Barrie’s 20 year Anniversary

Hi, my name is Barrie Lewis, I’m the Foster Carer Recruitment Manager at Calon Cymru fostering, on 29 May 2020 I will have worked at this agency for 20 years.

I recall my interview with the previous owners. Like me, both were rugby fanatics, the first 20 minutes of my interview was spent talking around the Welsh rugby team at the time.

However, I must have impressed, I commenced work as a supervising social worker within that time as part of a small team at Ty Nant Court Morganstown.

A few weeks later I heard my name being called to look up and see Sharon Lewis who had also just been interviewed for a position within the team. Prior to that we had just met and competed together in a charitable knockout event.

Sharon Lewis as we all know is now Sharon Cavaliere, Director of Calon Cymru.

We sat opposite each other for many years within the office at Ty Nant Court, we enjoyed many laughs and knew how to keep our heads down when the owners were about!

I remember Max, Sharon’s boyfriend at the time calling to say American was being attacked 11th Sept 2001. We just looked at each and said do you think we should go home?

To this day Sharon and I still work very closely together.

For me at the time the fostering world was fairly new, I joined from the local authority where my background was predominantly child protection, so to go out supervise and support Foster Carers was a new challenge.

What I found out very quickly though was the commitment and energy provided to the children and young people placed with our Foster Carers was absolutely amazing. Much of my knowledge around fostering, particularly managing difficult behaviors, is what I have learned from our Foster Carers. I have said many times to Foster Carers: “you guys should write a book.”

Around 2007 I started to combine my role as a supervising social worker alongside the role of recruiting Foster Carers, eventually becoming Foster Carer Recruitment Manager in 2011.

I love my job it still gives me a buzz; I meet so many people from differing walks of life within my role recruiting Foster Carers for Calon Cymru.

I have had the opportunity to recruit Foster Carers within South and West Wales, Bristol, Birmingham, Peterborough, Cambridge, and Devon. However, without a doubt, my main passion has always been to focus on Wales which I do.

I often reflect back to my days working in child protection, to see the poverty and risk children endured, many of these memories are etched into my mind, and I bring some of those thoughts into discussion particularly to inform potential Foster Carers of the journey they may encounter.

I believe fostering is a unique experience, the role can be so difficult, and yet again so rewarding. Every day can be different.

But what a job our Foster Carers do in transforming children and young people’s lives! I feel so privileged to play a very small part in that.

Significantly, I work with a great team who all pull together to ensure the operations of providing the best support to our Foster Carers, and children are always at the forefront of everything we do.

What is important about our work at Calon Cymru is that we can do a lot of it with a smile. We have great banter within the dynamics of the team and there are no ego’s.

Let us not forget our Senior Managers who keep a very close eye on operations and ensure the agency runs safely in all aspects of our day to operations.

I work very closely with Ayesha Matthews [Recruitment Officer] bless her. I think she tolerates me, it must be like working with her father! Our role is to promote and develop Foster Carer recruitment in South and West Wales. This involves front of house telephone calls to prospective Foster Carers, arrange and plan recruitment events, ensure we have enough information and merchandise to give away at events

From the telephone calls, we plan and arrange visits and in most cases, I will be the person who knocks on the door. I would think a large percentage of our Calon Cymru Foster Carers have had me visiting their home.

On the 17th March 2020, I returned home from a week in Tenerife, where we had spent two days in lockdown. There was a message on my mobile to say the office was closed due to COVID 19.

To date, I work out of our spare bedroom, which in all fairness I have enjoyed, we have been incredibly busy and as far as I’m concerned business continues as normal. My technology attainments have hit great heights and I zoom daily to those wanting advice and guidance around fostering, along with my other update meetings with Sharon and Joe and other members of the team.

What I do not miss is the traffic getting into the office and home. I have got to enjoy putting my shorts, T-shirt, and flip flops on every morning and on times even missing a shave. Then prior to a zoom call, I tidy myself up a bit!

I do miss my colleagues, but Sam our Placement Officer arranges a weekly quiz for us all to meet up via zoom.

Ali Mac has run two rounds of Skills to Foster which have been well attended via Zoom.

My wife and I have two adult sons who still choose to live at home and devour the fridge daily.

So, the house is always full, Freddie our Golden Doodle loves his walk, and like Sharon’s dog Enzo he loves all the attention and company throughout the day.

I need to exercise for my own well-being, so my bike has come out of the shed, even started running again, but not very quick, but I get my 10,000 steps covered every day because you all know I enjoy my food.

I would like to thank all our Foster Carers for the fantastic work they do caring for children and young people, I wish you all the very best and look forward to seeing you hopefully soon?

Finally thank you so much for the kind messages I have received for my 20 years, at Calon Cymru, it is so appreciated.