The view from the chair, session two

Robert Tapsfield, chair of the Care Inquiry steering group said:

“I am chairing today’s session of the Care Inquiry where we are listening to lived experience of care. This is the second of three sessions held with representatives from across the care system and those who have lived and worked with children at different stages in their lives.

“Last week The Who Cares? Trust held an event with young people from around the UK who had very different experiences within the care system. We heard from young people who were fostered, who had been adopted, were in residential care and those living with kinship carers. Though not all their stories were positive, they were all very keen to share their thoughts on how to improve the system and offered a valuable insight into what it has really meant to them to be in care.

“Four key themes arose from meeting the young people:  information and choice and how young people want to play a role in deciding their futures. They discussed how good matching, taking into consideration not just their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but also their personalities, can make a huge difference to how a placement can develop.  The young people discussed how they needed support from their carers and social workers to develop a sense of identity and many expressed a desire for support during their time in care and beyond to be constant and to limited the swapping and changing of social workers.

“Today we have been joined by adopters, birth families of children who have been adopted, foster carers, residential care workers, kinship carers, academics and staff from the Care Inquiry charities, some are here in as many as three of the above guises.

“A birth mother whose sons were adopted addressed the Care Inquiry discussing how she felt that the offer of continued contact was rescinded when the adoption took place but who now has letterbox contact and is very relieved to know that her sons now have the stability and security that she couldn’t offer at the time.

“The Inquiry then heard from a kinship carer who talked about how there is a responsibility on all carers to be as truthful with children as possible and to support them in finding words to describe how they feel and what they want. These were points reiterated by a foster carer who also went on to say that his belief is that children should be integrated into families, citing involving them in family traditions as a way in which he achieves this. An adoptive parent also discussed how a long term and stable fostering placement led to their family adopting their daughter as a route to permanence for her.

“The morning’s discussions ended with a residential care worker talking about how they felt that often information on children coming to them was often out of date and at times inaccurate which meant that the children had to be their own representatives. She also called for a continuity of social workers in children’s lives to provide stability and to help them build relationships.

“The afternoon of this session of the Care Inquiry was made up of four discussion groups with each having representatives from all paths through the care system, academics and staff from each Care Inquiry charity. The makeup of the groups helped to facilitate the valuable sharing of a variety of experiences which will contribute to the final report and recommendations.

“Time spent listening to those with experience is always time valuably spent. As eight charities we are listening so that we can learn and come together to produce a final report and make recommendations that will make a long lasting contribution to the care system in England.”

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