Tell the story

November 10, 2009

Looked after children at 18

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 10:44 am

What hope for looked after children who have to fend for themselves once they turn 18? Spare them a thought as you go about your daily tasks because theirs is so often a miserable lot.

Last month Jeni Ryan penned a poignant blog in the Guardian  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/oct/26/national-care-leavers-week about how she was being rehoused away from the comfort and safety of her foster  carers after her “transition” to adulthood.

It’s an old story, but still pulls at the heartstrings; a young adult cast into an uncaring world, totally ill equipped to deal with even the basics such as buying food, paying bills, finding work etc. This is on top of any pyschological trauma that already affects looked after children.

 It’s a fact that the physical and mental health of looked after children is known to be significantly poorer than that of the general child population(http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmchilsch/111/11110.htm).  A survey  in 2003 showed that 45% of looked after children aged 5 to 17 were assessed as having a mental disorder compared to 10% of the general child population.

* Two-thirds of all children in care were reported by their carers as having at least one physical complaint.

*  Looked after young people experience a significantly higher rate of teenage conception and teenage motherhood when compared to the non-care population

* They may be more vulnerable to involvement in risky sexual activity, or exploitative and abusive relationships.

* Young people in care are also thought to be four times more likely than their peers to smoke, use alcohol and misuse drugs.

So, what can be done to give them a fighting chance at the start of their journey into adulthood?

What’s needed is the formation of common  bonds that help young people overcome their isolation and despair by talking to others about their lives.

If local councils ALL had sealed, proactive social networks where registered users – in this case young people  – could  go in safety to share their  experiences, use written and video blogs to show and tell, despair and isolation could be overcome. They could communicate regularly with their peers and frontline social workers could keep in touch with them  and understand the issues they face as they enter adulthood alone.

It’s not rocket science, it just needs champions who can make it work.

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