What is a Children’s Champion
Unlike many fostering agencies, the Next Step Fostering Group has a dedicated Children’s Champion whose role is to advocate for and communicate with our looked after children; to let their voices be heard whether that is to improve our service or let their achievements be known. As well as help them to develop as individuals through a range of out of school activities (where both looked after and foster family birth children are welcome).
Some of the fun activity trips organised across the Next Step Group so far have included Kidzania, Lazer Mayhem, the Hop Farm, Colchester Zoo, Adventure Island, Hill Tops, Dreamland; Arethusa Adventure weekend and Pleasure wood hills to name just a few.
“As the children’s advocate, my role is to listen to our looked after children,” says Michelle. “I help them think things through and learn how to explain their own views. I also help them understand meetings and discuss any decisions and how they may affect them – challenging decisions or helping them to make a complaint if need be.”
What makes Michelle so special?
Michelle started off as an administrator taking minutes for Child Protection Conferences, where she quickly discovered her vocation was to become a Social Worker, working with and mentoring children and young people.
She soon moved to the ‘Looked after children’ team within a local authority and once qualified joined Safehouses Fostering (part of the Next Step Group) as a Supervising Social Worker – quickly growing her role to include Children Advocacy and Children’s Champion work for the whole Next Step Group (including Safehouses, Ryancare and Next Step fostering agencies).
Three years ago, 12 years after deciding to become a foster carer herself, Michelle realised her other dream and became a foster carer herself.
“I am passionate about giving young people opportunities that they may not necessarily have in their everyday lives. It is so rewarding to bring young people together, to see them find common ground and to feel like they belong somewhere. They all have their own stories about how they came into care, we are able to offer them an environment where they are not labelled or judged and they can just be themselves. It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to get to know them as individuals; to learn and grow with them on their journey.” Michelle Batchelor, Children’s Champion for Next Step Fostering Group.
To find out more about fostering, how to become a foster carer or the work that Michelle does email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0845 6038354.