Baby Week Leeds 2019 – Back 2 – 9 November with over 100 events!

Baby Week is back for its fourth time this November with the theme ‘Making connections: Bonding, healthy brains and wellbeing for all’ and we have a fantastic calendar of events ready for you! Baby Week is now a national charity and in Leeds it aims to bring sectors and services together to promote the Best Start in life.

White Rose Build-a-bear celebration

Baby Week Leeds 2019 will feature many events throughout the city all kicking off with their grand opening event at Crowne Plaza Hotel Leeds who have supported the initiative from the very start. The opening open to all will have many information and fun stalls, workshops including mindfulness and yoga and key speeches around speech and language development, best start initiative in Leeds, 50 things to do before you’re 5 app and the exciting launch of ‘Facemums’ in Leeds. Facemums brings together pregnant and newly delivered women via a secret Facebook site for support and information sharing during pregnancy and the early days of motherhood.


Join Leeds Libraries across the city for some exciting child friendly sessions for Baby Week 2019. From Baby Week Storytime and Multi-Sensory Social to Creative Play with Duplo and much more. Find out more via: As it’s the ‘Year of Reading’ in Leeds, we will be giving free books to all babies and promoting the importance and benefits of reading to children. In the book posted a fantastic article on the importance of reading to children, and shared the info graphic describing the benefits which can be found here.

There will also be workshops on benefits of reading and music on mental health, post-natal depression, best start, fertility and nutrition, infant mental health, perinatal mental health, neonatal unit, best beginnings and the baby buddy app, fathers and postnatal depression, midwives and much more. Leeds Children’s Centre have over 50 events on during the week so go and enjoy messy and sensory play, singing and story time sessions, benefits of baby massage and bonding with your little one and many more fun activities throughout the week – all available on the website.

Opera North Family singing

There will also be opportunities to enhance services and have your say by meeting professionals and experts at Leeds Kirkgate Market on Friday 8th November with many fun events including pamper station by Lush giving free hand and arm massages!

Throughout the city we have so many partners involved from Leeds Dad’s breakfast club, Rainbow Factory hosting a bonfire night special messy play, Mumbler’s meet up with The Little Gym hosting an exciting free taster session, arts and crafts with Leeds City Musuem and The Tetley, introduction to swimming for babies, coffee mornings at John Lewis, fun meet-up’s with Mummy Buddy, Baby Rave’s and child friendly sessions with BoomChikkaBoom and much more! It’s great to see so many partners involved this year so please visit the website to see the full schedule of events and to book your place at the free opening event, conference or city-wide events:


Baby Week Leeds launched in September 2016, is an early year’s initiative helping to bring and celebrate services from across the sector together and is an adaptation of Semana do Bebe (UNICEF 2010). It’s aim is raising awareness of the baby’s important growth and development mentally and physically in order to give the best start. Since May 2018, Baby Week Leeds is a registered charity, which is made up of different representatives from professions across the city including academic, midwifery, public health, children’s centres and local government. Find out more about our aims here.

Celebrate Fostering Fortnight with Foster 4 Leeds

Foster 4 Leeds Facebook header4

Following on from our previous blog, here’s 4 more wonderful stories from the 8 exceptional foster families, who have fostered children with disabilities for over 25 years for Leeds City Council. Find out more about the service and how you can get involved via Foster 4 Leeds.

1.Christine and Jeff Steeden

Christine and Jeff Steeden started fostering children with disabilities in 1992, when their own children were school aged.

They initially provided short breaks for children who had more challenging needs, and developed a special interest for with working with children on the autistic spectrum.

Christine and Jeff have helped look after lots of children from a child who liked to be superman to the boy with autism who was interested in everything and master of melt-downs.

Initially the boy was in shared care between Christine and Jeff and his birth Mum until he needed full time care the couple were happy to welcome the now 26 year old as part of the family.

2. Marion Harris

Marion Harris is a warm nurturing person with a big heart and was approved to be a disability foster carer in 1993.

Marion offered short breaks and emergency placements to children with disabilities always being there when a child needed a home. She initially cared for a little boy who was medically fragile giving him all the love and care he needed until he died when primary school age due to his disability.

