later, but home”

Want to to become a foster carer? Click here to learn how you too can change a child’s life. 

Q&A: Why foster care?

Lola is currently going through an assessment to become foster carer. Having been through the process before, we spoke to her about her experiences and the big question: why foster care?

What is your day job?

I currently work as a senior social work assistant in a ‘Child in Care’ team in the West Midlands.  As part of my position, I support a group of social workers by arranging contact for looked-after children and their families.

How long have you been fostering?

I first became a foster carer 20 years ago for a private company and went on to foster 14 children from ages 1 to 16. I loved having young people in my home and supporting them in the best way I could. I always try to offer support that helps young people to eventually live independently and become responsible adults.

From budgeting, cooking and cleaning, to CV writing, it gave me a lot of personal satisfaction seeing young people gain life skills.

You took a break from fostering. Why?

Fostering had been my only focus and when my last young person left in 2013, it was time for a change.

I wanted to achieve other things, but the active nature of being a foster carer had not given me that. However, this was always going to be a break and not an end to fostering. I enjoyed bringing positive change to the lives of children and young people too much to stop.

What made you want to foster again?

During my break, I moved home, travelled and spent time with family and friends. Reflecting on this period and having had enough rest, I am in a place now where I can once again commit myself to giving a child unconditional support.

Why did you choose Progress?

Once I decided to return to fostering, I wanted to join an agency where I knew what they stood for and had values much like my own.

In 2005, I had worked for Progress as a social work assistant. I liked their focus on improving a child’s self-esteem, helping them gain valuable life skills and ensuring that each child achieves their full potential.

The staff and carers were friendly and approachable and they were as passionate about wanting to enhance a child’s life as myself.  So, when it came to approaching an agency, they were my first choice.

At Progress, there is a sense of commitment to the carers and children and a unity that is hard to come by. I have the emotional security and support needed to do my job well.

How has the process changed from the last time you applied?

The difference between when I first became a carer to now is time. For example, 20 years ago, the whole process took about 9 months.

Having a good relationship with an agency is important. In my previous experiences as a foster carer, there was no relationship building or set routine for the assessor to visit me. It felt like I was fitting into their schedule. I would have no idea how I was progressing in the evaluation and was never invited to panel or my yearly appraisal.

Today, the process is much shorter. There is better continuity of visits and the assessor and I have sat together regularly to complete assessments.

How have Progress helped you during the process?

So far, I have found working with Progress to be swift, stress-free and engaging. Although I have my assessor, I also know I can talk to any team member as and when I require it.

I think it’s vital that foster carers and the agency have effective communication because this ensures that children will benefit the most. Because Progress has already made me feel like part of the team and have always kept me updated to my status, I’m confident that working with them will improve my skills as a foster carer.

How do you feel about the future?

I am really looking forward to returning to fostering. It is a rewarding career and seeing young people laying the foundations for their futures gives me a lot of joy.

Do you feel you too could become a foster carer?

Click here if you want to change a childs’ life

Foster Carers’ Story: Toni and Ashley

The names of the foster children have been changed to protect their identity.

‘We are happy because they are happy,’ says Ashley who gave up his job to foster twin boys with autism. ‘We say this is our family and we feel really close to them. We call them our boys.’

The twins came into residential care with Progress when they were 11 years old, following a foster care placement that had broken down.

Oliver struggles with social understanding and empathy. James is non-verbal and has more severe learning difficulties.

Oak Cottage became their home for the next few months

They settled in very quickly,’ says Margaret Hopkins, formerly residential manager at Oak Cottage and now Operations Manager for Progress’s residential services.

‘They made massive improvements while they were here with us.

James, who was incontinent, was learning to use the toilet. He started making sounds and was communicating using pictures. Oliver grew in confidence. He was cheeky and mischievous and loved to dress up as a superhero.

‘It was lovely to see how they were growing with us,’ says Margaret who fostered more than 100 children before she started working for Progress.

Finding Foster Carers

Meanwhile, the Progress residential and the fostering team were working together to identify the right foster carer.

‘We were looking for robust, resilient people,’ says Tina Bhardwaj, The Operations and Registered Manager for the fostering service at Progress.

They chose Ashley and Toni.

During the first meeting with the boys, Ashley felt nervous. Oliver stroked Toni’s shoulder and smiled at her. James ran into the garden and onto the swing.

‘They were just so caring and happy, and the staff only had positive things to say about them,’ says Ashley.

The couple started making plans immediately to put bunk beds in their spare room, they knew they wanted to give the boys home.

Ashley decided to give up his job as a senior autism practitioner so he could look after them.

The Transition Phase

During the next few weeks, they saw the boys regularly, first under supervision, then taking them out for a pizza or a walk or to their home alone.

The transition between the residential home and the foster home was like an adoption transition. Progress makes sure there are key people following the child through its journey, supporting them and making sure their wishes and feelings are heard.

‘It went really well,’ says Margaret.

An excited Oliver used to watch from his bedroom window at the residential home, looking for Ashley and Toni when they were due to arrive.

‘The bond with them was absolutely brilliant, you could see that,’ says Margaret.

‘The children and the carers had chemistry between them,’ says Tina. ‘The carers made all this effort to learn about the children, they created a bond with the children.  It became apparent that this was a good match and this was going to be the right placement for the children.’

When the boys left Oak Cottage for their new home, Margaret says it felt like a relief that they had somewhere they were going to be loved and nurtured.

‘It was a really positive ending for the children,’ she says.

A Loving Home

Before long the family moved house so that the boys could have a bedroom each.  Oliver chose red and black for his room and picked the accessories for his shelf. James, who loves to swing and to balance, has a swing in the middle of his bedroom, attached to a beam, he has laser lights and a sensory corner with toys and mirrors and cushions. In the garden, he has swing chairs, and hammocks and a trampoline.

The couple has seen massive changes in the boys since they came to live with them.

James’ behaviour has improved. ‘He showing he is really comfortable in his environment,’ says Ashley.

Oliver’s behaviour has improved too. ‘He is such a pleasant lad, so polite and so caring towards others,’ says Ashley. He says he loves his foster family.

Oliver is learning to cook at home, has piano lessons, and goes to a youth club. He is also sporting a spikey new haircut which he chose himself and has learnt to swim. James who wouldn’t even go into the water before now doesn’t want to get out of the pool.

It took James longer than Oliver to hug Ashley and Toni because of his disability but now he sits on the sofa and cuddles, and he waits for a hug with open arms.

Progress provides foster carers with training. They have support groups and supervision with a supervising social worker.

Tina says fostering for the twins has been ‘an absolute success,’

‘Every child deserves to live in a family setting,’ she says. ‘Every child deserves to have a quality family life.’

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.