Topic: Quality Care Checklist (Part 2)
As parents we are all doing our best, and providing daily quality care for our children is an important goal. Sometimes a reminder of what Quality Care is, can help us focus on our own behaviour and environment, to maximize our potential as well as our children’s potential. Remember, it is always ok if not necessary, to ask for support when needed.
A Child Must Feel and Be:
We all need to be a part of a group of people, whether that be big groups or small groups and depending on our individual culture, preference, and personality. Inclusion = participation. To help children and youth feel truly included, they need to actively participate in events which can look like: helping to cook a meal, sports, games, family chores, conversations, making decisions, helping a friend move, helping a peer with homework, learning cultural practices, and asking for their input on various topics. Knowing that they have made a positive difference and that they have contributed to an outcome gives children/youth a sense of belonging and pride. When children in care are simply “looked after” and not a part of the everyday family system, they lose a sense of their identity, which can lead to them seeking belonging elsewhere. Children and youth in care, where appropriate, need to be included consistently with their biological families and friends. This duel-inclusion can be challenging, however they have the right to their culture, as this is a necessary strength that should be honoured to enhance their outcomes when facing life-changing events. It is important for carers to be culturally self-aware, knowing our own lack of knowledge about a culture is an opportunity to learn! Some final ideas to promote inclusion is for them to have their own spot at the dinner table, take active interest in their friends and school, include child/youths’ family in conversations, find out favourite foods, include them in shopping list prep, and include them in community activities.
Quality care includes achieving, or being actively engaged in accomplishing something whether large or small. Achievement is developing skills to do well in life. Learning is happening all day every day, but it is what we are learning that changes the trajectory of our lives. It can be difficult to motivate children, and especially youth, to actively engage in learning new skills, however this gives them the foundation to build upon more complex learning. Achievement is not all about academics, it is about the process and the outcomes that really solidify skill development, as well as finished products, or an avenue to experiment other options. For example, if a child is trying to tie their shoe, they either tie the shoe as they were taught, or they find other more creative ways to secure the shoe, either way they have achieved their goal! You will notice that children/youth often end up in a similar career as their families/caregivers. This pattern shows that our own skills and professions can be enough to nurture skills and achievement. “One finds that a child who is not confident in all areas of their life, may need just one area of achievement from which he/she gains self-confidence. This can change their attitude and performance in all other areas” (Powis, Allsopp &Gannon, 1989). Now for the to-do’s! Encourage achievement by: promoting skill development large and small, prepare for new experiences before diving right in; for example, watch a YouTube instructional video etc. Also, model the skill, provide supplies, seek out like-minded peers, learning to achieve through interactive play, and providing learning opportunities, celebrate their success and failures, encourage them to try again, provide enough time for experimentation and completing the tasks, believe in them and use encouraging language, e.g. “well-done!” or “you must be proud of yourself”; have them share a couple of daily achievements, e.g.: “I helped with the recycling at school today”, or “I scored a goal”. This can become a meal time routine.
3. Given Time
Quality Care wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the gift of time. Children and youth in care need time to visit, say goodbye, cry, move on, choose, make amends, worry, ask for help, make decisions, and love. We all have very busy lives, and time is precious. Time is given when they are learning new skills, when they are in emotional turmoil, when they need to make a decision, and when they need to be with others or by themselves. Giving time is to give respect and reinforce that they are valuable individuals. Some children/youth process leaning quickly and others more slowly; time for this must be considered when children are in our care. Sometimes, letting the toast turn cold in the toaster, is less important than providing a moment of attention for a child who needs it. Other ideas to give the gift of time is to: carve out 1:1 time, be fully-present when they are telling you something, try not to be distracted, go for a walk with them, watch a movie, tell them how to communicate when they need time alone or time with you, give home-made gift certificates for time spent with you such as an activity or outing, play, and remember that the gift of time is an opportunity to teach children/youth how to live, what is important, and that quality time is an expression of healthy relationships.
Reference: Quality Care in a Family Setting: A Practical Guide for Foster Carers (Fulcher & Thom, 2008).