Our board of trustees

Our trustees come from all walks of life and all parts of the UK. Elected by our members, they have a wide range of skills and talents, enabling them to manage The Fostering Network effectively. They are all passionate about improving foster care for children and young people in the UK, and about the role of The Fostering Network in achieving this.

Trustees are custodians of an organisation and govern its strategic direction. Our elected trustees are passionate about making a difference and improving foster care for children and young people in the UK, and they bring skills and experience which enable them to govern a successful charity and democratic membership organisation like The Fostering Network. With a turnover of more than £7 million per year, more than 100 staff and tens of thousands of members, the organisation needs business brains and strategic thinkers on its board.

What is expected of trustees

Trustees are elected for a five-year term, and are expected to attend four board meetings in London each year. In addition, each trustee sits on one of two sub-committees of the board, which each meet quarterly in London. Board-related expenses are paid. Trustees also support staff by attending a range of other events.

In addition to using their skills and experience to help guide and shape the direction of the organisation, being a trustee can also bring personal and professional benefits. These include learning about the management and strategic decision making of a charity, working with a diverse group of people with the same common goal, enhanced employability and the satisfaction of ensuring that The Fostering Network is making the biggest possible difference for foster carers and fostered children.

Our current trustees

Mervyn Erskine (Chair) Mervyn has been a foster carer since 2001, and recently retired as director of a large computing services company. He and his wife have fostered more than 50 children.
Chris Pope Chris is a foster carer for twin boys with complex needs. Previously a training development manager and adviser in the RAF and in local government, he has also been a local authority foster panel member. He has more than 30 years of experience as a governor in schools, academies and colleges. As a trustee, Chris aims to represent the views and opinions of foster families, carers and children, and to support and promote the objectives of The Fostering Network.
Gary Pickles Gary is an experienced manager and social worker. He is the founder and director of Raising Aspirations and works with people across the fostering sector to help raise the profile of foster carers and improve the lives of children cared for in fostering families.
He has been a supported lodging provider and was a member of The Fostering Network Mockingbird Family Model project board.
Ishara Tewary Ishara is a fostering service manager for a London local authority. She has 28 years of national and international experience in fostering, adoption, private fostering, special guardianship and children in care. She is passionate about improving the outcomes for children in care and the effective recruitment and retention of foster carers. Over the years she has managed various fostering innovations and been involved in initiatives such as The Fostering Network's Mockingbird and Fostering Potential programmes, and contributed to research including changes in statutory guidance and legislation related to fostering.
Jeanette Towning

Jeanette has substantial experience of strategic and operational work within children’s social care, the latter 17 years being within fostering services. Jeanette currently works as a registered manager for an independent fostering agency based in Birmingham and is the chair of The Fostering Network’s Midlands independent fostering providers forum.

For the past nine years, Jeanette has also benefitted from being part of a family that fosters, this experience has given her additional insight in relation to receiving a service and how important professional relationships are in working together to meet the needs of a child in our care.

Jonathan Walsh Jonathan grew up as one of nine children and together with his wife became a foster carer in 2012. As a foster carer, he enjoys giving children a home and providing them with some of the support he took for granted when growing up. Jonathan works as a property solicitor and has been a charity trustee for Bagbooks since 2007. As a trustee for The Fostering Network, Jonathan wants to ensure that the wonderful, unsung work of foster carers, as he says,  is well supported.
Nigel McCartney Nigel fosters silbling groups with his wife and his two children who are at university. As a family they have experience of a wide range of age groups and levels of trauma. They undertook a six month course in therapeutic fostering which they found fantastically helpful. Currently, Nigel is an education champion for children in care within Suffolk and has been a school governor/chair of governors for more than 15 years. He also sits on the Suffolk foster carers' retention committee. In his day job he runs a technology/IT company he started over three decades ago. His passion as a trustee is to make fostering in the UK a recognised professional role to help children in care get the very best life chances. 

Sophie Masey

Sophie and her husband have been approved as foster carers in 2015 and since then provided regular respite foster care. Sophie is a qualified accountant with more than 15 years of finance and business planning experience. She was a director for an e-commerce company, has been a trustee for a charity that provides food and accommodation for homeless people, and has served as a school governor. As a trustee for The Fostering Network Sophie wants to make a difference to the lives of children in foster care that even goes beyond her contribution as a foster carer.

Stuart Lewis

Stuart, his wife, and two birth children have been fostering since 2016 with Edinburgh city council. Initially offering respite and short-term care, they are now part of the specialist disability care team with a long-term full-time placement. Stuart is an associate director of the national library of Scotland, overseeing their digital activities. This gives Stuart a particular interest in the adoption of digital technologies to empower children and their carers, whilst understanding the risks and challenges it can pose.