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Fostering children and recognizing the value of play 2

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Fostering children increasingly requires foster carers to equip themselves with an expanding range of capabilities. Skills in therapeutic caregiving are seen as essential to maintaining the stability of placements. This is because fostering children who have come into care traumatised by their experiences calls for skilful and appropriate responses from foster carers. These children are at the extreme end of the spectrum. There is wide agreement that in the worst cases of abuse and neglect the cognitive development and therefore functioning of such children has been seriously impaired. Putting in place the healing therapies to overcome such experiences calls for the expertise of care professionals working with foster carers. It is no easy task. But at least over recent years the scale and nature of the problem have been defined. That makes possible the development of strategies and solutions. There is now – certainly to be welcomed – a growing familiarity with the ideas and principles of therapeutic parenting. 

Fostering children means questioning conventional wisdom.

The problem for society is as we try and deal with children who have known only adverse experiences, we can easily overlook what’s happening to the rest. And in many ways that’s understandable. But just because children are having three regular meals a day, attending school regularly, and living in reasonably harmonious families, do we relax into thinking they can be forgotten? It’s tempting – after all, we have an education system that in 2019/20 cost £92.3 billion. And in 2022 education spending is budgeted at £98 billion. The impact of Covid means many schools will be facing a significant bill following the pandemic – a shortfall which amounts to £40 per pupil. This is likely to force schools to make savings elsewhere. And this shortfall is the equivalent of half the funding allocated by the Department for Education to schools to assist pupils to catch up with lost learning. So it’s likely money; at least in the short term will be thrown at the problem. This will almost certainly need to extend to cover the rising costs of fostering children as more are coming into care. Increased spending as is usually the case, is seen as the solution. Bridging the digital divide – revealed so sharply during the lockdowns – will only add to the costs as the country moves forward. But should the goal be to throw increasing amounts of technology into classrooms and homes? Will this secure the best results for our children, or is the desire to do so born of a damaging preoccupation with ‘tech’? Might our judgement be clouded by an over-concentration on the idea of participation because the pandemic revealed broadband ‘haves and have-nots’? 

Covid should now make us adopt some fresh thinking: or in the jargon – this is could be a ‘reset’ moment. We now know that whilst in lockdown, children acutely missed social interaction with their friends and access to the great outdoors. In time, researchers will be able to assess just how damaging this may have been. Fostering children often call for imagination and a high degree of personal resource and energy. That’s what makes it such a challenging job for foster carers. The answer isn’t, and can’t always be about money when it comes to motivating and interesting children. The government could save prodigious amounts it is inevitably come under pressure to spend, by rethinking its whole approach to early years with particular regard to play. Ministers could be likened to parents who have spent a huge sum on the latest tech toy, only to see their offspring more interested in playing with the box it came in. It’s not as if we are doing that well in the PISA educational rankings so a focus on supporting children to play rather than shove laptops in their direction could yield huge benefits in relation to outcomes and wellbeing. 

The importance of play.

Children learn by having fun – it’s that simple. Play is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life. Any parent or anyone fostering children will have an appreciation of this. Imaginative play enables children to think creatively as well as interact socially. They learn to process emotions such as joy, sadness, anger, or frustration. Children develop a sense of their own identity through play – as well as self-esteem. Play provides children with choice and brings awareness of boundaries and limits. It enables them to be spontaneous and think in terms of imaginative adventures in an imaginary world over which they have control. Play gives children enormous scope for fostering self-expression.

And it is through play that children are able to develop physically, acquire spatial intelligence and discover emotional skills. There is a lot more to play than simple fun and games. Play is vital to the cognitive development of children. It provides the foundation for learning, exploration as well as problem-solving. Play gives children an opportunity to role-play and emulate things they observe in the outside world. They learn critical thinking skills and playing gives rise to the understanding of cause and effect. Intellectual development is facilitated by exploration and curiosity. Fostering a sense of play is integral to the development of fine and gross motor skills. Engaging with the physical world – climbing trees, running, riding bikes, jumping, dancing, etc. promotes spatial understanding and coordination. 

If you’re fostering children then appreciate that play provides adults with the chance to learn how to play again. Adults who engage with children through their play have their own capabilities of patience and understanding tested and reinforced. Such two-way learning also creates bonding. 

Albert Einstein who more than any other has given us an understanding of the universe and our place in it was famed for saying: 

“Play is the highest form of research.” And a particular favourite – Einstein said:

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

And that other great thinker who demonstrated such understanding of the inner human universe, psychologist Carl Jung said:

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.”

Such ideas are not restricted to the worlds of science: Henri Matisse the great french painter – leader of the celebrated Fauvist movement thought:

“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.”

This might all seem high flown when compared to the rigours of fostering children every day. But such ideas need to be more widely known and appreciated. That way anyone parenting children can rebuff ideas that play is something children do to keep them out of trouble. The urge to play lies at the heart of our collective being. And as Jung would probably say, close to the heart of our collective unconscious. It could not be more important. 

It remains to be seen where and how the government will allocate resources for education as we slowly emerge from the pandemic. Those involved in fostering children understand that a central part of their role is to advocate for the children they foster. This should mean bringing pressure to bear where play and the need for it is concerned. Quite apart from the benefits and necessities of promoting play already outlined, play is known to help young children to cope with stress and stressful situations. Anyone with a responsibility for fostering children needs to be able to argue education needs to be organised around such ideas, 

An introduction to Rainbow fostering.

Why choose Rainbow? We’re a leading independent fostering agency rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted. We have supported hundreds of foster carers and vulnerable children in the more than twenty years we have existed. Our commitment to supporting our children and foster carers and supporting them to achieve their potential is total. Our foster carers come from widely differing backgrounds. What they have in common is the desire to make a genuine, authentic difference to the lives and prospects of the children we place on behalf of the local authorities we work within #london #birmingham #manchester #hampshire 

We arrange emergency, short-term and long-term fostering placements for children unable to return to their own homes. Our support, training and financial packages for our carers are second to none. Deciding to help a child grow up in a safe, nurturing, and loving foster home is one of the most personally enriching and rewarding decisions a person can make. The kind of upbringing carers can give a child will literally shape their lives. Providing opportunities, as well as taking an active interest in the things that matter to them, are things no child or young person forgets. And certainly, neither will you!

Foster carers can earn between £1,500 and £3,000 per month depending on the type of fostering they undertake. Trained therapeutic foster carers are paid at a higher rate as they are caring for children with complex needs. We encourage all our foster carers to undertake therapeutic training.

Basic requirements.

You do not need special skills or qualifications to foster with us. But you will need to have a spare room. Call us on 0330 311 2845 to find out more about our fostering careers. If you like the sound of what is on offer, we can start the application process by contacting you over Skype right now. It’s very straightforward – one of our friendly recruitment advisors will give you all the help you need. This week is the second of #fostercarefortnight  #FCF21 #WhyWeCare which is all about recognizing the work, commitment & devotion of the nation’s foster carers to supporting vulnerable children & young people. 

Our blog archive covers a great many fostering topics – and these are being added to all the time. To discover more about therapeutic foster care visit – 

It remains advisable to check the latest advice and guidance to stay safe and well. For the latest information on coronavirus visit – 

https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus Contact details and for Rainbow Fostering Services can be found at:  http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/contact/

Rainbow keeping the focus on fostering.

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