In 2006 a 2 year old with muscular dystrophy was placed with Marion and her house was adapted to meet the child’s physical needs.  She continues to thrive with Marion and is part of Marion’s extended family.  Marion has cared for more than 20 children in her career.

3. Joyce and Andrew Lacovou

Joyce and Andrew Lacovou were approved in 1994. Andrew is a Greek Cypriot and Joyce came from a large family and had herself experienced living in care and looking after her siblings. They have a big family with four daughters and even bigger hearts.

They cared for an 8 year old who had autism short term whilst his future plans were decided and enjoyed this experience and were sad when it was time for him to leave.

Throughout the years they have supported many children with autism and when a teenager needed an emergency placement the family decided that they wanted him to stay.  They understand the support he needs with managing his autism and help him to develop his independence skills and negotiate his way through college to adulthood.

4. Patsy Fraser

Patsy Fraser started her fostering journey in 1994. Her journey started as a teenager in a fostering household as her mother was one of the first foster carers to look after disabled children in her own home.

When she had her own children she wanted to foster too as she felt that she had benefited from being brought up in an inclusive open family and that this had been a very positive experience.

You could make a huge difference to a young person’s life.


#Foster4Leeds run information events at coffee shops and community hubs around the city. Visit for more information or follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @LdsFosteringAdv.

Do you know the law about ‘private fostering’ and why it means local authorities need to know?

Do you ever work with children or young people?

Do you know the law about ‘private fostering’ and why it means local authorities need to know?

private fostering.png

To keep children safe we need everyone who works with children and families to help. If your role involves supporting families, you may well have come across families who have someone else’s child living with them for some reason. Although there is a legal requirement of parents and private foster carers to notify the local council if this happens, people are often not aware of this and so they miss out on essential welfare checks for the children and other support.

To help us keep children safe and support families, we need support from partners – for instance people working in education, housing and benefits, police, fire service, probation, health service, home office, social workers and third sector. If you recognise when private fostering may be happening and notify us, we can put in place the support and checks necessary.

The following case studies are real examples from Leeds where partners have shared information and we’ve seen the families get a positive outcome as a result.

Callum – 15 years old – was referred when his father went into hospital after a serious health deterioration

Although he had limited speech the father was able to communicate to the staff nurse he wished for his best friend to have the care of his children (Callum and his older brother) while he was recovering in hospital. As Callum was under the age of 16 years and was likely to be looked after for more than 28 days by someone that was not a close relative, following advice from the safeguarding nurse that, the staff nurse made a referral. Both brothers and the carer met with a social worker shortly after the referral and were able to share their concerns and worries. The social worker was also able to provide reassurance by explaining the process and the purpose of our involvement. At the first visit Callum was seen on his own to hear his views and wishes. He explained he has some special needs and he felt his father’s friend understood him and was very good at providing a predictable routine where he felt safe. We could then reassure him that private foster care doesn’t mean coming into care, but it is a private arrangement between his father and his friend and our job was just to ensure this was a suitable arrangement, one where his views and wishes mattered.

Six year old Ruby’s single mother was remanded in custody

Probation services contacted us when Ruby’s mum was remanded in custody and had to rely on her best friend to look after her 6 year old daughter, Ruby at short notice. Ruby came to live with her mother’s best friend – now her private foster carer – in Leeds. We visited Ruby’s mother in prison to reassure her and hear what we could do to make things better. We supported Ruby’s private foster carer who had four of her own children. We helped her sort out child benefit and child tax credits and made sure some furniture (a bed and a wardrobe) was sorted out for Ruby. Ruby’s mother felt very ashamed to be in prison and we supported her and Ruby’s private foster carer to be honest with Ruby and talked about the benefits of regular family day visits to the prison. This meant mum and daughter kept in touch by phone and seeing one another monthly eased Ruby’s transition back to her mother’s care when she came out of prison 6 months later.

