A Decade of Dedication: Phil Reflects on 10 Years with Progress

In a remarkable journey that began as a six-month contract in 2013, Phil, a seasoned professional in the industry, finds himself celebrating a decade with Progress, which he describes as a “cracking little company” with values that have been the bedrock of his successful career.

“I came to Progress for a six-month contract back in 2013, thinking it would be an interim appointment,” Phil said. “But obviously, I like Progress, and Progress obviously likes me. I’ve ended up staying 10 years.”

Describing why he has been able to enjoy working at Progress this long, Phil reflects: “I’ve always said that, from my perspective, Progress is a cracking little company. It’s got good values, which have seen me through my career. And I’ve enjoyed working here.”

One key factor that has kept Phil dedicated to Progress is the exemplary leadership provided by Claire Rogers, Progress’ Managing Director. “I think the leadership from Claire is excellent,” Phil noted. “And that’s evidenced in the progress that the company is actually making.”

Phil received his ten-year long service award from Claire at the recently held Progress Staff Conference 2023

Under Claire’s guidance, Phil noted that Progress has achieved significant milestones, demonstrating its commitment to excellence and innovation. Phil pointed out, “One of the elements that stands out for me is the reputation that Progress has developed for itself in terms of being a very safe provider for children and young people.” This acknowledgment underscores the Progress’ focus on creating a secure environment for the most vulnerable members of society.

Moreover, Phil highlighted Progress’s dedication to improving outcomes for children and young people, emphasising Progress’ mission-centred approach. “Being centred around looking at the outcomes for children and people,” he added, “is something that has been a driving force for me throughout my time here.”

As Phil reflects on his 10 years with Progress, it is evident that his journey has been marked by a deep appreciation for the company’s values, leadership, and commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of children and young people. Progress, in turn, has benefited from Phil’s dedication and expertise, creating a partnership that has stood the test of time.

Embracing The Uncertainties: A Day in The Life of Cosmos

Our priority is to make sure they enjoy their stay with us.

The Making of a Deputy Manager


In the heart of Progress Children’s Services, a pivotal figure shapes the daily experiences of the children at one of the homes. Cosmos has spent a year in this demanding role, steering through challenges and celebrating victories. In an exclusive interview, Cosmos provides a candid glimpse into his responsibilities, the daily routine, and the profound impact he seeks to make. 

As Cosmos commutes home after a long day, the mood in his car is often upbeat and celebratory. Reflecting on his post-work rituals, he shares, “Once you finish, you just don’t give yourself time to process a lot of things. It’s that one-hour drive where I have some conversation with my family. When I get home, I have my own time to cook, watch TV, and unwind.” 

While he now has a full grasp of the tasks expected of him as a Deputy Manager, Cosmos did not start in care.

Originally from the beautiful and peaceful city of Kumasi in Ghana, Cosmos studied pharmacology at the University of Wolverhampton. His journey, however, took an unexpected turn that set the stage for his current role at Progress. A stint as a waiter in a restaurant marked his post-university phase, a period driven by the need to pay the bills.

“When you finish university, reality hits,” Cosmos recalls. It was during this phase that he found himself working as an autism tutor, a role that would set the stage for his impactful career at Progress.

Embracing the Unpredictability


Every day is different, and that’s what makes it interesting.

Describing an incident at a hospital, Cosmos reflects on the unpredictability of the job. “It was fairly complex, but amidst the challenges, we found ourselves laughing at some of the things that were happening. The excitement in the fact that every day is different is what brings me back every single day.” 

In his role as Deputy Manager, Cosmos is not confined to a fixed routine. “You can’t really have a daily routine in this home,” he explains. “Some Mondays, I’ll come in with a plan, but circumstances like sick calls or staff shortages can change everything. Flexibility is crucial.” 

Cosmos emphasizes the importance of ensuring the well-being of both the staff and the children. “Our priority is to make sure they enjoy their stay with us. If we have staff shortages, as managers, we step in to ensure the young people are supported and engaged in activities.” 

The excitement in the fact that every day is different—that’s what brings me back every single day. Always happy to be here with the people I work with.

