The main goal for SISUKAS – project (2012-16)

To prevent marginalization of children in foster care by developing a cooperation model “Foster Child at School” applying the Swedish SkolFam® model.

What is the SISUKAS-project actually about?

According to research, children taken in foster care tend to be low achievers at school. Social exclusion later in life can be prevented by supporting these children at an early phase. Standardised psychological and pedagogical instruments are used for assessing an individual foster child´s potential and her or his educational support needs. On the basis of the research and empirical data, a working model for the support of foster children at school will be created. For each child a written individualised plan will be created that contains the special needs of the child in question. A closer cooperation and the better communication between the foster family, school and social work will be created and futher enhanced.

SISUKAS-project in cooperation with SkolFam®

The Swedish SkolFam® cooperation model has been developed to support children at school by various bodies. SISUKAS – “Foster Child at School” – model is based on SkolFam® model. At the start of the project a psychologist and a special education teacher test each child with standardised tests. The results of the cognitive test (WISC – IV) and other tests (SDQ, VAS-scale,  CBCL) done by psychologist are compared with results of standardised tests for reading, spelling and numeracy done by special education teacher, and also to achievements at school, as perceived and reported by the teachers. Standardised tests are also used to assess baseline psychological well-being and behaviour, as well as child-teacher relations. The results of the tests are communicated to the children, their foster parents, teachers and social workers by the psychologist and the special education teacher at meetings where all the parties are present. This approach is chosen in order to create good working relationships among all those concerned, and also to demonstrate that the child is not a person with problems but rather a member of the team.

Potential for school achievement, strengths and obstacles are identified in co-operation with children, teachers, carers and social workers. As a result a written individualised plan for each child will be created, indicating his or her needs for educational support and other types of interventions. During the 24 months´ interventions, the psychologist and the special education teacher are key players, as one fundamental principle of the project is that they should constantly motivate and tutor the teachers (and foster parents) on how to assist each child to attain the set goals. The psychologist and the special education teacher do less work on a one to one basis with the children and work mostly with and through the teachers. Also, they closely monitor the individual progress and difficulties of each child, as perceived by children and teachers. This information is used in planned meetings every three months with all parties present. This model makes it possible to evaluate continuously the interventions and support provided.

After the 24 months´ period, the 20 children included in the project will be re-tested with the same instruments. Post-intervention test results are compared to pre-intervention scores for assessing outcomes. One of the main goals in SISUKAS – project is to develop dialog. A closer cooperation and the better communication between the foster family, school and social work will be created and further enhanced. The other goal is to create more positive attitude towards education among the children included the project and also to meet the needs of the children. The suitability of the SISUKAS – model and its effectiveness will be assessed by further research.

More about SISUKAS: SISUKAS in English

A short film by SISUKAS: Foster and build on hope – views on school from the perspective of a foster child

More about Finnish education system: Education system in Finland (Finnish National Board of Education)