A great aunt looking after Lucy (9 years old) following her mother being alcohol dependent

Housing workers made a referral after they received a housing application from an applicant who was living in a flat for over 55 residents and felt this was not appropriate for her great niece who was living with her. Lucy found it hard not to be able to play outdoors, take the lift on her own and needing to be quiet indoors. We visited Lucy and her great aunt- now also her private foster carer. From getting to know them and completing various checks we were able to advise and put in place a safeguard plan for contact between Lucy and her mother to ensure she was not exposed to her mother’s drinking. Lucy also felt very ashamed as her mother had come to her school on occasion when she was under the influence and she was scared it might happen again. We were able to reassure Lucy everyone was working together and there was a plan in place to make sure she was safe in school. Lucy also has a social worker who meets with her at least every six weeks to check in with her and help with her worries and they get to go to the park and have a burger for a catch up. Even better, close working with Housing has meant Lucy and her private foster carer were supported to move to a 2 bedroom terrace with their own garden and a park nearby. This means Lucy meets up with her friends and is able to socialise like any other teenager, not having to worry about getting into trouble for being too loud!

Fun activities for 3 years old

Most arrangement are perfectly fine, but if the local authority knows about a case, then the private foster carers can be given advice and support they need.


You can find out more details at or call Leeds City Council private fostering team on 0113 222 4403 or e-mail:


Shine Space in Leeds – ‘gone above and beyond’ to help us deliver events that will reach new foster carers

Our amazing ambassadors at Shine Leeds continually strive to make a difference to team1the community, through their work.  Over the years they have found many ways to support the work of Child Friendly Leeds, including support for care leavers at Christmas, treats for children in care at Easter, regular support for local children and introductions to sympathetic business partners who have signed up as CFL ambassadors.

SHINE is a social enterprise with a mission to raise aspirations and create opportunities.  SHINE’s services are conference and meeting spaces, serviced offices and a café in a beautifully restored Grade II listed building with amazing staff and fabulous healthy food.  More recently SHINE has expanded its food offering to provide breakfast, lunches and canape events to city centre businesses on their site.


SHINE makes a difference in 3 key ways: It actively recruits, trains and mentors women serving a custodial sentence, these women are usually single mums trying to get their life back on track, making up 15-20% of SHINE’s workforce,  SHINE also works with the community to help raise aspirations by working with local schools to provide work experience for young people and educate children on healthy eating,  SHINE is also a fantastic place to start and grow your business with low-cost start-up space and networking and mentoring opportunities.

This year, the fostering service have a significant challenge to recruit new foster carers for children with complex needs, sibling groups and children who are over the age of 11.  School holidays present unique challenges to the fostering team as they work hard to create stable and long term placements for the young people – without the structure of school, often foster children struggle and this can sometimes lead to a break down in the placement.

We therefore hugely appreciate the support of SHINE Leeds, who have ‘gone above and beyond’ to help us deliver events that will reach new foster carers but also focus on ways to maintain the stability of foster placements.  Our teams are thrilled that the SHINE team have been able to provide rooms and catering in their beautiful conference rooms!

iStock-636672368.jpgIt is essential to create the right atmosphere when speaking to potential foster carers and there are few places better in Leeds to do this, than at Shine Space.  Their modern and beautifully decorated rooms are perfect for any meeting and the food they serve is simply sumptuous!  Their moto is to ‘Eat good, do good’ and they are as good as their word!

Stephen Maw, one of the event organisers, said :“Thanks very much to the people at SHINE who’ve given us a great deal on our booking for a training event with foster carers. It’s really important to have a great venue with excellent food, particularly for our foster carers who do such a brilliant job with our children. SHINE are providing exactly what we need”

“We are proud Ambassadors of Child Friendly Leeds and are delighted to support the children of Leeds in many different ways; including supporting the Foster parents, creating an edible garden and providing high quality theatre productions for the primary school children in Harehills,  providing work opportunities for the young people of Leeds and much more.”

