The Fostering Network NI has been a member of NIABF since 2013. The Fostering Network NI is also the Chair of the Looked After Children & Bullying Task Group.
Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity and has been the independent voice of foster care for over forty years. By working with foster families and the services that support them we help fostering children and young people to achieve the very best they can. The Fostering Network’s mission and vision is of a foster care service that works for every foster family and they believe it is every child’s right to live within a safe and secure environment. In all programmes that we deliver for children and young people we ensure positive behaviours are promoted and encouraged to promote a safe environment, free from bullying.
In Northern Ireland The Fostering Network also works to support foster and kinship carers and their families through providing independent advice and information, and through the delivery of the Fostering Achievement and Fostering the Future projects.
The Fostering Achievement Scheme is funded by the Health and Social Care Board and delivers support to over 1400 young people in foster care per year, providing access to equipment and introducing them to activities that will encourage them to reach their full potential. Looked After Children are a very vulnerable group in society and research has shown that they are twice as likely to be bullied than children who are not in care. Many children in care have already been targeted and abused by others and may be lacking in self- confidence, isolated from their family and friends and already marked as different as they do not live with their birth family.
Fostering Achievement focusses on foster carers as first educators, and a large part of the work involves direct training with foster carers on issues that affect their children and young people in the educational setting including Special Educational Needs, planning for Further and Higher Education and how to promote Literacy and Numeracy. The Anti- Bullying workshop focuses on to help foster carers understand the impact of bullying, how to actively challenge it, and how to support their young people with this.
Fostering Achievement involves direct work with young people in foster care and their foster families including summer schemes, residentials and a number of activities and events throughout each year. They are very committed to ensuring that children and young people feel safe during these and their ethos focuses on anti- bullying through informal training about the signs and what bullying is, and through the use of group contracting regarding behaviour towards each other.
Fostering the Future is a 4 year funded project through the Big Lottery’s Reaching Out and Engaging Young People Fund. The project works with young people aged 8-20 years old on a range of personal and social development needs. Programmes for young people include self-esteem and assertiveness training with a focus on bullying, the impact this can have on others and how to challenge these behaviours in an assertive and positive manner. Other programmes focus on transitioning from living in foster/kinship care to adult independence and the skills and support systems needed and available to help with this. We also facilitate leadership training were young people are offered the opportunity to gain skills in peer and youth leadership, encouraged to have a say in the development of the programme to meet their needs and how as leaders you challenge behaviours of others, including bullying, in a positive and effective manner.
The Fostering the Future programme also provides training to foster and kinship carers on a number of issues and topics. This training provides them with the opportunity to develop new knowledge and skills that can support them in their role as carers. This training includes looking at the challenges of adolescence and how relationships change during this period of a young person’s life. We also provide training on story sacks and play to build capacity of foster carers to provide support on the personal, social and education development of the children and young people.
If you would like to learn more about the work of The Fostering Network, please click here
This article was submitted by Monica O’Neill, NIABF Member representing The Fostering Network.