12 years ago, my family and I made the move from Essex to Lincolnshire and have not regretted a single moment. Well except for the traffic, and I thought Essex was bad! It is not the volume of traffic, just single A roads and lots and lots of tractors. So, I will be driving around the second largest county in England, then get stuck behind seven cars and tractor going at 20 miles an hour! And as everyone who has ever visited this beautiful county knows, in the words of Paul McCartney, the long and winding roads. So please forgive us if we are a little late, it will be a tractor.
I live in the beautiful village of New Bolingbroke, when I mention this people say, ‘oh I love it there, with the castle ruins’ and I have to tell them, no that is Old Bolingbroke, we are the poor relations, no castle ruins here!
I am very lucky though; I live at the end of the flight path for RAF Coningsby and daily have Euro Fighters flying overhead. In the summer, at the weekends we also have the Lancaster, Spitfires, Hurricanes, and a Dakota flying overhead. Lincolnshire has a long and proud RAF heritage, also being the home of the Dambusters.
My journeys around the county are beautiful though, so I give myself enough time to get from place to place. I currently travel to North Witham at the very south of the county, bordering on Rutland, to Gainsborough in the north of the county and everything in between. I am lucky to have foster carers in the lovely seaside town of Skegness, so I can dip my toes in North Sea, whilst eating my fish and chips. I have not succumbed to the northern delicacy of gravy and chips, but I have only been here 12 years, so there is time!
My favourite town has to be Lincoln, there is just so much to see and do here, having everything from great shopping, a castle and cathedral, what more could you want.
I know that I am lucky to live in an amazing county, have the best job ever, working with a fantastic independent fostering agency, who care about the children, foster carers and their staff team, even though the head office is based in Essex, there is always someone on the end of the phone or now, who I can Zoom.
My day usually starts at 8.30am, working from home has its benefits, after I have walked the dogs, I will sit down with a cup of tea and read the foster carer recordings from the night before. Monday’s are a little different as I have two cups of tea, to catch up on the weekend’s recordings. The recordings are so important, on two levels, it gives me an opportunity to find out what the children and foster carers have been up to, and these recordings are what the children and young people they care for will read about themselves when they are older. Some of the recordings make me laugh out loud, some of the things that young people do or say, and some made me upset, when children have spoken about their past and some of the things they have been through, which no one else has ever known.
After reading recordings, and answering a few emails, and crossing items off from my ‘to do list’ (I’m a social worker, I like a list) I will head out for a supervision visit.
I currently have a case load of 10 foster carers, 12 looked after children and two vacancies. Supervisions are my favourite part of my work, I look forward to speaking to the foster carers about the children, how things are going and what needs to be done. I am very lucky; I have a great group of foster carers. The visits are even better when the children and young people are at home. I make sure I see the children every other visit, I think that it is important that they know who I am, and that we are all working together to get the best outcomes for them.
Things have been very different since COVID 19, and a lot changed for everyone, it was a worrying time as we were unsure how foster carers would cope not having face to face supervisions, children not being at school and the children not being able to attend any clubs. Children who are looked after, have usually come from very disorganised backgrounds, coming into foster care, gives them stability and continuity, so when everything became very disorganised through lockdown, we were worried. But we did not need to worry, as our foster carers were amazing, and we made the technology work. I was having face time calls with foster carers and the children, being shown around the home, and garden, seeing some of the amazing posters the children had made to support the NHS and their schoolwork.
I am pleased we can get back out there again, although it is very different in my mask. I have had to change to a visor as I found that I was not able to wear the mask and talk. But we make sure that we are following the government guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Another part of my role are Initial Visits, so when people decide that they would like to find out more about fostering, I will go and visit them to talk about fostering, the impact that it will have on their lives and our amazing company and why you should foster with us. When I make the phone call, people will ask how long the visit will be, it is usually a couple of hours, but if you are as chatty as I am, then could be longer!
These visits are important, as it gives us a chance to meet and chat about the reality of fostering, it is not for everyone, and we understand that, so my initial visit really is just to give you information, and if you say no at the end, I know that I have done my job just as well as if you say yes.
At Affinity we offer 24-hour support, 365 days a year, to our foster carers including Christmas Day, I can vouch for that as I have been on call for the past two Christmas Days! So, you are never on your own.
So, if you live in the beautiful county of Lincolnshire and have thought about fostering, please give us a call and I will come and meet you.