’You are a true Pioneer,’ is a compliment received by a foster carer during a recent panel discussion that took place at SPARK. At this event, a research team from Cardiff University’s CASCADE partnered with The Fostering Network to launch the evaluation of The Fostering Wellbeing Programme. To reflect on the position of the Pioneer, eight experienced foster carers formed a panel to share their views on their pioneering roles. Here is a selection of the main themes.
The Pioneers are located pan Wales and share a wealth of experience and expertise that ranges from caring for teenagers to babies. Each Pioneer has a bespoke role that has been developed according to their skills and interests. For example, Leah is working with new foster parents and Nicky is working closely with co-professionals to liaise with the team around the child.
In each region, the Pioneers are building a community of support for existing and new foster and kinship carers. As Tracey said, “It is about us all working together”. The challenging nature of fostering and the need for support and change were discussed.
The themes of empowerment and advocacy recurred throughout the discussion. The Pioneer role includes having “… someone by your side to say actually you have the right to support,” someone to boost wellbeing and help to look after one another.
As Gwen stated, “It takes a village to make a child,” and the Pioneers are well placed to share strategies to help avoid placement breakdown. Gwen hopes that through communication and support foster carers can receive increased levels of back-up.
The importance of listening to the voices of foster carers was discussed. The pioneers felt that their professionalism was now acknowledged within their authorities. However, levels of recognition and inclusion need to become more consistently established in many local authorities.
The Pioneer scheme is dynamic. The Fostering Network have provided the training and structure to launch this role, and each of the Pioneers is building on their expertise to create bespoke roles that are developed according to their individual talents and the needs of their fostering communities. This momentum is motivated by the creation of nurturing, secure placements that help children and young people to reach their potential. The wealth of talent and motivation evident amongst the foster carers on the panel bodes well for extending this scheme that recognises ‘true Pioneers’.
Written by Bridget Handley