Connecting with Heads, Hearts and Hands in Edinburgh

Blue Cabin Associate Jane Gray, and Board Member Marc Jones, traveled to Edinburgh in November 2016 to attend the Fostering Network's Head, Heart, Hands conference. Here, Jane and Marc share reflections from their trip. 

The Head Heart Hands (HHH) conference invited us to depart for Edinburgh in Mid-November 2016.  So, armed with gloves, scarves, and flasks of tea, we hit the train northward bound. 

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Delivered by the Fostering Network, the conference was designed to explore the impact that the introduction of social pedagogy can have on outcomes for fostered children and young people.  Right up our street, and the namesake for our current programme in Darlington.

The event took place in the wonderful Surgeons’ Hall which was full of beautiful, ornate coving and full of character.  One regret of the day is that we didn’t get chance to visit the Musuem, so next time we’re in Edinburgh, it’s definitely on the list!

The day reaffirmed some knowledge and practice, and at the same time, challenged us; thinking about past work, and how we should approach things in the future.  We won’t go through a stage by stage breakdown of the day here, but we thought we’d share some key reflections.

Giving ourselves permission
Being responsible for children and young people, in whichever capacity, whether as a foster carer, teacher, social worker or other adult in their lives comes with a huge weight of responsibility.  The pressure to have an immediate, appropriate response to an action, situation or question can be overwhelming, and not always constructive.  For those involved in HHH, implementing social pedagogy has given foster carers permission to slow down, and have time to reflect before taking action; that action is more likely to be communication with the child or young person, enabling the relationship to build, and ways forward to be found.

A co-learning approach
What came out particularly strongly was that using a social pedagogical approach enabled foster carers to be more intentional in their relationship building, using a shared language and activities. Trying something new together equalised the relationship, sometimes enabling the child to become ‘the expert’, which was incredibly powerful; the children knew the adults were coming out of their comfort zones, to try something together. 

The team around the child
One of the stand-out stories of the day, was the extension of one young persons’ Life Story Book.  This young person loved cooking, and so developed a book of favourite recipes of all the adults in their life; foster carers, social workers, teachers, health professionals…the team around the child for looked after children and young people is dizzyingly complex. This helped to build understanding and relationships, by using something of interest to the young person, and the professionals sharing something personal. After all, how cool and empowering is it to know how to cook your new teacher's favourite pudding? We loved thinking about an arts version of this, which might include favourite films, books, bands, music, artists and places to visit; brilliantly complementing Arts Award!

To read more about the work in Scotland, take a look at the document summary.

Jane and Marc