A switch from foster care to supportive lodgings is a big step to independence for Jessica Cartwright
Before moving into my current place I had been living in a substandard bed and breakfast surrounded by unpleasant neighbours. I’d been on the waiting list for supportive lodgings after moving out of a foster placement which did not suit my needs.
Last month I finally moved into a supportive lodging. But my experience was far from typical. Usually, there is a meeting about supportive lodgings well ahead of the move but I met my pathways carer just hours before. This was due to an incident at the B&B, after which the managers deemed it unsuitable to house me any longer than necessary. I was supported by my social worker, the accommodation social worker from my area and others. I was also helped to move my belongings.
The atmosphere is friendly and informal; I was informed of my rights and the house rules and given information about the locality. I have been given my own room – with furniture and basic necessities – and storage space in the kitchen area.
The cooking rules are that, at first, I will be supervised due to safety reasons but am allowed to cook my own meals. I do not have to eat with the family and am allowed my own space both physically and psychologically.
At first, I was left to my own devices but am free to approach the family for support when I need it. I have found this of great use when it came to settling in as I was allowed to go at things at my own pace which was a far cry from my foster placement. To put it simply, I was given support but not pressured into taking part in activities or family life.
I have also been given my own house key and I am supported in practical ways from changing money at the bank to buying my own computer. I can interact with the family on my own terms – which I find is an improvement on foster care – I am not treated like a child, but I am still given the support I need as an adolescent on the way to independence.
I enjoy a friendly, relaxed atmosphere within the supportive lodging and am allowed to walk the dog and go on the internet. I can also come and go as I please but must inform my pathways carer if I am to stay out late. I am free to approach my pathways worker at any time for support and still have regular contact with my social worker, so I do not feel forgotten about. Rather, I feel able to be more assertive and approach social services on my own terms.
I strongly agree with supportive lodgings and feel this is one of the best – if not the best – option for young people moving out of home who are not yet fully independent.
Social services typically try to find a pathways carer with a lifestyle to suit the young person looking to live there. This combines the advantages of foster care and independent living while omitting the disadvantages concerning a young person’s independence.
Jessica Cartwright is 17 and has been in foster care