Hello and Welcome to the Chrysalis Care blog spot

Chrysalis Care is an independent fostering provider, looking after children in London and the home counties. We have been operating since 1997 and have an ‘outstanding’ reputation.

As you will be aware there are many issues and topics highlighted by the media regarding looked after children, foster care, social services and children not being taken into care with tragic consequences.

The Chrysalis Care blog spot will be a forum where some of these topics, issues and other thoughts associated with fostering and looked after children will be discussed by staff, foster carers and perhaps some young people. I hope you enjoy them and please feel free to comment.

Allé Pflaumer, Director

Monday, 28 April 2014

Not too old to foster……

We are about to embark on a campaign ‘not too old to foster’, which has been triggered by the many people who say ‘oooh, I’m too old now, I expect……?’.

In a timely fashion, I have come across this article in a BAAF circular:

40 years of fostering and still holding the babies

Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/40-years-of-fostering-and-still-holding-the-babies-9273470.html?origin=internalSearch

John, 78, and Mary, 74, work as specialist foster parents to babies awaiting adoption. The couple tell Kate Hilpern that they have no plans to retire, even after 40 years of caring for children…

What a wonderful read and perfect testament to underscore our campaign.

We already know the value of the more mature foster carer, we have a few who we have approved and they bring a quality to our diverse pool which is invaluable. As we say in our editorial:

Chrysalis Care value the life experience and wisdom that older people can bring to the fostering role and some children and young people respond better and thrive more easily in family homes where they can settle down in a stable environment with calm, relaxed foster carers who are able to offer them their full attention.

With the airing of the TV programme ‘Amazing Greys’ and the inspiration this can bring, is it any wonder that people feel able to meet the challenge to foster in their later years? As we say in our campaign:

At the point of retiring, life is headed for change one way or another! However, plans of slowing down may be far from your mind and you may be preparing yourself for a new challenge.

Could that new challenge be to become a foster carer for Chrysalis Care?

Joanna Oliver
Strategic Development Executive

Friday, 7 February 2014

Is Linda Nolan alone?

I’m not an avid fan of Celebrity Big Brother but a recent headline did catch my eye, where Linda Nolan expressed concern that the perception of her post-CBB would have a detrimental effect on her fostering role. She has been quoted as saying: “…. I hope this won't cause any problems with my fostering... I've been very up front and they know me very well now.... I don't think it will be anything horrendous - except perhaps some of the language - but I never swear in front of children anyway."

But is Linda Nolan alone in her concerns? This is not the first time that I have reflected on the challenge of fostering, where perhaps more than most professions, the personal/professional interplay is blurred and where foster carers, in essence, are not entitled to a ‘private’ life. Their home is their workplace and their family are their colleagues and when it comes to the care of a child who is looked after, there is no such thing as ‘behind close doors’. In a professional context where transparency is key, I cannot help but wonder how this could perpetuate a Machiavellian-style professional cloak.

I’d safely bet that many of us would flinch at the prospect of having a torch light, let alone TV cameras, shining on us 24 hours a day. So is Linda Nolan alone? How do foster carers preserve their own identity, which may be different to their professional persona? When do they have the time to release? For many of us, when we ‘slip up’, we put it down to being human….are foster carers ever really afforded the same?

Joanna Oliver
Strategic Development Executive

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Awards Ceremony 2013 – Working together, we can…..

On 28th October, we held our Annual Awards ceremony, at the Marriot Hotel in Bexleyheath and what a wonderful event it was. The evening was a complete success, well organised, enjoyable, moving and memorable. Such an event is testament to Chrysalis Care’s ethos of ‘working together’, as staff, foster carers, children and young people and local authority social workers came together in celebration. As one of the Director’s, Sarah Boden-de Mel said in her opening speech:

We all, whoever we are, need to feel loved, appreciated and valued for who we are and what we do and one of the strengths that Chrysalis Care is built upon, is working together as a team. Working together we can all continue to achieve the very best we can - whether as a foster carer, a social worker, children’s services, member of Chrysalis Care staff or as a young person…………let’s celebrate this evening and all applaud our journeys and the work we contribute to succeed in these goals being achieved.

The Awards evening was a fantastic opportunity for foster carers old and new to congregate in recognition for achievements for longevity of service and also commendation for achieving targets related to professional practice. Seeing children and young people thriving and achieving was unbelievably rewarding, achievements ranging from sporting success - running for the country, to gaining a coveted college course place, to massive leaps in English levels, to achieving 100% attendance at school, or becoming a school prefect; Wonderful.

Foster carers who are now confident, experienced and highly skilled, achieving awards for 5, 10, 12 and 15 years service, yet are still remembered as they embarked on their ‘skills to foster’ programme (or as it was for some of them, they were ‘choosing to foster’!), all of those years before.

Children and young people, now standing tall and proud in their achievements, some of them now beginning their journey into independence, yet fondly remembered as small uncertain children who were trying to navigate the unknown territory that was their then ‘new home’.

This was our biggest award ceremony to date and we look forward to many more to come.

Joanna Oliver, Strategic Development Executive.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A truly child centred system - at the heart of the matter

Myself and one of the Directors at Chrysalis Care, attended the Fostering Network’s Annual conference last week. I am still reflecting on the panel speeches given by two care-experienced young people from the ‘Who Cares? Trust’, Ashley Williamson and Kevani Kanda.

