Family Fostercare’s Inaugural Foster Carer Conference was held last weekend, on 20th February, at the jaw-droppingly stunning Crewe Hall Hotel.
The hall dates back to 1636, and has a fascinating history which includes being used as a prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. Anyone interested in finding out more about this beautiful building can read all about Crewe Hall's history and architecture, complete with stunning photographs on the Crewe Hall website.
Morning Consultation Event
Around 70 foster carers and staff attended the Conference, which began at 11am with a consultation exercise, based around the popular TV quiz show Family Fortunes.
Our foster carers were the survey population, and two teams of FFC staff had to attempt to guess how our foster carers had answered 8 questions. The session was intended to be a fun ice-breaker, but it was also a good opportunity for Family Fostercare to gain useful insights and of course a great chance for the staff teams to demonstrate their empathy with foster carers! The game gave us a few surprises too, for example that – for at least one of our survey members – hair straighteners are a ‘can’t live without’ item for a foster carer!
After the consultation event we went through to the Brasserie for a lovely buffet lunch, before returning to the conference room for the afternoon session. Granville Orange introduced our guest speaker Luke Rodgers, a care leaver turned award winning social entrepreneur.
Inspired by his own experiences in care, Luke founded Foster Focus, an innovative social enterprise which works with organisations to develop youth participation strategies to in turn inspire and unlock the individual potential of each child in care, to help them turn their past into positive drivers to help them achieve their own success in the future. Every single delegate, staff and foster carers alike, were captivated by Luke’s session. He bravely and generously shared his own personal story of being in care, as a way to highlight his message, taking great care to balance the light and shade in his journey and even to inject some humour. With his powerful story-telling he managed to bring us to the end, not feeling full of despair, but rather - like Luke himself – feeling positive, inspired and with our faith restored; that through listening, saying the words that matter, and by keeping on doing the little things, we can make a huge difference to children’s lives. If you missed the Conference, but would like to get a feel for the work Luke is doing and how he delivers his message of hope for each child in care, take a look at Luke's video on the Foster Focus website
Our second guest speaker, Sarah Collett from FosterTalk, had the unenviable task of following Luke and for that alone we all agreed, she deserved a round of applause! Sarah very kindly gave up her time to come along and talk about FosterTalk and the range of benefits and channels of support available to our foster carers through Family Fostercare’s subscription to the FosterTalk service. Sarah encouraged all of our foster carers to make full use of the newly redesigned FosterTalk website to make the most of the services available to them.
Services to Fostering Awards
To close the afternoon session Family Fostercare directors, Granville Orange and Martin Rae, presented our Service to Fostering Awards, something we are hoping to make an annual event. Foster carers received lovely framed certificates celebrating their time as a foster carer (not just with Family Fostercare but since they were first approved) and a special gift for the longest serving foster carers, Christine Wilson who is celebrating 26 years as a foster carer this year, and Phil and Tess Champion who are celebrating a whopping 30 years in service to fostered children!
Congratulations to all recipients, we hope we will be able to celebrate many more fostering milestones with you in the future:
- Phil & Tess Champion - 30 years
- Christine Wilson – 26 years
- Julie & Mick Nelson – 12 years
- Julie Creswell – 12 years
- Dee Chilton - 12 years
- Janet Doyle – 11 years
- Peter & Lynda Savory – 10 years
- Geoff & Jackie Wilks – 10 years
- June Corden - 9 years
- Carol Barnett & Roy Harwood – 8 years
- Phil & Helen Brown – 8 years
- Julie & Steven Graham – 8 years
- Joanne & Steven Shaw – 6 years
- Katrina & Geoff Richardson – 6 years
- Paula Wray – 5 years
Dinner & Dancing
There were a few hours of free time before dinner for delegates to enjoy the wonderful facilities at Crewe Hall – a relax in the spa, catching up with fellow carers and fostering team members in the bar, taking a walk around the beautiful grounds or exploring Crewe Hall itself.
The conference was finished off by dinner was held in the majestic Long Gallery next to the Great Library - a lovely 3 course dinner and drinks followed by a disco where we all had the chance to bust out some of our best ‘Dad Dancing’ moves!
It seems as if everyone had a great time, and enjoyed the opportunity to get together, meet old friends and make some new ones, learn a little about how Family Fostercare and our foster carers work together and how we can keep improving, and to get renewed inspiration for the wonderful work that we collectively do. Feedback from the event has been flooding in, and here are some highlights:
“Want to say thank you for the brilliant conference on Saturday. I really enjoyed it all and thoroughly enjoyed your company on the evening.”
“Thank you for a lovely weekend at the Crewe Hall Hotel. It was a lovely venue and a very enjoyable conference and evening meal. It is always nice to meet other carers and staff and to see so many new carers.”
“[We] had a brilliant time thank you, it would be a hard job to better that. It was lovely to see all our old friends and have more time to chat, and of course dance the night away. It was especially lovely to see both Martin and Granville again, the whole weekend had the feeling of "family" and fun. We were both inspired by the talk by Luke Rodgers, and sincerely hope that we get to see him again at some point. It would have been nice to have told him of our extended family of ex foster children who continue to fill our hearts and home with their children. It's our very own "Circle of Life", and why we love what we do. So please pass on our thanks for some very special memories.”
Thank you to everyone who attended and helped make this a wonderful first Foster Carer Conference. Hopefully we’ll be doing it all again in 2017…!
Photos have been flooding in, so why not grab a brew and browse the gallery! Just click on the picture below to open the gallery and scroll through the snaps.