UPDATED: 30 October, 2017

How much do you know about personality types? Do you like to find out which categories you fall into? If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, or you already are one, it may well be that you fall into the personality type categorised as a ‘Pioneer’ according to research into ‘Why Foster Carers Care’ conducted by the UK’s Fostering Network.

This research found that an amazing 73% of foster carers displayed character traits that put them into the ‘Pioneer’ category against an average of just 42% of the general population. But what does this mean?

An amazing 73% of foster carers displayed character traits that put them into the ‘Pioneer’ category against an average of just 42% of the general population!

‘Pioneers’ share a set of common values which make them much more likely to become foster carers than people characterised as ‘Prospectors’ or ‘Settlers’, the other two main personality types identified in the study[i]. None of these types of personality are “better” than the others. They simply describe what individuals are like, and give an indication of the types of activities they might feel comfortable to undertake.

If you have a strong desire for fairness, justice and equality, are concerned about the environment and society, are reasonably self-assured, open to change and feel that whatever life throws at you you will manage, then chances are you are a ‘Pioneer’! ‘Pioneers’ also like to understand the big picture, and feel like they are working towards making things better.

Other research[ii] by eminent Professor of Social Welfare, Jill Duerr-Berrick, describes high-quality care-givers as typically being flexible, teachable, members of a team, loving, interested in strengthening a family, and up for a challenge. All of these attributes are consistent with (but not exclusive to) the characteristics of the ‘Pioneer’ personality type.

Does this sound like you or someone you know? You don’t have to be a ‘Pioneer’ to become a foster carer, but if you identify with some of the character traits above, maybe it’s time to give us a call and find out how you can make a difference in a child or young person’s life!

Take this special Fostering NSW version of the Pioneers, Prospectors & Settlers Quiz to find out which category best describes you!

We have had a great response to this Quiz, and have received preliminary results from Cultural Dynamics, who developed & run the quiz. It will remain open  till the end of December, but we have results from the original participants, and they are consistent with Dr Duerr-Berrick’s findings:



87%, or the vast majority, of people who took the quiz with us were ‘Pioneers’, while 11% of participants were ‘Prospectors’, and only 2.5% were ‘Settlers’. Have a look at the way Cultural Dynamics describes & breaks down the three personality types. In contrast with this, the three personality types are more or less evenly spread across society generally. That our participants were wildly skewed to the ‘Pioneer’ personality type is hardly surprising.

Our followers are largely people who are already foster carers, or those who are seriously considering it. Most foster carers share a common set of values, and they are markedly different from those of the wider population. These values are characterised by the confidence and need to help in the local community. Foster carers are principally motivated by an intrinsic desire to ‘do the right thing’ and to contribute to improving society. That is not to say that the other personality types do not care about these values, but rather they act in different ways, according to the other things valued more highly, such as personal safety & security, or the esteem of others.

If you haven’t yet, why not take the quiz, and see which personality type you fit into?


[i] The research uses the ‘Values Mode’ system of evaluation developed by Cultural Dynamics Strategy & Marketing and based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
[ii] Berrick, J. D., Shauffer, C., & Rodriguez, J. (2011). Recruiting for excellence in foster care: Marrying child welfare research with brand marketing strategies. Journal of Public Child Welfare. 5(2)


The Australian Institute of Family Studies recently released their annual Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics for the year 2015-2016, and it makes for sobering reading. Since 1990, the AIHW has compiled annual national figures for child protection activity, and the news is not good. The number of reports of child abuse has risen year on year, and so too has the number of children in out-of-home care across Australia. This could possibly be that as people become more aware of child protection issues they are reporting more and helping to remove kids from bad situations, but it means that the foster care system continues to be stretched, and the demand for more foster carers to meet this need expands.

Providing foster care is not for everybody. Children who come into care do so because it is not safe for them to live with their family of origin. They are often traumatised, and their removal and placement with strangers can have a further traumatising effect. These experiences can have long-term implications for development and behaviour. Science Journal News reports that suffering abuse impairs a child’s ability to learn, and that in turn can cause them to misbehave, especially as teenagers  The study discussed found that the relationship between physical abuse and the disruptive or aggressive behaviours that often stay with abused children well into the later stages of adolescence has a developmental basis. It has been known for a long time that there is a link between behavioural issues in adolescents and various types of adversity in early life, but the connection isn’t always straightforward, or even clear.

The process by which an individual subconsciously links stimuli and experiences together is called associative learning and this partly explains how people react to various real-world situations in general. Associative learning is a learning principle that states that ideas and experiences reinforce each other and can be mentally linked to one another. This seems to be impaired in children who have suffered abuse, perhaps due to the unpredictable nature of their early experience of life. Individuals exposed to early life adversity made decisions early in the learning process as if rewards were less consistent and occurred more at random.

Participants who had been exposed to early childhood abuse were less able to learn which stimuli were likely to result in reward than their peers were

A poor sense of associative learning influences a child’s behaviour patterns negatively during fast-changing or complex situations, so the study sought to explore these processes. Through playing computer games with various types of feedback they showed that participants who had been exposed to early childhood abuse were less able to learn which stimuli were likely to result in reward than their peers were. This was the case even after they had received feedback repeatedly. Abused children were on average less skilled at differentiating which behaviours would lead to the best results for them personally. Mistreated children were also more pessimistic about the possibility of positive outcomes when compared to the group who hadn’t been abused.

This type of learning difficulty and even general pessimism is something that foster carers often have to deal with. Knowing why these behaviours persist can perhaps go some way to helping foster carers sympathise and have patience with the children and young people in their care.