Five Rivers Child Care is one of the UK’s most experienced social enterprises, with a clear mission to turn children’s lives around. Founded in 1989, Five Rivers today provides specialist, therapeutic children’s services spanning fostering, residential children’s homes, specialist education and assessment and therapy. We speak to Martin Leitch, Head of Fostering Operations, who tells us more about Five Rivers and its core values.
I have worked at Five Rivers Child Care for nine years, here is a snapshot of how our specialist services guide some of England’s most vulnerable children to a meaningful future.
Five Rivers Child Care is a social enterprise – technically speaking this means a minimum of 51% of our surplus is reinvested into our services. In reality, as well as this, it means we’re part of an organisation with social value at its heart. This is demonstrated through a range of initiatives – from running a Five Rivers’ Future scheme for Care Leavers, to donating laptops to schools in the midst of the pandemic, to encouraging our staff and foster carers to shop local – and so much more.
All our staff, and foster carers, are recruited because they share the same values, ethos, and commitment to doing social good and turning children’s lives around. This is what makes Five Rivers special. To introduce you to the work we do, I will walk you through some of our specialist services. I also thought it would be important to draw attention to some misconceptions around the services we run.
Recently named ‘the most dedicated fostering services’ through the SME News Magazine UK Enterprise Awards, our foster carers do life changing work looking after children and young people who are temporarily or permanently unable to live with their birth families. Our foster carers are specially trained and supported to give vulnerable children and young people a safe, stable, caring home.
Very few people know that there is a stark shortage of foster carers across England, and an increasing need for safe, welcoming homes for children who cannot stay with their birth parents. Whilst it is not a popular thing to promote, many people also do not know that foster carers are paid for their vocation. Foster carers are trained and supported, just like any other profession. We have dedicated teams here, 24/7, to support them with their life changing work.
Our residential children’s homes, often paired with specialist schools, offer vulnerable children a safe place to live. Five Rivers’ children’s homes vary depending on the level of need of the children, some are ‘solo occupancy’ and will only accommodate 1 child. Some accommodate up to 4 children. Our homes have at their heart a familial feel. Gone are the days of large orphanage type homes – again something people are surprised to hear. Our therapeutic children’s homes are designed around the needs of the children who need a safe, loving place to call home.
We also provide specialist schools and educational outreach to children and young people who may have struggled in mainstream education. A child’s education plays a fundamental role in shaping their future which is why we are committed to providing children and young people in our care with the best opportunities available. This means we are very creative about the educational opportunities we offer and think well beyond a traditional classroom to offer accessible education.
Finally, we have our Assessment and Therapy Team who work across all our children’s services to help us provide ‘trauma-informed’ services. The Psychologists and therapists in the teams work with our staff and foster carers to support them in their roles, and most importantly work with the children and young people in our care.
The Five Rivers’ culture is one of warmth, we keep our children and young people at the heart of all we do. Qualified staff have access to continuing professional development and unqualified staff have access to recognised professional training and continue their professional development throughout their time at Five Rivers.”
When recruiting, Five Rivers looks for staff who have a positive mindset and who truly want to make a difference, emotionally invest, and prioritise the children’s needs. Staff and foster carers are encouraged to be the very best they can be. Five Rivers has a Gold Investors in People Award and is a finalist for the Employer of the Year Award in its category.
“Quality of Care is important to us and we assure our services through a process of continuous improvement and have our high standards in respect of our robust systems and processes, having maintained our ISO 9001 Certification for a number of years.”
“With children at the heart of what we do, hearing what they have to say and learning from their experiences, we involve them in shaping the future of the company and our work. Running a National Participation Programme for the children enables them to be part of the running of the company through children’s councils and various participation events. Our work in this area is recognised as we have gained the prestigious Investing in Children Award across all of our Registered Services.”
Regarding the future, the company has ambitious development plans, including recruiting more foster carers, opening more children’s homes and education and therapeutic provisions.
“We are determined to do this without losing our local feel and responsiveness to the needs of children, foster carers and our staff within our communities.”
For further information, please contact Martin Leitech at www.five-rivers.org