Scott King is a Lived Experience Leader and now, the founder of training company, Section 31 Training. For the latest episode of our ‘In Conversation With’ series, we chatted to Scott about his time in the care system, his involvement in change-making movements, and being an advocate for care leavers.
Scott was taken into care when he was six months old, along with his brother who was three at the time. After a failed adoption, Scott went on to have a rollercoaster journey involving 36 placement moves – two of which were in residential care.
During this time, Scott’s traumas were compounded as he suffered many letdowns, a split from his brother at the age of seven, and abuse from foster carers. After spending the entirety of his younger years growing up in the care system, Scott officially stopped receiving services at 21.
“I left the care system as quite an angry young person,” says Scott. “I had some very strong views, which I don’t have now, but I think it’s important to reflect on that. I hated social services, I hated foster carers, I hated anything associated with that system. I was angry, I was bitter, I was frustrated. I felt a whole load of negative emotions and I wasn’t happy.”
Now 31 years old, Scott has since dedicated his life to educating foster carers and social care professionals about the importance of stable placements and the deep traumas that result from multiple moves.
“That anger was translated to a passion that drove me to basically tell my own local authority what’s what. In the beginning, it was about me and I got mad because [I thought] ‘you’ve ruined my life. What are you going to do?’ Through that, I got involved in the children in care councils and various different things.”
The more he did, the more Scott realised he wasn’t just making a difference for himself, but for other young people as well.
“I met people from all walks of life, from the care system and on the other side of it, and over time, I started to realise that although there are a few rogues, 95 percent are good people. I started to realise that the issue is not because people don’t care.”
Scott continued to learn about the complexities of the care system and the challenges faced by social workers and foster carers. “The issue really is a lack of understanding and a lack of care.”
“I can now look back on myself from the perspective of a foster carer and realise how it must be for them. And when you look at it like that, it does make sense. I was trying to tell them things, but the language I was using is quite hard to decode. I was speaking the language of trauma where ‘f off’ could mean ‘I love you’. That’s hard to get your head around.”
As well as being involved in a range of change-making movements, Scott now runs his own training company, Section 31 Training.
A passionate advocate for care leavers, through his work, Scott hopes to reduce the amount of moves children in care are subject to by providing care providers and caregivers with a new level of understanding and new ways of thinking.
“Having had 36 moves in foster care and knowing the damage that that alone can do [it’s clear that] this is an issue that still remains in the care system. So that’s been my fire and passion for a long time now.”
Scott now spends much of his time giving people the tools to understand the emotions and behaviours of young people so that they can better respond. This, in turn, he hopes will help to secure and maintain placements.
“Kids need to be enjoying their childhood, not thinking about the bureaucracy of terror. When a social worker doesn’t turn up or doesn’t do something. Children don’t sit there and go ‘she must have an extremely high case load, bless her’ – and they shouldn’t be expected to think like that.”
Scott describes the day he and his brother were separated as one of the most traumatic days of his life. This experience, in turn, changed his view of social services.
“I thought everybody was a liar. If someone could take my brother away like that, what else could they take?”
“The reality is they were trying to keep us together but because none of that was communicated to me, it left me with a narrative which was actually untrue.”
Often, children are placed with foster carers who don’t have all the information they need about a child or young person, meaning they are not always equipped to help them. This not only leads to a breakdown in placements but a loss of foster carers in the system, too.
Since leaving care, Scott and his brother have made steps to track down the foster carers, social workers, residential care staff, and other significant adults they remember from this period of their lives.
“We went back and we found all of them, and that was probably one of the most therapeutic things we could have ever done.”
Scott and his brother found the pieces they were missing. “There’s our narrative as children, what we remembered at the time, and then there’s the files, which is the social work narrative.”
In his training, Scott shares his experience as a complete journey. “The more I work with foster carers and social workers, the more I realise there’s so much more to teach, and so many more tools to [help them] be the best they can be.”
“What really makes a difference to me is when individuals get in touch and say things like ‘I was going to move this child on, but now I’m not. Thank you.’ And really that’s what it’s all about –stopping these [young people] drift from home to home.”
“If I’ve been a part of that, that’s that’s why I carry on.”
As well as founding Section 31 Training, Scott has also worked in a number of different fields including residential key working, advocacy, mentoring, parliamentary advisory work, and youth work. To book a course, contact Scott, or access his e-learning platform, visit his website here.