What is care for?

Posted by / Friday 12 June 2015 / Children in care
Smiling young man

This may sound like an odd question for a children’s charity established over 150 years ago to ask. Action for Children opened its first home for children living on the street over 145 years ago, and we still provide fostering, adoption, therapeutic and practical support services to children and young people who can’t live with their families. But, from time to time, it’s really important to ask what seem like obvious questions and check there’s a common answer.

Removing children from harmful situations is of utmost importance, but our efforts must not end there. Action for Children believes it is fundamentally important that the care system helps children and young people recover and heal from past harm, so that they are able to develop and achieve their potential.

Most children who come into care have been seriously neglected or abused, and so they are unable to remain safely with their families. If children and young people don’t receive the right support to overcome their trauma, these experiences can have a severe and lasting impact over a child’s lifetime.

Just like children who live with their families, all looked after children are unique and respond to their experiences in different ways. Good quality care can provide the security, stability and love that children need to overcome their trauma and thrive. 

However, there are also many children and young people who are not receiving the support they need from care. Research shows that the effects of trauma whilst young can include difficulties managing emotions, making positive relationships, coping with stressful situations, risk-taking behaviour and understanding what is safe. As our Too Much, Too Young research found last year, for too long there has been insufficient focus on helping looked-after-children and young people recover from the psychological impact of abuse and neglect. 

This week, in partnership with Barnardo’s Cymru, Children in Wales, the Fostering Network and NSPCC Cymru/Wales, we held an event in the National Assembly for Wales. We asked people with the power to make changes to care in Wales for their answers to those big questions. What is care for? What’s our vision? How are we going to ensure that every child and young person in care in Wales has the support they need to thrive?

Cross-party Assembly Members spoke at our event and shared their thoughts on the biggest challenges facing looked after children and care leavers, and what they see as the priorities for change. We were really pleased by the quality of debate and encouragingly, there was much common ground amongst the panel. They talked about the importance of listening to young when making policy, improving placement stability, improving educational outcomes; and prioritising their emotional well-being.

The event was chaired by a young woman, Natasha, who is a care leaver and is in University studying to be a Social Worker. Natasha closed the event with some really important words “It’s been a fantastic discussion, with lots of good ideas. Now, we need to see these in your manifestos”.

Natasha is absolutely right. The National Assembly for Wales’ elections are under a year away. Political parties in Wales are already considering what commitments they will make to improve children and young people’s lives.

We will continue to work to make sure care experienced children and young people a have a strong voice in this process. If we are ambitious about asking ourselves the really big questions, and finding answers, we can only do that by including everyone in the conversation.  

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