So, I currently work with a very inspirational young man who lives in a Children’s Residential Care Home and this is his story.
Let’s call this young man Dave. I have been tutoring Dave for quite some time, he is 14 years old, sometimes he acts his age yet at others he seems like a wise old man. I teach him English and Maths and today I asked him to do a creative piece of writing on something which he is passionate about. He chose to talk about living in the care system.
” I want to write about this so that people can really understand what it’s like. I bet most of you out there think a kid’s home is all happy and dandy, like Tracey Beaker. Oh, but let me tell you it really isn’t”. -Dave
Reading the first sentence of this piece of writing had me thinking I have seen so much out there including opinion’s of professionals, film producer’s and adult’s in general but I can’t ever remember hearing the opinion’s of people that live in care home’s across the U.K. Today I want to share the element’s of Dave’s story which have moved me and helped me to appreciate the small things in life we often take for granted.
Me and Dave spoke about the little things like the log books, these are the books used to mark the children’s behaviour at timed intervals throughout the day and night so any changes can be noticed. He read one entry in the log book which simply stated “Dave walked to the kitchen to get a drink, then sat down on the sofa”. He was light-hearted when telling me this little anecdote, he said “sometimes I feel like I’m permanently living in the Big Brother house, I’m always being watched “. Dave also spoke about the waking night staff who are there to keep the house and children safe, he said “it’s so uncomfortable to have random strangers, pacing up and down my corridor whilst I try to get to sleep. It really does feel like they are there to analyse my behaviour rather than keep me safe. To top it all off, they know everything about me yet I know very little about them”. We talked about common nightmares being those with someone standing over your bed but at least that is a dream, this is real life. As he wrote in his creative writing piece “But come on, imagine your parents hiring a stranger to watch you sleep, it’s creepy, so why do homes hire agencies to do it to us?”.
I’m sure we can all empathise that being in the care system is much more difficult than what is seen on Tracey Beaker but ironically that program was made ‘child friendly’ as common and more serious issues are seen as too dark for children to view. Yet over 70,000 children in our country and millions of children worldwide live these kind of lives. The thing is even in the best of Care Homes, the children are still not with their own families, people care but to a point; not in the biological, unconditional kind of way. Care is important but not as important as professional boundaries and safety measures being followed. For example, when children leave care it is not always accepted for their carer’s to stay in contact with them. How caring is that? Imagine your child turning 18 years old and you simply cut ties and never speak to them again. Then throw into the mix how many different homes and foster carer’s said child has been with. They may finally settle in one home and building a stable relationship with their carers for them to the then have the rug well and truly pulled from underneath their feet. Also include the fact that 75 % of children are in care due to neglect, family abuse or serious, family dysfunction. How can we be surprised that 70 % of children leave care with no qualifications, 67 % of them have identifiable mental health problems and that they are 60 times more likely to end up being homeless. How can we expect them to succeed and lead happy and stable lives without on going support? Not only from the care system but from us as a society.
What are your experiences? It would be great to hear your thoughts…