Promoting resilience in fostered children and young people

About resilience - Promoting self-esteem

Self-esteem is one of the fundamental building blocks of resilience. Principally, self-esteem flows from positive attachment experiences, but can be enhanced by participation in valued activities (29,30). It is about feeling successful, not simply academically, but also in other areas such as in relationships or in spare time activities. This means that encouraging foster children to take part in school activities which they enjoy can be an important source of self-esteem (1).

Research finding

Positive relationships, at any age in the life span, can help improve poor self-concept. People who take an interest, who listen, who care and love us, make us feel better. They improve our image and bolster our self-esteem. Children who are not loved at home may nevertheless develop feelings of self-worth if a relative takes an interest, a teacher appears concerned and caring, or a residential worker responds with kindness and consistency. (11)

In one study of the relationship between experiences of local authority care and offending behaviour, interviews with care leavers revealed that it was possible for young people to develop secure attachments to their foster carers, even when they were placed at a relatively late age. Furthermore, such attachments were shown to be strongly protective against offending behaviour. (8)

Making the effort to show that you care about the children and young people who you work with, even if the relationship is short term, shows them that you value them. Simple displays of sincerity will increase self-esteem.

Quotes from young people, foster carers or practitioners

"I always try and remember [the] birthdays of the young people that I am working with. I mean, not all of them, not if they are too young to know, but where they have low self-esteem, I try and remember their birthday, it shows them that I value them." Social worker, initial assessment team. (31)

Young people confirm the importance of promoting self-esteem. A National Voice, which is an organisation run by and for young people who are or who have been in care in England, have been running a National Foster Care Campaign that aims to use the views of young people to improve fostering services. As part of the campaign, 150 young people in care took part in the 'Amplify' consultation event. The 'Amplify' (32) report makes the following recommendations about how to bolster the self-esteem of young people experiencing care:

Link: A National Voice

Practice examples

The Well-being, Creativity and Play project, hosted by the National Children's Bureau and funded by the Children and Young People's Unit at the DfES, aims to build self-esteem by exhibiting the art, on display at the National Gallery, of children who live in public care. For more information visit and

Practice examples

Kids Company, who work with troubled children, also use art to improve self-esteem and the public image of children who are experiencing difficulties. The art installation 'Shrinking childhoods' at the Tate Modern aims to create a council estate environment. In each flat, children who use Kids Company create rooms which reflect their experiences of childhood. For more information visit

Next in this section: Promoting self-efficacy