Promoting resilience in fostered children and young people

Feeling happy at school

After their family, the most important institution in the lives of most children and young people is their school.(73) Teachers and other adults in schools can listen to students, refrain from judgement and develop strong, caring relationships with them. The offer of a close relationship with a school counsellor appears to be a key resilience-enhancing factor for foster children.

Key reading

Education matters - for everyone working with children in public care This book provides social workers with essential information about education and provides education professionals with information about social care. (74)

Believe in me This is aimed at designated teachers and other professionals concerned with the literacy development of young people in care. (75)

Success at school

Success at school is crucial to the future opportunities of foster children. Yet the current educational achievements of foster children are low, with nearly half of all children in care leaving school with no qualifications at all.(76) It should be remembered that the scholastic difficulties of foster children often precede placement in foster care but are not apparently improved by it. In some cases, placement in foster care may exacerbate scholastic difficulties especially when children are moved to new schools closer to the homes of foster carers which can disrupt the continuity of their education.(8)

It should also be remembered that the educational attainment of foster children is now improving, supported by the introduction of educational targets by the DfES and in Wales, the National Assembly.(77)The research literature suggests that there is some agreement on the factors that are likely to produce improved educational outcomes for looked-after children. These include:

Quotes from young people, foster carers or practitioners

"My foster carer helped me a lot. she made me more confident in my school work." 11-year-old girl. (3)

Users of fostering services confirm that these factors can make an impact. Voices from Care Cymru, a user group of young people who are, or who have been looked after, in Wales, organised two conferences to consult with children and young people about the National Assembly for Wales' Children First programme. A total of 97 children and young people were involved and their experience of education was a key theme, highlighting that young people wanted to succeed in school.

Link: Voices from Care Cymru

The kinds of things that help young people to achieve include:

The Fostering Network is working with local authorities in Scotland to develop schemes that find mentors for young people leaving the care system. Mentors can offer advice, guidance and support to young people, helping them to build on their existing talents and abilities and develop new ones, including attending college.(78)

Practice example

A mentoring relationship can be an important turning point in lives of young people. for example, a teenage girl living in a sink estate had a father frequently in prison and a mother who was chemically dependent. She was doing poorly at school and a likely candidate for early drop out. Out of the blue she made a positive connection with a new young English teacher. With her encouragement and support, the girl caught up and is talking seriously (and realistically) about doing law in university. case study provided by practitioner(79)

Next in this section: The good and bad news about school