Date: 9 May 2022
This year’s theme for Foster Care Fortnight 2022 hosted by The Fostering Network is #FosteringCommunities. This is a great opportunity to showcase and celebrate the diverse, creative and compassionate ways that fostering communities across the UK have continued to support each other during turbulent times. When we pause to think about what ‘fostering communities’ means to us there is much to celebrate. However, we must also not forget those who don’t feel connected to a fostering community.
When I reflect on the many fostering communities I have encountered throughout my social work practice and in my role as Fostering Consultant at CoramBAAF, I am continually surprised and impressed by the communities of foster carers that exist. I am also left wondering about the people who are not benefiting from being part of a fostering community, the support, discussion and networks that they are missing out on and how they can access these communities themselves.
The Black Care Experience movement led by Judith Denton is one vital fostering community that everyone in the sector needs to be aware of. This movement’s vision is to, “see that every Black Child and Young Person remains connected to their Culture, Identity and Heritage as they journey through the Children’s Social Care System.” You can join the Black Care Experience network and demonstrate your personal and your organisation’s commitment to improving the life experiences of our black children and young people in care. Next year’s Black Care Experience conference is on Saturday, 11 February 2023 – make sure you save this date!
This past week our CoramBAAF Foster Carer Advisory Committee met. This is a fostering community made up of passionate, courageous, thoughtful, confident and inspiring foster carers. As you can tell I love being part of the community. This community includes same sex couple carers, carers caring for children and young people with different race, religion and sexuality identities to their own, single carers and experienced carers. The discussions that we held recently about equality, diversity and inclusion were thought provoking and got to the heart of the complexity that can exist when a child lives away from their birth family. This community of carers all spoke about the need for more fostering communities to enhance and support their own experiences and thereby improving the lives of the children and young people they care for.
Connecting with my fostering community
Fostering communities can be local grassroot associations, support groups for new carers, communities of interest, communities with a shared protective characteristic, communities created within national membership organisations and communities of support surrounding the child/young person they care for.
The pandemic has reduced opportunity to feel and stay connected. Foster carers and practitioners both need and deserve to feel connected to fostering communities, ideally alongside one another in the same spaces.
For anyone reading this wondering how they can connect to their own fostering communities, in many localities across the UK active foster carer associations exist. There are national membership and support focused organisations that offer training opportunities, share promising practice examples and resources - Fostering Network and Fostertalk can offer advice and information and The Foster Care Training Hub runs a dedicated forum that can put you in touch with foster carers in your area.
You may find that the fostering communities you want and need don’t exist. If this is the case, start the conversation with your fellow carers and start the conversations with your colleagues.
Communities start with two or more people connecting. You can start a community today and help yourself and others feel more connected.
Emma Fincham, Fostering Consultant, CoramBAAF