This year around 10,000 looked-after children will age out and leave care.
The odds are stacked against the young. ‘the boomerang generation’; many young adults find they can’t make it on their own and end up moving back in with their parents.
But there’s no family home to return to. You’re a care leaver now, badly traumatised and alone.
It doesn’t matter if we’re 16, 21 or 26 – when we have our support network cauterised off, we’re going to struggle.
Research by youth charity coalition Access All Areas found that care leavers need better mental health, financial, and housing support, as well as employment training.
With so many needs going unmet we’ve begun banding together to form support groups. Many of us contribute and belong to at least one care leaver community. The Care Leavers Rock group on Facebook has grown to over 750 members.
Care leavers rock started one day in my living room with the aim of reaching out to as many care leavers as possible.
Every time someone posts asking for advice, within seconds members are there to offer support and guidance… With no tokenism. No agenda. No reason. Other than to create a family environment for those who still need it when leaving care with nothing or no one.
– Kayrelle Phillips
As an FCA care leaver, I was invited to join a care-experienced consultancy project – think customer feedback. I enjoyed the work and the sense of community that came with it. We still meet up informally. One of us recently had a child. Her extended family have been in touch to with congratulations and baby clothes.
It was a privilege to meet another community at a Care Leavers Association national gathering. They were wiser and more experienced than those I’d met previously. There was a real emphasis on emotional support, and I was overwhelmed by the honesty and sincerity of these people.
These groups exist because support is lacking elsewhere. Experience of the care system fosters a spirit of reciprocity. And that’s something we should shout about and encourage!