Emma’s Fostering Blog.
We can help change the problems currently in the system by listening to children, young people and care experienced people, and this can be a powerful force for change. I know from my young people they want to challenge the stigma of being ‘Looked After’ and all the labels that this brings with it. To make those positive changes it’s so important that we listen to them as every child has a story to be told, and act, as their contributions are invaluable in making those positive changes.
Tom is such an inspiring young person; he had experienced more hardship since turning 18 than most of my friends in their lifetime. We met Tom some years ago, he was 15 and he came to us for a couple of months on respite. He was bright, clever and had a great way about him, despite his many personal issues, and he hated the stigma of being a ‘Looked After’ child; the expectations that he had low self-esteem, low self-confidence and low achievement he really struggled with that.
One evening years later there was a knock on the door, it was Tom he wanted to thank us for the support we had shown him when he stayed with us. I listened as he reflected on his troubled childhood and how as an adult he continually had to fight against negative stereotypes and avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. It took him sheer will and determination and a whole load of resilience to get to where he was now.
He told us “At 18 you’re on your own and you have to sink or swim and I didn’t want to become a negative statistic.”
Tom is now 28 and has a good job in engineering, his carers stayed in touch, they supported in the only way they could because they recognised that support is ongoing and crucial long after 18.
Developing a better transition for those leaving care, and including those in Residential care is to look at the whole life of a leaver, not just a snapshot. I have since met many inspiring, intelligent and determined care leavers who are undertaking further education, training or employment and we need to hear more positive stories of success. There are lessons to learn and we need to have a space to share those experiences and find a voice and role in current services, for example, experienced people mentoring younger children to guide and champion them. It seems there have been some great practices in the past that have been lost to bureaucracy such as engaging with people in care.
My thoughts are Young people are ready to move into independence at different stages, and the options that young people have when they leave care should reflect that. Empowerment and encouragement is key, so is having someone who cares and who is there to celebrate your achievements.
Emma – A Blogging Foster Carer – I Love What I Do!