How our National Parks are helping foster carers connect with their young people.

Released On 7th Feb 2023

How our National Parks are helping foster carers connect with their young people.

Our National Parks have long provided people with a safe and inviting place to connect, reflect and refresh. Time in nature has been shown to contribute to a host of mental health benefits, such as reduced anxiety, increased dopamine production (the happy hormone), and restoring capacity for concentration. These benefits are now being echoed by foster carers, who are using time in nature to help connect with the children they care for.

Foster carers provide temporary homes for children who cannot live with their birth family. Children may often arrive at a foster placement guarded, confused, and upset, so building trust and establishing a connection with   the vulnerable young person in their care is a pivotal part of being a foster carer.

Jane, a Somerset County Council foster carer, said: “To be out with my young people in our national parks, allows us a space where we can find common ground, explore new interests, and share knowledge; they teach me as much as I teach them! While we are together, we are in a mutual space where we can share in confidence without interruption. Not only does time outdoors improve our health, but it provides us a way to support each other if needed and helps us all succeed in our goals as a whole unit.”

Jane has three foster children in her care, and regularly takes them to different national parks to explore: “We love Exmoor, as it gives us moorland and costal adventures. Dartmoor is always a winner with its quick changing weathers, and they always love hearing stories of prisoner escapes from the prison.  Exmoor allows us to read Lorna Doone, and for me to introduce them to books that they may never of thought to read.”

When asked about the impact that time in nature has on the mental wellbeing of her young people, she said: “It is huge. Being outdoors is a whole healing package that allows both myself and my young people to stop, breathe, listen, look and just be.  These free spaces that are our national parks provide give us many adventures, and  opportunities for education and environmental understanding. This is essential for young people and helps them grow, develop and prepare for the future.”

If you’ve been inspired to consider how you could help change a child’s story as a Somerset Foster Carer, visit Foster carers need to have a spare room in their home and to be aged 21 or over, with no upper age limit – wisdom and experience are a bonus. In return we’ll support you every step of the way, with weekly fee and allowance payments, and a dedicated Supervising Social Worker to guide you through your fostering journey. You’re not committing to anything by getting in touch to find out more, and you could make a real difference to the life of a vulnerable young person in care.

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