Head, Heart, Hands - May 2016

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Welcome to the tenth edition of our Head, Heart, Hands newsletter.

From Orkney to Bournemouth: the making of the new Head, Heart, Hands film

Making a showcase film about Head, Heart, Hands was never going to be a simple job, considering the programme’s diversity and the distance between the participating sites.

The idea of making a showcase film stemmed from the desire to celebrate and promote the impact of social pedagogy on children, young people and those around them. The most powerful way of doing this would be to hear directly from those involved. In particular, it was an opportunity to give a voice to the young people themselves.

Our journey began with a trip to Woking to film a creative dance workshop. The children and young people put together a dance routine about what it means to be fostered.

Next it was up to the remote Orkney Islands for an animation workshop. Then it was time to go back down to the opposite end of the country to a high ropes adventure centre in Bournemouth. Finally, there was a weekend in London spending time with a family as they went about their daily life, making breakfast together and going out to buy a Christmas tree.

Then came the tricky part…condensing many hours of wonderful footage shot by, artistic director and film producer Tim Fleming and his team, into a mere four minutes.

We are very excited to be able to show you this film and would like to thank everyone involved for their contributions and hard work. Without their enthusiasm and willingness to share their stories, we would not have been able to make this plan a reality.

You can see the film on our website.

The filming project is not yet over, and some further short films on specific themes will be available to watch on the website later this year.

Buddies 4 Foster Carers

Since attending the original social pedagogy training, two foster carers from Staffordshire have been working to develop ideas that demonstrate social pedagogic ideals.

Mike Day and Alan Hudson have been working with Staffordshire foster care training for a number of years, developing e-safe training. While running workshops, they realised that there were some inspirational and engaging ideas being put forward by Staffordshire carers who had a very pedagogic approach.

However, these ideas quickly became talking points rather than real world resources, so Mike and Alan set about building a supportive network to change this and called it Buddies 4 Foster Carers.

The main principle is that the best people to take an idea forward and create something new and unique are the people with the idea and the passion. To facilitate this, a website has been launched www.buddies4fc.org.uk . A bi-monthly e-newsletter will also be circulated to an even wider population.

One initiative Mike and Alan set up was a small computer coding club for carers and their children after learning that the BBC was offering Micro Bits (mini computers) to all 11-12 year olds in the UK.

Staffordshire county councillor, Derrick Huckfield, approached Buddies 4 Foster Carers to see how he could help develop the idea. This offer of support was duplicated by the Virtual School and within a few short weeks funds were made available to develop four computer coding clubs.

The concept of the coding club is attracting ongoing interest from groups outside Staffordshire. Code Club UK, a nationwide network of coding clubs is now working closely with Buddies 4 Foster Carers to ensure the club’s success. Private businesses are also watching with increased interest.

To find out more, visit www.buddies4fc.org.uk

Edinburgh continues its social pedagogy journey

We are delighted to announce that both social pedagogues at City of Edinburgh Council have been offered permanent posts to help shape this way of working across Edinburgh.

The social pedagogues will continue to spend half of their time as supervising social workers working with foster families within their specialist fostering team and the other half taking on Edinburgh’s social pedagogy sustainability plan.

The first eight-day social pedagogy course started in March and the aim is to deliver another course towards the end of the year. The Learning & Development Groups (or Momentum Groups) are continuing and the social pedagogues will also deliver further orientation days for foster carers and introduction sessions to other services and agencies.

Edinburgh has implemented social pedagogy into the preparation training of prospective foster carers and will also deliver a session with the post approval group.

Who knows what the future will bring . . . but rest assured, we will update you along the way!

Dealing with stealing

Debra Douglas, a foster carer from Hackney, shares her experience of putting social pedagogy into practice

We tend to make all kinds of assumptions when we talk about stealing. It’s natural to feel angry when something is taken from us. We can also feel hurt and wonder why a child took £20.00 out of your purse, or why they stole from another child’s lunch box when their own was full up.

These stories and feelings are real – I've lived them time and time again. However, after many years of trying new things, I feel I have finally got it right. Social pedagogy has opened windows of opportunity and understanding. Instead of my mind looking through one window, I am now able to stand back and reflect, considering the reasons behind other people’s actions. This helped me cope with the situation of my foster child stealing food.

Many children who come into care do not know when their next dinner is coming and hunger becomes an everyday feeling. Storing and hiding food is often a skill they practice from a very early age - it’s a survival mechanism.

I have seen similar habits many times - biscuits behind radiators, slices of bread in shoes, chicken nuggets under pillows. I used to make the mistake of highlighting the fact and removing the food, but in fact that was worsening the issue. I thought I was solving and dealing with the problem, but I was adding to the insecurities of the child’s safety mechanism.

The child didn’t yet feel safe and by removing the food, no matter how mouldy it was, added to their anxieties. Learning about social pedagogy slowed me down. I didn't need to act so fast. There were many windows of opportunities I could look through.

I started leaving the food for weeks, days or even months. I didn't speak about it or make a big deal of it, and I didn't become anxious about it. Instead of questioning too much the stealing from lunch boxes, I suggested choosing what they wanted in their lunchbox. Allowing them to make their own choices helped them feel in control. The lunch box was overfilling at times but I spoke to the school and explained that I would rather they had an abundance of food rather than taking other children's food. We worked in partnership, which was vital for the child to feel safe.

The child always packed food in their bag when we visited friends. This gave them a sense of calm and control. Very slowly I removed the mouldy food, never making an issue out of it. The stealing and storing food diminished over a year. They developed their own style of controlling anxiety over food and finally trusted I was going to keep serving them dinner and leave food in the fridge. The changes were subtle, although the issue was always there, it was in the background. It became a way of life, an understanding we developed.

Remove food
Draw attention to it (this heightens anxieties)
Restrict lunch box choices
Restrict times to eat (allow grazing)
Rush the process.

Make the child feel in control
Involve them in choices
Involve them in preparing lunch boxes and dinner
Always let them take food with them when going out
Allow time

Social pedagogy in foster care practice forum

If your organisation is considering, or already exploring, social pedagogy we would like to invite you to the second England social pedagogy practice forum on 17 June in Effingham, Surrey.

The forum will be hosted by Surrey County Council in partnership with The Fostering Network.

The aim is to support managers from fostering services to share experiences of developing social pedagogy in foster care. The forum will enable organisations that are thinking about starting their social pedagogy journey to ask questions.

You will be able to hear from social pedagogues, social workers and foster carers from Surrey County Council who have been part of The Fostering Network’s Head, Heart, Hands programme.

The agenda will include group activities led by foster carers and a storytelling session from a social pedagogue. You will also hear from other fostering services who are exploring social pedagogy. 

If you would like to attend the forum, please email caz.bowles@fostering.net for further details.​