Dave Kingswood has been fostering with his family for around five years. They live in the west country and foster for Capstone. He works for three days a week for his father-in-law on a lorry, is qualifying for a certificate in theology and is heavily involved in the Head, Heart, Hands programme. He loves spending time with his family, serving in his community and giggling as much as possible.
I know what you are thinking, how do you even say that? Social pedagogy has been a journey I have been on for a couple of years now. Essentially social pedagogy is a holistic practice around education and wellbeing and Capstone Foster Care (South West), along with a number of other fostering services, has partnered with The Fostering Network to see how it would look in fostering. This project has been called Head, Heart, Hands.
Social pedagogy is practiced extensively in neighbouring European countries as well as being intrinsic to some Scandinavian social care systems. So what is this thing and why are Capstone and The Fostering Network investing time and energy in it?
Well, that depends!
When I started on the social pedagogy training it was really hard to understand what it was. It did not appear to have any defining features or definite answers. If you asked a question the reply would often be “well, that depends” and yet over the course of our eight days together I was exposed to was some of the most incredible teaching, connections and challenges I have had in my life.
Social pedagogy encouraged me to see a diamond in everybody no matter how dull it may be. It invited me to put aside my reactions and consider what was going on for the person I was dealing with so that I could get the best possible version of that person in an interaction. We were given tools to creatively express ourselves and to help children in our care to do so also.
We examined the benefits of risk rather than continuing to cultivate the adverse nature of it in relation to children we look after. We looked at the necessity for strong networks around fostered children, and how we can develop and ultimately rely on stable relationships to have positive experiences and lives with one another socially and professionally. We talked about how to make an environment around children so that they could physically and mentally explore it themselves rather than us doling out cotton-wooled instructions the whole time. These few things merely touch the surface of what we examined.
Permission to do what I feel is right
What was it that really did it for me about social pedagogy though? It was simply this: it reminded me of why I became a foster carer in the first place. It gave me permission to think and do as I so often felt was right. It offered me the science behind that gut feeling I had. It championed me to put the children front and centre once again rather than our personal and professional systems. It told me that who I was mattered and social pedagogy enabled me to be better, to develop my haltung, my realised posture towards life. I cannot encourage you enough to have a look at the Head, Heart, Hands programme. It has challenged me, it has inspired me and ultimately I believe that it is what our country needs to fully serve the young people that come into our care.
The Fostering Network brings together everyone who is involved in the lives of fostered children and young people to lead, inspire, motivate and support them to make foster care better. To support our work visit www.fostering.net/donate or to donate £10 text FOST37 £10 to 70070.