It was a damp and dark evening at the end of October 2008 driving up Leith Walk and I thought – what on earth have I got myself into? What do I know about being a Trustee, and what have I got to contribute to the Board of St Andrew’s Children’s Society?
So why am I still a Trustee at St Andrew’s Children’s Society?
I had just observed my first St Andrew’s Children’s Society Board Meeting and felt seriously out of my comfort zone. So much so, I said very little at that first meeting, which some might say is not my usual style…
So you might ask ‘what happened?’ – Almost 14 years have passed and I am still on the Board.
A warm welcome
First of all, I was warmly welcomed by staff and Trustees which was very reassuring. I reminded myself that as a recently retired social work manager I knew a lot about the assessment of foster carers and adopters, and also the needs of the children requiring placement. I had worked closely with the staff of St Andrew’s Children’s Society on behalf of the local authority I worked for, and through this I developed enormous respect for how they delivered their services. We quite simply shared a passion for family placement, and so I thought perhaps I could do more than be a part of the Agency Adoption and Fostering Panels. I decided I would learn about the role of the Board and a Trustee.
Plenty of relevant training
Fortunately, the learning curve was not something I had to manage on my own. There is a useful Trustee Handbook that sets out the responsibilities of a Trustee. Over the years there has been training on relevant topics such as Governance and Finance, as well as input on Pensions. The Board meet about 6 times a year and we always have a report from CEO Stephen Small updating us on current issues. In addition, certain meetings have a particular focus such as:
- Budget Setting and Finance
- Risk Assessment
- Review of the Agency Strategic Plan
This might sound boring but trust me it is not!
The staff members
St Andrew’s Children’s Society has a plan for the services it provides, and we, alongside managers, need to ensure that this is delivered professionally, and to the highest standards. That means we need the right staff in post – administrative, social workers and managers – and we need the finance in place to maintain this. With our Fundraisers and Head of Marketing we are working hard to ensure our income stream continues. As a Board, we also have the big responsibility of ‘duty of care’ to our staff, as they are the lifeblood of St Andrew’s Children’s Society. In practical terms, this means we need to regularly review our conditions of service, our pay and more generally our working conditions and arrangements. We want, and need, St Andrew’s Children’s Society to be the adoption and fostering agency that people strive to join, and also that people want to continue working for.
Through my continued involvement with the Fostering and Adoption Panels I have the privilege – and it really is – of meeting prospective adopters and foster carers on a regular basis. The diversity, commitment and resilience of our families is both inspiring and humbling, and I continue to learn so much from every Panel. I am so proud that St Andrew’s Children’s Society continues to evolve and develop services to meet the needs of our families, and the children we place. We are very fortunate that the shared passion that I mentioned earlier is still at the heart of the agency, and is the energy that continues to flow through and motivate our staff and Trustees in their respective roles.
Of course, we have tough times – the pandemic, differences of view and difficult decisions, all of which can lead to more than ‘just’ six Board meetings a year. Also Zoom ® has offered a whole new world of meetings with my slippers on! More importantly, as a Trustee, I have needed to learn even more about teamwork, as we work as a Board and not as individuals. We also need to ensure the Board has the correct skillset. Currently, we are at a very exciting stage with several new Trustees joining the Board, and now our skills and experience range from:
- personal adoption
- social work
I strongly believe going forward this will enable St Andrews Children’s Society to keep on developing and delivering the high-quality services needed by our families, and the children placed with them.
I am confident 2022 – our Centenary Year – will be another great year.
If you would like to find out more about adopting or fostering a child through St Andrew’s Children’s Society please call 0131 454 3370 or email email@example.com.
Trustee, St Andrew’s Children’s Society