Fostering Community Champions in Scotland was an exciting four-year project, which started in 2014, that aimed to improve the outcomes of children in care by reducing the isolation experienced by many foster carers and helping young people to use their experience of foster care in a positive and meaningful way.
During the project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, we trained and supported 48 volunteers, including 36 foster carers and 12 young people.
Foster carer champions
This exciting project offered a unique service to foster carers in Scotland.
Foster carer champions are experienced foster carers with an excellent ability to listen to and support carers who may be experiencing problems or just need some one to talk to. Champions have expertise in a wide variety of areas, such as:
- responding to challenging behaviour
- facing allegations
- caring for a children born with complex needs
- managing transitions
- addressing tension between carers and professionals.
Foster carer champions have received training and ongoing support from The Fostering Network to assist them in their role and embrace ongoing opportunities to increase their knowledge and skills. These champions support foster carers throughout Scotland via phone or email.
Foster carer champions have also been involved with focus groups and research projects to help improve fostering as a whole, as well as supporting the development of training on positive contact which we will be rolling out shortly.
Foster carers often feel isolated and cannot always talk to someone about the struggles they are going through, the champions project bridges this gap, matching carers to give them the opportunity to talk through issues they are facing. The support delivered by foster carer champions to newly approved foster carers meant that new carers had an improved initial experience of foster care.
Young champions are young people aged between 15 and 22 who have lived in a fostering household. Our young champions took part in a range of activities to support young people across Scotland, including:
- Writing and delivering training for foster carers.
- Presenting and facilitating conferences and national events.
- Working alongside partner agencies such as CELCIS, the Children’s Commissioner Scotland and the Independent Care Review.
- Producing short films, writing blogs and articles for national publications.
- Appearing on national radio interviews.
The young champions have been trained in public speaking, media training and have completed online courses to enhance their skills, confidence and future opportunities.
Towards the end of 2016, the young champions made a film 'Give Me a Chance' to highlight the challenges children and young people can face in everyday life when placed into care. The film was launched at the Scottish Parliament and has since been viewed across the UK and as far afield as Australia!
Throughout this project our young champions shared their personal experiences and advice throughout Scotland, on how to improve foster care for children and young people and addressing the stigma often faced by those growing up in foster families. The young champions felt the opportunities they had to speak with key decision makers made a significant difference to the fostering landscape and they are passionate that other young people should have similar platforms. Young people are the experts in their experiences and they should be actively involved in the decisions affecting them.