Social Pedagogy Explained (It’s not Rocket Science)

When Alison and I decided we were founding our own fostering agency we knew that we wanted to have an agency that focused on having great levels of well-being in our children and foster carers in order to improve the outcomes for children in care, but also that of our professional team too, so that our social workers and therapists felt valued, empowered and respected

We share the belief that the outcomes for fostered children can be improved as a result of applying the key elements of social pedagogy. (Don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it is)

Fostering Network, a national organisation, with whom we partner, undertook a significant piece of research in to the adoption of social pedagogy in the UK. Social pedagogy is already widespread in parts of Europe. The research was done in conjunction with funding from Comic Relief. One of the overwhelming outcomes of the research linked to fostering children, was the increased length and stability of children’s placements with foster carer’s. Basically the better the relationship and trust between children and foster carer’s the longer a placement is likely to have…(not really rocket science is it?) The length and stability of the placements is a key success measurement for fostering agencies. We believe enabling children the chance to build long lasting relationships with our foster carer’s is worth the extra investment.

Social pedagogy for us is a way of approaching the culture of how we work in the agency. We work in conjunction with our values which stress human dignity, mutual respect, trust, unconditional appreciation, and equality. Our culture is underpinned by a fundamental concept of children, young people and adults being equal human beings with rich and extraordinary potential.

Our approach is to understand the experiences that our children have had, so that we can develop bespoke ways of working with them to support their continued growth as an individual. We provide key opportunities for foster carers to develop their understanding of how the experiences of children, living in care, play out in their emotions and behaviours, so that we can fully support them by understanding their specific needs.

By understanding the real cause of a child’s emotional behaviour we can support the child to recognise where the feelings come from and how they might be able to overcome these feelings, leading to greater acceptance of what has happened and an opportunity to rebuild their confidence. This will ensure foster carers can support the children to grow as individuals rather than encouraging them to conform to social norms, which may be at odds with their unique outlook on life as a result of their experiences.

We support our foster carers in undertaking activities alongside the children, encouraging meaningful discussion and the forming of strong bonds of trust which creates successful relationships.

We believe in taking a “risk sensible” approach. We feel that a looked-after child should be able to live a full and happy life and take the everyday risks that any other child would experience. Be that climbing a tree, building and sailing a raft or skateboarding, we believe these experiences can help children to grow.

We feel that, enabling children to experience managed risk builds their self-confidence and increases their ability to make better decisions for themselves, improving their ability to make good choices later in life and support their independence after leaving care.

Each of our foster carers are offered training linked to the theories of social pedagogy, when they join our agency. This ensures that our approach is holistically implemented into all of our foster families across Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

Reflecting on what is happening with our children is a huge part of social pedagogy. We enable time and the space to think why decisions were made and the impact the decision has had on everyone involved. By doing this we can learn what works and what maybe doesn’t work as well and improve what we do going forward. We believe this honest open approach enables everyone in our team to share and grow in confidence. It also ensures that the views and expertise of foster carers is valued across the team and taken in to consideration before decisions are made.

Told you it wasn’t rocket science! If you want to know more get in touch.

Angela Hunt
Director of To the Moon and Back Foster Care and a founder member of the Social Pedagogy Professionals Association (SPPA)

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