Fostering and a focus on mental health are two things that go hand in hand. From looking after children and young people who may have experienced trauma and are living with the continued impact, to ensuring that our foster carers and social workers have the right mental health and support resources available to them, mental health support features throughout everything that Affinity does. It always feels like an achievement to see healthy and nurturing relationships growing and flourishing. So, it makes sense that this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week’s theme is Growing Together.
We think that we can all safely argue that the last two years of pandemics, lockdowns, and homeschooling have had a significant impact on the mental health of many of us. In March 2020, all our lives were interrupted and, for the children and young people in our care, that interruption had the potential to negatively impact on the progress they had made. For example, a National Youth Advocacy Service survey of 230 children in care and care leavers aged from 6 to 26 reported that 86% of them had said that lockdown had caused them to feel more lonely or anxious. One of the standout reasons for this was reduced access to services and support networks that they had relied on.
The Affinity family is one that is built around the concepts of growth and nurturing, and it’s always fantastic to see a member reach their true potential. Everyone has a part to play, no matter whether it’s a member of our office team, our social workers, our carers, the children we look after, or the families they live with, we believe that everyone is vital. Which is why we are proud to say that in the Affinity family, you are never alone; there’s always someone there by your side (even during a pandemic). From the moment a foster carer joins our family, we provide the tools and support they need to fulfil their aspirations. From continued specialist training to support groups and social get-togethers, there is always someone there for them to turn to. Having foster carers who feel supported and appreciated means that we can provide calm and caring homes for the children that they look after.
The young people in our care also have extensive opportunities for growth and discovery. Looked after children are far more likely to have poor mental health with suggestions that 45% have a diagnosable mental health disorder and 70-80% recognisable mental health concerns. Alongside the support our young people receive from their carers and social workers, they also receive opportunities to build their interests and confidence. During lockdown, we hosted online crafting days and chef-led cooking lessons; when venues reopened, there were holidays to Alton Towers and zorbing experiences! Having fun helps to create balance in our lives. Affinity also runs a Voices group which was established to help our young people vocalise their thoughts and feelings. Through this, they created a video to try to change the ongoing practice of child in care reviews, which they sent to Nadhim Zahawi MP, which was then passed to the NIROMP. The confidence to be able to advocate for themselves and others in care came from the support that our young people receive every step of the way.
We love growing together, and our Voices group has certainly shown us that we always have room to grow further. Every child, young person, household setting, and carer is different, which means we are always learning.
Children’s Mental Health Week runs from February 7th – 12th. You can find out more about the event, the charity that arranges it and can download resources here.
Additional information on Children’s Mental Health can be found at the following websites: