Three years ago, the Fostering Network in partnership with iMPOWER carried out research funded by the Department for Education on the ‘values and attributes of successful foster carers’. Over 2,300 foster carers in England across 130 local authorities completed a national survey. The results made for interesting reading, with over 80% of newly approved carers sharing a common set of values as characterised by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Based on responses, the Fostering Network categorised carers into three groups; 'Pioneers', 'Prospectors' and 'Settlers'.
Pioneer (81%): Typical pioneer characteristics are that they try to understand the big picture; they’re always looking for new questions and answers and hold a strong internal sense of what is right and what is wrong; they’re self-assured and have a sense of self-agency; pioneers are generally positive about change if it seems worthwhile, and they’re cautiously optimistic about the future.
Prospector (16%): Typical prospector characteristics are that they are success-oriented and want to ‘be the best’ at what they are doing; they welcome opportunities to show their abilities and take great pleasure in recognition and reward; they look to maximise opportunities and will take opportunities for advancement and professional networking; they like new ideas and are generally optimistic about the future.
Settler (3%): Typical settler characteristics are the need for safety, security and belonging; family, friends and home are very important to them, as are tradition and structure; they prefer things to be ‘normal’ and are naturally conservative (with a small ‘c’); they are wary of change, especially for its own sake and prefer regular and routine situations.
One of the clearest reasons why many foster carers have Pioneer values is the Pioneer desire to help and do the ‘right’ thing for the good of their environment. The breakdown of family relationships that destabilise a child’s environment will resonate strongly with Pioneers and therefore encourage them to act. Pioneers also like to be involved in decision making and have a strong sense of fairness. It’s important to bear in mind that whilst this may seem quite generic, it doesn’t mean those who were associated more with Prospector or Settler groups don’t also have Pioneer values.
What’s it been used for?
The study has been useful when it comes to foster carer recruitment. Strategies can be outlined with Pioneer values in mind, knowing that they will have a better chance of reaching people who fit a fostering ‘profile’.
When we receive enquiries from prospective carers, they often cite a desire to “give something back” and help those who are vulnerable and in need of support. The benefits of a loving, safe home to children and young people are evident, but there are enormous benefits for care givers as well!
Supporting a vulnerable young person, taking a high level of responsibility for keeping them safe and nurturing their healthy development; is an extremely rewarding role – emotionally and practically. There is a strong sense of self-agency in the role as carers take ownership over the child’s welfare in the foster home and must be self-assured to do this competently.
Foster carers also have a good understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong and are pioneering (no pun intended!) the child’s understanding of this. They want to do what’s best for the child and they have the perspective to identify when things haven’t gone as well as they’d like, allowing them to implement more effective strategies in the future. This clearly lends itself to Pioneer values.
Could I do it?
From an Action for Children Survey, almost half of people thought that if you were over 55 years old you couldn’t be a foster carer; nearly a fifth believed that males couldn’t foster alone; and one in three believed you couldn’t foster if you identified as gay.
This is completely wrong!
If you are aged 21 or over and have a spare bedroom, you can foster. All we ask if that you have the time, energy and passion to help children who need your support now.
And although a large majority of foster carers identify with Pioneer values, it doesn’t mean you have to. We strongly encourage anyone who’s thinking about this life-changing role to give us a call or submit an enquiry on our website and get the ball rolling. There's no harm in asking and it could change a child's life.
If you would like to become a foster carer then please get in touch and find out how you can #GiveSomethingBack.
Matt Holmes – Referrals and Recruitment Coordinator at Family Care Group
0800 5 677 677