Promoting resilience in fostered children and young people

About resilience - What is resilience?

Resilience refers to the qualities that cushion a vulnerable child from the worst effects of adversity and that may help a "child or young person to cope, survive and even thrive in the face of great hurt and disadvantage" (12). While it may not always be possible to protect a child from further adversity, finding ways to boost a child's resilience should enhance the likelihood of better long-term outcomes (see Appendix 2 for key reading on resilience).

Research evidence from follow-up studies of people who have been fostered suggests that some of the difficulties that young people initially experience upon leaving the care system - loneliness, unemployment, debt and settling down - subsequently improve, with some young people re-establishing friendly contact with foster families even after serious breakdowns. It is probably only a minority, albeit a substantial one at around 30%, who get into serious difficulties in the long term (8).

Understanding the importance of resilience

This guide looks at the importance of focusing on the resilience-enhancing factors in the lives of fostered children and young people. It draws on the findings of SCIE Knowledge review 5: Fostering success: An exploration of the research literature in foster care, which looked at the impact of fostering on outcomes for children and young people (8). This review found that focusing on the strengths of young people is crucial to future outcomes. This means focusing on 'resilience factors', or things that help children and young people withstand adversity.

Understanding resilience-enhancing factors

Resilience-enhancing factors are the sorts of things in a child's or young person's life that help them to cope in unfavourable circumstances or times of difficulty. Resilience factors can include access to a caring relationship with adults such as foster carers and can also include contact between a child and their birth families.

The experience that foster children and young people have at school may also help them to overcome difficulties and every effort should be made to ensure that their experiences are positive, including encouraging them to take part in school activities that they enjoy to help build their self-esteem.

A sense of direction is also very important to young people in troubled circumstances because it can provide stability and control. This involves working with young people to build up a picture of what the future may hold: to develop goals and plans for reaching them (8).

Next in this section: Promoting self-esteem