Promoting resilience in fostered children and young people

About resilience - Practice and service delivery

Despite the development of ever more sophisticated means of communication, there is still a concern that young people's involvement in service planning is confined to the triangle of core support: young person, foster carer and social worker. It is within this triangle that children and young people exercise their influence on day-to-day decision making, having little or no opportunities to comment on service delivery more generally. (10) (40)

Quotes from young people, foster carers or practitioners

"If I was in charge of social services, I'd listen to them [people in care] first, see what they've got to say. I can't just make the rules on what I think is best for them." Young person in care. (41)

While managers express a commitment to young people having a greater say on service development, questions about the responsibility of managers and policy makers to create the right conditions for listening, learning and producing change remain unanswered, and the perspectives and experiences of young people are lost. The lack of systematic policies and practices to support and integrate the feedback from children and young people limits opportunities for young people to develop self-efficacy and a sense of involvement. Where evaluations do exist, the evidence suggests that the participation of children and young people is having little impact on decisions made in relation to agency policy and practice. (10)

Quotes from young people, foster carers or practitioners

"if I'm really honest, I don't know what young people in our fostering services think or feel about the care they're getting." Senior social services manager. (40)

SCIE Position paper 3: Has service user participation made a difference to social care services? (10) brings together the key themes and findings from six literature reviews which looked at the impact of service user participation on change and improvement in social care services. Reviews on older people, people with learning difficulties, disabled people as well as children and young people, were also conducted as part of the project.

Messages from the research show the need for a range of models of involvement, depending on the level of activity to which participants wish to commit. What is important is that the choice is there, and that the involvement, or partnership, is real. Service user participation should relate clearly to a decision that the organisation plans to make and which the organisation is willing to make based on the views of the people they are consulting. It should be made clear what service users may or may not be able to change.(10).

One of the aims of the Blueprint Project mentioned earlier is to move the attention of managers, policy makers and other professionals away from performance targets, back to what children want from the care syste. (41-43)

The Blueprint Project explored knowledge from three sources: what children and young people said, what policy makers and staff said, and research findings. These three elements were combined to produce a set of materials designed to help national and local agencies to provide child-centred care for looked-after children. All of the following Blueprint Project materials can be downloaded for free at

As part of the project, the canvassing of children's views has involved a participation programme overseen by a young person's participation and development worker and also a care leaver, Karen McBye. More than 20 looked-after young people have been trained as 'Blueprint reporters' who interview other looked-after young people about their views. From their interviews, some common themes have emerged:

Quotes from young people, foster carers or practitioners

"Young people get tired of never being listened to and the fact that, even when they are listened to, nothing ever changes. But I hope that something will come out of this one." Jahnine Davis, Blueprint reporter. (42)

The research strand of the Blueprint Project has identified four key themes:

The project is moving away from the idea of finding the 'ideal family' and is instead looking at the importance of promoting "a strong, positive relationship with one person". (42) The Blueprint team call this person a BFG or big friendly giant. BFGs should be chosen by the child and could ideally come from their existing social support network. (43) Family Group Conferences may represent an important method to identify BFGs. The Blueprint team suggest that where there is no obvious candidate, the child or young person would be helped to find someone to be their BFG - either someone who has worked with them in a professional capacity or someone who is specifically appointed to be their BFG. (43)

For children who have been placed with foster families with different religious, ethnic or cultural identities to their own, a BFG from the same background who can act as a 'cultural guide' may be particularly important. Gilligan highlights the story of Sue Jardine who, at 18 months, was adopted in the UK from Hong Kong. Upon reflecting on her own, often difficult, cultural experiences of growing up in a transracial placement, Sue suggests that a cultural guide such as a BFG would be a great help to a child growing up outside their culture. (47)

Practice example

Cultural guides could help transracially placed children to know about. cultural festivals, show them how to cook, or how to approach concerns such as hair or skin care. (47)