Proudest moment and future ambitions


Cosmos and his colleague and old friend, Steve, having chat
Cosmos and Steve

As he reflects on the impact of his work, Cosmos shares a proud moment. “Seeing the progress of the young people is the biggest achievement. One of them is now in full-time education, which seemed impossible initially. It feels like our efforts are making a difference.”

Looking to the future, Cosmos envisions becoming a registered manager but acknowledges the timing must be right. “It’s a career path you can build for yourself. I’ve seen the progression of people who’ve achieved what they set out to do. It’s about putting in the effort.”

Despite the challenges, Cosmos finds joy in his work. “The excitement in the fact that every day is different—that’s what brings me back every single day. Always happy to be here with the people I work with.”

As Cosmos steps into his second year at Progress Children’s Services, his focus remains on achieving a full house of young people, upgrading Ofsted ratings, and ensuring the right people and support are in place. Reflecting on his journey thus far, Cosmos acknowledges the supportive environment at the home and the opportunities for growth.

Danielle, Cosmos and Steve: A Harmonious Partnership


Dani, the Registered Manager for the home, sheds light on the integral role played by Cosmos in creating a supportive and homely atmosphere within the home.

“Cosmos is very calm and very collected in stressful situations,” Dani notes. She highlights Cosmos’s ability to assess situations calmly and thoughtfully before taking action—a crucial skill in dealing with the unpredictable nature of the young people under their care.

Cosmos’s upbeat demeanour radiates positivity throughout the staff and children, contributing to the creation of a homely atmosphere. Dani praises his happy-go-lucky nature, stating, “He’s always happy. You know, he’s a very happy guy, and that transmits to the staff and the children, creating quite a homely atmosphere just from his own nature.”

Having worked together for a significant period, Dani recognizes the complementary nature of their traits. She sees their partnership as a balancing act, with Cosmos’s experience in handling challenging children being a valuable asset. “His experience really role models down to the newer staff,” Dani acknowledges. 

When the opportunity for the Deputy Manager position arose, Dani didn’t hesitate to recommend Cosmos for the role. “I felt that because of our past and the partnership that we’ve got, that he would have just settled into that role very well,” she explains. Dani appreciates Cosmos’s willingness to embrace challenging situations, a quality that aligns with their shared ethos of reaching out to children who face difficulties finding a home. 

Despite the demanding nature of their work, Dani emphasizes the importance of assisting children who may not have other options. “We don’t just want to help the children that have options, but the ones that don’t sometimes,” she says. In this aspect, Dani sees a natural alignment between herself and Cosmos, as well as with Steve, another key team member. 

In their collaboration, Dani and Cosmos bounce ideas and energies off each other seamlessly, creating a harmonious working relationship. “I think we just bounce off each other quite well,” Dani concludes, emphasizing the strength of their partnership in navigating the challenges and pursuing their shared mission of providing a nurturing environment for the children at the home.

There is a similar career opportunity for a Deputy Manager. Find the details here. For other available positions at Progress, click here.

Progress Staff Conference 2023

On Tuesday 7 November 2023, Progress Staff Conference was held in-person at The Coton Centre, Comberford Road, Tamworth. Even though it was a staff conference, it also served as a team building and re-networking opportunity. It also provided a direct medium to provide updates on the requests made during last year’s conference. 

Presentations made highlighted progress made at Progress since the last gathering and provided insights on the next chapter. The event ended on a high note with the presentation of awards.

Claire Rogers, Managing Director, said the goal of the event was to align all of Progress workforce with the organisation’s vision, making the entire team to understand the organisation’s current stage and what it is looking to achieve, while also reflecting back on, and celebrating the successes.

“When you’re in the day-to-day of this work, you don’t think about that stuff and it’s so important to step back and to reflect. So really it was about what did we say we were going to do, what have we actually achieved. And then what the focus is going forward,” Claire said. “And what we wanted to do was just remind people, one, of what our vision is, what their part is within that and how they can bring that to life everyday. And make sure that we’re doing the things that matter to our staff. Because retention is really important to stability for young people because ultimately if we’ve got a stable staff, we’ve got a strong well trained workforce, we’re going to deliver better outcomes and ultimately that’s what we’re here for. So I think we’ve we’ve we’ve achieved that. Everyone’s been really engaged and it’s been a great day.”

