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When care leaver Luke Rodgers founded Foster Focus, he set out to disrupt the tokenistic involvement that was damaging the perception of the value of youth participation in re-defining social care service delivery. Having interviewed him previously in Sanctuary Social Work News magazine, we catch up with him again in the April-June 17 edition.

How has Foster Focus evolved over the last 18 months?

Over the last year and a half, I’ve seen a real change in culture and mindset as we prove that youth participation works. Many young people leave care feeling worthless, struggling to see the value of their experiences. When I set up Foster Focus, I was driven by a dream to grow it to a level where other care leavers could use it as a platform to affect change. I am proud to say, with the support of three other care leavers (including Ric Waters, featured on page 14), we now offer four main services; keynote speaking, training masterclasses, cultural change management and foster care recruitment. Collectively, our mission is to ensure young people can see that their experiences have worth.

Last year, our care leaver consultants worked directly with 20 organisations, delivered 120 keynote speeches and masterclasses to over 100,000 delegates, took on 11 major youth participation projects and ran two very successful foster care recruitment campaigns.

What’s different about Foster Focus?

I believe we have created a very intelligent, professional and unique service with a genuine and authentic culture that people warm to. We are care leavers who have our own experiences and have turned around altruistically to change services, demonstrating to people that outcomes are possible.

Before we start, each project has to answer two questions; firstly, can it make a measurable social impact and secondly, can it save or generate finance to ensure the work is sustainable and scalable. If either of those questions can’t be answered, we won’t take on the project. This is the heart and mind of Foster Focus.

Is there more of an appetite for youth participation?

Quite often, Children in Care Councils are created with a pre-set agenda where young people are asked for their input in a monthly or bi-monthly meeting. This type of involvement only engages a small number of people and as a result, the outcome of these groups provides very little change. We found that approaching young people and asking them what things they think need to change works best. Many councils we have worked with embrace participation.

To find out more about Foster Focus’ works and the organisations Foster Focus is working with, turn to pages 12-14 in the latest issue of Sanctuary Social Work News magazine.
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