The Fostering Network

‘Head, Heart and Hands’ -  Introducing Social Pedagogy into Foster Care

There are over 59,000 children living with foster carers in the UK at any one time. Children come into care for a variety of different reasons, at different ages, and stay for different periods of time, some for just a few weeks, others until they are adults. Looking after children who have come into care having experienced abuse or neglect is a challenging task.  Many children will have been ill treated by their parents, and many have special needs and/or a mental health disorder. These children require highly trained foster carers with skill, compassion and commitment. Foster carers who have a framework (social pedagogy), that will assist them to understand and develop their own practice, will be better able to form and maintain relationships with often very challenging children.

A social pedagogic approach moves the focus from 'following procedures' to  'building relationships'.  The approach moves foster carers and agencies away from a risk averse culture towards a risk management approach which not only allow foster carers to make decisions but it also places the time that foster carers spend with the foster children at the heart of the State's decision making when deciding how best to improve the lives of children in care.  The social pedagogic approach places relationships at the heart of maintaining stability, improving educational outcomes and wellbeing for the children.

This unique and transformational programme, delivered by the Fostering Network in partnership with six demonstration sites in England and Scotland, will exhibit the impact that introducing a social pedagogic approach can make to foster carers and the lives of the children they foster. By doing so, it will demonstrate the impact this has on the stability of placement and the improvement in educational outcomes and the life chances of children and young people in foster care.

Introducing social pedagogy into foster care in the UK will require a cultural and systemic shift from foster carers, social workers, local authorities and fostering agencies. In the UK, we spend over £2bn annually on children in care. The long term cost to the state is unknown. This initiative is not about increasing this amount, but about demonstrating how existing funds could be put to much more effective use. The long term aim is to embed this approach across the UK and enable more children in care to fulfil their potential.

As the voice of foster care, the Fostering Network is uniquely placed to represent the views and concerns of all those involved in foster care, and is in a strong position to influence the ways in which foster care can develop, change and improve in order to meet the needs of children and young people in care. It has a membership base that includes 99 per cent of local authorities and health and social services trusts, over 57,000 foster carers and more than 170 independent fostering providers with whom it communicates with regularly.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is funding the programme alongside Comic Relief, The Henry Smith Charity, KPMG Foundation, Man Charitable Trust, The John Ellerman Foundation, The Monument Trust and others.  We have given £900,000 over four years, from 2011-2014, towards the demonstration programme that will use the 'Head, Hands, Heart' (social pedagogy) approach to bringing up children in foster care.


For more information please visit their website.