Social pedagogy puts foster carers at the heart of the child care team, recognising and supporting the pivotal role they play in the development of fostered children. It gives more authority to foster carers and encourages all those who work with fostered children to take a more sensible approach to risk so the children can experience happy and fulfilling lives.
Social pedagogy is a well-established and proven framework for social care, meeting the needs of children in care in many European countries. It blends the use of knowledge from academic research and established child development theories (head), with an important emphasis on relationships and emotions, recognising that everyone has their own emotional and ethical needs (heart), in combination with a focus on using practical tasks and every day activities as vital opportunities for learning (hands).
Individuals trained in social pedagogy work with the whole child, aware that children think, feel, have a physical, spiritual, social and creative existence, and that all of these characteristics are in interaction in the person and have an important bearing on their development. For foster care in the UK, this approach promises to herald a shift away from following procedures to a system that supports foster carers to help fostered children build positive relationships that lead to stability, better outcomes and long-term wellbeing.
Rute Goncalves is a social pedagogue in the fostering team at Surrey County Council, one of the services involved in the programme. Here she talks about what social pedagogy means to her, and her hopes for how it can help foster care in the UK.