Volunteering with Who Cares? is the best thing I have ever done.
It is important for me because I know the difficulties that care experienced young people can come up against as they try to make their way in life, often having to deal with stigmas, prejudices and a general lack of understanding which is mainly due to decades of misinformation, hiding the problems away and in some cases care experienced young and older people not feeling comfortable within themselves because they had good reasons, through past experiences, to be reluctant to trust in the wider community and adults who they felt had failed them.
I understand that and can relate to all of this because I was one of them. I was fortunate because someone listened to me, talked to me, gave me a little bit of their time and believed in me and that made all the difference for me. If I can give back that little bit and make a wee bit of a difference by brightening up just one day or bringing a smile to a young person’s face and showing that I care then that will make me so proud because I know how important that can be.
Being with our care experienced young people in Moray, both in person and virtually with weekly Zoom sessions which have continued all through this difficult time has brightened up all of our Monday’s. The sessions have been well attended, full of fun and laughter and the adults in the group have had as much fun as the youngsters. We have a weekly sandwich challenge where the young people nominate a victim and a sandwich filling chosen by the group. Unfortunately I am the victim next week and my treat is a cheese, apple, broccoli, sweetcorn, tuna and Nutella sandwich. (I made the mistake of letting everyone know that my most hated foods are broccoli and sweetcorn) Honesty sometimes isn’t the best policy!
The relationships within our group have blossomed during this difficult time and it has been heartwarming to see our young people grow together and watch the trust and friendship between them build and grow as they have supported each other through this difficult time for us all.
I am truly grateful that I have been able to contribute and give a little bit of myself and am so proud that they have in return given me their acceptance, trust and made me feel part of their very special group.
As well as the fun side we have also supported our young people in putting together a ground-breaking project which aims to improve formal meetings for care experienced young people going forward.
This amazing and powerful presentation consists of three videos which they have put together themselves with the only adult input being, to provide a safe space, give the support when required, to deal with difficult issues for them to talk about and to provide the technical expertise to put it together.
What they have achieved is nothing short of amazing. In the first part of the trilogy they describe how they feel/felt about their formal meetings like Children’s Hearings and Review Meetings and describe their feelings worries and anxieties prior to, during and following their meetings.
The second part is their perception of a children’s hearing, which is called Fearing the Hearing, in which they play adult roles as well as the child. It is again all their own thoughts and words without any adult interference and the result is heart wrenching, emotional while at the same time having some quite humorous observations about how people behave and act in “their” meetings.
Finally and perhaps more importantly they have put together an amazing piece on video which is called Practitioners Guide where they in great detail describe the many changes that they would like to see that would make their formal meetings better for them and would enable them to attend and participate in a more positive and meaningful way.
The “trilogy” has been presented twice so far, to attendees during Care Week who were Social Workers, Children’s Panel Members, Reporters and other professionals and again it was presented as the main part of the Highland and Moray Children’s Panel Members Forum which was attended virtually by 101 practitioners,
The presentation provoked the reaction that we hoped for. Feedback received from those who have seen it includes: “Shocking, Horrific, Ashamed that that’s how we are seen, Determined to change, Angry that we put children through this, Needs to be sorted.”
Again, I am so proud of our young group given what they have put together, achieved and how it has been received, my hope is that it can shared with all practitioners involved in caring for and supporting our vulnerable young people in Scotland because the message it carries is so, so powerful. It is an amazing piece of work. They are my heroes and they deserve so much better.
So far the reaction of those who have seen our young people’s presentation has been incredible and the overwhelming view is that things need to change. Our care experienced group have indicated where change is necessary and how these changes should be made.
I love working with and supporting these wonderful young people. If me being there helps in any way to give them confidence in themselves and gives them some belief that we do care then I will be very happy and very proud because many years ago I felt the same fears, worries and anxieties that they have talked about and described and I will never forget how that feels.
Who Cares? We Care.
With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities, funding partners and donors who make our work possible.