As someone who has worked with children and young people for more than twenty five years, I know only too well the power of lived experience in conveying what is important. When this is coupled with maturity and crystal clear articulation, no policy or well rehearsed speech can top it.

Ashley and Kevani reached into my heart and spoke the very truth of a truly child centred system in a way that only their experience could provoke. This was the only moment throughout the day that I put down my ‘Ipad’, stopped taking notes and just listened. I listened as Kevani spoke of the legacy of multiple moves upon insecure attachments in her adult relationships. I listened as Ashley told us of the necessity for transparency in communication and how withholding information can cause more harm than good. I listened to myself acknowledging that the message they gave reflects that of so many young people I have met over the years and in how what they implore of us is actually so very, very basic. As Kevani concluded, in spite of the emphasis on financial expenditure and current economic pressures, much of what is needed has no price tag. Thank you for this very courageous reminder of what is at the heart of the matter.

Joanna Oliver, Strategic Development Executive

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Reforming Child Protection

I attended an event at Whitehall the other week, organised by Westminster Education Forum and focused upon ‘reforming child protection’.

What particularly struck me was given that at the core of social work, is reflective and systemic practice, there needs to be much more of a focus upon this as an approach to social work reform. The 'more for less' mantra accompanying austerity measures cannot preclude or excuse the level of interruption presented to effective practice. Unfortunately, 'resource review' includes colleagues bidding against each other for diminishing positions and subsequently working within diminished teams. I recall such an example, at a local authority forum event where a member of their team introduced themselves by name, adding "Last year, I was three people".

Not taking a systemic, reflective approach to social work reform is to deny the necessity of a parallel process from policy and decision makers through to strategists and is evident in the practice of managers and front line professionals, and ultimately in the experiences of children and young people. Perhaps paradoxically, it is those experiences - the real outcomes - that are being inspected and assessed and are the real target we are trying to reach.

Raising social work thresholds and restricting the cash flow to community based services, which are often the invisibly tireless 'early interveners', is creating a bottle neck...where the disparate group in the middle are squeezed off the radar, until tragedy or destruction force a responsive hand. A systemic approach to social work reform requires joining the dots between services, not as an echo of the ongoing rhetoric that is 'working together' but as an acknowledgement of social work in its broadest, deepest, richest, most valuable sense.

Longer version of this published in the event’s transcripts: http://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/forums/showpublications.php?pid=534

Joanna Oliver
Strategic Development Executive

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Apples and Pears, climbing the stairs to greater understanding of food allergies in children

Chrysalis Care ran a fantastic training session today, delivered by Mandy and Chetali of ‘Apples and Pears health’ and as a trainer and lecturer myself, I could descend into a monologue about the excellent training style, which was accessible and responsive (because of course, I am never ever judgemental about such things). However, it is my role as a parent of a child with allergies that inspires this blog and for any foster carer or in fact, child care worker, this training is perhaps more generically necessary than is given credit for.

Firstly, for dispelling common myths about what is and isn’t an allergy and acceptable ways of diagnosing allergies (avoid the fads!)...and also refer to a specialist to make this diagnosis….this said as a reflection upon how tempting it can be to ‘diagnose’ at home based upon trial and error and subsequent elimination. Secondly, considering the range of signs and symptoms to watch out for – far more than I realised and I will certainly be looking with a keener eye in future. Crucially, how to respond in an emergency situation, in the severe case of an Anaphylaxic reaction, which whilst inevitably scary, much surely be less so when informed with how to deal with it. What a wonderful accompaniment to our paediatric first aid training.

Finally, the health service can be a daunting one to approach sometimes and a session facilitated by people who work within this service, with useful signposting and a valuable handout to take away, can be an empowering experience. It certainly was for me. For more about allergies and children and about the work that ‘Apples and Pears health’ do, visit: www.applesandpearshealth.co.uk.

Joanna Oliver

Strategic Development Executive

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

In the spirit of not wasting a good crisis!

I went along to the London Care Services special educational needs (SEN) and children in care (CIC) Autumn conference last week and what a fantastic mix of speakers were there to address us.

The enigmatic Camila Batmanghelidjh founder and Director of ‘Kids Company’ captured my attention and creativity, with her impassioned presentation about the neuroscientific implications for the ‘abandoned child’. Camila calls for a paradigm shift (yes please….) articulating an overview of this necessary step-change, reminding us of the power of early attachment experiences and in how they can cause a form of brain injury. In particular, she promoted the need for re-parenting via a ‘salad bar’ approach that is a definite move away from ‘one size fits all’ (oh yes please!). As if that wasn’t enough inspiration, I was moved almost to tears by care experienced young adults who underscored the need for respectful recognition of the impact of nurture (or lack of) on our potentiality. Straight talking Annie Hutchison reminded us all that in spite of adversity, a little love goes a long way. Kali Perkins and Arthur Lea from the Deptford based ‘Heart and Soul’, sang their way into my heart with Kali’s self penned renditions. Luke Rodgers courageously revisited his 14 year old self and honoured us with sharing in aspects of his journey to becoming the compelling young man he is today.

Well done to the organisers of this event, who managed to intersperse the serious business of Ofsted Inspections and fee reviews alongside the even more serious business of keeping the child at the centre of what we do.

Joanna Oliver

Strategic Development Executive