How Do We Help Children in Care?
At Anchor Foster Care we do lots of different activities to support children in care, both through skilled Foster Carers, bespoke Social Workers and creative support workers.
The aim of our support workers is to bring another dimension to children’s lives outside of the foster home; doing activities that enable complete freedom and the ability to decompress away from life situations and to talk with someone who is unbiased, away from all the circumstances of a child’s life.
One of the things we use as support workers is natural resources that can be found close by or ‘on our doorsteps’. This is to encourage child-led play close to home.
Nature is a phenomenally powerful tool and has lots on offer to children and young people, besides being free and easily available for anyone to tap into. We encourage young people to get out in nature as much as possible as some may never have been able to take advantage of the very simple things that natural surroundings have to offer. This may be because they have lived in towns and cities with little or no access to green space. It might also be because for whatever reason, birth parents or carers had not given children the opportunity to access natural surroundings. Therefore, the power of the great outdoors may not have been exposed to them.
As a result, some children in care can find the outdoors and free flow nature activities quite daunting and it can make these spaces seem boring. They have made up in their minds that the woods or parks or even the beach are not places to explore and play and are totally closed off to the idea. Some young people simply do not know how to play and do not know how to play in nature.
As skilled outdoor support workers, we have the advantage of seeing nature through the eyes of young adventurers and are adept at helping young people to unlock their imagination and discover all sorts of ways of expressing themselves. This can include storytelling, role-playing, discussions, team building; the list goes on.
Depending on the child we will use different approaches to help the child to access the power of nature led play.
As the seasons change so can the style of playing in nature and exploring all that nature has on offer. Over the last month, we have seen the woods change quite significantly from week to week. The landscape, the surroundings, the exposure of the landscape due to falling leaves, the sounds and colours created through change, the smells and ability to breathe deeply and take in the abundant odour of rain effects on the ground.
We have been exploring all our senses and what this means with nature and a changing world through the seasons. We have related our discoveries to the current situation with COVID-19 and helped work through any anxieties or feelings but from a different angle using the power of nature to our benefit. We have played games led by our young people and we have foraged for seasonal influences like mushrooms and toadstools and thought about growing and what we put on our plates.
When we see a young person go from out and out refusing to go to the woods because it was categorically boring, to proactively choosing the woods after six months of going there weekly during lockdown it is one of the most rewarding times for a support worker. This is because after months of doing lots of different low key natural progressive activities it has become clear how the abundance of positive and different experiences have helped the young person to develop their intrigue, their exploration, their confidence, their interaction with the natural world and their learning for handling life situations through play.
Supporting young people when behavioural challenges arise or indeed giving children in care the space and safety of an environment where they can express, or manifest feelings is all part of a support worker’s and a foster carer’s role. Allowing children the freedom to explore their emotions in times of stability is when as professionals, we see the most reward.
At Anchor Foster Care we tailor activities and length of support work to every child’s needs, assessing with every interaction what we need to do to help the young person in the best way we can. This gives them the opportunity to work through trauma and anxieties and to grow and develop their confidence for the future. Support workers are aligned to the foster carers way of working and are seen as a positive extension of the foster family; adding value to all involved with maintaining and progressing a child’s wellbeing.
We hope that when times get tough for our children in care and as they progress through life, they can always fall back on the safe haven of the woods and the outdoors to bring them restorative peace and positive vibes to help them work through any challenges they are facing.