Here at Progress Children’s Services, we pride ourselves on our holistic approach to providing a seamless transition for children and young people in the stages between birth and independent living.
As a high-quality foster care provider, our team dedicate themselves to our vision of assisting individuals in achieving the best possible outcomes for their future, despite their past. Our mission is to give them positive experiences and ultimately; make progress. Tina Bhardwaj, our Fostering Manager, is no exception to this. We took the time to pick Tina’s brain to give an insight into a day in the life of a Fostering Manager.
What are your role responsibilities?
My overall responsibilities as Fostering Manager are to ensure the smooth running of the fostering service. I provide my team with ongoing training and support to operate to the best of their abilities and ensure that children and young people are kept safe within their foster placements. I also lead the recruitment of Foster Carers alongside our Business Development team, ensuring that we recruit robust applicants.
My team of Social Workers and I work hard to ensure that our campaigns are target driven and focused, and by working in-line with the fostering regulations, Ofsted governed standards and measuring up appropriate candidates, we match children and young people to suitable carers.
I like to work in a way that is transparent and open. I enjoy being visible, reachable and maintaining excellent working relationships with my Foster Carers. To achieve this, every month, I chair support groups. I see it as a priority that I attend all the meetings, as they provide the opportunity for face-to-face contact and they allow me to help answer any questions. I believe working in this way instils trust and confidence.
The role is not 9-5 meaning that sometimes I work weekends. My phone is always on. Some of our carers work at all hours. Therefore meetings and training can take place outside of traditional working hours.
What does your role mean to you?
I have been working in foster care for the last decade, and I have loved every minute of my job. The highlight of my role is going home knowing that the individuals are placed in safety away from the danger in which they came.
I strongly believe in focusing on the children and the things that matter. For example, having experiences, making progress and how we as an organisation can make a difference to a child’s life. The interaction we have with our Foster Carers and young people is at the forefront of everything we do at Progress, as we use this as a guide on how we are making a difference. This is only achieved with the right support and workers in place. For example how well carers are prepared and supported to promote progress young people make with their health, education, emotional and social wellbeing and children can only do this when they have a range of positive experiences.
I wanted to work for the organisation because I love the crossover opportunities available in our services. For example, our children can access our short breaks and activity groups. Foster Carers can work flexibly across the service while waiting for a child to be matched and placed with them. It is a pleasure to see the joy this brings both the children and our carers.
I like working for a small private organisation because there is less red tape, providing me with the opportunity to be creative and the ability to enhance myself through professional development. A smaller company allows me and my team to provide a personal touch, enabling us to tailor our support to the individual; whether that is the child, young people or Foster Carer. The relationships that we maintain with these individuals are embedded in our practice and values of caring, trust, respect and progress.
My job means a great deal to me; I firmly feel that you cannot do this role without passion and enthusiasm. I like to lead by example, and I am confident that I have a team that functions to a high standard in a happy working environment.
What are the rewards of your role?
For me, I take great satisfaction seeing the individuals of which we care for settle into well-suited placements. To know the children and young people are having positive experiences and making personal growth, makes the challenging days well worth it. We have excellent stability in our foster placements, which I feel is a reflection of the support provided to the carers and the agency’s recruitment selection as a result of the thorough assessment.
Our Foster Carers have the opportunity to work with the children in our residential homes, and we have made several successful matches, allowing young people to transition from our residential homes into foster homes. The sense of pride that this gives me is immense.
What are the challenges that you face in your role?
A hurdle we are facing is getting appropriate services for children, such as Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) help, life story work and children on the waiting list, not yet in permanent placements.
Our biggest challenge is recruiting Foster Carers. There are so many children in need of care, love and stability in contrast to the foster carers that are available to support them. The demand is thoroughly outweighing the supply.
What are your main current focus points within the organisation?
My team are important to me as they are the cogs in the machine that are vital to the great work we currently accomplish with Progress. It is crucial to not only ensure improvement opportunities for the individuals in our care but also to those making all our achievements possible.
What are your current goals, personally and for Progress Children’s Services?
I would love to personally develop the fostering service by expanding and growing the regions covered by participating in local authority projects. It is heart-breaking knowing that there are vulnerable children and young people out there that we at Progress have the means to help. I want to be able to offer more children a foster home. To do that, we need more Foster Carers.