What can professionals do to improve the chances of children in care having friends?

Young girls playing outside

 

Browse friendship for children in care resources

Not surprisingly, most children and young people want to have friends or a special friend. Friendships are among the most valuable relationships we have, offering us a sense of identity and belonging. Friendship can increase our resilience, providing a firm foundation for the long-term bonds that will sustain us through our adult life.

Children in care must overcome significant challenges including the profound impact of repeated loss of friendship due to multiple moves of home and family. Social workers tell us that the lack of friendship history passed on to foster carers, rushed changes of placement leading to poor communication, children blocking memory, their fear of rejection and lack of confidence are factors that lead to friendships being lost.

Although children in care tell us that the loss of friendship can be the most distressing loss of all, there is little formal acknowledgement of this in foster care preparation, training and supervision. Children need to practice making and keeping friends if they are to avoid becoming socially isolated care leavers.

Read the How to guide and find out what you can do to help children in care see their friends.

Friendship training for foster carers

The training booklet (Friendship for All Training for Foster Carers) contains a bespoke collection of activities and handouts that can be used in the different contexts in order to provide support for foster carers. Training, support and development (TSD) standards for foster care.

The training can be used to evidence that carers have met the TSD standards. In particular the standards:

  • 2.3 – Relationship with parents and others
  • 5.2 – Resilience
  • 5.4 a, b and c – Supporting play activities and learning
  • 5.6 b – Understanding contexts

In partnership with the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF now CoramBAAF), we conducted a survey of foster care providers.

One of the clearest findings from the survey was that 80% of respondents did not provide specific training about how to support children’s friendships.

Life stories and memory boxes

Young People who are in care and in particular those who are about to be adopted are often given a ‘Life Story Book’. It is intended to help them make sense of their situation and understand their past and the events that lead to them being looked after.

It is vitally important that life story work and life story books for foster children not only captures young people’s story about their family but also gives them a full picture of their friendships as they grow up.

‘My experience is that children’s friendships are often neglected, not just when they move between placements but also when they are in stable placements.'  – Polly Baynes, children’s guardian and independent life story work trainer.

In Life Story literature and training, friendship is often missed or overlooked.

Resources

A friendship mapping exercise to track the friendship networks of children in care

BAAF Survey

Training Scenario- Ben's Story

Training Scenario- Daniel's Story

Training Scenario- Hayley's Story 

Ealing junior council leaflet

Friendship action plan to record the friendship journey of chidren in care

Guide to friendship inclusive social media

How-to guide for children in care

Life story memory box handout

Perfect day reflective training for foster carers supporting friendship

Perfect day activity completion sheet

Practice guidance for foster carers supporting children in care to have positive friendships

Statement exercises to promote group discussion with foster carers

Reflections from care leavers

Training for foster carers

What do young people in care tell us?