Pioneering approach to preventing children coming into care in Northern Ireland wins prestigious award


The Fostering Network’s Step Up Step Down project, a pioneering approach to support children to stay at home when they might otherwise end up in care, has won the Family Support Award at the Children and Young People Now Awards.

Step Up Step Down is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and is delivered in partnership with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust. Foster carers are at the heart of this innovative project, where they ‘step up’ when a family requires additional support and ‘step down’ when they feel more able to manage.

There are three main elements the project. Firstly, foster carers work creatively with families,  mentoring parents and providing short breaks for children. Secondly, children are helped to understand their feelings and stay calm, while their parents learn nurturing strategies to use with them. And thirdly,  families are encouraged to get involved with local community activities to help them feel more connected and supported.

Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, said: ‘We are very proud of Step Up Step Down which is unique in Northern Ireland. This service enables foster carers to use their fostering skills and experience to support families to stay together. Parents tell us that it makes a real difference and helps improve family relationships.'

Lisa Hine, head of service for fostering and adoption for South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said “We are delighted that our work on Step Up Step Down is being recognised with this award. We acknowledge the importance of co-production and are proud to be the first health and social care trust to implement such a collaborate and innovative service which sets an example for working with families at the edge of care.'  

Find out more about Step Up Step Down