When Shine was created, the local people thanked them for creating such a beautiful centre, from the shell of the previously derelict school building!  Trees used to grow through the dilapidated roof!  Thanks to the vision of Dawn and her co-founders, the centre is now a beacon of light and hope to the community.  At the moment, they even accommodate a nursery, so the sound of children’s laughter can be heard again, ringing from the basement of the building.  If you are looking for somewhere to hold your next event, looking for a base for your office, or a caterer providing healthy food from scratch, get in touch with SHINE at: or visit their website at

Alternatively, if you are reading this and are thinking about fostering, why not get in touch with our recruitment team, who can answer any queries you have: Tel: 0113 378 3538


Private Fostering takes part in #ChildFriendlyLeeds Celebrations – July 2017

Children and their families created a collage to visually demonstrate the children and young people living in Private Fostering arrangements in Leeds that we are not aware off. This took place during #ChildFriendlyLeeds ‘Big Birthday Bonanza’. During the 5th Birthday celebrations whereby they had many family friendly events and activities throughout the city centre on the 22nd and 23rd July. Find out more via:

PF 2

The day was a great success and the children had lots of fun!

What is Private Fostering? 


To live away from home and being cared for by someone who is not a parent, person with PR or close relative.

It is everyone’s responsibility to notify Children’s Social Work Service if you are aware of a child or young person living in a Private Fostering arrangement.

Please call: 0113 222 4403 or you can email

Further information is also available on our website:

Somebody else’s child, everybody’s responsibility! What is private fostering?

When a child or young person, who is under 16 (or under 18 if they have a disability) is being looked after by someone who is not a close relative, for 28 days or more, it is called ‘private fostering. It could be a situation like Heather, below, was facing, or even a temporary arrangement, where a child or young person is living with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or difficulties at home for example.

As part of Private Fostering Week 3-7 July 2017, an initiative by CoramBAAF Adoption & Fostering Academy, people in Leeds who are aware of such an arrangement are being reminded this week to let Leeds City Council know, to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

Although this is done by arrangement between the parent and private foster carer, and not through the local authority or a fostering agency, it is important that the parent and the carer notify the local authority where the child is going to live so that the local authority can ensure that the child is being properly looked after. There may also be some additional support the caring family is entitled to and the local authority may be able to assist with this.

It’s thought there are hundreds of cases of private fostering in Leeds which are not registered with the council. Many of these will be because people just don’t realise that they’re in a private fostering situation. Sometimes parents don’t realise that the arrangements they have made for their child or children are private fostering arrangements. It is important to think about this and let the local authority know.

Read on for Heather’s story…

Heather is a private foster carer for her second cousin Ben after a private fostering assessment was completed in January 2016 when Ben was a year old.

Why was the Private Fostering arrangement made? I have cared for Ben since he was a new born baby; he used to stay over 4-5 times a week after his mum got into a bad relationship. I was always the one who cared for Ben, so he came to live with me and his brother and sister went to live with his maternal aunt. Around Christmas (2015) he came to live here permanently because his mum decided that it would be better for him. Ben is ace. He’s our little star. He’s coming on so much now.

What helped Ben to settle in your care? Just being consistent with him, he needs stability and routine and to know where he’s at. He knows when he’s tired and will come into the living room; get on the sofa with his blanket and go to sleep. He’s doing great, his talking is coming along really well.

What would you say are the positives about Private Fostering? It’s good that Ben has been able to stay with his family. He also gets to see his brother and sister every week as they live with their maternal aunt.

How has Private Fostering impacted on your family relationships? It’s been fine, all the family love him. Everyone’s happy with it and Ben’s mum knows he is better off here for lots of reasons.

We have given Ben’s mum the opportunity to have visits at home with Ben to make him more settled, instead of going out, but these then started to be hit and miss, so we were advised by the social worker to stop the mid-week contact.

We’re currently going through the process of applying for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO), to make the arrangement more permanent. Mum and the rest of the family are not contesting it, they are all happy for him to be here. It will be good for ours and Ben’s peace of mind. We just want stability for Ben.

How did you find the private fostering assessment? At first I found it quite scary, the thought of going through a fostering assessment.  It was alright in the end, everything was explained really well to me. I was honest about everything and told her about issues I’d had in the past, before Ben came to live with me. It was a bit nerve wracking but all went okay.

Can you appreciate why we do these assessments? It is intrusive but you have to do it for the sake of the children concerned. The reasons behind the assessments were clearly explained to me, so I understand that you have to do it and agree that it is important for the safety of the children.

