“Before Rachel* started, we spent a long time asking questions about how things would work with her living in care. It was such a massive decision for us! We were never made to feel silly, even though we asked questions about everything and anything.
We were really positive about Rachel moving in and felt reassured that things were well-organised and her best interests were always at the centre of the staff's concerns. The first time Rachel visited, what stood out was the attention to detail.
The staff had bought lots of lovely things for her to personalise her room and make it similar to her bedroom at home. Having soft toys and soft fabrics was important as Rachel has huge sensory issues.
When she first saw her new bedroom, it wasn't a sparse, characterless room but instead had lots of lovely warm, soft things that she was immediately drawn to. The staff picked up on her liking arts and crafts so had provided storage boxes that she could decorate, and photo frames for her to take home and bring back to fill with pictures of her family. They helped Rachel feel at home straight away by having things both in her room and downstairs – for example her taggie snuggle blanket that she likes to watch TV with is always down on the sofa - just like at home!
I was so touched when, one night soon into her placement, I received a call at about 8.30pm. My heart stopped as I assumed she was crying and upset at bedtime - but it was nothing bad - they just wanted me to know her baby tooth had come out (it was wobbly already) and to check the 'tooth fairy procedure' in our house! They were very sweet, putting the £1 under her pillow like we do at home then discreetly giving me the tooth when I collected her. It's the personal touches like that, which make me feel that Rachel is being loved and cared for as an individual.
I feel Rachel is very safe but not over protected. She is allowed to climb trees and to help with cooking. They let her take normal 'healthy risks'. I feel really confident that they are watching her closely, but at the same time they are not smothering her. Rachel is allowed to be a child. It is obvious there are clear protocols in place but there’s no 'health and safety gone mad' feel – it’s all very natural and home-like.
I also like that the staff are honest with me and don’t try to hide things. They told me when she had got upset and explained exactly how they had comforted and calmed her down. We are really happy that Rachel is being well cared for and that she is happy. I asked her to tell me about living at the home and what the staff are like and in her own words she said ‘They don't shout at you. They are really kind and fun. They let you watch a movie and play outside. They look after you if you're sad and they help you if you find something hard.’
It was the hardest decision of our lives 'letting her go', but we really do feel that staff have her best interests at heart and that we will work together to help Rachel grow and develop.”
“When we visited Priory Education and Children’s Services all those years ago, my son John* said 'if I came here I won’t be a pebble on the sand anymore' and that ishow it’s been. He has been accepted for who he is, not punished for his anxiety but understood and supported. It has been a joy (and a relief) to be at a school that understands him without me having to explain all the time, a school that believes in him and respects what we say as parents, is approachable and listens to him and to us.
My son is not good at expressing his thoughts but when I asked him what he has got out of being at Priory Education and Children’s Services he said 'loads'. He said what has been good is being made welcome and better understood and I think that sums up his experience particularly well.
There have been some key staff that I know have made a difference, his maths teacher is 'cool' and she must be his favourite person at the school and his success at Maths reflects the respect he has for her. There are lots of staff who have been very important to his wellbeing and helped him when he was struggling being away from home – they have helped to get the best out of him.
I also have appreciated the support from the care team and their efforts to get my son to eat and join in activities. For us as parents, it has been most valuable to have someone to listen to us who also has our son’s best interest at heart. When we have had concerns, we have been supported to help him as well as the work done at school. He has made good friends, which I doubt he would have ever done in mainstream and hopefully he will keep in touch with them after he leaves.
Our son is hopefully going to Reading College in September, but we feel privileged that he has had the opportunity to attend a Priory Education and Children’s Services which has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Thank you to everyone!”
Our fostering story
“The first visit from Priory was relaxed but at the same time gave us plenty to think about. The assessment was thorough but interesting and included training which was easier than we thought and gave us the basic skills we needed to begin.
Our first placement was a boy aged 12 who had been excluded from mainstream school and attended a unit for children with behavioural problems on a part-time basis. He was very angry because his mother could no longer care for him and scared because he didn’t know where he was going to live and what his new family would be like. At first he was difficult to care for and remained angry and defiant but even when he was being angry I could still see the little boy inside. Gradually his hours at the special unit increased until he was full time which has now resulted in him being successful in getting into his mainstream school.
As he became more settled we were able to take in two more teenage boys. One boy was similar to our first placement and his progress has been equally positive. He now attends the same mainstream school and we are really proud of what we have achieved as a family. Our last placement was a boy with learning difficulties who attends a special needs school. He was emotionally frozen and would curl into a ball for hours at a time. We gradually gained his trust until he felt safe with us. He is now relaxed, more confident and says he wants to stay with us until he is 27.
All three boys have responded well to our routines and boundaries and over the last three years have learned respect and empathy. In return, our own children and grandchildren regard themselves as part of the same family. Our boys aren’t easy and we have had some tough challenges. It can be a bit of a madhouse here with everyone doing different things and sometimes I wish there were two of me, but Tom and I still really wish we’d done this years ago!”
(Nicola and Tom*, Priory foster carers)
*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.