New advisory board to explore and share the experience of foster care
2 May 2023
Laura Graham, Promise Implementation Manager at The Fostering Network discusses a new young people’s advisory group focused on exploring experiences of foster care
Keeping the Promise at The Fostering Network has taken many forms including a review of our organisational language and beginning our trauma-informed journey. The ripple effect of work across the four nations in our organisation is a particularly exciting achievement, with our greatest success to date being the development of our new Young People’s Advisory Board in Scotland.
Recognising that we had very few mechanisms in place for hearing the voice of young people in fostering families, we set out to create a space for co-design, co-production and meaningful participation opportunities for a small group of young people in Scotland. Perhaps what makes the group so unique is that we have a mix of those who have experienced foster care and young people who are children of foster carers.
While initially unsure about why it was a mixed group, the Board members have since voiced how insightful and important it has been to learn from each other about their personal experiences of either being in care or having a child or young person in care in their home to another child or young person.
The Advisory Board’s four priorities are:
1. raising awareness of the board
2. challenging stigma around care
3. improving transitions
4. mental health of young people.
The Voices of Young People in Foster Care
The Board has committed to fortnightly online meetings, in-person meetings every six to eight weeks and two residentials each year. At their most recent residential, the board invited Each and Every Child (click here for more) – an organisation dedicated to reframing how we talk about care experience - to deliver its ‘Introduction to Framing’ session as part of their challenging stigma priority work.
The Board members used their learning to inform a speech that they co-wrote and delivered at the Scottish Parliament in February. The most poignant line in that speech was:
“Kids shouldn’t have to provide all the answers with this sort of stuff, but we want to be involved in shaping the best solutions to the challenges we face.”
Since then, the Board has begun work on its mental health priority, meeting with See Me Scotland (click here for more) to explore all things mental health and stigma related and has agreed to host a radio show takeover with SoundLab.
Two of our members travelled to London to support the creation of a film for Foster Care Fortnight and the group has also started work on a stop motion film to capture the journey of the Advisory Board so far.
Making a space to listen
When we set-up the Board, we were committed to ensuring that, rather than just extracting insights and experiences from young people, it was about making space to listen, be guided and support their development too. We have watched a small group of young people build friendships, influence our staff team, challenge those in power to listen, try new things and learn new skills. One of our Board members said:
“It’s been a fantastic experience for all of us. It’s so great to have this opportunity to share our own views and experiences of foster care and maybe help others in the process.”
They have invested time, effort and passion into making the Advisory Board a success and we are incredibly proud. With so much to look forward to, we are excited to see where the board guides us next. Keep an eye out for their stop motion film documenting their Advisory Board experience so far, due for release at the end of June this year!
For more information about the Fostering Network, visit: https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/
Click here for more information about Foster Care Fortnight (15-28 May 2023):