New foster carer ambassador gives Lika carers a stronger voice
Whether you’re new to fostering or you’re an experienced foster carer, it’s important to know you have all the support you need to be the best carer you can be.
That’s why Lika Family Fostering has welcomed the agency’s first-ever Foster Carer Ambassador, Nma Nzekwu.
London-based Nma, who has been a Lika foster carer for two years, will act as a bridge between foster carers and agency management, to ensure carers always feel heard.
Lika founder and director Linda Hill said while there’s lots of support already available to foster carers, including peer support groups, supervising social workers, family networks and professional advice, it was important Lika’s carers felt like they had a voice and a role in influencing service delivery and the kinds of support offered.
“We’re all here to improve the lives of young people, so any support Lika can offer our carers to do their role well is important to us,” she said.
“Building better relationships is at the heart of what we love to do, and this ambassador role will be key to that. And there could be no better ambassador than Nma, who is so passionate about enhancing the experiences of every foster carer.
“We are thrilled she has volunteered to take on the ambassador role.”
The foster carer ambassador’s role will be to work with carers to ensure:
- They are being treated fairly and feel fully supported and valued within Lika
- The voices of foster carers are included in the development of plans of action, policies and procedures, and are represented to Lika’s directors
- Support is offered to new carers coming into the system, and they receive help with tasks like completing daily logs and understanding policies.
Nma, a former NHS worker and a mother of two, said the opportunity to be Lika’s first-ever foster carer ambassador meant a great deal to her.
“For me, it is about empowering foster carers to be able to speak up for themselves, to be able to speak to the directors and trust that they’ll be heard, that they’ll be listened to, that things will be made clearer where they are unclear,” she said.
The role is a natural fit for Nma, who had previously been involved in her union at the NHS, and who has been very active in Lika’s carers’ peer support group, offering her advice and experience. Nma will now chair those support network meetings.
“They’re an opportunity for the other foster carers to come together and we mainly talk about our struggles in fostering in the home, but we also talk about the other difficulties we have, perhaps accessing help or not understanding certain policies, or even not liking certain policies,” she said.
“I always feel like when there’s an issue, it’s best to talk it out and talk it through, instead of having all these whispers in the background.”
Lika already has a lot of systems and mechanisms in place to ensure carers feel fully supported. Our goal is to create a sense of belonging for foster carers, so they never feel alone in what they’re trying to achieve. We also want our carers to feel they’re part of a broader team, who all learn from each other and collaboratively work to improve the lives of the young people in their care.
The group, and Nma in particular, have been instrumental not just in supporting one another but in creating real change in the way Lika operates, ensuring all carers feel fully supported.
“I’m somebody who is very willing to pick up the phone and ask questions,” Nma said. “I’ll ask ‘what is going on? Why is nobody speaking to me?’”
Nma said at one point she had felt frustrated with several aspects of the matching process (the way carers and young people are matched for placements) and rang the agency to voice her concerns. As a result, the entire process was changed.
“They’ve taken that feedback on board and now they send referrals to carers to look at and we’re included in the matching process,” Nma said. “So, carers are now able to access live referrals and match themselves. It’s made the process a lot smoother and it shows that Lika, as an agency, listens.”
Lika uses a thoughtful matching process to ensure every child is matched to the right foster carer.
The foster carer ambassador is an independent role. For the foster carers, it gives them an extra means of support, a direct line of communication to Lika’s directors and an ability to shape the future of the agency and of foster care.
The intention is that the role, and the support it provides, will help foster carers become more confident in their roles, experience more enjoyment and satisfaction from fostering, and stay with the agency for long and happy fostering careers.
Like so many things in foster care, it all starts with curiosity and an honest conversation. The ambassador role ensures Lika carers have a strong voice in that conversation.
As Nma puts it, “a happy foster carer is the cause for a happy foster child”. At Lika, we’re all excited about what we can achieve together—for carers, for the agency, and for our looked-after young people.
If you’re in south or east London and you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions.
We’re in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Merton, Lambeth, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, City of London, Haringey, Newham, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea.