Surviving the care system

Today we’re pleased to bring you a guest post from Eve Higgins – author of newly published How I Survived In And Out Of Care…

Many books have been written and many websites have been created that discuss adoption and fostering from an adult perspective. Virtually nothing has been written from the point of view of the clients of this enormously expensive system – that is the young people themselves. Indeed I would go further: the great and good seem to have an overwhelming interest in the financial aspects of the Care System but almost no awareness of the views or experiences of those who feel most failed by the current arrangements.

Ella and I both feel that a sizable proportion of those “timing out” at 18 are grossly ill-prepared for adult life. How many parents would expect their own children to cope with the rigours of post-16 education with little or no emotional or financial support from a loving family? Disruption, poverty and uncertainty are all major barriers to academic achievement and the low educational attainment of children who spent time in a Children’s Home is a national disgrace.

In the absence of a formal support mechanism that meets the requirements of care leavers from 18-25 years old it is crucial that an alternative approach is embraced. Ella and I call this “group self-help”. There are a number of sub-sections to this that all have a part to play in overcoming the twin devils of isolation and a lack of positive role models. By far the most important, at least as far as Ella and I were concerned, was the group newsletter. Sharing triumphs and tragedies with friends who share your childhood experiences can be very therapeutic. Knowing that there is somebody is taking an interest is nice but having somebody else to help, when few others could, is even better! Quite deliberately our book describes some people who have become role models for the two of us. These are people, ranging in age from early 20s to 60+, have between them have made a real difference to Eve and Ella the parents and Eve and Ella the employees.

I (Eve) wrote this book to repay a debt. Not a financial debt, although money does come into the untitled (10)story, but an emotional debt to two groups of people. Those who helped me to survive 18 years of living in foster care or in a Children’s Home and those people who subsequently helped me to recover from those difficult times. When I wrote the book I did so in the sure and certain knowledge that it would upset some people and annoy others. If a reader falls into either category then my defence is that articulate and conscientious adoptive parents or foster carers – the type who would be sufficiently motivated to join an on-line forum or to read any book of mine on their vocation – are the exception rather than the rule. The on-going tragedy is that not all members of this elite group realise that their high standards are far from universal! Some of my friends had a long and happy relationship with their foster parents and a number of examples of entirely positive relationships are included in this book. Other foster parents I know from bitter first-hand experience just “went through the motions” and the degree of nurturing, especially when older teenagers were being fostered, that took place was fairly minimal. It is also my strong impression that the average quality of foster care gradually declines as the age of the child increases.

Of course I am biased because I have invested a great deal of emotional energy in the creation of “How I survived in and out of Care” but I genuinely think that this book could be a life changer to many of the most vulnerable young people in society. If enough people read the book and put into practice the survival skills we have identified then perhaps all my hard work was worthwhile.

“How I survived in and out of Care” is available from Amazon.com and from Amazon.co.uk. Watch out for a review of the book here on The Adoption Social in the next few weeks.

Eve and Ella http://livingworldsedge.blogspot.co.uk/

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