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Head, Heart and Hands

Head Heart and Hands is a training programme for foster carers run by the City of Edinburgh Council.

It is funded by the Fostering Network and aims to embed social pedagogy into foster caring practice. It supports foster carers to help children

  • build knowledge (head)
  • understand emotions (heart)
  • use hands-on practical action(hands).

The aim of this is to help children understand their world in a way that leads to a more positive future.

Nadia, one of our foster carers, talks about her experience of using Head, Heart and Hands below.

Nadia’s story

Having been foster carers for seven years, my husband and I were keen to be the best carers that we could be and find ways to be truly child centred. We found the agency that we worked for had become more risk adverse and focused on a ‘tick box’ culture.

We decided to move to the City of Edinburgh Council where we had heard of a training programme called Head Heart and Hands which focused on Social Pedagogy in foster care. This was the best decision we could ever have made.

Learning how to put our role as foster carers into a framework of social pedagogy has been a revelation. Finally we have the right tool kit for our job! We have been empowered to be able to provide the best care to the young people that we look after. We are able to balance normal risks that young people may take and allow our young people the freedom to take these normal risks without fear of reprisals.

Head, Heart and Heads in practice

An example of this change to the way we foster would be the 15 year old boy we look after who loves his BMX bike but has refused to wear a cycle helmet. Without the benefit of social pedagogy we would have been in constant conflict over this as we would have felt that we shouldn’t allow him to ride his bike at the skate park with no helmet. He would have undoubtedly done this anyway and this situation would most likely have escalated to the point where the placement could have broken down.

After our Head Heart and Hands training, we handled the situation differently realising that the risk had to be balanced with the benefit. In fact this approach enabled a dialogue to be opened and proper discussions had, to the point where compromises were reached so that he will now wear a helmet when doing any stunts or jumps on his bike. Not perfect but realistic!


Our ability to develop authentic relationships with our young people has reaped many amazing rewards. We have learned the importance of active listening and positive reflection, being able to empower our young people and being better communicators.

Social pedagogy has taught us that happiness and well being are as important as noticing the little things and delighting in each other’s company as we truly value our young people and our colleagues as unique creative individuals. No more ‘blame game’ just positive supportive reflection leading to professional enrichment.

My last example of putting it into practice: an opportunity for our young person to go sailing on a keel boat arose. I would have normally supported the young person by taking them there and taking a few photos etc. Not this time. I now have learnt about ‘the common third’, shared learning and experience. I was a bit resistant when I saw the oversized fluorescent outfit but staying only just within my learning zone I participated in the most amazing afternoon on the high seas! We did it together, both novices, both nervous. We helped each other, laughed together, teased each other and learned together. What a brilliant bonding experience that we shared with each other. I am attaching a photo of us on our day!

I hope that every foster carer can experience the social pedagogy training and be as lucky and happy as my wonderful family is now.

Thanks for the opportunities,