Young People in Fostering Engagement Week

During February half term, Fair Ways Fostering wanted to give children and young people in Foster Care the chance to meet others in similar circumstances, make friends and share their views, opinions and stories through Participation Week. We feel passionate about giving young people a platform to share their concerns. We ran 3 full days of workshops; one for Primary school aged young people, a second for Secondary school aged young people and a third for Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers. Each days focus was inspired by different artists and authors to encourage young people to speak and share.

Primary School Day

We had children come from as far as Basingstoke and Bournemouth to attend the Participation Week for the Primary school aged children. 9 children attended, (one of whom was a birth child) out of a total of 10 children within this age bracket. The needs and challenges for each child were different but we had prepared the space to allow children to take themselves away from the group and relax independently, or engage in one-to-one or two-to-one activities that were more personal. The day included times to laugh and play games as well as quieter times to reflect and engage. We used the stimulus by Max Lucado, “You Are Special” as a springboard for discussion and creativity. After reading the book to them, there was a thoughtful atmosphere. The children made powerful comparisons between their own lives and the life of the main character in our story “Punchinello”. Many children were able to relate to feeling displaced within friendship groups because they weren’t able to compete with others; play football, dance or sing, look like the other children in their class. In a village where the characters gave dots (bad markings) and stars (good markings) to each other, the children recognised that they didn’t want to live in a world like this and that they were part of the solution. One child who only attends half days at school was able to engage for a full day during Participation Week, whilst another child who struggles with control and power was able to connect with other children, play nicely and make new friends. A further young person wrote two names on his “important people bunting”; the names of his Foster Carers.

Secondary School Day

7 young people in the secondary school age group woke early, abandoned the WIFI and attended Participation week. This in itself is a huge feat! We looked at a stimulus by Mel Tregonning called “Small Things”. It tells a hundred stories but sparked our conversation to discuss fears, worries, anxieties and even depression. One girl shared her struggle to be motivated and keep going, another shared her anxiety about running simple errands like going to the corner shop let alone facing the massive challenges in her life. The young people were vulnerable with each other; sharing their stories and engaging with the main character of our story. They were honest. Part way through the day I gave them each a chance to sit in front of a mirror that wrote “What do I need to accept to move forward?” This was a powerful moment for many of them. “I have choices” one said, “I’m in Foster Care” said another. It seemed that many had maturity beyond their years to make the best out of their circumstances. There were many tear-jerking moments throughout the day yet at the same time, laughter, banter and food! All 3, extremely important for teenagers.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Day

5 young people attended this day. We taught 4 or 5 new games; mostly in silence as we didn’t want language to be a barrier for participation, however our stomachs were hurting from laughter by the end of the day. Though language was an obstacle for us all, we communicated lots; through art, storytelling, games, songs and drama. We focussed on 2 characters; the new arrival and the local resident. One young person was at his lowest since being in the UK, to our amazement he attended the day and performed a short skit! Another young person had an artistic streak and created a provocative piece of art about “Home”. Other young people were encouraged to meet others in a the same boat as them; estranged from family members, hundreds of miles away from home, extreme culture shock and completely new language. At the end of the day many of the young people thanked us for giving them the opportunity to come together and share their experiences.