The first of this year’s Cornwall Carers Support Groups took place on 2nd February at its usual venue – Bodmin Jail.
Bodmin Jail, which is a popular visitor attraction in central Cornwall, was selected as a suitable yet affordable location about three years ago when the Fostering Foundation(South West) expansion down into Cornwall identified that its Cornwall carers needed their own and more local training and support venue. Located in the thriving, ancient town of Bodmin there is easy access using the three main trunk roads that run through the county; the A30 running north to south, the A38 running east to west and the A39 Atlantic Highway that links up from the North coast of Devon and Cornwall. For the foster carers and for visiting trainers, Bodmin Jail is easy to find following the brown visitor attraction signs and there is ample free parking in addition to an excellent on-site restaurant that provides fantastic food and refreshments, which is always a focus of discussion by the carers!
As the first of three support groups taking place in Cornwall this year, the fourth being a joint support group along with the Plymouth Carers Support Group taking place in December, compared to previous years this time the foster carers facilitated and led the group with a member of staff being present to ensure that the ‘domestics’ were in order. The reason for this change was because feedback gained from carers at the ends of last year suggested that our carers would prefer to have a more active and participatory role in providing training and support group activities compared to the more staff-driven approach. Ian Dowley, who is a very experienced carer, volunteered to be the first carer to facilitate and lead the group, and following its great success, the plan is for other carers to volunteer to lead subsequent groups.
In addition to the Cornwall Support Group we now have foster carers facilitating or participating in providing training sessions this year, For example, Graham Verrall is continuing to facilitate the Drug & Alcohol training, Becky Dowley is presenting the Equality and Diversity training and Jo Verrall is assisting with the Skills to Foster training. As well as this we have foster carers assisting with our recruitment drives and coffee mornings. Feedback from those that have attended training events facilitated by foster carers is extremely positive and feedback from prospective foster carers is that they really value the opportunity to meet and talk to experienced carers when deciding whether to foster or whether to apply to the Fostering Foundation.
The support group that took place this week covered a wide range of topics including discussion on the new format for support groups, participation in training and other activities; carers explained how trauma and attachment / attachment issues relating to their individual children and young people affected their care and the approaches they use which led to exploration about alternative approaches and styles that can be utilised; a general discussion took place about the education system for children in care including the end of care stage or for those that ‘Stay Put’; a carer explained the complexity of the youth justice system and the impact and frustrations entailed in continuing to care for the young person following conviction; discussion took place about new placements, especially as the majority of the carers at the support group were in the process or waiting for new or additional placements and this led to experienced carers reflecting and being able to give valuable advice to the less experienced about what to do from a carers perspective in preparation for or when the new child arrives. On completion of the group everyone commented that the carer-led approach had been very successful and that they wanted this to continue. So, a big “well done” to Ian Dowley for championing the initiative and for delivering the first of the carer-led Cornwall Support Groups!