Dear Future Social Worker,
It is a common experience for many young people growing up in the care system to experience instability in different guises. This might be in the form of being moved homes, having to change schools, or introducing yourself for the eighth time as you welcome yet another social worker.
I cannot remember off the top of my head how many social workers I had throughout my care journey. There were times I was not aware of a change in my social worker, and even instances where some that I had would not be easily contactable.
Luckily, my time in care did have some stability. I lived in the same home from start to end and consider them my family. They did what a social worker could not.
‘The one social worker who made me feel loved’
Despite this, I had one social worker during my late primary school and early teenage years who consistently offered the support I needed and made me feel genuinely loved and cared for.
What she did for me and my family, I will always cherish.”
She excelled in her role to the extent that I had no idea she was also supporting other children in care. She always made time for me, remembered our conversations, and paid attention to the little things, like remembering my birthday, taking me out for meals and attending celebratory events.
‘Ensuring I saw my family’
This one social worker almost acted like glue at times, always ensuring that I saw my family and my brothers.
Being separated from your family is a traumatic event on its own. I grew up never contemplating a day when I wouldn’t be with my brothers or mum, so you cannot imagine the uncertainty and fear when we were removed and not even taken into care together.
For years, and sometimes now, I felt an intense, almost innate urge to protect my family from things that would harm them. Unfortunately, it was a burden I shouldn’t have had to bear at such a young age.
However, looking back, I am always grateful that that one social worker and my foster carers alleviated some of that burden by ensuring I could see my mum and brothers often. They did so in ways that created lasting memories, despite the challenges.
‘Supporting my dreams’
Growing up, I suffered with many anxieties and could not work out how best to express myself. I remember in year 6, our school introduced some drama lessons, something I had not done prior to this, and fell in love with it.
I shared this with my then social worker, and she harnessed my enthusiasm to help me enrol in a performing arts school. I spent several years there, where my confidence blossomed, and I developed valuable skills that continue to serve me well as I move forward in life
Knowing that there were people supporting me and my dreams, willing to go the extra mile, meant the world to me then and still does now.
‘Always remember you can make a difference’
It’s important to acknowledge that social workers carry a significant burden when supporting young people who have likely experienced traumatic events.
However, always remember that you can make a difference. Start with the small gestures, be sincere, and don’t be afraid to show your care and support.
In a world full of uncertainties, the actions of one or two individuals who helped us through those times continue to resonate with us throughout our lives.
Shelly is participation co-ordinator at Coram Voice. Read more of her reflections on her time in care:
- ‘Advocates and independent visitors made me feel listened to – but too many children in care lack this’
- ‘Social workers should do everything to help children in care maintain the relationships that matter’
Writing competition for care experienced young people
The Voices creative writing competition for care experienced children and young people, run by Coram Voice, closes for entries on 17 December 2023. See the Coram Voice website for more details.