The Promise followed the publication of The Independent Care Review and is from the people of Scotland to all care experienced infants, children, young people, adults and their families - that every child grows up loved, safe and respected, able to realise their full potential.
As a child you will probably have had your story told and re told to you by other family members who have shared your journey growing up. They will be able to describe family likenesses, personalities, relationships, and recall memories about you through the stages of your childhood and beyond. For children unable to live with their birth families this natural need to have a real sense of who you are and to know your story can sadly become fragmented.
Care Visions Fostering Scotland is a service for children who are unable to live with their own families. Historically, we have offered training to our Foster Carers about how to record day to day events, medical appointments, meetings, school related issues, disclosures and Incidents to name but a few. Until recently, the emphasis has been on the carers proving written evidence in the event that this is required by The Children’s Hearing, Social Work, or by the Agency. Foster Carers are taught to record factually and succinctly as they are accountable to the Agency and the Local Authority as the Purchaser of the service. These recordings are named Carers Logs and implies that this is the Carers Record.
In Care Visions we are in the process of a 180 degree turn to making this The Childs story: We want to ensure that every child and young person who has lived as a member of our foster families have their precious memories and those chapters of their journey captured in a child focused way. We are asking our foster carers to write a weekly letter to the Child reminding them of what has been happening e.g. play dates with their friends, activities they have been involved in; clubs, sports, dancing, things like that. Emphasizing what they enjoyed, so that the soft narrative around their lives is captured. How much more meaningful will this be when they can read/hear/see that someone has cared enough about them to take the time to send them a personal message about their week.
We recognize that this will be a journey for foster carers and the professionals who work within our service. There are barriers to be dismantled. The mindset in relation to records needs to change and this will mean practitioners and foster carers learning new skills in how to change the way they communicate children’s experiences to them. We are planning a series of events with some young people in attendance who have previously been looked after, who can speak to carers and to our teams about their experiences – what was in their records and what was missing for them? This will generate a better understanding of the significance of this for the child in later years and hearing their personal stories will help to begin the process of change for us all. We plan to highlight some of the video content and messages from the Promise as a reminder of what we are trying to achieve for our children and young people.
Further discussions need to happen to ensure that we can offer this to the child in a variety of mediums either by providing regular photo books, an audio version by the Foster Carer, or the written word. By holding the hands of the foster carers who hold the hands of the children we will get there.