Last week, the government responded to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.
The Care Review has provided a once in a lifetime opportunity for a broken system to be fixed.
I’d say from around year 3 (8 years old) I could remember strange grown-ups coming round to my house and agitating my mum and dad. I can remember having briefings with my parents on what I could and couldn’t say to these strangers and the knowledge that if I failed in these duties that I would likely be taken away from my parents with my siblings, and that we would be separated after that to live with different people. I can remember a big argument one of these strangers had with my dad that culminated in two security guards accompanying that particular stranger on all subsequent visits. This stranger was one that had become a somewhat permanent fixture in my young life, and I remember being interviewed by her in a separate room and telling her very little about what was actually going on and anything I did say was positive. It was ‘Us’ against ‘them’.
Half of the children detained in Youth Offending Institutes are, or have been, in the care system. That’s despite the fact that children in care make up less than one percent of the child population. Research conducted by the Howard League for Penal Reform has found that unnecessary police call-outs and mental health difficulties are two of the main factors behind this statistic.
Prevention is better than the cure, and our Policy Forum’s criminalisation subgroup has mainly focused on how we can avoid children in care coming into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place. The group has worked extensively with the Metropolitan Police and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime on ways to achieve this. Forcing carers, social workers and other agents to ask themselves the question ‘Would this be good enough for my child’, our young people helped to write a protocol, released in March this year, aimed at keeping police call-outs as a last resort.
Introduced in 2015, our mentoring scheme has since developed into a comprehensive programme encompassing bespoke training for professional mentors, continuous support for both mentors and mentees, and additional professional development opportunities for care-experienced young people. What began as a small pilot with only a handful of participants, is now an integral part of the Drive Forward approach to enable care-experienced youth in London to achieve their full potential through sustainable and fulfilling employment.
We asked one of our very first participants, Sally, about the benefits that she has experienced from building and maintaining a trusted and consistent mentoring relationship.
Parenting is probably the most demanding and critical job in the world. Taking responsibility for a child, for children; caring for them, nurturing them, looking after their every need over years and years, takes patience, love, and courage. The Global Day of Parents emphasises this pivotal role families play in the protection and development of children all around the world. It celebrates their selfless commitment and efforts, and highlights the great value they bring to society every single day.
Thinking back to your early 20s, did you know what you wanted to do with your life? For young people coming out of care, the years between their 18th and 25th birthday are pivotal. Before their local authority closes their case forever, these young people have to make sure that they are financially, emotionally, and practically stable. That means having a secure place to live, sufficient income, and a support network. However, actually making those decisions that will impact one’s life in the long-term is not an easy task.
I am number 4 of 5 children my mother had with my father. My father had 13 children in total of which I was number 9. My mother made the decision for me to come and live with family friends in England as a bid to give me a ‘better life’ based on my family circumstances at the time. I came to England in 2002 and I lived in South London with this family for almost 8 years. The first 4 years of living with them, I was not allowed out of the house and was not allowed traditional education but was merely acting as the family’s live-in au-pair. I endured countless amounts of physical, emotional and mental abuse whilst living with the family.
I had no friends and no family to confide in. As I got older, I could not take it anymore which led to me running away and reporting my situation to the police. The police introduced me to Merton social services who supported me for most of my early adult years from 2010 until I finished university in 2019.
Children come into care for a variety of reasons, at the start of 2020, there were 78,150 children in care in England alone. Many, if not the majority, have all suffered some form of neglect or traumatic experiences pre-care. In many situations, parents not getting the support they needed was a significant factor in this but this, in many examples, is not recognised by the child. It becomes easy to personalise their experiences and conclude that they were not worthy of love, broken or were unwanted. It is no wonder that with such generalisations made at such an early age, any other adults who ‘intervene’ may be pushed away, untrusted or seen as a threat. After all, in some instances, in the child’s mind, the only adults who should have unconditionally loved them, didn’t want them. Understanding attachment theory is of paramount importance when working with these children during their education.
Farhia always wanted to go to university. She remembers people telling her as a child, that a solid university education is the best way to a good career. The outlook of stability, a regular income, not having to worry about how to get by all seemed like good reasons for Farhia to work hard and earn her place at university.