Phil Mcdonald, Head of Adult Services, added that it’s nice to come together annually to celebrate people’s achievements, to see where the services have been, to see what things the services have faced, to listen to feedback from staff and from the people using the services and to set out what the organisation wants to achieve in the coming year.

“So looking at that, looking at where we want to go, for us it’s more of the same in terms of helping people to get to, to meet their goals, in terms of reaching adulthood, finding their own homes and working with colleagues and children’s to prepare them for their journey through that.”

Tina Bhardwaj, Head of Children’s Services described the big take out from the day as the workshops and the learning.

“Listening to people contribute, listening to people’s passion, their skills, what they’re learning and their journeys and and taking away something that’s important to them, that they’re going to go back and change, practise and learn and develop and how they’re going to use their learning to change the way that they practise,” Tina said.

Angeline Freer, Head of Corporate and Commercial Services expressed her satisfaction regarding how the day went including the introduction of Nous, a new benefit for staff.

“It’s an amazing time to see achievements of people and to see my team members. It’s really a nice chance to have everybody together. It’s really good to be able to reflect together as a whole organisation and look at what’s important, and what we need to focus on – key achievements, challenges, et cetera. So yeah, it’s fabulous.”


World Kindness Day: What It Means and How To Celebrate

A Day for Kindness


World Kindness Day is an international holiday that was formed in 1998, to promote kindness throughout the world and is observed annually on November 13 as part of the World Kindness Movement. It is a day to remind ourselves of the importance of being kind to others and ourselves, and to spread joy and positivity in our communities.

But why is kindness so important? And how can we celebrate World Kindness Day in a meaningful way? Here are some answers and suggestions for you.

The Benefits of Kindness


Kindness is not only a moral virtue, but also a powerful force that can improve our physical and emotional well-being. According to various scientific studies, kindness can:

  • Boost your immune system and lower your blood pressure, by producing a hormone called oxytocin, which protects your heart and reduces inflammation.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety, by increasing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood and helps you feel calm and happy.
  • Slow down ageing, by decreasing oxidative stress, which is an imbalance in your body that damages your cells and tissues.
  • Improve your relationships, by enhancing your empathy, compassion, and trust, and by making you more attractive and likable to others.
  • Inspire others to be kind, by creating a ripple effect of kindness that can reach far and wide, and by activating the reward and pleasure centres in the brain of everyone who witnesses or receives kindness.

As you can see, kindness is good for you and for the world. It can make you healthier, happier, and more connected to others. It can also make the world a better place, by reducing violence, conflict, and suffering.

How to Celebrate World Kindness Day


There are many ways you can celebrate World Kindness Day, depending on your preferences, abilities, and resources. The main idea is to do something nice for someone else, or for yourself, without expecting anything in return. Here are some examples of acts of kindness you can do on World Kindness Day, or any day:

  • Send a card, message, or call to someone who might be feeling lonely, isolated, or sad, and let them know you care about them and appreciate them.
  • Donate to a charity or a cause that supports people or animals in need, or that works for a positive change in the world.
  • Offer to help a neighbor, friend, or family member with a task or an errand, such as grocery shopping, gardening, or babysitting.
  • Compliment someone on their appearance, skills, or achievements, and make them feel good about themselves.
  • Smile and say hello to a stranger you meet on the street, and brighten their day with a friendly gesture.
  • Share a positive or inspiring story on social media or with your friends, and spread some hope and optimism in the world.
  • Do something nice for yourself, such as taking a break, reading a book, or treating yourself to something you enjoy, and show yourself some kindness and self-care.

These are just some of the many ways you can celebrate World Kindness Day, and you can always come up with your own ideas. The important thing is to be sincere, genuine, and thoughtful in your kindness, and to have fun and enjoy the experience.

I hope you have a wonderful World Kindness Day, and that you feel the warmth and love of kindness in your life. Remember, kindness is not only a one-day event, but a lifestyle and a mindset that you can practice every day.

Designing for Sensory Enrichment

This is not just about Hilton House or Progress. It is a journey into the thoughtful design that enhances the lives of children in care.

