Foster a sense of the value of accessing the arts

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Foster a sense of the value of accessing the arts

Foster carers should support artistic activities

Foster carers and the artistic scene

Foster carers will at some point be challenged to get the paints out – especially if it’s a wet afternoon. But do we need the Arts? If we do, how do they fit into a world where social media dominates. Questions that might not immediately spring to the mind of a foster carer trying to make sure the paint stays on the paper and not on the walls. And who said that fostering a child would not entail a riot of colour – mostly not always where you wanted it? But as to the function of ‘Art’: this is a question that has engaged the minds of philosophers, art historians, psychologists, writers – and probably those foster parents clearing up after toddlers – since the dawn of time. Or not long after!

However the question is posed, it’s most probable that any answer would differ and depend largely upon the era in which someone was living. Quite apart from aesthetic judgements – or preferences – art has been used to convey religious and political messages for centuries. Art can be malign. You have only to think of the poster art used by the fascists in Germany in the nineteen thirties to sow hate and division. That is the negative power – and this is something that should never be forgotten. On a more positive note, images have the power to inspire and move our emotions. Art enriches: that is should always be its purpose. Life is enhanced by it and it should – if a society is healthy – be open to all to access and experience. 

This is the keyword ‘Experience’. It is a given that no two individuals ever share the same experience when engaging with a piece of art, but what must concern us all, is the situation where some may be excluded from any kind of experience at all. If you are a foster carer busily cleaning up after a marathon painting session, you might feel you are getting all the experience you need!

Nevertheless, it should be remembered you are doing a great job. Those paintings blu-tacked to your fridge door signify the experience of creation and appreciation.  And if you doubt that, reflect upon the following: the ‘arts’ encompassing painting, music, drama, dance, sculpture, writing – in short any activity which fits with the Arts Council’s definition of the value of the ‘arts’ – is measured by how they –

 “illuminate our inner lives and enrich our emotional world.” 

it becomes troubling to realise that the Warwick commission has revealed that that:

“the wealthiest, best educated and least ethnically diverse 8% of society comprise nearly half of live music audiences and one-third of theatregoers and gallery visitors.” Very obviously there is an issue of access to the arts that needs to be urgently addressed. 

Carers need to support and encourage an interest in the arts.

Eight per cent is an uncomfortable statistic and what is heartening is that the government is running a pilot scheme aimed at offering children free access to the world of the arts. It will be part of what has been described as a ‘cultural citizens programme’. And foster children have as much right to participate a anyone else.  

This is a welcome move. It will create more diverse audiences – as well as attract young people to the arts and culture generally. Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, has backed schemes aimed at providing thousands of schoolchildren with free access to museums, galleries and theatres. This push forms part of the culture white paper. What is important for those involved with fostering children and young people is the clear intention is to facilitate participation in the arts amongst young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

As Karen Bradley was aware, UK arts audiences as they are currently comprised are predominantly white and middle class. The schemes being backed are timed to commence in September in Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool. The government’s also produced a white paper putting forward a lottery funded programme. This has been planned to run in seventy areas and connect with 14,000 young people a year. A most welcome development.

The artistic heritage and contribution of this country is appreciated worldwide. The artistic institutions and the talents developed here contribute huge sums to the national economy. Opening up the arts to a far wider audience can only encourage young people to consider careers within the arts. This will provide all children – including those in foster care – with a sense of opportunity and direction. This is accepted in the remit of the Arts Council of England:

“we also understand that arts and culture has a wider, more measurable impact on our economy, health and wellbeing, society and education.”

Participation at all level in the arts is a right. And the nations’s artistic and cultural life can only be enriched by the widest participation – young and old alike. But since so many children coming into foster care will have had  little or no exposure to the arts, this must be redressed. 

Currently there are many worrying indicators pointing toward the fact that the mental well being of our young people is open to question. The Children’s Society has produced a report suggesting that amongst 10 – 15 year old girls, fourteen per cent are generally unhappy with their lives.

The online world has had many negative effects and is heavily implicated in relation to such levels of unhappiness. It can, however, also play a key role in creating awareness of the tremendous range of artistic opportunities and possibilities that exist for foster children and their families. 

Those who are committed  to fostering children surely deserve the fullest support in providing access to all the arts our culture has to offer visit:

Could you kindle the interest of a foster child in the arts?

The most important element is accessibility to the arts. An interest in the arts can provide an incredible motivation for a child to develop a creative passion in life. If you are fostering children, helping to support an interest in an artistic pursuit can be very effective at ‘bridging’ communication. In turn, this can bring about a sea change in the attitude and behaviour of a child or young person. And, then, crucially, their educational engagement and attainment.

At Rainbow Independent Fostering Agency, we have accrued twenty-one years experience providing foster care During this time we have trained and supported a great many people to become highly skilled and proficient foster carers. 

This year, 8,000 new foster families are still needed. If you would like to find out more about becoming a foster carer and helping disadvantaged children, simply call Rainbow on 020 8427 3355. You can, as an alternative, use our National Line – 0330 311 2845. 

Find out more:

Are you a trained foster parent thinking of transferring? Join us: we have been rated Outstanding by Ofsted and can meet all your professional ambitions in fostering. Find out more:

As one of the leading IFAs, rated Outstanding by Ofsted, we have offices in Birmingham and Manchester – as well as across London. So we are especially keen to find foster carers in these particular areas. Rainbow welcome people to foster children who come from a whole range of distinct backgrounds. 

We have many foster carers who are single/divorced/married. We also have couples who live together – with or without children. Rainbow Fostering has also trained many same-sex couples to foster children and young people. Rainbow always strives to place our children with foster carers who reflect their own background and cultural heritage This means we are always looking to find potential foster carers drawn from all the different ethnicities and religions in the country.

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