Bad, unwanted, waste, nobody, homeless, weird, uneducated, naughty.
What do these words make you think of?
These are things people often associate with children and young adults in the care system.
It is commonly held that these individuals are the cause of their situation by the general public and even some carers.
And this is wrong.
Unfortunately, this has affected a massive part of the daily lives of looked after children and care leavers.
My name is Rose, I have been in the care system since I was 6 months old - I am now 21.
The reason why I am making this speech is because I believe that the other side needs to be heard and heard properly. Social care, specifically the care system, is an incredible service that has been set up for vulnerable children and young people, which is amazing, but like everything it still needs improvements.
I have been in this system all my life, it is all I have known, and there are many things I have experienced, seen, and heard. Many good, and sadly many awful too.
The experience of foster care is very stressful in itself, which can impact our sense of self-worth.
However, paired with the stigmas that are attached, they amplify the trauma in the process.
Here are a few areas I know can make a difference:
- Funding for social workers’ training to build relationships between social workers and looked after children. Working together leads to more trust and honesty which allows young people to feel safer while social workers get more honest feedback and openness from young people.
- Funding for more training to be given to foster carers in the areas of understanding trauma and behaviour. Also, for healthy ways to deal with trauma. There are often issues with foster carers understanding an individual child’s needs. Special care on initial meetings would be vastly helpful in making that process much less unsettling.
- Funding to be given to the Leaving Care Team to support care leavers on key life skills for their future, i.e. finances and budgeting, safe travel, shopping, housing, employment etc. - there is usually no access which often leads to unemployment, homelessness, depression, drug addiction, crime and the list goes on.
- Local events for LAC and care leavers to socialise and form good relationships and peer support.
- Funding for regular little home workshops on mental health, healing and self-love 6-12 times a year, accessed in their foster home or care home with freedom of any comfortable setting or outing. They should be included universally and can be monitored through the normal check-up methods used, which would improve personal wellbeing and self-worth – all these areas work closely together.
These things would make a world of a difference for children and young adults at all stages of care. For us to understand our value over our labels, and to feel more at home, more normal. Being able to have a voice in our lives allows us that freedom and acceptance.
And the opportunity of healing, friendships and self-love gives us the choice to have confidence in ourselves and our dreams, like any young person does.
At the beginning, I stated the stigmas that are associated with foster children, and something to note is that stigmas often come from a little bit of truth.
But the key thing is, we can’t change what others say about us, but we can change what we think about ourselves, and as a result what others think of us too.
Thank you for reading (or listening).