Firstly let me explain the title for this blog.
‘Swings ‘n’ roundabouts’ refers to your actions and reactions to other people based upon the actions and reactions you interpret as inflicted upon yourself.
It is a truism that the way that you are treated very much depends upon how you treat others. That being so, in my eyes compassion breeds compassion. If I expect to receive compassion from others, I must first treat others compassionately.
It follows then that if you are treated like rubbish and belittled every day of your young life, that will elicit a negative reaction. In fact, I suggest it might result in two different reactions.
One reaction stems from your self-belief being totally and utterly destroyed such that you become convinced that all you undertake (if you ever deem to undertake anything that is) is doomed to failure. With each resulting failure, the impression grows progressively stronger and more self-destructive
The second reaction is that you treat people around you with utter disdain, belittling those around you and bullying your way through life. You pick on the vulnerable and weak in society, much like you were once picked on yourself
Of course, the people I'm referring to here are children. Children in care, ‘care’ being the operative word.
Most children in care are nurtured and helped in as much as time and resources will allow. Staff being loving, caring and committed is not enough if they are not given the time and resources to do their job. They can only spend so much time sharing a limited amount of love amongst a large group of love –starved children. Every child matters; every child is an individual and needs and deserves individual care. Sadly, the reality is that time and resources don't always allow for them to be treated as such and to receive enough of that loving care from their carers.
Children often enter care for their own protection having been the victims of abuse. They sometimes come from a bad environment and it is not uncommon for them to bring that bad environment into care with them. Like a malevolent ghost it can haunt them throughout their childhoods. The lucky ones get help with their demons. Many don’t, and remain very vulnerable.
This vulnerability is particularly acute when it comes to the time when they need to leave care.
Leaving care itself can be one of a series of serious childhood upheavals that the child doesn't need and sometimes just can't cope with. It is made particularly more acute because what help carers were able to offer previously is too often withdrawn at this time. You will notice that I am not politically correct – I refer to the ‘child’ and not the ‘young person’. I said ‘child’ because that is what they are - children.
They are still children in the eyes of the law - they can't vote, go into a club or pub, can't drive, can’t marry without parental consent, etc. Yet they're expected at sixteen to cope with the adult world – to work, feed and clothe themselves and to cope with all life will throw at them. “So what?” I hear you say. "That is what all children have to do." That’s often true, except that children from care cannot just turn up at mum and dads for help or support, to borrow money or enjoy a roast dinner on a Sunday. They can’t leave a week’s washing and ironing for mum to do. Such luxuries are not there for these vulnerable isolated children. These children have nobody to turn to for a hug or to help them out when things go wrong. Under such pressure, the child can all too easily go off the tracks, resort to crime, hurt themselves, hurt other people, or just give up trying and disappear into hospitals or on to the streets. Only then if they are lucky might they get the help they so desperately need.
Tragically, by then it is often too late, because once they have started that downward spiral and finally reached out for help, it is sadly too damn late.
Now to me that can't be right and I'm sure it’s not ringing too well with you either.
Why not break that cycle? Why waste resources and money on throwing children out at sixteen. Why not just give them that helping hand, that guiding hand, and let them go into the world a few years later? 21? 25?
It makes perfect sense to me and I hope to you. Because these children are potentially such valuable members of society, given even half a chance ... Give them that chance; give them that chance to shine and know just how good a feeling it is!
Please! I beg you all - let's lobby the government and sign the petition for every child leaving care. For every child to have that extra few years, a few years in which to find themselves and to learn safely just what the outside world is about.
Sixteen is a very dangerous age. It's an age where we experiment. It’s an age when we take on board just what's going on around us; it’s an age at which we like to think that we are adults and that we know it all. Of course, we don't and no one does.
So there you have it! That is my case for extending the age of Care Leavers to a minimum of 21. Let these kids whom life has treated so badly have a chance to put something back. Give them the chance to prove that they are or can become a valuable link in Society’s chain.
Thank you for reading and thank you for your support.