When it comes to interior design, the goal is often to create spaces that are visually appealing and stylish. However, at Progress Care Solutions (widely referred to as Progress), interior design serves a more profound purpose. It’s about crafting environments that cater to the unique sensory needs of children in care, and Preet Anand, the interior designer behind it all, is passionate about making a difference. 

Preet Anand, founder of Mood Interiors, has been instrumental in redefining the role of interior design at Progress’ homes. She believes that inhabited spaces should empower and enable individuals, especially children with special needs. “Interior design is not just about aesthetics; it’s about improving lives,” says Preet. 

Progress, an organisation dedicated to providing top-tier care for children, especially those with special needs, has long adopted an approach that goes beyond mere functionality. The philosophy is clear: it’s not the children who are disabled; it’s the environment that can be disabling. And that’s where Preet and her expertise come into play. 

The Sensory Design Philosophy 

In their research on the effect of light and colours in the built environment on autistic children’s behaviour, Ashwini Sunil Nair and colleagues reported that different hues have varying effects on autistic children, with many neutral tones and mellow shades proven to be autistic-friendly with their calming and soothing effect, while bright, bold, and intense colours are refreshing and stimulating. They also reported that the stimulus of bright-lighting causes behavioural changes in autistic children prone to light sensitivity. You can access the study here. 

Preet, noted that the autistic spectrum is sometimes/typically sensitive to colours with deeper tones which is why she always keep to pastels when designing these types of homes. “I always avoid red and pink where possible, due to the adverse (triggering) effect. Other than that, the colours used are calming and positive.”  

She noted Progress’ newest home, Hilton House’s “harmonising” colour selection, is based on blue to evoke a sense of serenity in the home.

Blue is calming; green is encouraging (growth), yellow increases appetite, so works well in the dining room.

“Blue is calming; green is encouraging (growth), yellow increases appetite, so works well in the dining room. Lilac is said to help reduce aggression (but was mainly for the consistency of cool colour tones),” says Preet. 

At the core of Progress’ approach to interior design is the concept of sensory design. The organisation utilises principles such as space, colour, texture, form, and light to create spaces that meet the unique sensory requirements of the children they care for. These principles are not just about aesthetics; they are fundamental in addressing the sensory needs of the children. 

Preet and her team approach each project by understanding the specific needs of the children. She described it as a comprehensive process that takes into account the individual requirements of each child. “When it comes to space,” Preet explains, “we need to make sure the environment accommodates high-energy situations, as well as rapid movement for those with mobility challenges.” 

In sensory design, colour plays a pivotal role. Preet says, “Colours can have a profound impact, especially for children with autism. We strive to create adaptable spaces where colours can be changed to suit individual preferences, ensuring the environment remains stimulating and comforting.” 

The Role of Texture and Materials 

The materials used in sensory design are chosen with care. Furniture materials must be durable and easy to clean, as children in these environments may interact with them differently than in mainstream settings.  

Preet notes, “Furniture needs to be both functional and safe, taking into account the possibility of challenging behaviours.” 

Sound, too, is carefully managed. Acoustics and sound regulation are paramount, creating a comforting auditory environment for children. “Good sound-bouncing practises are essential to ensure that children can have conversations without unnecessary distractions,” says Preet. 

Natural Light, Personalisation and Durability 

The exposure to natural light is vital in creating a sensory-rich environment. It helps regulate the body’s systems and is particularly significant in homes where children may not always have the opportunity to be outdoors.  

“We ensure that the exposure to natural light is optimised to help children connect with their surroundings and understand the time of day,” Preet explains. 

One of the key elements in Progress’ design philosophy is personalisation. Each child should have the freedom to personalise their living space, just like any other child. Even if they require specialised furniture or equipment, their personal touches, whether it’s a favourite colour or a beloved theme, can make the space uniquely theirs.

In a space that is carefully designed to meet the sensory needs of children, personalisation remains a significant aspect. It’s about creating an environment that can become a home, a place of comfort and familiarity. 

For children with special needs, personalisation extends to the ability to make the space uniquely theirs. From a favourite colour on the walls to beloved themes or characters, Progress ensures that each child can add their personal touches to their living spaces. The goal is to create an environment that is not just functional but comforting and inviting. 

