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Blog: Care Experienced Awareness Training

April is Care Experienced Awareness Month

Until I attended Barnardo’s Care Experienced Awareness Training, I was unaware that this month existed.

The 1-day course was co-produced and delivered by young people with lived experience of the care system, and it was a powerful and enlightening experience for me; I learnt a lot, reflected a lot on my existing knowledge, awareness and assumptions and have come away with an improved understanding of the importance of my role and that of Barnardo’s Education Community in being an advocate for Care Experienced Young People (CEYP).

A key realisation was that care experienced young people often face multiple changes at the same time whereas other young people make a more gradual move to independence.

One of the course modules looked at the stigma around being care experienced including the way the language used by professionals can impact on children and young people. One of the contributors to a document that was shared with us from Tact Fostering and Adoption:  Language that cares - Changing the way professionals talk about Children in Care, says:

‘Professionals need to understand that not everyone speaks the same language as them, and for children it can feel complex and overwhelming, and sometimes even embarrassing, as there is a lot of stigma attached to some of the terms used by professionals.’

Of course, there is a need to challenge the language used but also the attitudes underlying it. The presenters told us of their own experiences and shared other examples such as an article about a project started by care leavers:

“You’re expected to fail before you get a chance,” says Kelly. “People pity you. They assume that care leavers are going to do worse because they’ve looked at the statistics.”

These attitudes can mean young people don’t want to share that they are in care.

Another module of the training focused on the need for a trauma-informed approach in our work as professionals so that we ‘can transform our relationships with one another and ensure we are being the best support we can be to our fellow human beings.’

We heard how the lack of such an approach can add to the trauma that the children and young people have already experienced in their home situation and be even more traumatic in some cases; we watched, read and heard young people talk about being treated differently: not being given second chances as other children would get from their parents; threatened with being kicked out when displaying behaviour that is ‘normal’ teenage behaviour.

We heard very powerful testimonies from Black and dual heritage Black/Gypsy/Roma/Traveller children and young people of about identity and how their birth family, culture, religion, and race have not been acknowledged and respected sometimes in care. Our presenters talked about the need for more research in this area.

The last module focused on developing our awareness of the history of care experienced people’s rights in the UK; how we can each develop the right approach and mindset to be an ally to care experienced young people. I realised how ignorant I was of the history and how much I still have to learn.

The trainers shared what young people would like from adults:

  • Awareness
  • A commitment to amplify, not give a voice to
  • Empowerment
  • Challenge discrimination
  • Believe in them.

Finally, and very important we each had to pledge what we were going to do in our roles to ensure we were advocates for care experienced young people.

 In my role at Barnardo’s Education Community, I pledge to:

  • Keep care experienced young people at the forefront of our work plans and content, sharing what I have learnt from this course with my team.
  • Promote Care Experienced History Month.
  • Challenge discrimination towards CEYP.

Further reading:

https://www.tactcare.org.uk/content/uploads/2019/03/TACT-Language-that-cares-2019_online.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/11/care-leavers-challenge-stigma

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