How foster agency builds co-production into its everyday procedures

Young people steering group helps shape agency's future fostering services and gives fostered children a voice.

  • Name Orange Grove's Steering Group
  • Provider Orange Grove Fostercare

Orange Grove is an independent fostering agency established in 1996, currently taking care of more than 400 children across the South East, Midlands, North West and Yorkshire. The agency believes that the voices of fostered children and young people need to be heard, so that they have the opportunity to shape services in partnership with decision makers.

A children and young people's steering group was established across the Orange Grove Yorkshire offices so as to develop positive and responsive working relationships with the children and young people we care for.

Each Orange Grove office has dedicated family support workers who support and listen to children and young people in foster care. The steering groups build on this by providing a forum where children and young people can meet, share their views and make a difference.

The Yorkshire group, involving children aged 12 to 18, will be involved in shaping services and improving practice at Orange Grove, as well as having their say on the recruitment and selection of foster carers and staff.

It is early days for the project, but the agency has already received positive feedback with children and young people requesting to be involved in leaflet design and the planning of foster family activities.

The best people to engage with and to measure outcomes are the children and young people themselves, and this is even more evident with looked-after children. Their experiences of adjustment, separation and placement moves - often in such a short space of time - make them resilient. They are normally very willing to talk, if they are provided with the opportunity and encouragement to do this.

In addition, a mentoring service has been launched called the TLC (Talk, Listen, Change) project. Through it, young adults with experience of care are able to offer support to other fostered children and young people.

It has provided Orange Grove with another golden opportunity to listen and engage, and the future aim of TLC is that young people looked after by Orange Grove will also become mentors as the work evolves.

Orange Grove recently contributed to the national Foster Care Fortnight campaign, helping to raise the profile of fostering nationally. The theme for 2019 was #ChangeAFuture, a simple but strong message of how fostering has the potential to be life-changing for fostered children and young people. Co-production hands some of this control back, enabling looked-after children to have a say in their future and for those that will come into care in future years.

By a steering group member

I've always wanted to help facilitate discussions and Orange Grove Steering Group has enabled me to give ideas on how Orange Grove can give myself and other children a voice.

I gave suggestions for activities for the summer and how children can be involved in ongoing processes at Orange Grove, such as staff interviews and meetings with the director. I also highlighted that children and young people's views and ideas need to be sought and listened to as an ongoing process.

I felt that my suggestions were well received and that my voice mattered. Myself and my peers discussed what matters to us and shared our opinions, which in turn will help everyone. I loved the welcoming and friendly atmosphere and believe that with more of these sessions, every child will maximise their potential.

Orange Grove has given me the chance to come out of my shell and to believe in myself.

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