Is there anything that could have been done differently to make the experience more reassuring? Not really, it was always explained to us that everything was fine, they were just waiting for the DBS applications to come back and then it could be signed off by the manager. It was great when it was all finally signed off. A big sigh of relief!

Do you feel supported? We have visits from the social worker every four weeks at the moment, to check Ben and to see if we are ok. I can always call her at any time though if I have any worries or concerns, or if anything happened with his birth mum.

What are your hopes and dreams for Ben? I want him to work hard at school and get a good job and be happy, just be happy. He is quite clever and he knows it!

More information on private fostering can be found on Leeds City Council’s website or by contacting Leeds City Council’s Duty and Advice Team on 0113 2224403 or

Inspirational stories of Leeds foster carer award winners

Leeds foster carers have been recognised and awarded for the selfless work they do looking after the city’s most vulnerable children, at a special awards ceremony organised by Leeds City Council.

In order to recognise those carers who go the extra mile, Leeds City Council organised the Child Friendly Leeds Foster Carer Awards for people who foster through the council, including kinship foster carers.

The awards were organised as part of the council’s pledge to be a child friendly city, to recognise and reward foster carers who have excelled in one of five areas, as well as celebrating those carers who have been helping the children of Leeds for a number of years.

110 nominations were received in the following categories:

•Supporting you/ a young person in their education
•Supporting you/ a young person to have a healthy lifestyle
•Helping you/ a young person through a time of change
•Supporting you/ a young to develop art/ music skills
•Helping you/ a young person to get through difficult times
•Supporting you / a young person with your family relationships
•Helping to strengthen your/ a young person’s involvement in the local community

The winners were selected by a panel which was made up of senior managers, members, young people and a representative from event sponsor, British Gas. The well deserving winners were presented with prizes, which had been donated by sponsors, by representatives from the council’s children’s services department, young people and council members.

At the ceremony the guests were also entertained by performances from Sebastian Walton, Cllr Roger Harrington, and Devonte.

The winning foster carers for each category were:

Supporting you/ a young person in their education: Anne-Marie & Robert Maw
Summary on why nominated:
They were recognised for being fantastic and extremely committed foster carers to the children in their care long term. During the ceremony guests were told that “Ann-Marie and Robert are a pleasure to work with and highly regarded by all professionals working with them. They are down to earth, warm hearted and very considerate people. They both have an excellent sense of humour and are always so positive about the children and delight in their achievements.”

Supporting you/ a young person to have a healthy lifestyle: Carl & Penny Moore
Summary on why nominated:
They began their fostering career as Short Break carers for disabled children and are now professional foster carers providing long term placements to two children. They were recognised because their dedication to the children has been second to none and have always put the children’s needs first.

Helping you/ a young person through a time of change: Diane & Andrew Nicholls
Summary on why nominated:
They have been fostering for 12 years and have recently become part of the Mockingbird Family Model and have taken on the role as Hub carers. The aims of the Mockingbird Family Model are to increase placement stability, prioritise sibling connections, support permanency and help provide a child with an alternative extended family environment. Diane and Andrew have been enthusiastic, open minded approaching the new scheme with a very positive attitude.

Supporting you/ a young to develop art/ music skills: Karen & Ivan Leach
Summary on why nominated:
Over the years they have provided some excellent support for a number of children. Their nominator stated that ‘Ivan and Karen deserve some credit for the encouragement and support they have given the children to do well’.

Helping you/ a young person to get through difficult times: Rachel Charlton
Summary on why nominated:
Rachel started her fostering career as a supported lodgings provider, providing a home and support for young people who are leaving the care system. Rachel was awarded for her ability to always put in over and above what is expected within her role and how passionate, caring and genuine she is about supporting young people.

Supporting you / a young person with your family relationships: Joan Reason
Summary on why nominated:
Joan is a very well respected foster carer with over thirty years’ experience caring for babies and young children. During the awards it was said that “Joan’s commitment to fostering is simply amazing and she really does put the child first.”

Helping to strengthen your/ a young person’s involvement in the local community: Joan and Jack Philips
Summary on why nominated:
Joan and Jack have fostered for the council since 1995 and have recently moved across to the ‘Staying Put Scheme’ which sees a fostered child staying with their carers to help them transition into adulthood. At the ceremony they were described as ‘warm, caring, funny and a joy to work with’.