But durability is also a crucial consideration.  

Furniture and materials are chosen not just for their visual appeal but also for their ability to withstand the rigours of daily use in a care environment. Progress believes in making the right investments in high-quality, durable furniture that ensures the safety and comfort of the children they serve. 

Progress’ homes holistic approach 

What sets Progress’ homes apart is the dedication and passion of its staff. As Preet observes, “Progress is not just about providing care; it’s about making a difference in the lives of children. The staff sees this as a passion, not just a job.” 

She noted that the care provided at Progress is unmatched, and the commitment of its staff is evident in the way they maintain the spaces. “A well-designed environment can empower and enrich the lives of children with special needs,” says Preet. “The passion and dedication of the staff play a crucial role in making this vision a reality.” 

Interior design at Progress’ services is more than aesthetics; it’s about enriching lives and enabling children to thrive. The sensory design philosophy, crafted by Preet, has transformed the way these homes are experienced. Progress recognises that well-designed spaces can create environments where children feel safe, comfortable, and empowered. 

Redefining the role of interior design in the care sector 

Progress, working with Preet, are redefining the role of interior design in the care sector. The redefinition is based on the understanding that a well-designed environment can empower and enrich the lives of children with special needs. By carefully considering space, colour, texture, form, and light, Progress has created spaces that cater to the unique sensory needs of the children, making their homes truly enabling and empowering. 

Preet acknowledges the passion and dedication of Progress’ staff. “These individuals don’t just see it as a job; they see it as a calling,” she explains. The caring and empathetic approach of the staff plays a crucial role in creating an environment where children feel safe, comfortable, and empowered. 

The impact of interior design in a care setting goes beyond the aesthetics; it extends to the emotional well-being of the children. Progress recognises that providing care isn’t just about meeting physical needs; it’s about creating a holistic environment where children can thrive emotionally and psychologically. 

Preet elaborates, “We design spaces to provide comfort, a sense of belonging, and an environment where children can express themselves.” This houlistic approach includes the intentional use of soft furnishings, personalisation, and adaptable spaces, enabling children to find solace and engage with their surroundings in their own unique way. 

Preet believes that a well-designed environment fosters a sense of empowerment. Progress understands that children with special needs can thrive when they are in spaces that allow them to express themselves and feel in control. 

“An empowered child is a confident child,” says Preet. The empowering environment created by Progress allows children to develop self-confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of ownership over their spaces. 

From its head office on Millfields Road, Wolverhampton, to its services and homes spread across West Midlands, the environment within Progress serves as a safe haven for children who often face a world that can be overwhelming. The dedication of staff in maintaining the spaces and creating an inviting atmosphere plays a vital role in this. 

Staff members are not just caregivers; they are keepers of the space. Their commitment to keeping the environment clean, well-maintained, and inviting is evident in the way children feel comfortable within these homes. In return, the spaces created at Progress foster a sense of belonging and trust. 

Hilton House’s beacon status of Progress’ vision 

One of the finest examples of Progress sensory design is Hilton House. A vivid illustration of how thoughtful design can transform a space into a sensory-rich environment. Hilton House is a testament to the careful consideration of sensory needs. Its exterior may be minimally colourful but it’s once you step inside that the magic truly unfolds.  

The Mood Interiors team, led by Preet, created a space that is more than just a home for the children at Hilton House. It’s a canvas of sensory experiences, a tapestry of comfort and engagement, designed with the children’s unique needs in mind.  

The sensory richness extends beyond colours. Hilton House boasts a multitude of seating options, including chairs of different kinds and shapes, mood lights, among others. These options provide children with a range of choices in their seating, relaxation and activities arrangements, catering to their individual preferences and comfort.  

The rooms at Hilton House are also adorned with sensory-rich elements, enabling children to engage with their environment and express themselves. From colour-changing lights to a thoughtfully selected colour palette, every detail contributes to the sensory experience. 

Making sense of it all 

Progress’ approach to interior design is a testament to its commitment to the well-being and growth of the children it serves. The role of Preet Anand and her team from Mood Interiors in shaping these spaces cannot be overstated. 

