The voice of young people is a vital foundation to building strong #FosteringCommunities

The Fostering Network’s Director of Practice and Scotland, Jacqueline Cassidy, reflects on what #FosteringCommunities mean to carers as we enter the second week of Foster Care Fortnight™. 

The work of foster carers should be championed all year-round, and as we begin week two of Foster Care Fortnight™, it’s an amazing opportunity to shine a spotlight on the dedication and resilience of our carers, especially during challenging times.  

These two weeks are about celebrating foster carers, the children and young people they look after, and the wider fostering community. The community we build around fostering families is incredibly important, and we need to strengthen it so that carers can continue to help young people thrive.  

This years’ theme #FosteringCommunities got me thinking about what community means for foster carers. When I asked a foster carer about this, they told me:  

‘I could not foster without my fostering community around me for vital help and support.’    

Another said: “It is important to be part of a community, to be included, we are a team. 

Listening to #FosteringCommunities 

It’s no secret that it takes a village to raise a child, so what can we do to strengthen that village from the core?  

To provide exceptional care for young people, it’s important that foster carers know they have the right support from services involved in the life of their young person.  And what’s become even clearer through The Promise is hearing the voices of young people is vital in strengthening those services.  

At The Fostering Network, demonstrating our commitment to listening to children and young people has been a key driving force behind our new Young Person’s Advisory Board. This has given a platform for care experienced young people to share their views about living in fostering families – something which we didn’t have before. 

In the eight months since its inception, the group has already become a powerful voice for change, and we’re so excited to see where it goes from here. They cemented their voice at a recent meeting in Scottish Parliament, held to celebrate achievements of the Moving On project, which supports positive transitions through and out of foster care, as well as the board itself.  

The group delivered an empowering speech, which is a great reminder during Foster Care Fortnight the difference a strong, supportive community can make and how others must experience this in the future:  

‘All children deserve a safe, loving family to support them to thrive and fulfil their potential. As a group of young people, we know the changes we want to see may not impact us and our stories, but we feel able to use our experiences to influence changes for those who experience foster care in the future.’ 

 – Young Person’s Advisory Board member 

We’ve also been listening to the voices of foster carers. We now have a regular programme of monthly meetings to discuss the issues facing foster carers in Scotland, which you are welcome to join.  

During Foster Care Fortnight, we’re providing learning and support opportunities in response to our conversations.  We’re also campaigning for the changes to policy and practice that we know will make a difference to you. 

Strengthening #FosteringCommunities 

I’m so grateful for the openness of foster carers and young people when it comes to sharing their stories and experiences with us. Listening to you has helped us to develop our themes for Foster Care Fortnight. There are two strong themes that come to mind with #FosteringCommunities. The first is giving young people more space in the community and allowing them to use their voice to help strengthen foster care across UK. The second is ensuring foster carers have strong support system around them, such as access to mental health services like Fosterline Scotland, so they know they are not alone in their fostering journey – something we want anyone who is considering fostering to be aware of.  

It’s been so fantastic to celebrate everyone involved in fostering so far, and I am looking forward to continuing working on building strong #FosteringCommunities so our foster carers and young people can thrive.