Also at this week’s ceremony, people who have fostered through Leeds City Council for many years also received long-service awards including:

30 years
Lyn and Michael Spence

25 years
Mandy Munro
Celina Archibald

20 years
Joan & David Herrington
Kathy Oldham
Lesa & Michael Cosgrove

10 years
Sam & Michael Reilly
Sally Wray
Mandy Pugh
Margaret & Richard Parkin

5 years
Anjula Davidson
Emma-Jane Teal
Vicky & Shane Halpin
Emma & Stuart Mackintosh
Gillian Tatler
Diane & Sean Rushworth
Maria Kelly
Janey Webb
Caroline & Adam Midgley

Retiring after 16 years
Carole & Alan Porter

Retiring after 47 years
Miriam & Victor Bennett MBE

UNICEF Child Right’s Partners: Sam talks about his experience of independence after leaving care

embed code

In the first Child Rights Partners blog written by a young person, we’ve shared a short film about Sam. Sam is a 21 year old from Leeds who grew up in care. Sam got involved in this film project through his Care Leavers’ social group because he wanted to raise awareness of the difficulties young people in care and leaving care experience.

Sam told us how important this film is for him, and said that it’s “not just because it’s my life being portrayed but more because of the fact that it shows some of the issues and difficulties that young people both care leavers and in care face on a daily basis. The message needs to get out there that there needs to be more support in these areas.”

Indeed, care experienced young people often face serious challenges when transitioning to independence. In Leeds, Unicef UK is working with the council using a child rights-based approach to improve the experience of young people who are preparing to or leaving care. There is a particular focus on pathway planning, which is the process used to support young people in care to move to independence and ensure they have the support needed to do that.

Sam was in and out of foster care most of his life and left the care system at the age of 16, even though he said he “wasn’t fully prepared for the world”. He talks about the importance of children’s rights. “The children’s rights work is an important thing because if children don’t know what rights they have, and they don’t find a way of getting their views across, how can they be represented?” he said. “Having your views being taken into account makes a huge difference, because we actually have a voice. Otherwise things are done without us, without getting our feedback about what we think, and then the system would be even worse. But children’s rights is improving the system.”

Sam made the film to raise awareness of issues that people don’t know much about. “I hope with this film people realise that it’s not a bad thing to have issues and that they should look for support as much as possible”, he said.

Today, Sam has a very busy life, including working as a Civilian Instructor at the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. He’s also on the Leeds Care Leavers’ Council because he feels this is something where he can make a difference. “It’s important for someone like me to give their opinion,” Sam said, “instead of hiding away and being shy about it.”

The video, SAM, was created by Access Moving Image, a film production company based in the north of England.

Read more blogs about Child Rights Partners and join the conversation on Twitter at #childrightspartners. Follow Leeds’ work with and for children @Child_Leeds

Helen’s Story, Part 4

As part of National Adoption Week we’re serialising one adopters story through the adoption process. Here it’s time for panel…

Part four

I almost forgot Panel, that’s because it was great. I was terrified before we went in, shaking, feeling sick, the works. Don’t worry, you are in a room of positive people who really aren’t scary and you Adoption week image 4have your social worker right there with you, ready to guide you back on track should you take a ‘talking rubbish because you are nervous’ path. You will have already been guided on potential questions you may be asked and remember everyone is on your side.

We will never profess to be experts but the assessment process was a huge learning experience. Discussions about parenting styles, challenges we may face individually, as a couple and as a family. And of course the child or children we may adopt will give us opportunities to explore our preconceived ideas, explore new ideas and receive affirmation of our current ideas. Our attitudes have changed towards certain aspects of adoption and we feel prepared and supported as we now enter the matching stage.

If you’ve been following Helen’s story and feel it’s time to start your own adoption journey you can find out more here: or come and talk to one of our team in confidence at Trinity Centre, Leeds 10am-4pm on Saturday 24 Oct or Tuesday 3 November at The Village Hotel, Far Headingley, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Blog at

Up ↑