How many children and young people in Britain have a worse start to life than 'looked after children'?
62% of 'looked after children' have been abused or neglected. This causes trauma, damage and distress which is often compounded by the experience of coming in to care. Is it any wonder some young people go off the rails when they have experienced so much pain in their early lives?
Can you imagine going through what some of these young people have to go through? No probably not.
None of these children ask to be abused, neglected or abandoned. When 'the state' takes a child or young person into care then it should, as the corporate parent, be doing everything in its power to help them overcome their experiences and prepare them for leaving care. They need help to develop the life skills necessary to cope as adults in the same way that all children prepare for independence,
For looked after children though this is very different, as at best independence is forced on them at an earlier age than their non-looked after peers. These children and young people often feel abandoned by the leaving care experience, some for the second time in their short lives. 'Lightening', they say, ‘doesn’t strike twice in the same place.’ Well children who leave care often feel that it does.
Young people who live in children's homes don't have 'Staying Put' rights when they leave care because in 2013 the coalition government decided that these rights were just for fostered children. They may not feel it, but these fostered children are relatively fortunate.
Children living in residential care don't have a 'residential care ambassador' or even very many people raising awareness for them. Who has TRULY championed the plight of residential care leavers in England? At least fostered children approaching leaving care have benefited from awareness raising by most of the major charities and child care organisations. They can rely on the support of the Children's Minister responsible supporting them.
This is not the case for children and young people placed in residential care. What does the Children's Minister have to say about children leaving residential care? However translated or interpreted, the lesser arrangements made for them give out a message “You are different, possibly second class, less worthy, less deserving". He does not mean to say that, but how else will children and young people from residential care perceive being treated differently and denied all the options of their fostered peers? Who speaks out for residential care leavers?
I have said this on social media before - that if adoption and kinship care aren't appropriate options, then ALL 'looked after' children and young people no matter where they live, be it foster care or residential care, should have equality of opportunity. We shouldn't accept blatant discrimination against often vulnerable children and young people who happen to live at the wrong address, or in the wrong type of care. It was not their decision so why should they suffer discrimination? ECLCM believe that it is purely for financial reasons that 'Staying Put' has not been implemented for residential care leavers – those 16, 17 and 18 year olds who our society appears to think can be so easily discarded.
We need to invest in 'our' children and young people now instead of trying to fix thousands of broken adults in years to come. We need change so that many more children and young people have the chance to have a great future, and are able to experience the good things in life.
'Looked after' children, are children, just like any other children. Please stand with us at 'Every Child Leaving Care Matters' and be a voice for children and young people, Let them know that you, at least care.
Finally I would like to thank and welcome our two new members of our core team who will add great experience and skills to an ever growing campaign that is only going to get stronger and stronger as our message spreads and our support grows.
Thank you all for being a voice and part of our campaign.
Every Child Leaving Care Matters core team