For young people in foster care, participating in common daily activities such as grocery shopping, playing in the park, or reading a book helps give them a stronger sense of value and well-being, according to a new study at the University of Leicester in the U.K.
The findings call on foster parents and the community to recognize the value of encouraging young people in their care to engage in everyday activities, such as shopping, playing with pets, darts, board games, socializing, playing in the park, reading, crafting, swimming, and singing.
“It is already understood that participating in facilitated cultural and social activities has positive effects on children’s and young people’s wellbeing, personal development, aspiration, and thus improves their life chances,” said lead author Dr. Lisanne Gibson from the University of Leicester.
“Our research has also found that everyday participation is an important domain through which young people learn about the social world, their place in it, and is a domain in which they feel empowered to express themselves.”
The findings offer insights not only to foster parents, but for members of the community as well who desire to help foster children build a stronger sense of well-being.
“This report is exciting because it speaks to, and is intended to be useful to, professionals working in social and health services, cultural practitioners, charities, and the education sector, along with families, carers, and foster carers,” said Dr. Delyth Edwards from the University of Leicester.
The study involved ethnographic work by and with young women living in foster care, focus group discussions with foster parents and independent visitors, and workshop discussions with professionals involved in delivering social and cultural services to young people in care.
“What young people choose to do in their free time can be of great importance to how they see themselves and are the lived experiences from which they can and will construct their identities now, and in the future. This is a fundamental value of facilitated and everyday participation,” said the researchers.
For professionals working in cultural and leisure institutions, the research clearly demonstrates the potential for supporting young people in foster care by facilitating programs that connect with and value young people’s everyday participation.
“Cultural institutions such as museums and galleries, with their expertise in memory and identity work are currently underutilized as tools for the facilitation of participation amongst young people in care,” said the researchers.
“We suggest that the responsibility to facilitate the participation of young people in care lies not only with those directly looking after children and young people and social services, but also with the organizations and venues funded by the corporate parent.”
Source: University of Leicester