‘Care never leaves you’: how can we better support care-experienced adults?

A social worker reflects on a new project aimed at supporting care-experienced adults often feeling the effects of chaotic childhoods

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Photo: Stopabox/Fotolia

by Jenni Randall

Young people may leave care but care never leaves you. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be parented throughout our lives by our birth family know what the consistency of relationships, love and sense of belonging gives us.

We probably take these things for granted as we take them on into our independent adult lives. Our childhood experiences define our adult lives for us all.

We also appreciate that – should they live long and healthy lives – our parents will be with us through all the events in our adult lives, the good and the bad, the celebrations and the sadness. They will offer the wisdom of an older generation and support us in every way they can.

There are many failings in the care system and the local authority as corporate parents would probably not measure up too well on any good parent indicator. There is no provision for the state to continue to provide support and advice after the age of 25. Of course, there are universal services but there is no dedicated, special, fast-track provision.

Being a child of the state should at least mean that you get to the head of the queue for any wellbeing service, any addiction service, counselling, family support services and so on. The public parent should acknowledge you.

Belonging

Letesha Kirton-Adams, a care leaver and social worker, explains: “A care experienced friend summed up the life journey of a care leaver perfectly with one simple word: hiraeth. Hiraeth means homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was, the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.

“Most, if not all, care experienced individuals lack a feeling of belonging and find it hard to find a place that makes them feel whole, complete.”

Letesha wrote this in the notes of the Kinder Shores CD, a charity album I have produced to raise both money and awareness for the issues faced by adults who grew up in care.

It will help fund a project to be piloted in Norfolk by the Rees Foundation to provide therapeutic support for adults who are care experienced.  This will be a service run by counsellors who understand the care experience, there will be no age or time limits and a non-traditional counselling service designed specifically around everyone’s needs.

There are many who have chosen to share their personal care journeys through words, music, poetry and I have huge respect for those who have done this as there is nothing more powerful than a personal narrative, but for many they need a more private method of recovery.

I have spent most of my social work career working with young people in care.  My experience of continued contact with these young people as adults is that they are frequently living with the effects of their chaotic childhoods well into adulthood.

Good parent

It can undermine so many aspects of their life, relationships, health, work, and their ability to fulfill their potential and own wishes and dreams. The statistics show clearly that the care experienced are over represented in homelessness, prison, and mental health and addiction services. They deserve better.

They deserve a “good parent” who will walk alongside them and be there throughout their adult life when advice and support is needed. We could go some way to doing this by giving them dedicated services when requested, fast-tracking them through universal services when required and by providing grown up systems for accessing files and personal history.

This project will be one attempt to try to provide support that will seek to allow the shackles of their history to be released so that a happier, more content adulthood awaits them so that they can quite literally find Kinder Shores.

It may also be the first of many charitable projects that could show the way for statutory agencies to open the debate about providing more accessible, specialist services to those the state has parented for all or part of their childhood.

Jenni Randall is a retired social worker, blogger and winner of a lifetime achievement award at the 2013 Social Worker of the Year Awards.

One Response to ‘Care never leaves you’: how can we better support care-experienced adults?

  1. Lau July 24, 2018 at 1:28 pm #

    What an interesting article. It’s a Welsh word though, and it’s spelled hiraeth, not hireath though.