With over 35 years combined social work experience, predominantly in the field of statutory social work, The Fostering Consultants is the brainchild of Clare Spencer and Gail Mannion. Clare and Gail have spent the last decade working within fostering services, dramatically modernising the service to improve outcomes for providers, carers and children.
A Team Of Professionals
Clare Spencer qualified as a social worker in 1999. She started her social work career working with care leavers before moving into a child protection team. She was promoted to manager of a Children with Disabilities service, before moving into fostering eight years ago. She has held roles as panel advisor and senior manager within two different fostering services.
Clare’s passion is to recruit reflective foster carers who can meet the needs of vulnerable children in care.
As foster panel advisor she focussed on quality assurance and practice improvement, undertaking training with supervising social workers, managers and panel members. She has been instrumental in developing and implementing new policies and procedures.
In her senior manager roles, Clare has modernised two fostering services, adding pace and purpose and leading a cultural shift. Through her hard work and determination she has led her teams to success; doubling the number of newly approved carers, increasing in-house capacity, and positively impacting foster carer retention. These achievements resulted in Clare receiving an award for Excellence in Leadership and Contribution to Fostering Services.
Gail Mannion qualified in 2005. She started her social work career in child protection before moving into a Looked After Children team. Gail began working in fostering nine years ago, initially as a supervising social worker before being promoted to senior practitioner and then manager of a fostering recruitment team.
In her management role, Gail has developed both experience and a passion for analysing and interpreting data and its meaning for performance. She is skilled at enabling teams to understand the significance of performance data for practice. Foster carer matching and utilisation is an additional area of expertise, and Gail has developed a highly effective system of performance monitoring which informs the 3R model.
Gail has worked with universities and local authorities as a qualified practice educator, not only supporting the learning and development of social work students and newly qualified social workers. but also helping to develop the interface between practice and learning settings. In this role she has delivered group supervision and training as well as assessing practice and ensuring quality assurance. She is a foster panel member for a local authority.
THE CREATION OF THE FOSTERING CONSULTANTS
Having worked together since 2015, Clare and Gail realised they had a shared vision of a new era of modernised fostering services. They have applied this vision within their previous and current roles, drawing on their complimentary skills, knowledge and experience.
The outcome of their combined efforts and expertise has been a cultural shift in teams and improved performance.
Social workers report being clearer about their role and expectations, and of having an increased sense of ownership and responsibility for both their team and service aims and objectives.
Senior Managers have recognised and praised the impact of Clare and Gail’s intervention; their successes have been presented at service-wide events and have resulted in a Leadership award.
Taking an evidence-based practice approach, Clare and Gail have created and developed their unique 3R model. This model provides a structure for reviewing fostering services from fostering recruitment through to utilisation and retention of carers, and service review.
With the creation of the fostering consultants, Clare and Gail will enable other fostering services to enhance their creativity, direction, performance and cost effectiveness. These improvements will, in turn, positively impact on placement choice and matching for the UK’s most vulnerable children, as well as improved placement stability and future-proofing of fostering services in general.