27th October 2020 Care Leavers Week
For nearly two years I have (when not building Diverity Adopt), worked in an after care team as a manager. As a result I have worked with many young people who have left care when they reached the age of 18. While young people in foster care and other placements can have positive experiences, too many do not. Some of those young people who leave care, do so after a range of failed placements, moves and basically being let down by the many adults in their lives.
I have worked with children in care in a range of teams for the majority of my working career. I was chief executive of a residential children’s home for black young people, a child protection social worker and leading fostering services. I love this work but it has confirmed to me that a life in care can result in too much insecurity. The experience of adoption, while not perfect for every child, in research is generally higher in terms of outcomes, security and feelings of belonging.
Many young care leavers have been severely let down by the system. They aren’t consistently assessed in terms of their educational, disability and health needs, as they have professional advocates who don’t always have the tenacity that they might have if they were placed with adopted parents.
We have sadly had some young people who have felt so low that they have hurt themselves, during the lock down. We know that for many people the stress, anxiety and lockdown itself have had significant impacts on their mental health. Fortunately we have not had any young people who significantly harmed themselves, but it is a constant worry.
A Government paper published last month advised there was evidence of an increased number of children seeking help for suicidal thoughts at the beginning of the lockdown and data from early July showed ‘suicidal thoughts’ accounted for 19 per cent of all issues raised on the online mental health platform Kooth at the time, and that the number of issues was 40 per cent higher than the previous year.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists issued a survey to its members working in the National Health Service across the United Kingdom, in May 2020. The survey of over 1,300 mental health doctors from across the UK the report revealed that 43% of psychiatrists have seen an increase in their urgent and emergency caseload while 45% have seen a reduction in their most routine appointments. Psychiatrists are alarmed by both the drop-off in routine work, especially in CAMHS, and that after lock down ends there will be a lot of young people who will by then severely be in need of help.
During Covid restrictions I have also been particularly aware of the losses care leavers experience, after a life time in care. My team are supporting many young people who only have their personal advisor (a support worker for care leavers) who supports them. Some may not see anyone else that week. Some of whom have come back into care after a failed adoption.
Young people can be so isolated as a result of being estranged from family. It is sometimes a tough and unforgiving world, so can adopters accept that adoption should be forever before undertaking it?
On a positive note care leavers week is a great time to celebrate the achievements of care experienced young people, so look out for that too!
Diversity Adopt is developing training for new adopters to give them additional tools which will build resilience, confidence as an adopter and strengthening families.
To attend the 6 weekly FREE Play Master classes to begin on 9th November 2020. Please join the FREE Facebook group bit.ly/3kkGL22. You will receive information, training and community as a member. We welcome foster carers also to join the group and join these sessions.
Play is so important to child development. Play gives children the chance to build their confidence and learning. Children need the opportunity to play with parents and their carer’s, and to play alone and with peers.
Children who are waiting and placed for adoption will have experienced trauma, regardless of how old they were when they were removed. Some may not have ever experienced free play, in birth families. Play is also very much impacted on by cultural norms. Cultural traditions, gender expectations and social relationships will shape play, childhood expectations and the fabric of their lives.
Therefore it is important that adopters encourage play with their children and Yoni Ejo and Keeley Craw, Play Therapist will be presenting a series of free master classes for adopters and carers to give ideas of how to use play to build better relationships, confidence as well as fun.
We want to help you as adopters and foster carers to be confident in positive play and craft activities that you will find make a big difference in your relationship with your child, if done regularly, say 3 times a week.
You will definitely get more out of the time if you can attend live and interact with the other adopters but sessions will also be available within the group later as recordings.
We are confident you will really get a lot out of the session so we look forward to meeting you then!
Yoni and Keeley