Our story so far

Childhood First was founded almost a century ago to look after teenage boys who were breaking the law. At that time, such children were seen as either ‘mad or bad’. However, Childhood First came to understand that the young people invariably brought with them histories of family dysfunction, with neglect, abuse and other trauma, which needed a deeper psychotherapeutic approach if they were to be healed and rehabilitated.

Since those early days, we have become pioneering leaders in mental health care for traumatised children and young people. Healing the hurt minds and repairing the shattered lives of children who have experienced trauma or neglect requires special personal qualities combined with our unique approach. At the heart of this is our conviction that: “The damage caused by relationships can most effectively be healed by relationships.”

For this reason, our model of Integrated Therapeutic Fostering embraces the power of healing through dependable, healthy relationships with the adults involved in their care and through experiencing a warm and loving family environment. 

Through this, we enable children who need therapeutic support, and are able to cope within a family setting, to experience a consistent family life whilst healing the trauma of their past, supporting their recovery and rebuilding their trust so they can relate well to others.



Integrated Therapeutic Fostering

Integrated Therapeutic Fostering is a pioneering therapeutic fostering service that has evolved from the innovative and high quality care within the Childhood First therapeutic communities, which has been harnessed within integrated therapeutic fostering to provide sustainable and reparative placements for children with complex needs. Integrated Therapeutic Fostering (iTF) is lead by two experienced professionals, Liz Fleet and Harry Lukens, experts within their own fields.

This partnership utilises their strengths, skills and expertise to develop and deliver the Integrated Therapeutic Fostering service. 

Liz Fleet

I am the registered manager for iTF and am enormously proud to have the opportunity to develop and manage Childhood First’ very own fostering service.

I have over 20 years experience as a qualified social worker, with 15 years developing and managing teams in local authority children’s services where I have established and managed therapeutic fostering services.

I have a passionate interest in the provision of high quality, sustainable and reparative foster placements. I understand that to improve outcomes for Looked After Children and Young People we must adopt a holistic approach that demonstrates insight and cultivates the experiences of all key players.

If we require our carers’ to provide exceptional levels of care for children who have experienced trauma and abuse, then they too need to be nurtured and cared for. This model of fostering fits perfectly within the Childhood First framework of providing outstanding care through their institute of systemic therapy and therapeutic communities.

To strengthen my understanding and insight into the emotional needs of children and families in fostering, I have studied at the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust where I achieved an M.A in Fostering and Adoption studies.

Harry Lukens

I am the Clinical Lead for Integrated Therapeutic Fostering.  It is my responsibility to make sure that every child in our care is afforded an experience that allows them the space and time they need to heal.  Experience has taught me that the best way of achieving this is by equipping the network of adults around them with the knowledge and support to truly become attuned to a child’s needs.

I have 10 years of experience within Childhood First’s therapeutic communities, working with children recovering from the most traumatic early life experiences. I have committed the last 10 years to studying integrated Systemic Therapy and its application in the service of supporting traumatised young people. I believe passionately in the reformative potential of this mode of intervention, and am proud to play my part in a system that has, and will continue to, change the lives of many incredible children. During my time with Childhood First and the Institute of integrated Systemic Therapy I have gained accreditation as a child psychotherapeutic counsellor.  It is, I suppose, a combination of my clinical training and the long hours spent reading bedtime stories to unsettled kids, that make me well placed to support our foster carers in their sizeable (but deeply important) task.

I feel extremely privileged to have been taught the importance of exceptional care by some very exceptional young people. Now I am lucky enough to continue to learn from the individual experiences of our foster carers.



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