I recently had the privilege of hosting a workshop at the Together for a Positive Future onference in Newbury. One of the guest speakers was Charlie Mead, a child psychologist who works with Looked After Children (LAC) in Birmingham and the South West. His presentation made a lasting impact on me and this really surprised me as SEN has always been my personal passion.
Charlie talked about a Care Less Society. His passion for his subject was so apparent that I felt an immediate affinity but at the same time I thought “this presentation isn’t for me, it’s not SEN” but how wrong was I?
Charlie challenged my perception of looked after children and I want to share this experience with you.
Ok, be honest now, how many of you have thought “kids like that are always in trouble”, “kids like that have real attitude”, “kids like that are always looking for problems”. I may not have been that severe but I will be honest and admit that I would have had reservations if I had learned that a care home was opening near my home.
Ok, so now another subject. How many of you have heard of a couple splitting up and the woman has slashed the guy’s expensive suits, or sold the contents of his extensive wine cellar, or he has told everyone what a “slapper” his ex was or perhaps reported the ex’s new partner to social services as a “concerned parent” but really as a way of striking back.
Perhaps you were ceremoniously dumped when you were 16 and you didn’t know why. You hadn’t changed or perhaps you had tried to change but you weren’t at fault as far as you knew. Perhaps you retaliated? Ever let down an ex’s tyres? Ever made a dig about them on facebook (without naming them as you didn’t want issues of slander)?
When we are rejected, we often retaliate with behaviour that is totally out of character. We do it because we have been hurt or because we are scared of what the future holds. The future plans you had included you and them, but now it’s just you.
Now can you imagine being rejected by your parents? Or being rejected by your mum or dad’s new partner? Can you imagine waking up one day in a care home with a room full of people you have never met? Can you imagine being taken by cab to your new “home” by a social worker who knows the names of the people living there but not if they have a dog or if you will have your own room?
Can you then imagine being left in a system that doesn’t always work?
Can you honestly say that given those circumstances you would not retaliate and have an attitude? If you’ve been rejected time and time again then of course your self worth is going to be low (to say the least).
In March 2011, 65,520 children were in care (this is currently over 73,000). 62% of these children were in care due to abuse and neglect, only 2% are in care due to socially unacceptable behaviour.
Only 13.9% of looked after children achieve A*-C English and Maths compared to 58.6% of all children.
8.9% of looked after boys (aged 10-17) and 5.2% of looked after girls are convicted or are subject to a final warning or reprimand compared to 3.7% all boys and 1.1% of all girls.
If like me you are a parent of a child with SEN, then you may think this doesn’t affect you but did you know that looked after children are 9 times more likely to have SEN (73% of school age looked after children have a statement of SEN – commonly social, emotional and behaviour difficulties).
So please, the next time you hear of a child in care and think negatively – remember, these children are in care not by choice, but often by need.
Think how you hate being judged by others when your child with SEN doesn’t conform to society’s “norm” and how angry you feel. It’s just the same for looked after children but they don’t have the life experience that we parents have when dealing with the uneducated comments and stares.
How often do we get angry at decisions made for us without involving us? It’s the same for them.
Let’s help these children to realise their potential. Being in care should not mean being without hope.