By considering sensory design, personalisation, and a holistic approach to creating empowering environments, Progress stands as a beacon in the care sector. Its dedicated staff, who are passionate about their mission, are at the heart of this endeavour. 

The synergy between the thoughtful design of spaces and the dedication of the staff is where the magic happens. Children in Progress’ care are given more than a home; they are offered spaces where they can flourish, express themselves, and grow in confidence. 

Claudia and Her Dozen Foster Kids

Celebrating Black History Month 

While Black History Month began in the United States of America in the 1920s, it was first celebrated in the UK in 1987, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean, and happens every October. 

As we commemorate Black History Month, it is essential to recognise and celebrate the incredible individuals who have made a profound impact on the lives of others. Claudia, a foster carer with Progress, is one such remarkable individual whose journey into foster caring has not only transformed the lives of countless children but also shattered preconceived notions about who can be a foster parent. 

Claudia’s journey into foster care began with her profound love for children. From a young age, she was the go-to person for her cousins and their children, and children always seemed to gravitate toward her. In her own words, she shares, “I love kids. Ever since I was young, all my cousins would always bring their kids over, and the kids always basically love me and they just stick to me.” 

However, her official journey as a foster carer began while she was working as the Deputy Manager for a residential home catering to individuals with learning disabilities and mental health challenges. Claudia recalls this pivotal moment: “My journey started when I was a manager, Deputy Manager for a residential home for people with learning disability and challenges with mental health. I worked there for 11 years.” 

During her tenure at the residential home, Claudia encountered two young ladies who were struggling with severe self-harm and emotional issues. They made a heartfelt plea to Claudia, suggesting she adopt them or provide them with a nurturing home. Claudia shares their request, saying, “One of them said to me, ‘Why don’t you adopt me? I don’t have a place to live.’ And it resonated with me.” 

Claudia’s next step toward foster care began when her daughter left for university, leaving her with a three-bedroom house. Claudia’s response to this newfound space and her love for children was straightforward: “I was online looking for jobs, and I saw a pop-up about fostering. I just put in a message to say, ‘Can you tell me more about this? I always have kids. I’m a mother, I would say I am a carer, a giver and I’ve been working in care settings for kids or teens.” 

Over the years, Claudia has cared for numerous children, many of whom have stayed in contact with her and seek her guidance and support. In her own words, she acknowledges the lasting impact of her work: “I’ve got 12 of them, still in contact with a couple of them. They keep me busy, keep me occupied. I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.” 

When asked about her remarkable success as a foster carer, Claudia humbly attributes it to her upbringing and values. She cites her mother as a significant influence: “My mom has always taken in relatives’ children and looked after them. And even after we left, she was still having kids at the house. Maybe that’s something because I’ve grown up in that sort of environment.” 

Claudia’s dedication to fostering is even more impressive when considering her academic pursuits. She managed to complete her studies, obtaining a degree in psychology while working two days a week at a university. In her own words, Claudia explains her drive: “I like to stay busy because once your mind is busy, you’re learning, and I think you’re never too old to learn.” 

Claudia’s journey as a foster carer is a testament to the power of a single individual’s dedication and love to make a difference in the lives of children in need.  

As we celebrate Black History Month, her story serves as an inspiration to challenge stereotypes, embrace diversity, and open our hearts and homes to those who need it most. Claudia has not only given countless children a better future but has also enriched our collective history with her remarkable journey as a single Black foster carer.

Inquire about foster caring today, click here.

Alpacas, Animal-Assisted Therapy and Mental Well-being

This year’s World Mental Health Day reminded us of the importance of mental health and well-being. It was a day to reflect on mental health and the challenges faced by individuals. It was also an opportunity to draw attention to innovative and holistic approaches such as animal-assisted therapy (AAT).

AAT which is an increasingly recognised method for enhancing mental well-being, plays a crucial role in this context. This article delves into the profound impact of alpacas in AAT, and it all started with a recent visit by some young adults at Progress’ Nightingale House to Etwell Alpacas.


Alpacas and the Power of Animal-Assisted Therapy

AAT is a therapeutic approach that harnesses the companionship and skills of animals to improve the well-being of individuals facing various physical, emotional, and mental challenges. Alpacas, with their gentle and non-judgmental nature, have proven to be exceptional partners in this therapeutic endeavour. On World Mental Health Day, it is crucial to emphasize the significance of AAT in promoting mental wellness.

