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LiKa; innovating foster care

Linda Hill and Kate-Marie Travis both worked as social workers before founding social enterprise, LiKa Family Fostering. They spoke to us about how they’re using their expertise to deliver innovative approaches to the training of foster carers and encourage positive outcomes for children in care.
 
Could each of you explain a little more about your background, and how you came to be involved in family fostering?
Our personal stories feed our passion as social workers and provided the catalyst for creating LiKa.
 
I (Linda) lost my mum when I was eight, and inherited ten foster mums! They were amazing, and taught me how to use difficult times to develop strength and resilience.
 
I (Kate-Marie) have a sibling who suffers mental ill health. When I was a child we had family services involved, which were often essential, but not always child-friendly, creative, or much fun! We therefore chose to work with children in care to enhance their opportunities to enjoy and succeed in life, despite the difficulties they have experienced.
 
Why are foster carers needed?
The decision to remove a child from their birth family is the biggest decision a social worker can make. However, sometimes children need to be placed outside of their families. Foster carers are therefore needed to provide safety, security, love, learning and fun for the most vulnerable children in our communities.
 
Can you explain in a few sentences what LiKa does?
LiKa aims to exceed standards through our creative training and bespoke supervision programmes for foster carers and their supervising social workers. We use evidence based theories such as systemic and attachment theory to place relationships at the center of our focus. We build resilient families, who create supportive relationships with the child’s system.
 
How did you come up with the idea for LiKa?
We were following a tradition of agencies trying to help children living outside of their families. We had a vision of an agency that would be high quality, yet affordable for every Local Authority, would reduce bureaucracy and increase joined-up working. We worked on the blue print for LiKa for over 3 years, motivated by our drive to build something innovative, which could deliver positive outcomes for children in care.
 
Why is there a need for LiKa?
There is a lack of foster carers across the UK. It’s a specialist role, not everyone can do it justice. We take our time, use different therapeutically inspired techniques to find the right people who have the potential to become outstanding in their care for children. We’ve created a broad ranging training programme to skill up our foster families – which we open out to the child’s Local Authority to promote collaboration within the child’s network.
 
What makes LiKa different?
We have years of experience using systemic family therapy ideas in social work practice. This approach is invaluable in developing the reflective abilities of foster carers. Relationships built under this approach are more open, honest and resilient.
 
What impact do you anticipate LiKa’s unique approach will have on foster carers and children?
Foster carers will use LiKa support and training to help them manage crises. They will feel confident in their skills and abilities, and feel they are professionals in their own right. Children will experience care that supports them to re-write unhelpful narratives, to drive them to achieve success in their life.
 
Do you think it’s important for social workers to innovate? 
Certainly. If we always do what we are told and do not take risks, we learn nothing new and create minimal change. We can become disillusioned and demotivated. Innovation benefits Local Authorities, as social workers become excited and energised in the work they do. We are the most enthusiastic we’ve ever been in our careers because we’ve had the opportunity to originate the design and approach to LiKa.
 
What have you learnt and gained from setting up LiKa?
How, when you have a goal that is worth striving for, you can work through difficulties and complexities. We’ve gained more motivation to develop something that improves the experience of children, their birth families, social workers and foster families.
 
How do you think LiKa will effect wider change in the system?
We aim to show how influential the supervising social worker can be in creating positive change for foster families. The impact on the wider system would be more respect and understanding for the complexities of this role, and how it can be replicated in other areas of social care.
 
What advice would you have for other social workers who are looking to innovate and set up their own social enterprises?
Do not let fear or worry stop you. If you are passionate about what you do and have enough life or work experience to give you the foundation of expertise needed then believe in yourself. Take a leap of faith and create a service, which does all the things you currently cannot. Use policies and procedures to guide you, not rule you.
 
LiKa are now recruiting. If you know someone who you think would be an outstanding foster carer, get them to visit the LiKa website.