Simply Fostering Cathy Mayes

Cathy Mayes Independent Trainer/Facilitator

Why I Never Turn Down a Chance to Learn

Continued professional development, training and learning: It’s all in the word. “Continued” suggests that you will carry on doing it; just as training suggests that you will be taught it, learning and development suggests that you will take it away and develop it.  And it really is a career-long process.

In my experience the word ‘training’ seems to turn some foster carers away from learning opportunities; and not just foster carers, I have heard similar excuses from social care staff. I have heard every excuse available;over twenty years’ experience and therefore do not need training. Others tell me that they have brought up their own children and so they know what they are doing, ‘there is too much to do; I don’t have time to attend training’.

So is there some deep-rooted human fear that lies behind this negative attitude to taking the risk to improve what we do and how we do it? Are we scared of admitting that we don’t know it all? Well if we are professional we certainly shouldn’t be. Being aware of our own shortcomings is a valuable first step on the path to helping others to face up to, and cope with, theirs.

I find that facilitators can be quite nervous when invited to deliver a session, I know I am. But when I stop being nervous or anxious,then I will retire!None of us knows everything, but I do know that every single time I have delivered training, facilitated learning or attended a foster carer support group or meeting; I have learned something from the group or an individual.

Maybe foster carers don’t realise what a valuable asset they are, how much knowledge they can share, drawing on invaluable first-hand experience. All foster carers, experienced or new who attend a session are potentially immense assets to the group and to the facilitator. There is an important role for the experienced foster carer in supporting other carers,sharing knowledge, mentoring or just plain listening. As do those new to the game. (We can all welcome a fresh take on an old problem!)No two placements are the same because no two children are the same. What we thought we knew can sometimes fade into the background and we need to find a new approach meeting the needs of a new child or young person in placement.

Learning, in any form, is all about sharing knowledge. It is about networking, meeting other people and building relationships to provide a supportive team around the child, family and foster carer. So next time you hear there is a training session coming up think about what you can give, as well as what you can take away.

It is important to acknowledge, and to give credit to, other ways of learning and building knowledge. E-learning may be preferred by some, reading books, articles, research, or using the internet also builds your knowledge base. Discussions, television and radio programmes also promote learning. The advice I would give for everyone involved with continued professional development and learning is to keep a detailed record of literature and programmes that you have found useful. Not only will it create an evidential resource that would be useful for your review, but you can pass information to others who may prefer to learn using these media.

Learning is good. Go for it, share your knowledge!