Alpacas, a close relative of llamas, are renowned for their intelligence, curiosity, and direct yet non-judgmental nature. These qualities make them ideal partners in AAT, especially for individuals who may feel overwhelmed or threatened by human interactions. The presence of alpacas often creates a safe and nurturing environment, offering numerous psychological, emotional, social, and physical benefits.  Some of the benefits of animal-assisted therapy are as follows:

  • Development of Trust and Emotional Bonds: Interactions with alpacas foster trust and respect, helping individuals form meaningful emotional connections.
  • Improved Mood and Self-Worth: Spending time with alpacas can lead to improved morale and a sense of self-worth, which is crucial for mental health.
  • Enhanced Social Interaction: Alpacas facilitate social engagement, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, common struggles in mental health.
  • Stress and Anxiety Reduction: AAT with alpacas has been shown to lower heart rate and reduce blood pressure, leading to a sense of calm and relaxation, key for managing anxiety and stress.
  • Learning New Skills: Nurturing and caring for alpacas can help individuals acquire new skills and build self-esteem and confidence, contributing to improved mental well-being.
  • A Safe Space for Expression: Alpacas provide a non-judgmental environment where clients may find it easier to express their feelings and discuss sensitive issues, aiding in therapeutic discussions.

Progress Young Adults’ Alpaca Experience

We were able to get close to the alpacas, stroke them and feed them. The staff at Etwell Alpacas were very accommodating and gave lots of information about the alpacas. – Jacqueline Beer (Registered Manager, Nightingale House)

Describing the young adults’ visit to Etwell Alpacas, Jacqueline Beer, registered manager at Nightingale House , said the experience was great.

“We were able to get close to the alpacas, stroke them and feed them. The staff at Etwell Alpacas were very accommodating and gave lots of information about the alpacas,” Jacqueline said.

As an adult’s home, Jacqueline said the young adults that went to Etwell Alpacas enjoyed the experience. One of them, RF, was able to feed and stroke the alpacas while the second young adult on the trip, EE, enjoyed watching the alpacas.

Supporting Young Adults to be Part of the Community

According to Jacqueline, the visit to the alpacas is one of the ways that the service is supporting and encouraging all its young adults to access the community and take part in a variety of activities.

In the UK, the British Alpaca Society (BAS) plays a pivotal role in promoting the welfare of alpacas and educating their owners in the UK. With approximately 45,000 alpacas under their care, BAS said it is dedicated to providing resources and support to alpaca owners and breeders.

Etwall Alpacas that hosted young adults from Progress, is a small family and friends run alpaca farm set in 56 acres situated on the outskirts of the village of Etwall in the South Derbyshire countryside.  Formed in 2022, it started trading 2023 and is now a fully licensed business.  The farm consists of a variety of grass and tarmac paths with a woodland area.

Why I foster: Helen

In a new series of interviews we have asked Progress foster carers why they foster care and how fostering changes lives.

Helen has been caring for James and Perry with her husband, Henry. This is her story.

When you have a child of your own, you realise what a positive influence they can have on your life. My husband Henry and I had reached a stage in our lives where we did not want any more children of our own, but we did want to support and care for a child that was less fortunate than others.

Whether it is for a week or full-time, if Henry and I could change a child’s life for the better, we would.

Some of my work colleagues had experience as foster carers. The more they spoke to me about how fostering works, the more it seemed like a great way to help children.

When you start fostering, prepare for your life to change.

You will go through a lot emotionally and looking after someone else’s child will take a lot out of you. In some cases, you may only have a short time with a child or young person, maybe a year or two so it may feel like everything is happening quickly.

However, you must remember that the time you are in their lives, could be an important period for them. It is for this reason that Henry and I put all our energies into ensuring we can make a difference.

When Progress told us about James and Perry we wanted to help. The boys did not have the structure of regular family life, so we expected things to be a little chaotic. In all honestly, they were just two sweet little boys that needed love and attention.

