Thursday, 16 October 2014

It's Not Rocket Science

Hello! My name is Rosie Canning. I help with the social media side of Every Child Leaving Care Matters campaign.

Until I got involved with ECLCM, I very rarely mentioned that the first 16 years of my life were spent in care. I suppose it was the same old reason: shame; embarrassment; carrying society’s sins on my shoulders. Sometimes though, I feel okay talking about my experiences, usually with other people who’ve been in care. We are linked by our traumatic pasts, cause let’s be honest here, life in care is rarely a bed of roses.

On Tuesday I had a good ‘post care’ experience. I attended the 'Therapeutic Child Care Conference - Hopefulness in a Changing Landscape’, as the guest of Amanda Knowles from the Consortium for Therapeutic Communities.

The conference was fascinating especially as it was all about the right sort of care. One of the speakers, John Diamond from the Mulberry Bush School, spoke about the 'frozen child' which goes right back to Barbara Dockar-Drysdale (1958). The Mulberry Bush School is a residential school for children who have been traumatised. They provide high quality therapeutic care and work with children until they are ready for a foster placement or find them a school that suits them. They help them re-learn stuff like being a child, how to eat a meal properly, boundaries, fun, play etc which is all part of the therapeutic child care model.

The ethics of this therapeutic setting is how it could be for children coming into care...i.e. assessed and kept in a safe haven until they are ready for a foster home or other placement and not the other way around. Hence the reason why so many placements fail; and children end up being failed by the corporate parent.

In my opinion, this government's emphasis on foster care, is wrong. The residential setting is just as valuable and important but as people in the know say, it is used as a last resort. What a waste.

Mark Kerr, PhD student and Assistant Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Kent, gave a very interesting talk at the conference: ‘Reviewing the Needs of Looked After Children: A Challenge to the Rhetoric?’ As part of his PhD, Mark is looking into the outcomes for care leavers who experienced residential care. His main point, and he proved it with oodles of statistics, was that nothing has changed for children in the care system. There is hardly any improvement. It is an absolute bloody shambles. The care system is failing our most vulnerable young people.

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “Young people who have had traumatic early lives, who struggle with learning disabilities or mental health issues are the ones who need the most care, but the state is turning its back on them.

“It’s ludicrous that teenagers who are still dealing with the legacy of abuse and neglect have to cope with adult responsibilities, like building a stable home, at an age when most of their peers are supported by parents.

“If we don’t rethink care so it acts less like a system and more like a parent then these problems won’t go away.”

Lisa Cherry wasn’t at the conference but she did write a response to Tuesday’s report Too Much Too Young by Action for Children, that states: The emotional needs of children who have been in care are not being well looked after...

Lisa responded by saying: “There comes a point and I guess I have reached it, where we have to say, we have enough research. It is robust. We pretty much know the answers already to what you are going to research. Please can we do something now?”

And of course she is so right, but this is not to take away the importance of the AfC report. We know all the stuff now, about trauma, about what works, about what these vulnerable, traumatised children need to get over their trauma and it's not being moved 65 times. Impossible? No, seriously, this happened and is still happening. And those moves took place over a period of five years. How was that even possible? At least 65 but probably more like 140 people if not more, were involved in rejecting and rejecting this young person.

The right sort of care is so simple, it's cost effective in the LONG term. When a child comes into care they need to be assessed, placed in a safe place, a safe haven. Or a therapeutic setting though unfortunately there are not enough of them. They then need specialist help to overcome the trauma. The trauma of leaving their families, the trauma of being moved; not all children are relieved to be taken away from their parents. The trauma of a new place. Once they have learned to play again, or just sit at a table and eat in a family setting without playing Greek restaurants; then and only then should they go into a foster family setting or be adopted. Everyone in child care knows this. Every child that has left care knows this. Yet it ain’t happening.

I remember being moved from a safe place to an unsafe place. I remember being in a constant state of fear. I was four and half years old, I knew very little about the world. Suddenly I was exposed to violence. I never knew when I would be attacked. I tried all the little girl moves that I knew. Nothing worked. At the end of this two year placement I was severely damaged and sent to another place where the abuse was worse. Does this gives you an idea of what a young child sometimes has to endure? Even without the physical, emotional and psychological abuse; let’s say the placement is considerate and caring. The child doesn’t know that, he/she is still in constant fear mode. Can they sleep safely? Will they still be there in the morning? Will something awful happen in the night? What about the other children there? Will they be violent to the child? This really is the tip of the iceberg. And so it takes weeks, months or even years to be able to calm down, to be able to sleep properly, to feel safe.

I still find it hard to sleep; I don’t feel safe even now fifty years later

For goodness sake it is not Rocket Science. Well the neuroscience bit is but we, and this includes the government, have access to the layman’s version.

Think about the child that was moved 65 times in five years. What is that poor child’s brain like?

So how on earth can a child be expected to concentrate on its studies. The brain is in meltdown, it is jumping ship, it is on red alert.

And where is all this leading? The Every Child Leaving Care Matters campaign of course. For goodness sake; if a traumatised young person is in a stable placement in children’s home at 16 or 17; why move them into what is often an unsafe environment, like a B&B or miles away from their school and friends. Let them stay; let them stay until they are 21. Give them a bit of peace in their lives and then see what they can achieve. Give peace a chance!

1 comment:

  1. Child care is now a serious issue or we may call a headache for every country; due to lack of proper resources every year according to percentage or reports mostly 35% of children are died just because of different diseases. Therefore government take beneficial steps to deal with these problems and promote the concept of child care in different countries; so child care centers are really exist due to government support and fundraising programs.