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Monday, 1 July 2013

Happy Birthday to Us!

Hello loves and Happy Happy 1st Birthday to us! Or, to be more specific, the service in Scunthorpe which supports children leaving the care system. It started up a year ago today and we help teenagers who have been fostered, or have lived in children's homes or who are homeless, try to start leading independent lives. We may help them move to supported lodgings, which is a bit like temporary foster care in a family home but with more independence. Or they may move to a flat of their own which we provide them with. Then we try to support them with things like budgeting, shopping, going to college, emotional wellbeing and stuff like that. That's the theory in any case; it doesn't always work out like that.

Children in care tend to be more vulnerable than the average kid and, when you think about it, it's no wonder. Often they have come from neglected or abusive backgrounds and the trauma they suffer can be really really difficult for them to overcome; especially if they don't get the right input. What they really need is extra love, encouragement and support. This is especially important when it comes to leaving care and making that delicate transition to adulthood. It's not an easy time for any of us. I remember what I was like back then dears; it wasn't pretty.

On the surface you see some young people launching out into the world prematurely with mental health problems, anger issues, addictions, chaotic lifestyles, and criminal records. Scratch underneath though and what you get is spark, talent, humour, fun, intelligence and kindness. Yes that's right, kindness. Don't you find it's those who endure sadness and loss in their lives who often emerge with the greatest empathy and kindness? I see this in the wonderful teenagers I work with and I learn from them.

Around the country there are similar services to our one in Scunthorpe. In recent years local authorities by law have had to provide care leavers with this extra support, and rightly so. And whilst we try, we're not always getting it right. An After Care Report commissioned by  The Who Cares? Trust discovers that nearly half of young people feel the help they got to prepare for independence when leaving care wasn't good enough.

There are almost 65,000 looked after children in England and, at any one time, around 9,000 aged 16 or over are leaving the care system. I'm thinking of them today, on our birthday. I hope with continued support and understanding they can get a fair chance to lead happy, stable lives.

It's a big world out there....

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