On February 17th we celebrate Care Day 2023, the world’s biggest annual celebration of children who have or who are currently living in care. This is a time for us all to reflect upon and consider the childhoods of children who have come into the care system and have been looked after by the local authority.
During this week you may
- Think of someone who you know who has grown up in care
- Think of someone you know who is in care right now
- You may work in the care sector, and know well what it is like for the young people in the care system and may do something this week to celebrate with the young people you work with
- You may want to educate your children about what it is like to grow up in care so that when they meet someone who is in care, they will have an understanding and empathy for what they are experiencing
- Maybe you work in schools and can take this opportunity to prepare an assembly, or a classroom based PSHE lesson about what it is like for a young person to experience living in care
- Share something on your social media about children in care this #careday2023 to spread the message far and wide that children in care deserve to be celebrated
- Perhaps consider signing a petition or learning more about a charity which supports children in care, maybe even donating time or money to one of the charities. Action for Children have partnered up with John Lewis Partnership to support children in care this year, as you may recall from John Lewis’ brilliant Christmas advert.
Whatever you do this week, be sure to get vocal, get talking or get together in celebration. Above are just some of the ways that we can all become more aware about how care experienced children may feel different from others and why. What will you do?
So, what does it mean to live in care?
Where each of the UK’s nations define living in care slightly differently, it can be said that to live in care means:
- A young person who lives in foster care
- A young person who lives in a residential children’s home
- A young person who lives in residential settings such as schools or secure units
And there are many reasons why a child may enter care, the main reason being that their parents are no longer able to look after them.
- It may be that the child’s parents have agreed to this, for instance perhaps either the parents were too unwell to look after their child, or perhaps the child has a disability and needed respite care.
- The child could be an unaccompanied asylum seeker, who has no responsible adult to look after them.
- In some cases, Children’s Social Services may have intervened because they felt the child was at significant risk of harm, in which case the court will have made a legal order to place the child in care.
(NSPCC Learning, learning.nspcc.org.uk)
Sadly, children in care have usually experienced hardship in their lives before coming into care and have often been subjected to neglect and abuse prior to coming into care. With this comes mental health issues, attachment issues and difficulty in forming new relationships. However, a therapeutic, caring and safe environment can help to improve the young person’s chance of success and can help them to overcome their often troubling early life experiences.
Children in care often have complex social and emotional needs which means they may find school quite difficult. They may find peer relationships challenging, especially when it comes to talking about families, or home life which may at best have been chaotic for them. When another child asks them about their sisters or brothers, this may immediately send the child in care into an anxious state. And although their lives may be somewhat more stable once they are in a placement, the care system is under strain and placements can change quickly, care staff can change, social workers may change and often trust may be broken down. So, chatting to your new friends may become a challenge.
Even though children in care do have attainment gaps, most children in care live healthy and productive lives and despite the numerous challenges which may feel overwhelming at times, they do often attend school regularly. Schools do a great job of being Trauma-Informed (THRIVE), having staff trained in supporting children in care, and allocating a member of staff dedicated to raising the standards of children in care within their schools. (The Children and Young People’s Act 2008 and The Children And Social Care 2018)
As it happens a Solution Focused Approach to therapy has been shown to massively help children in care, as it is a progressive, forward-thinking approach to problem solving. Solution Focused Therapy, like we do at the Youth Fairy, is ideally suited to working with young people in care who have experienced trauma and adversity in life. By helping to support meaningful coping strategies and using navigable and simple next steps young people can begin to recognise their potential, decrease their stress and take things one step at a time.
And so, for Care Day 2023, we would like to take this opportunity celebrate a care home provider that The Youth Fairy supports to highlight what excellent care looks like:
South West company, Blue Elephant, is a residential childcare company with a long heritage. It’s founder, Keith Burley, has over 35 years’ experience as a qualified social worker and has established several homes for children in care in North Devon where one of our Youth Fairies, Katie Rose is based.
Keith and his team, including Child and Educational Psychologist Charlie Mead, work tirelessly to understand and support the needs of the young people they care for.
Keith has this to say about raising awareness of children in care this Care Day 2023.
“Children in care, are children first and ‘in care’ second. As a society we expect and indeed demand they grow up quicker than those children not ‘in care. We need to focus on making sure every child has a childhood whilst at the same time helping them deal with the trauma that they have invariably experienced. Unconditional love is the foundation of every successful childhood.”
So go ahead and do something to help promote the awareness of children in care and their amazing champions this Care Day.
If you are a child in care and you would like support, please check out the following website
If you would like to find out more, please visit: