Why is it hard for me to have friends when I’m in care?

What can professionals do to improve the chances of children in care having friends?

Not surprisingly, most children and young people want to have friends or a special friend. Friendships are among the most valuable relationships we have, offering us a sense of identity and belonging. Friendship can increase our resilience, providing a firm foundation for the long term bonds that will sustain us through our adult life.

Children in care must overcome significant challenges including the profound impact of repeated loss of friendship due to multiple moves of home and family, sometimes leaving little or no time to say goodbye to the friends may never see again. Social workers tell us that the lack of friendship history passed on to foster carers, rushed changes of placement leading to poor communication, children blocking memory, their fear of rejection and lack of confidence are factors that lead to friendships being lost.

Although children in care tell us that the loss of friendship can be the most distressing loss of all, there is little formal acknowledgement of this in foster care preparation, training and supervision. Children need to practice making and keeping friends if they are to avoid becoming socially isolated care leavers. Our research revealed that the explicit inclusion of children’s friendships in placement planning procedures, agendas and reviews is fragmented and training inconsistent and sometimes hard to find.

In partnership with the British Association of Fostering and Adoption (BAAF) now CoramBAAF, we conducted a national survey with BAAF members from Local Authority and Independent Foster Care providers. Our aim was to explore current practice and training to support children in care to get the most out of their friendships. The full report representing the views of 155 respondents representing a significant number of foster carers is available here.

‘If we don’t address friendship for children in care then we are adding to their social exclusion and failing in our duty as a corporate parent’ survey respondent