Welcome to Safehouses, part of the Next Step Fostering Group

Safehouses Fostering (serving Norfolk and Essex) is part of the Next Step Fostering Group along with Ryancare fostering (serving Wanstead/London) and Next Step Fostering (serving Kent, Thames Valley, East London and some of Essex).

Lesley Ward, Director of the Next Step Fostering Group

Lesley Ward, Director of the Next Step Fostering Group

Next Step Fostering was founded by my family following our own experiences of fostering. We wanted to create a service that would thoughtfully match looked after children with the best foster carers available; remaining part of those families’ lives and offering support wherever it was needed to help the children and their carers thrive.

Since its beginning, we have put the needs of our looked after children and our foster carers at the heart of everything that we do. I have worked at Next Step from the start, as a qualified Social Worker and Registered Manager ahead of becoming Director for the Group, and I remain as passionate about this ethos today as I was when I first joined the organisation nearly 30 years ago.

Growing up in a fostering family myself I have a unique insight into fostering, its challenges as well as its rewards. I am proud to bring this insight to Safehouses and the Group as a whole, where we blend a true sense of family with excellent industry professionalism.

No matter what your circumstances, marital status, gender or background – and even whether you have children of your own or not – if you have the desire to care for a foster child, we would like to talk to you.

Safehouses and the Next Step Fostering Group can help you take your first steps towards an amazing and rewarding career and an opportunity to change a child’s life.

Safehouses Fostering is of course regulated by Ofsted.     View our latest report

More about us


We can only do what we do because of the quality of our people – our foster carers and our staff. Safehouses is fortunate to have a stable, motivated and highly skilled staff group and they are supported by a Senior Management Team led by our director, Lesley Ward. She has been involved with the Next Step Fostering Group for nearly thirty years and her role keeps her in touch with all our foster carers and young people.
Joy O’Brien Miller, a qualified Social Worker, is our Registered Manager and has many years experience in various aspects of the care system. She holds overall responsibility for the provision of the service.

Meet the team       Our values