Online services, mental health & wellbeing of the care-experienced

Online services and the mental health and wellbeing of care-experienced children and young people

Good mental health and wellbeing is important particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the new restrictions around social distancing, there has been a move to deliver mental health services online. However, as yet, we do not know the best ways to develop online services, or how to successfully adapt programmes that have been delivered in person to now be delivered online. Research is required to understand how interventions can transition to online or blended (a mixture of face-to-face and online) delivery, what models are perceived to work most effectively, and which approaches warrant additional development, adaptation, and evaluation.

This new study funded by the TRIUMPH network aims to explore how to best develop online programmes for care-experienced young people. A team from Cardiff University and Voices from Care Cymru are working with The Fostering Network in Wales to improve online services to better support mental health and wellbeing.

We will interview and run consultations groups with care-experienced young people, foster carers, and social care professionals to explore their experiences of online programmes and understand what they want from online services. This will help us to consider the best way to develop or adapt services and discover what types of programmes participants would like to see in the future.

The research findings will enable us to develop a set of guidance and principles to support policymakers, practitioners, and researchers in developing and or adapting programmes for delivery online. If you are a care-experienced young person, foster carer or practitioner and you would like to contribute to developing online services to support mental health and wellbeing please contact us to register your interest.

Rhiannon Evans
DECIPHer (Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity and Implementation in Public Health Improvement), Cardiff University

Dawn Mannay
School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

Education during COVID-19: Experiences of the fostering sector

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have heard how fostering households across the UK quickly adapted to support children in these unprecedented times. Many foster carers assumed additional responsibilities and roles overnight: supporting children with home learning, supervising virtual contact with birth families in their own home, facilitating virtual social worker visits as well as all their usual fostering duties and responsibilities.

Lockdown has had a significant impact on fostering households. While some foster carers have reported an increase in challenging behaviour and concerns about the wellbeing of children, some fostering families have seen benefits of children being in one place for a sustained period of time and they have seen children feeling settled and calm.

Survey results
Children and young people’s views on education during the pandemic

To understand more about fostered children’s experiences of education during the pandemic we launched a rapid response survey for foster carers and fostering services across the UK.

The survey received 487 foster carer responses representing 870 fostered children and young people from across the UK. We received 48 responses from fostering service members of staff. In addition, we were able to gather the thoughts and feelings of a small group of children and young people about their experiences of education and thoughts about returning to school.

The evidence shows that the vast majority of children in foster care have been not attending educational settings and have received very different offers and experiences of education throughout the coronavirus pandemic. While some have thrived from more one to one support and the removal of some external pressures, others have experienced increased anxiety and other mental health problems and have been excluded before being given the chance to attend educational provisions. The experience of educating during lockdown has also brought to the fore the need for more individualised education plans for looked after children.

Survey results
Children and young people’s views on transitioning back to their education providers

The survey results have helped provide an understanding about both the educational experience of fostered children during lockdown and their needs as they transition back to school. To find out more about this survey and the key findings please see the full report.

Charlotte Wooders:
Twitter: The Fostering Network in Wales

Thrive magazine: ‘Your online life’ and ‘Keeping yourself safe online’

Download the latest special editions of the young people’s magazine, Thrive:

Your online life – English / Welsh 
Keeping yourself safe online – English / Welsh

Last year the Fostering Network in Wales met and worked with young people from across Wales to hear what they had to say about the digital world and how to stay safe online.

The young people shared their expertise and knowledge with us which helped to develop the two latest editions. We want to say a big thank you to all those involved: the NYAS Caerphilly Shout Out, Fairwater Bright Sparks, Whitchurch High School Cardiff, and Voices from Care Cymru.

Both magazines aim to help young people in care think about how they use the internet and social media alongside the positives and the risks, whilst exploring how they can support themselves and each other to stay safe and look after their wellbeing online. The new editions are available for free here. Please do share with your team, contacts and the young people you work with. 

The first edition of Thrive was published in 2005 and since then it has been providing information, support, and guidance to children and young people in foster care across Wales. The magazine provides a legitimate platform which empowers young people to have their say and express their views on what’s important to them. For previous editions of Thrive, please visit our website.

Charlotte Wooders
The Fostering Network in Wales