Promoting resilience in fostered children and young people
About resilience - Promoting self-efficacy
Self-esteem is closely linked with developing a sense of self-efficacy or self-direction. Self-efficacy grows from experience. It is about qualities of optimism, persistence and believing that one's own efforts can make a difference. A person's sense of self-efficacy is improved by opportunities to take responsibility or contribute to decisions which affect the minutiae or broader trend of one's life. (33, 34)
Two important ways that child welfare professionals, such as managers, social workers and foster carers, can help young people in care develop a sense of self-efficacy are through:
- encouraging young people to define their own outcomes
- involving children and young people in the development of services
Helping young people define their own outcomes
A sense of direction is very important to young people in troubled circumstances because it provides a sense of stability and control. (35) The involvement of children and young people in planning their care is a crucial way of promoting that sense of control or self-direction. Working with young people to develop goals or outcomes can help promote a sense of what the future might hold and how to reach it. (36)
Information communications technology can have a major impact on building self-efficacy. The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has developed a website to enable foster children to contribute to their local authority looked-after children review forms and to e-mail their social workers. (4)
There are a number of ways you can support young people's self-efficacy:
- involve children in discussions about their needs and their future
- help them to contribute to care plans and reviews, ensure that their wishes are always considered and where possible addressed
- give clear information, making sure that young people know about: - their reasons for entering into and remaining in care - their rights while they are in care - future plans and how they can influence these
- try to regard young people as resources (rather than problems) in process of seeking solutions in their lives
- encourage young people to make choices, declare preferences and define outcomes for themselves and respect these preferences. (12)
Research suggests that these various opportunities and experiences can teach young people that their opinions are valuable and help them to learn how to influence, negotiate and problem solve.
Involving young people in service development
A second way of promoting self-efficacy is through the participation of young people in the development of services for looked-after children. Official guidance has emphasised the importance of ensuring that the voices of children in the care system are listened to and promoted.
Involving children and young people in planning and developing fostering services is a key objective of Choice Protects. (13) As part of this work the Choice Protects team asked the Fostering Network and The Who Cares? Trust to find out about children's views on commissioning. They surveyed a number of local authorities to establish how developed their children's participation services were and what children thought about the services they received. The report 'Listen then commission' (37) makes a number of recommendations about how children's views can be incorporated into the commissioning process and these recommendations will be brought to the attention of local authorities.
There are now a host of systems across local authorities for encouraging feedback from young people, including questionnaires, e-mail, meetings with senior managers and local councillors, as well as involvement in Best Value reviews. (4)
Cambridge has a 'Just us' group of looked-after children who meet monthly across three localities in the county. The young people in this group were consulted during the Best Value review of the authority and also contributed to ideas on how to train staff to work sensitively with looked-after children. (4)
Some local authorities have harnessed the potential of information communications technology to promote children's participation and improve their service to young people.
The Kids in Care Together group, set up by Norfolk County Council has established a website with helpful information for looked-after children, including foster children and young people. The group provides advice to the social services department and has had a direct impact on policy and practice evaluation and change. (4)
The Tunnel Light Project set up by Lincolnshire Social Services uses web-based technologies to strengthen the relationships between its family placement service, foster carers, adoptive parents, looked-after children and young people and the public. The creation of their website has been the centrepiece of this project. The project has four main aims:
- to create appropriate e-support between families and the Lincolnshire family placement service
- to establish e-communities between foster families and looked after children
- to provide alternatives to traditional education and training programs, the development of management policies as part of the local authority's e-government agenda and to provide the general public with information about fostering and adoption services
- to establish an alternative means of communication in a large rural county. (38)
Link: Tunnel Light Project
The involvement of young people and foster carers throughout the development of this project has provided a valuable perspective to the local authority's thinking in terms of presentation of information to the general public, the sorts of resources that carers require and their training needs.
Children and young people have also been involved in the design of CareZone. (39) CareZone is The Who Cares? Trust's new secure online services for children in public care. It is an innovative package of child-centred services that aims to provide children with their own personal space.
CareZone is the first service of its kind because it:
- features child-focused technology, developed with continuous input from children resulting in services they need and want
- provides children with their own personal space. Children in care are moved around frequently and personal possessions are often lost. CareZone provides a secure virtual space where these children can digitally store items of personal value
- builds trusted relationships with children over time, making it easier to ask for help if, and when, it's needed
- provides services that reduce the sense of isolation, as well as offering resources from a range of quality suppliers of information on health, care, well-being and education
- creates a community of care, including children, their carers and other allied professionals. All of these features are highly secure and are accessed using Smart Card technology. (39)
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