The positive impact of a meaningful relationship with your After Care worker
When a child succeeds in life, generally there is a parent or carer behind them giving them support and motivation to succeed.
Care experienced young people cannot rely on this same positive input, why? Mainly because it is not something that can be guaranteed in the current care system. Isn’t that a depressing thought.. that in a system which is designed to replace the care of the parents, as the parents as judged not to fulfilling the needs of the child, the system cannot guarantee to give that child the positive care they need to succeed.
I know from my own experience, my motivation and push to achieve came not from my parents (until I found my dad later in life) but from the ‘professionals’ around me.
I had involvement with social services from the age of around 9 or 10 years old, a good couple of years before I went into care. My first involvement with social services was with a very kind woman Lynn who had lovely long blonde hair. She would take out me and my brother for milkshake to talk to us about how we were feeling and if we were happy and safe. I cannot remember how long she was our social worker for, as time passes differently as a child, and sadly this information is not in my care file. I know it upset both me and my brother when we were told she wouldn't be seeing us anymore… The flurry of social workers after this, I couldn't name, apart from David, this was once I was in care, and he did what he could to support my foster parents and me and my brother. He worked hard to get us extra things, like swim passes for the new swimming pool, a PC to be able to do homework on. But again, he was moved on. When I was approaching 16 my social worker went on long term sick, and my case given to a trainee social worker, who I remember was pretty impossible to get hold of, and I didn’t trust, as I felt like she really did not understand when I was having difficulties. My leaving care worker was introduced around the age of 16, and I remember at the time being very frustrated that I had yet more people involved in my life, more people to tell my story to, or explain things to again. I told them I didn't want their interaction at that time, which to their benefit, respected my request, until I approached them again at 17, when I felt it was time for me to start thinking about independent living.
Janet, my leaving care worker, was my worker for 8 years, she knew me very well, and I trusted her to guide me through issues, and through life decisions. She helped to explain to me why I was having a mental break down while at college and the process of feeling better…. ‘It is like your life is like a box of corn flakes, and at the moment everything has got too much and you have split the corn flakes on the floor and you are trying to place them all back in the box, very carefully as you do not want to break or damage any of the flakes.’ Now this may not make sense to everyone, but by giving me this explanation, she gave me the ability to know that I had to be gentle to myself in my recovery, that it wasn't my fault that I felt the way that I did. I left the service 4 years ago now, and I still speak to her and see her, and we always share a hug. I know that she will always have a place in my heart and my life.
I cannot pick out what exactly the effects were from having a long standing positive relationship with my leaving care worker, but I know that without that input I wouldn't be where I am today. I felt like she actually cared, and I am sure if you asked her, her response was that was because she did care. The feeling of being cared for cannot be falsified, you cannot put on a caring face and succeed in creating a positive relationship when your heart in not in it. Children read the adults around them very well, a child with care experience is able to do this at least 10 times better, so to create a positive, stable, meaningful relationship with a child in care, drop the falsity, drop the barriers, and open up the same way you expect a young person to do with you… and no I do not mean share your life story and your issues… just be human and be there, in person, and not in a file of our life.
This wonderful and insightful blog was written by the inspiring Carrie Wilson, a care leaver and also a young people’s project coordinator for the Care Leaver’s association. Carrie has had some of her work posted on The Guardian and also has appeared on BBC Breakfast News, she actively advocates for care leavers and as you have probably been reading she’s a very talented writer.
To find more of Carrie’s work click on this link: http://carriewilsoncareleaver.blogspot.co.uk/
I would like to thank Carrie for going out of her way to write this blog for BackChat and wish her all the best for the future. :)