Step Up Step Down Team Who Keep Families Together Scoops National Fostering Award

23rd October 2023
Pictured: Nuala Hanna (Head of Fostering, Adoption and Permanence, South Eastern Trust), Michelle Carr (Social Worker, South Eastern Trust) & Sheila Simons (Sector Manager, South Eastern Trust)

The Step Up Step Down Team in the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust has been honoured with a prestigious National Fostering Network Award for a Social Work Team.

This recognition underscores the team’s outstanding commitment to fostering excellence in the South Eastern Trust.

The team were instrumental in developing the Step Up Step Down project in partnership with The Fostering Network that involves Family Support Foster Carers working closely with families as and when they need them, in order to keep families together and prevent children entering the care system. Parents who have used the service insists it really works because Foster Carers step up and step down but they never step away.

Since it was introduced seven years ago, it has significantly reduced the number of children taken into care, making a real difference to the lives of children and families in the South Eastern Trust area. This child-centred, trauma-informed service has helped more than 180 children on the edge of care, to stay together with their birth families.

“It literally was a lifeline. It let me be a mother again to my two daughters.” said Noeleen Thomas, who four years ago was able to avail of Step Up Step Down when she was struggling.

“ Step Up Step Down was a lifeline, it pulled me out of a dark place, my family was falling apart and I thought I was failing as a parent.  The service helped support me and made me aware I was not failing as a parent, I was struggling.  They put tools in place for me and showed me how to work with the children.

“The future is so exciting, I no longer dread every day,  Step Up Step Down has given us our lives back, we are very grateful for that.”

The Step Up Step Down Team, comprising passionate and skilled professionals, has demonstrated exemplary service in supporting vulnerable individuals within our community.  Their tireless efforts in implementing progressive strategies and initiatives have positively impacted the lives of those in need.

Head of Fostering, Adoption and Permanence in the South Eastern Trust, Nuala Hanna was delighted for the team to receive this prestigious award and said, “This is a really well deserved award. The Step Up Step Down Team are amazing and their dedication and commitment to the families that they work with is outstanding.”

Chief Executive of The Fostering Network, Sarah Thomas said: “This year marks my first Fostering Excellence Awards as CEO and I am over the moon to be able to celebrate the outstanding work of people within our fostering communities in this way.

“It’s been such a joy to read everyone’s stories and hear about exceptional people who go above and beyond to support others. It’s an honour to be able to celebrate these incredible achievements with our annual awards as well as highlight the vital role fostering is playing to those outside the fostering community.

“The fostering community is truly a special one and all our winners, and everyone else involved in fostering in the UK should be incredibly proud of their contributions to foster care.

“With more than 7,000 fostering families needed in the UK, it’s vital that we get more exceptional foster carers on board to provide stable homes for children and young people.’

The Step Up Step Down Team along with The Fostering Network, has played a vital role in bridging gaps in care, promoting inclusivity and fostering a sense of belonging among individuals facing challenges in their lives.  Their collaborative and person-centred approach has been instrumental in achieving positive outcomes for those in their care.

The annual Fostering Excellence Awards are the UK’s most prestigious foster care awards, celebrating outstanding achievements in fostering and recognise those who make exceptional contributions to foster care every day.

The Fostering Network award for a social work team recognises fostering teams who are delivering excellent practice which is helping to improve outcomes for children and young people in foster care.