Henry and I were nervous about the rules we wanted to implement in the house. We did not want them to feel intimidated but knew that the rules would stand all of us in good stead.

James and Perry have been fantastic at going along with everything. The boys say please and thank you and eat three meals a day, as opposed to the junk food they ate before they arrived. Routines like brushing their teeth and going to bed at set times, have helped them to live a normal life.

As a couple, Henry and I appreciate having a network of other foster carers. Progress hosts the “Voice of Progress”, a monthly club for foster children to get together and participate in fun activities. The foster carers tag along and use it as a chance to talk to each other about our experiences.

There is no set rule book for what makes a good foster carer. We all bring our uniqueness to any given situation. Having some life experience and being a caring and patient person helps.

Fostering is my way of making a positive difference in the world. Henry and I feel that giving a child the chance to succeed in life is not only good for them, but for everyone in society. If you can offer a child a home, along with the help and support they need at a difficult time in their life, then you must get involved.

If this story resonates with you, perhaps you could be the next carer to make a positive difference in children’s lives. Get in touch to find out more about being a foster carer.

Why I foster: Jane

In a new series of interviews we have asked Progress foster carers why they foster care and how fostering changes lives.

Jane has been caring for Fariha. This is her story.

I have worked with and cared for young people with complex disabilities for over twenty years. I may be biased; but welcoming a young person into your home is hugely rewarding, especially when you see the positive impact you are having on their life. It is an absolute pleasure for my husband Mark and I to provide foster care.

We took a break from fostering a few years ago, to recharge our batteries and then went back to Progress with a renewed optimism to help a child. Progress informed us about Fariha, and we really wanted to care for her.

Fariha has severe disabilities and was residing in a home. She is a wheelchair user, has significant learning, speech and language delay as well as some visual and hearing problems. Fariha had an few unsettled years; having moved from place to place.

Imagine if you went through that?

We were so pleased when Fariha was placed with us.

Mark (who worked in the police force for over thirty years), was initially worried about fostering a child with complex needs, due to his lack of knowledge and experience. However, he felt more confident once he took part in the training and support Progress gave us.

In preparation for Fariha’s placement, our home was assessed by occupational health professionals and some adaptations were made.

One such example was the fitting of several small ramps inside as well as handrails, so Fariha could move freely around the house.

We asked as many questions as we could about Fariha’s needs, personality and behaviours, so she would be comfortable in her new home. A transition plan was sent to us, to ensure we had a good understanding of her daily requirements and routines, and this really helped.

Fariha’s bedroom was decorated to her own individual needs and although she cannot verbalise her preferences, we ensured her bedroom had a calming atmosphere to encourage and promote sleep and relaxation.

Taking care of a child with disabilities can seem quite daunting, and you will face a lot of challenges. Giving unconditional love to a child is a given, but you must also have patience and understanding. When you can do this, you will see many wonderful things.

At one of our first meetings, we were told not to expect any hugs or sitting on laps from Fariha, and that she would be stationary. Mark and I would always encourage her to reach out to us. Within the first month, Fariha reached out to Mark, insinuating that she wanted to be picked up! I could not believe it! Fast forward to today (with a little bit of work) – Fariha will raise up on her knees to be picked up for a cuddle or to sit on your lap.

It has been wonderful, getting to understand the faces she pulls and the noises she makes when she is happy or sad. This may seem like a little thing, but knowing where she was, to where she is now, these moments are huge! Fariha has also settled well into her new school. Her initial phased start to the term has now turned now into a full-time schedule. We are so proud of how Fariha has coped with this.

We own a caravan and take trips across the country with Fariha. She loves the beach and the noises of the waves crashing and the feeling of the wind on her face and hair.

Mark and I have committed a lot of time caring for Fariha. You must think about the demands that caring for a child has on you as an individual, a couple and wider family. As a couple we try to get away when we can and spend time together.

That said, our lives have become much richer by looking after Fariha. When I see her smile, I realise what a special girl she really is.

If this story resonates with you, perhaps you could be the next carer to make a positive difference in children’s lives. Get in touch to find out more about being a foster carer.

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”.

If this story resonates with you, perhaps you could be the next carer to make a positive difference in children’s lives. Get in touch to find out more about being a foster carer.