On Saturday 7th December 2019, Capstone Midlands held their annual Children’s Christmas Party at Whitemoor Lakes in Lichfield. Slightly different from previous years, as this event featured outdoor activities such as zip lining, rock climbing and agility courses. For the younger children the team organised art and crafts along with face painting and indoor entertainment from Mr Twister. Those who know the Midlands team well, will know that food is always involved! They kept up tradition with a Christmas dinner being served around lunch time for all.

Over 170 carers and children attended the event and celebrated with the team. Carers had the opportunity to get together without the children to chat about what has been happening, what they were up to over the festive period, along with generally catch up with one another and the staff.

One of our carers said:

“It was brilliant, and the kids absolutely loved it. Our young man was a bit disappointed that he couldn’t go on the climbing wall because it was for children aged 8 and over, however the crafts and seeing Santa, more than made up for that and he absolutely loved the magician. In fact, we have now bought him his very own Spinning Plate!”

Throughout the year the team make a conscious effort to organise as many opportunities to get together as they can with carers and children. The regular summer event and Christmas celebration is always planned with the children in mind and inspired by previous events. This year our Midlands team have a Support Worker in place and there will be even more local activities planned for carers and children to attend and spend time with the team. Some of the team don’t have regular contact with the children and families so it’s important to share these activities together as it gives staff the opportunity to build relationships with the families and children.

Sunjay, Placements Coordinator, said:

“For me it brings my job to life. In placements it starts with a referral – you read about this child or children, but don’t get to see them often. We hear how they are doing and chat with carers via the telephone but to see them as a family at events makes you feel proud.”

Regional Director, Sara added: “Our Christmas party is one of my favourite times of the year. It is so brilliant to catch up with everyone and watch the children enjoy the activities. The best bit is seeing their faces when Santa arrives… it’s just magical. This event is when we can all see the results of the amazing work our foster carers and staff do all year round.”

We look forward to moving into the New Year and spending more time with our Children and Carers in 2020.

Throughout November and December, our Midlands team were spreading the joy and goodwill as they made numerous trips to various charities to provide much needed support, using their staff volunteer days. This is often an exceptionally busy period for some charities leaving them needing as much support as possible from volunteers.

On Friday 13th and Tuesday 17th of December, the team went to Birmingham Central Food Bank to provide support to the team with organising donations destined for families in desperate need support over the Christmas period.

Luca, of Birmingham Central Food Bank, kindly welcomed Rebecca, Kirsty, Sunjay, Beth, Kelly and James and over the two days the team weighed, sorted and distributed over two tonnes of food that was generously donated by organisations and the public. The festive period always brings lots of donations which the foodbank is always grateful for, but this means that they are also in need of additional support to keep up with the influx of donations from the public.

Luca wrote to the team to say “I have no words to express my gratitude for the effort and passion that the team from Capstone put into those two volunteering days on the 13th and 17th of December. Apart from the great help and the amount of work that they got done, it was an absolute blast to see them in action, it was highly inspirational!!! Thank you so much again, you were incredible!”

The team enjoyed their time during the visit and said “It’s nice to help in the community and to see people’s generosity. It’s rewarding for us to be able to support and we had a great time.”

Capstone Foster Care’s ethos is ‘Building Brighter Futures’ and people often assume that this just applies to the children and young people placed in their care. This just isn’t the case.

My first experience of the fostering world was when I was 21 years old. I started as a Business Admin Apprentice for Real Fostering in June 2013. Real Fostering was a small independent fostering agency, which was acquired by Capstone Foster Care six months after I started. As a result, I found myself being employed by Capstone and eventually was successful in becoming the Panel Co-ordinator for the Midlands region working at the Kings Norton office.

I stayed in this role for the next three years and during this time, I started to consider my future career prospects and decided that I wanted to consider social work as my career path.

Being part of the panel and the influence of other social workers at Capstone motivated me to want to become a social worker. Listening to their experiences made me want to have more of a positive impact on young people’s lives.

At this point, I started to consider my options however, I still had a bit of work to do.  I didn’t have the qualifications required to get into University, so I looked into night school to get my Maths GCSE. For the next 12 months I attended class and passed my GCSE which then enabled me to apply for University in Worcester.

After passing my exams and being accepted into my chosen University I left Capstone in September 2016 to start my BA Honours Degree in Social Work. To gain additional experience before starting my degree Sara, the regional director for Capstone (Midlands) gave me the opportunity to shadow the social workers, attend meetings with looked after children, attend Pupil Education Plans, observe senior practitioners, offer support to carers and support with organising the children’s events.

Looking back now I feel really grateful to have been given these opportunities as it really helped me gain an insight. Transitioning into University I felt I had the confidence and knowledge about fostering that made me feel insightful when speaking about the foster carers roles with peers during group discussions.

During my degree I also took on a job at a local children’s home accommodating four children.  This was an opportunity for me to work with children directly and gain further insight from a child’s perspective. For me it was a real eye opening experience, especially when working with safeguarding issues. I felt it encouraged me to keep my perspective throughout the course as I had witnessed the affects that neglect and abuse can have on some children during infancy and impacting them as they grow older.

After three years of hard work and two placements in different teams, Young Carers and Safeguarding, I graduated from the University of Worcester in October 2019.  I am now a qualified and practicing social worker as part of a local authority safeguarding team.

My current role is to work with young people who are placed on a Child Protection or Child in Need plan.  My role is to offer the families I work with support, complete direct work with children and young people assessing risk and potential harm.

I feel appreciative of everything that Capstone has done for me in my life and my time with them. I feel the personal growth and journey I have had from when I first arrived at 21 years old to now has been unexpected and I feel the opportunities given to me by Capstone have supported me to achieve what I have up to now.

Being at Capstone and having the insight into the world of fostering encouraged me to believe in myself and motivated me to push myself to achieve more for myself to help others.

As well as giving thanks to Capstone, I will take some credit. I feel very proud of myself for persevering when I failed exams, did a full day at the office then went to night school for a further three hours. I have never really had a significant interest in anything career wise but my experience at Capstone as I went through my early 20’s motivated and encouraged me to want to do better for myself, and also the children entering the care system and in need of protection.

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