Foster care and understanding child development 1

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Foster care and understanding child development 1

Foster carers and child development 1

Foster carers following child development 1

Foster care means having both an interest in and commitment to supporting children and young people’s development. This series looks at the subject of child development to give foster carers an overall understanding of the main issues. The first describes the key areas of development.

A general knowledge, linked to the many training opportunities available to foster carers now, means carers should have the confidence to play a full and active role in supporting their children’s development. All children are unique yet wherever they are in the world, they undergo the same stages of development within the same broad timeframe. And this developmental pattern is roughly the same for all children. Having an understanding of this typical pattern helps in supporting their health and their all-round development. This series draws on much of the seminal research work done in the 1950s by Mary Sheridan. She was an English paediatrician – as well as a public health officer – who pioneered the study of child development.

Foster an awareness of cultural differences.

The different areas of development are interrelated: different cultural influences will have a profound influence on development. When carers foster children from other cultures, they quickly see that cultural differences are highly significant. Ideally, fostering service providers aim always to arrange culturally-matched placements but this is not always possible due to the overall shortage of foster carers.

It’s worth noting that children with special needs tend to move through developmental stages in an uneven way. This means that they might be walking at the normal age but their speech development might lag behind. 

Encouraging olistic awareness.

Foster carers interested in finding out more about child development will see it involves understanding the normal patterns of growth and development from which the central ideas describing ‘normal development’ are based. This means it is important to remember that a baby is a person. Holistic development thinking sees the infant in the round: a whole person. This means they are made up of elements – physical, intellectual, emotional, social, moral, cultural and spiritual – that together define a person wherever they are in the world.

 When thinking in terms of developmental norms the term ‘milestones’ is commonly used. It is used to account for recognised development stages that children will be expected to follow. As each child is unique, so too will be its development and there are norms that can be used to describe the general pattern of development for all children. This will still allow for the wide variation that exists between individuals.

The main areas of development for carers to note.

Foster carers looking after very young children should be aware of these categories. The first of these is physical development. This is the way the body increases in physical skill and dexterity. The two main areas are Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills. The first uses the large muscle groups in the body for activities such as walking and running. The second includes gross skills, as well as fine motor skills, are classed as:

  • gross manipulative skills – these involve single limb movements such as throwing and catching;
  • fine manipulative skills – these are concerned with very precise movements such as the use of the hands and fingers for drawing or writing. One of the best examples is children acquiring the fine motor skills needed to tie shoelaces.

The next main area is sensory development which also includes sensory development. The experience of sensation is how information about the external world is transmitted to us via the senses. These are:

  • vision;
  • smell;
  • hearing;
  • touch;
  • taste;
  • Proprioception ( the sense which informs as to where the mobile parts of the body – arms and legs – are in relation to the rest of the body.

Cognitive and language development are key areas. Cognitive development describes the brain’s growing ability for reasoning, recognising, knowing, categorising and understanding. Next is language development which encompasses the acquisition of communication skills. This can be grouped into three categories: receptive speech – what a child understands; expressive speech – the range and choice of words a child uses; articulation – the child’s pronunciation of words.

Emotional and social development. It is in these areas particularly that children coming into foster carer who have experienced trauma, can have significant problems. Emotional development is concerned with the development and expression of feelings:

  • the growth of feelings to do with awareness of and about oneself;
  • the development of feelings towards others;
  • the development of self-esteem as well as a concept of self. 

Social, moral and spiritual development are connected. They involve the growth of a child’s relationships with other people. Socialisation is part of that and is the process of learning the skills, attitudes and behaviours that enable a child to interact positively with their community. Moral and spiritual development cover the development of awareness as to how to relate to others humanely, ethically and morally. Healthy development in these areas is important as the understanding of important concepts such as honesty/dishonesty; right/wrong are acquired. 

Rainbow for colourful and rewarding fostering careers.

Would you be able to provide a safe and stable home environment for a child? At Rainbow Fostering, we’re actively searching for more foster carers. If you think you’ve got what it takes to help a child build essential life-skills, please contact us. Potential foster carers often worry about whether they are the ‘right sort’ to foster. We always stress there is no such thing as the perfect foster carer. Our carers come from an incredible range of backgrounds. We celebrate that as well as the diversity of our foster carers. If you have a spare room and are really driven to support a child into adulthood, then we’ll welcome you into our family of foster carers. 

Visit our website to find out more or apply. You can request the information packs we have about fostering or ask to be emailed on of our newsletter. This will give you a picture of what it is like to be a Rainbow foster carer. Call 0330 311 2845 and we can start your application today.

Rainbow: rated ‘Outstanding in all areas by Ofsted’ arranges well-matched foster care for categories that include – siblings, teenagers, Parent and Child and asylum seeking children.

There’s no obligation if you contact us – just the chance for a friendly chat. And we can email you a wealth of information about what foster care involves. Try our recommended blog: 

Remember: our website FAQs page will also answer many basic foster care questions.

As children and young people have returned to nurseries, schools and universities, it’s important to check the latest advice and guidance to stay safe and well. Make sure you regularly visit –

visit – 


Rainbow putting the focus on fostering.

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