Mayfield Rugby League under 9’s team played Waterhead of Oldham in their last game before the summer break, and the young Mustangs produced one of their best performances in both defence and attack. Strong tackling by all was enhanced with tries by Isaac Reid, William May, Harley Hogarth and a stunning 50 metre effort by Nathan Muir. This has been a great season so far for the youngsters with a continued improvement every week. The highlight of the season was undoubtedly at last month’s Magic weekend where they ran out at Newcastle Uniteds St James Park in front of 25000 people to play a game during the half time break of the Salford Reds V Widnes Vikings fixture.

Capstone Foster Care sponsor the young Rugby League stars. Rugby League for children and adults of all ages continues throughout the summer – details can be obtained from Simon Howe on 07920 865106 or emailing the club on
Pictured is Jamie Howe, proudly modelling the Capstone Foster Care sponsored shirts.

I had the pleasure of going to the spring Social Pedagogy Development Network conference in Edinburgh recently. In normal fashion the SPDN chose a subject which we all think about but rarely have the guts or ability to start talking about in a professional context. The subject was love and whether we should or could talk about this massive subject in our working lives.

Predictably we started to share ideas, debate and we realised how complex the subject was. Some people shared that they had reciprocated love with the people in their caring context? They shared how that had gone for them and some told about their love for colleagues. What was interesting was the vast array of the meanings for what love meant for different people in a professional context and how hijacked the word had become (maybe even as you read this, your understanding of love has painted a picture in your mind about what it means to you). As we explored it was becoming clear that somehow we all wanted to understand and practice love but the hard part was how do we do that, give language to it and ultimately display it in our roles. We all know that we need love so how can we just ignore it in our work even when can come across as unprofessional or misunderstood?

I was able to share a little bit about love in a fostering context and as I prepped I was aware of how core the message of love was in our house. All the kids are offered it and it is unconditional. Sometimes we have used the word directly and sometimes we have realised in certain contexts that it was not appropriate due to circumstance. There can be a real sense of fear in telling a young person that you love them since it can be misconstrued or misunderstood. Their understanding of love might be very different to yours. Most often however, love is an intent toward another, a hanging on through thick and thin, the reminder to a young person that they are not defined by their behaviour.

Ultimately we reached no conclusion as we only had a day and a half of discussion and debate but the proverbial ball has been set in motion. Once again social pedagogy got us to ask the hard question with the best intention for ourselves and the people we work with in sight. I have no idea if we will ever reach a complete conclusion on how we talk about love but I do know that we need to reflect on it and love each other in our families. We need to give love the space it needs to build and encourage the young people we work and live with. I would encourage you to think about what love means for you. Do you use the word with your young people? What is your social worker’s understanding of it? Would it be appropriate in your situation? Whatever the answers might be, remember that your kids need love so just make sure you find ways of making sure they get it and know it!


Louise shared with me recently about a situation which she had come across with two foster families. For one family they had been told by the local authority that they cared too much for the young person who was with them and that they ought to be more hands off and less emotionally involved. The other family were with another local authority and they had been told that they did not care enough and should be exactly the opposite of the example above!

There is, of course, much more context around these two situations however Louise knows that both the families are basically in the same place and both have the same intent and interest towards their kids. So which of these authorities is right? I have wrestled with this question and concluded that actually I think it is the wrong question to ask. The right question is more like, how come these two authorities are coming to two different conclusions?

Anyone who has been a carer for a while knows that the network around the young person they are looking after can be the make or break of a placement. If you have a particularly risk averse social worker or uncontactable manager you will really struggle. Equally if you have an advocate or team which goes the extra mile to know your kids the likelihood is that the situation will be much better read. The problem is is that we often don’t know which situation we will find ourselves in and heart ache and further trauma can be incurred if we see bad decisions being made when we desperately want to serve the kids.

Of course there is no magic wand for this but I would encourage you to try some ideas. Wherever possible try to get to know social workers and the people around your kids. Hold your ground in meetings – don’t let anyone tell you that your opinion is at the bottom of the list in terms of importance. Fight tooth and nail for what you know is right for your kids. If you know if it is right to give more of yourself emotionally don’t hold back – do it, your foster kids need to see how much you value them.

That feeling in your gut is pretty trustworthy. You spend more time with these kids than anyone else. If you really feel that something needs to be done, try and work out creative ways with your network of how you can implement it. It might be hard work but I don’t think you will regret it. Lastly, and this is an important one, try and review what goes well and what doesn’t as much. Reflect on what the network is saying and where you stand with it. Maybe there is something for you to learn and maybe there is something for others to learn. It is this stance that will eventually get more teams operating in similar ways and provide a strong place from you to operate from.


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