By Amy-Jo Mook
Everybody has aspirations.
Aspirations are especially vital to the survival of children and young people in care. They begin to rebuild a child or young person’s hopes and allow them to rightly feel like controllers of their own destiny. Control and hope are the feelings that children and young people in care often feel they have lost when professionals are making decisions in a child or young person’s ‘best interests’.
Children and young people in care often have low aspirations because of the low self esteem that is forced upon them through negative statistics and labelling. I have myself often felt powerless, like a puppet with no purpose or desires of my own.
Positive role models
But positive role models are the solution to raising aspirations and improving outcomes. They are like bamboo sticks supporting the plants to grow. They encourage us to want to become better versions of ourselves.
I have met some prolific role models through the Aspire To More project. This has been produced by Inspired Youth, funded by a small grant from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation York Committee, and created in partnership with Show Me That I Matter (SMTIM), York’s Children in Care Council. It has introduced young people in care, like me, to inspirational care leavers, including author and Community Care columnist Jenny Molloy and writer Paolo Hewitt, who we interviewed about their life journeys.
The project tackles the issue of care leavers achieving less head on. It counter argues the statistics with examples of care leavers who have gone on to achieve greatness. These people are positive role models because they show us that despite all of our pressures and obstacles, we do not have to crumble.
These role models show that children and young people in care are bursting with potential because we have been strengthened by our pasts, been shown the world before our time.
Making us masters of our world because we already know what the game is about. They show us that failure is a choice.
One of the positive role models interviewed through the Aspire To More project, Luke Rodger, says: “I actually realised the power of stories could really change the way people think and help other young people.” That is what the Aspire To More project is, sharing stories to make a difference.
Only children and young people in care can really challenge the negative statistics and labelling wrongly forced upon them by showing the world that there is more to us than being kids in care. But one must first raise our aspirations.
No matter who you are, if you interact with a child or young person in care you can help them.
By demonstrating to them that you ignore whatever has been written about them and that you see them for their potential rather than the obstacles they face. You can change a life by being that crucial role model.
‘Everyone is a potential role model’
Just like everyone in a local authority is a corporate parent, everyone is a potential role model. Inspire greatness in others by simply listening and attempting to make their dreams a reality no matter how wild. Like another role model in the Aspire To More project, Paolo Hewitt, says when telling a story about his teacher:
“Even if they want to fly to the moon, they should encourage it. I always remember how she made me feel. I don’t care how mad the dream is, it should always be encouraged, especially for kids in care.”
Give us back our dreams by lifting us up to the moon.
Amy-Jo Mook is a member of the Aspire To More project and Show Me That I Matter, York’s Children in Care Council.