It was 14 years ago when I left care. It saddens me greatly that the same things that were happening to kids in care then are still happening now. How can this be?
How much research needs to be done before we finally have some ACTION and perhaps new legislation to make everything equal for ALL care leavers. How long until we offer them the support they deserve and need?
When I graduated from an uncaring care system into custody, I had no real support other than a one hour weekly meeting with my Youth offending officer. I had no care leaver services involved with me, not even a single appointment with anyone to see how I was, never mind £2000 and a flat. It was a lottery if kids leaving care got enough help I suspect. Some of my care brothers and sisters were given a flat and a grant of £2000. Even so, they would often be put in a flat in a unsafe place where they were at risk of drugs, crime and exploitation, or else their flats would be overrun with young people, often other unsupported care leavers, which leads to anti-social behaviour, inevitably followed by eviction and homelessness because they simply were not prepared for independence. They had never been taught the coping skills, were emotionally unready and massively under supported. Looking back, failure for many was probably inevitable under those circumstances.
The rest of us would have to make our own way in life and independence. Some of us failed and were homeless. Some couldn't handle the pain and trauma they had been through and took their own lives. Some died from drug overdoses. I chose to be lonely and isolated, to keep out off drugs and out of crime. I paid a heavy price with my mental health ending up in psychiatric ward and hostel. All of the above probably could have been avoided with the right support and guidance.
I want to dedicate my life to social care, no matter how many hoops I have to jump through to get there. I'm inspired by other care leavers who are achieving and being successful at whatever career they have chosen. I just want to be respected as someone who has given something back and helped ‘Looked After’ children and young care leavers. I just can't sit back and watch ALL this talent and potential being wasted. These young people are often damaged and have had so many traumas in their short lives.
Why do each government in turn think it's OK for these young care leavers to be left to fail?
There has not been any fundamental improvement for all children leaving care since 1948, in spite of the ambition of the Children Acts of 1948 and 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000
I think as a Society it's not the case that all the general public don't care about kids in care. I think it's probably more likely that they don't know much about Looked After Children and care leavers.
Is it a cold Society?
How can people in positions to make change for the better of Society’s most vulnerable children sleep at night in their big comfy beds knowing how many care leavers are on the streets outside in this bleak rainy weather; isolated, lonely, scared and probably in need of a hug and some support and guidance.
It's an awful feeling I get: "Am I doing enough?"
Statistics reveal that 62% of looked after children have been abused or neglected. These young people are already suffering a great deal of pain, upset and instability. But still they are being asked to leave care at 16-18 years old. Out of 9,900 young people to leave care 16% were 16 years old; 15% were 17 years old. That's thousands of young people aged less than 18 year of age. Is it any wonder that up to 40% of 18-21 year olds in custody have spent time in care? 69.9% re-offend within a year of release. Expensive and ineffective at best!
It has to be cheaper for the government purse to offer the option of support to ALL care leavers until they are 21 at least, no matter where their address is. It would reduce so many negative statistics and reduce the number of care leavers and possibly in future even reduce the number of children coming into care. There are so many potential positives, not least amongst them that it would save lives. If we give young people a better chance of making it in the world of independence, the outcomes can only be positive.
Not sure how people can be upset with me for being part of a campaign to make things equal for ALL young people!