As the Head, Heart, Hands programme has reached its halfway point, we are gathering evidence from the participating fostering services about the positive impact that social pedagogy is beginning to have on the lives of children and young people and the foster carers and other professionals who support them.
The programme is also being independently evaluated by a team led by the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University, who are working in partnership with Catch 22's National Care Advisory Service and The Colebrooke Centre for Evidence and Implementation.
One foster carer who is taking part in Head, Heart, Hands, told us: “Head, Heart, Hands has already changed my mindset. It has given me new skills and provided a stronger theoretical basis to support what I do and say. I feel more confident in my ability to foster and to be a voice for the child.”
An important principle within social pedagogy is for foster carers and social workers to take time to reflect upon what they have done through formal critical reflection processes, and many participants are reporting that this reflection has influenced their decision making, particularly around risk.
Foster carers have reported to The Fostering Network that social pedagogy has increased their ability to understand the world of the children in their care. They have found that increased critical reflection has brought more meaning to the way they approach their work and influenced their decision making, particularly around risk.
There is emerging evidence that the new approach is also helping foster carers to build stronger relationships between themselves and the children in their care, as well as with social workers and other people in the team around the child. Social workers too report similar developments.
One foster carer told the evaluation team: “Pedagogy is trying to normalise things again, it’s trying to make your life liveable. Why should these kids feel different? We separate them and then wonder why they struggle when it comes to the outside world.
“That’s not how to restore people, that’s not how you get people to be what they are meant to be, you have to make life normal and fun, and you know, manage risk properly, and I think that is what social pedagogy is trying to do.”
Freya Burley, Head, Heart, Hands operations officer, said: “As the programme continues to develop we can see that already social pedagogy is working and it has the power, over time, to change children’s social care for the better.
“We’re delighted that foster carers and the young people in their care are seeing the benefits of this approach and we hope that through our work we can continue to gather a compelling evidence base to encourage other fostering services to adopt social pedagogy.”
Head, Heart, Hands began in 2012 with the aim of exploring what a social pedagogic approach to foster care would look like in the UK. Social pedagogy is an approach to bringing up children that combines many elements and principles, such as allowing children to take appropriate risks, encouraging fostering professionals to reflect regularly on their work, and valuing foster carers as an equal part of the team around the child.
You can read a range of findings in our impact summary.
You can watch videos, read blogs and find out more about Head, Heart, Hands on our website.
For more information about the evaluation go to the University of Loughborough website.