About Debra

So Where Did She Go? A potted history by Founder Debra Gibbs

DebraBack in 1999, I was involved in writing the first National Standards for Foster Care. That’s where it all really began for me...though, not really, because before that, I had been an approved Foster Carer for Surrey County Council, taking mainly teenage girls. I was Chairperson of the Surrey Executive Committee, which sounded and seemed very grand we met monthly at a Family Centre and told senior Managers what we thought they were doing wrong! They were gracious enough to listen.

During my time as a Foster Carer, the 1989 Children Act was brought in, heralding a different, more inclusive approach to birth family involvement. I also wrote the Surrey Foster Carers magazine ‘FosterTalk’ and answered questions / spoke on behalf of other Foster Carers when it was difficult for them to do so. One of the subjects that kept coming up, was why don’t I have a Placement when Pauline down the road has 3?  

It turns out that Complaints and Allegations against some Foster Carers, were being left unresolved; logged as a rumour which no one investigated but subject to gossip and knowing looks. It wasn’t just Surrey County Council, this was the practice back then, and it needed to stop. I found myself in the right place at the right time to make the full, open, transparent, inclusive investigation of Allegations and Complaints a National Standard and once it was written, went about setting up the first Independent Support Organisation ‘Fostering Support Ltd’ to ensure that this standard was being met.

Since then, the Fostering Network and Foster Talk have also taken up the banner, so Foster Carers can find help in a number of ways. Fostering Support Ltd will always be the Organisation that listens to Foster Carers and responds in a way that only an ex-Foster Carer understands, knowing the dynamic between Foster Carer, the Fostering Service, Fostered Children / Young People, budgeting balance sheets, word of mouth recruitment and the commercial value of outcomes and of family. For this reason, we also help and support Carers making a complaint about and to their Fostering Service.

Fast forward 20 plus years and Debra Gibbs (now living with Multiple Sclerosis, but fighting back) is looking at the Foster Care Market with Blogs, Social Media, Transfer Data, Independent Fostering Agencies, Special Guardianship Orders, Adoption Break down rates against massive National Debt and Austerity measures, and wondering what more needs to be done to Protect Children and Support Foster Carers.

In 2020 during a Global Pandemic, the likes of which we have never seen, Allegations appeared to be less common, rarely mentioned, but why, when in theory, Children/Young People were at home with their carers more often, clubs and activities shut down and although Schools remained open for vulnerable children and those of key workers, it seemed that everyone had other things on their minds. Knowing that one day soon, this would end and “what did you do during lock-down” would become the hot topic for School Project discussions, it felt important to put Independent Support Workers in every County of the UK to be available when needed.

Having finished my Chemotherapy treatment and stabilised the progressive nature of my Multiple Sclerosis we launched a new membership organisation 'Assurance : Parents and Carers’ aimed at Parents, Carers and others whose vocation it is to look after children and young people in need of additional care, to provide the assurance that, no matter what gets thrown at them, they are not alone. And because the service is funded by Carers and Parents for Carers and Parents there are no financial limits or competing priorities.

 

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