Autumn provides a time for reflection about what we have done over the last working year and what we want to ensure is of importance moving into the next one.
In 2023, work to further the integration of the mission statement of The Promise into everything we do, found us working closely with children and their foster carers for their involvement in a number of community events. These days provide opportunities for our wider team to take time to look at ways where we can improve and enhance participation in everything we do. Doing this helps to set out a path to reach the goal of involving our most important people; Foster Carers, Children and Young People, empowering them all to help shape Care Visions Fostering.
Setting the scene for a child’s welcome into a foster family needs careful thought, planning and preparation. We have been working to help each Foster Carer prepare a book about themselves and their home, which we then give to the child. This begins to help the child to get a sense of the family that they are going to be living with. This will include things like; photos of the fostering family, the home, pictures of their pets, the child’s bedroom, what type of things they like to do e.g., clubs, film nights etc.
We also provide children with a Welcome Box which gives them information about their rights.
Research from The Promise highlighted views from many care experienced young adults that what they wanted from records of their experiences in their care history was found to be lacking. A focus on what they were like; memories, achievements, day to day special moments was wanted and was put forward as a key message. We work closely with Carers so that it is understood that these day-to-day achievements and special moments need to be recorded appropriately. These could be things like; funny stories, when they learned to ride a bike, what did they get up to when they were on holiday. This will be a journal rather than a log, encouraging foster cares and young people to write it together.
As a responsive agency we want ensure that Carers and Young People feel valued and listened to and are actively seeking ways to put the Child’s voice at the centre. Our future plan for the Child’s Story is more child centred, participative and in keeping with The Promise to put the child at the centre and to hear their voice in all matters. Some children and foster families are helping to pilot a Child’s Mobile App. Apps are currently being used in nurseries and schools, and the App we are helping to trial is based on some of the same principles i.e., it must be easily accessible for children of all ages and to give them a sense of their day-to-day life in real time. It has the capacity to offer photos being saved and stored, the foster carers comments and views and the child’s responses therefore is an interactive means of communication. It is also a useful tool for Life Story work. The file can be downloaded in its entirety if the child is leaving placement or wants to access it in the future.
In terms of permissions the child/young person is asked who they want to share their information with, this could be foster carer, parents, or friends. This platform will help us create and share memories together, as well as allowing them a direct way to communicate with us about their care.
We recognise that we need to create regular opportunities for children and young people to come together so that we can hear their voice. We are developing a programme of events consisting of music workshops and groups to encourage everyone regardless of age and ability to come and talk to us. Our Launch event took place at the International Climbing Centre, Edinburgh in November 22 with 18 children and young people (and their foster carers) participating on the day. Our team explained the concept of creating opportunities for all young people in fostering families regardless of whether they are looked after children or the children of the carers and that this would be through family activities. We plan to offer these in localities given our families are dispersed across Scotland.
It was in March 23 when we hosted a series of Reflection Days, where we went across Scotland to speak to our foster carers about how we can better support each other. We heard that there is a desire to focus on connecting, fun activities and getting to know each other as community. This is especially important for newer carers. We are delighted that attendance at assault courses, songwriting workshops, cinema trips and picnics in the park are just some of the activities which have been happening so far to help this. Coordinating some central events along with other locality-based activities will support our goal of enabling Children, Young People and Foster Carers to actively shape us as a fostering community.