Last week we raised the awareness of Care Leavers across the UK. We heard advice, messages and powerful testimonials from those with care experience. Whilst this is a campaign that dominates social media Mary Anne-Hodd, care experienced trainer and consultant, wrote a post reminding us that there are ‘so many care experienced young people out there who won’t even be aware that National Care Leavers Week is a thing’, and asked us all to consider what we are doing for those who are not ‘speaking up’ and how we are creating ‘networks of unconditional support that go beyond a week’.
This is something that so many of us do, but I’m sure we all agree we have a lot of room for improvement.
It’s clear from the advice that I have read over this week that we have wonderful humans that support our young people. We speak of aspiration, talk about staying strong when things are hard, and believing in yourself. What I’ve liked about reading this week’s advice most is that we don’t coat up care and hide the challenges of care, we speak into it with words that have the intention to help young people climb out of it.
I remember a foster carer once saying to me; ‘being in care isn’t about damage prevention, it’s about damage limitation and I have to care but not care’. When I first heard this I didn’t understand and I have to admit it was a little painful. Now as an adult I understand. We are not heroes who can save young people from pain (damage prevention), we can only be there for them when they are in pain (damage limitation) and we have to care for young people unconditionally with the expectation of nothing in return (care but don’t care).
It’s about caring for the young person more than you care about the outcome.
That’s what this advice is to me. I am reading messages, advice and testimonials from adults who know they are not connecting to all young people, but are sharing their humanity with us and what they believe young people should hear. The real work is in the daily connections with our young people and these messages show we have people that care.
We want to say a big thank you to everyone that participated in our campaign and we have pulled together all the advice we received last week and included it all here for you to read. Please share it with as many young people and professionals who work with them as you can.
“If people tell you what you want to do with your life is impossible, you should tell them to get out of your way so you can prove them wrong. Find the ones who say “YES! GO ON!!” and listen to them instead.”
Maggie Atkinson – Former Children’s Commissioner for England
“Never think you can’t do something. Try, if you’re not successful, learn from the experience and move to the next challenge. Ultimately you will succeed.”
Irene Fox – Retired Care Recruitment Officer via Linkedin
“Believe in yourself, your dreams and your aspirations. The road is never easy but you can achieve your goals if you keep trying.”
Kerry Temple Whitehead – Leaving Care Personal Adviser via Linkedin.
“I would encourage young people leaving care to try and maintain relationships with previous carers, to stop by for a cuppa, drop in for a Sunday roast and not be afraid to stay connected. It’s a journey, not an ending.”
Laura Taylor – Fostering Social Worker and Therapeutic Parenting Coach
“Never give up on what brings you joy, the seeds you plant with love today will blossom into gifts tomorrow.”
Ric Flo Diaghe – Artist and Foster Care Advocate
“Keep believing in yourself, today, tomorrow, next week, next year, as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done””
Harvey Gallagher – CEO – NAFP
“I think the most crucial thing for people from state care is to focus on building nourishing, lasting relationships and connections. These help us heal, build resilience and reverse the inner voice of not being worthy.”
Benjamin Perks – Head of Campaigns & Advocacy at UNICEF
“Nowadays, there are thousands of care leavers at university – don’t let any bumps in the road put you off if that’s what you want to do!”
Dr Neil Harrison – Deputy Director of The Rees Centre
“I couldn’t have been prouder or more inspired by my care experienced children. Be kind to yourselves and celebrate each other’s achievements.”
Yvette Stanley – National Director, Early Years Regulation & Social Care at Ofsted
“I’ve been privileged to meet so many remarkable care leavers. A care experience gives you something special to offer the world. Let’s build a world that celebrates, hears, and empowers you.”
Josh MacCalister – Chair of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care
“Surround yourself with people who build you up not with folk who knock you down – remember we’ve all got something to offer but none of us know everything so let’s help each other out when we can.”
Dr Claire Baker – Researcher
“My advice is take things one step at a time, keep working on making one thing better and when you’ve done it pick another. One day you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come.”
Jonny Hoyle – Trustee of Coram Voice
“Every person has a story that deserves to be heard. Every experience is valuable and to make meaningful change we need to hear even the quietest voices”
Eva A Sprecher – Research Officer
“Care experienced people have had to rely the most extraordinary skills, abilities and energy to get through what we have. Remember, you still have these powers! The world needs to recognise and help you unlock your potential.”
Meera Mistry – NHS Director and Trustee of Become
“It’s important we allow our experiences to serve us rather than traumatise us further. It’s about growing through what we go through.”
Jerome Harvey – Agyei
Senior Children’s & Youth Participation Officer
“Remember – you deserve to get the best kind of help and encouragement – you should never expect anything less. Keep on pushing!”
Matthew Brazier – Ofsted’s Specialist Adviser (Children in Care) and one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors
“Practice gratitude, crappy things inevitably happened, but so did some good. Cling to those.
Reframe your skills – creative problem solving and creating opportunities for your needs to be met (even if maladaptively) goes hand in hand with the self parenting required when in care. Find and grow your strengths and use them to create the life you deserve.
Get therapy if you need it. Find someone or something that suits you to help you feel and process the feelings you probably had to ignore and disconnect from just to get through. Painful but important.
Take inspiration from others – you don’t need to walk their path but you need to know that you can dictate and walk yours.
Find people you can trust. Relational trauma can sabotage your ability to make meaningful and lasting connections, but when you find them be brave enough to be vulnerable.
Find something you enjoy and make it a habit to do it little and often. You don’t need to be ‘good’ at it.
Ask for help and accept it when offered.
Practice self-compassion. That shame you feel doesn’t belong to you. You were a child. Dependent on others. You did the best you could in the moment with the resources you had available at the time. Forgive yourself, plan for better and let it go.”
Dr Emma Woodward – Psychologist
“Aim high, work hard, dream big and ALWAYS believe in yourself! You are never alone, we will be with you, supporting you every step of the way! Supporting you through the good, the bad and the ugly! We believe in you!”
Stephanie Birchall – Participation and Inclusion Officer
“You are enough!”
Kerry Bull – Team Manager
“Please use all the support provided to get the best out of the service.”
Anne-Maria Brown – Care Leavers Support
“You are worthy! You have more experience than many at your age. This is strength. Tell the world your story and be an inspiration for others.”
Lauren Pang – Head of Data & Performance
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