Children in care

What guiding can offer to children in care and how you can help them get involved

We can provide a great setting for girls in the care system to find their place in the community

Children in care, also known as looked-after children, are children that have become the responsibility of a local authority. This may be voluntarily, through a parent, or because the child is considered to be at risk.

What does guiding offer?

Regular guiding meetings give girls going through the care system something familiar and safe to take part in. Through guiding, they can build trusting relationships and friendships, learn important life skills, challenge themselves, build their self-esteem and develop their potential.

These things are especially important for girls and young women who are going through the care system, when other aspects of their lives will often be unstable. Guiding gives them space to learn more about themselves and to grow into confident, self-sufficient individuals.

Our programme and method are fantastic at building important life skills for independent living - such as budgeting - that a young person in care may not have developed elsewhere.

Once a young person leaves the care system, guiding can be a vital source of continued support and information to them. Providing a sense of community, leadership skills and opportunities.

Including children in care

Be flexible

Some girls may find it difficult to attend a unit every week so be flexible with how badges and other parts of the programme are completed.

Consider financial support 

The costs of uniform, trips and subs may be paid through social services, the girl’s foster carer or social worker. Try to be sensitive and patient if they need additional time to pay. If money is a problem, speak to your Commissioner about ways you could support the young person - for example, by setting up a uniform recycling scheme. See our guidance for supporting members with low income for more information.

Don't make assumptions

Don't jump to conclusions about a girl’s background as every case is different. A girl may wish to talk to you about her background or she may wish to keep that private. This is her decision.

Prepare for sudden changes 

Girls in the care system may move suddenly. Be prepared to talk to girls in your unit about this, if they ask about what has happened. To protect the child, do not disclose any personal details about the girl or where she has moved to. This includes speaking to other Leaders, parents or girls in the unit. There are guiding units all over the UK so even if a girl has to move she may be able to join a unit in her new area. Find out how to help girls transfer to different units.

Be sensitive around celebration days

These may be difficult for a child in care. Consider how this might affect activities that you are planning, for example, making cards or gifts for parents.

Remember that consent forms can be signed by the person with parental responsibility for the child.

Your role as a trusted adult

A child who is in care may wish to talk to you as an adult that they trust and have regular contact with. They may also choose to speak with any Young Leaders in your unit, so make sure that you are available to support Young Leaders too.

This is an important responsibility, so if a girl turns to you for advice or support, make time to listen. If you're in the middle of a group activity, tell her that you will carry on your conversation after the activity has ended. Make sure that you follow through with this and are consistent. Be honest and do your best to answer any questions that a girl might have - as long as it's appropriate for you to do so.

See our full guidance on safeguarding and risk.

Where to find support

If you're finding it difficult to support a girl in care, talk to the other Leaders in your unit or ask for support from your Commissioner. You might find that other Leaders have experienced similar things and can give you guidance. However, it's important that you preserve the confidentiality of the child when discussing anything about them.

You can also contact the girl’s foster parents, social worker or family support worker for guidance. However, if you have any safeguarding concerns, please make sure you follow Girlguiding's Safeguarding policy.

The Who Cares Trust provide a voice for young people in care, and offer further support for local authorities, education professionals and foster carers.

Get advice on inclusion

Contact the Inclusion team at Girlguiding HQ for more information about including all girls and volunteers in guiding.