Content warning – Some of the content may contain material that is confronting and can cause sadness or distress. If you feel triggered or upset by any of the content, we encourage you to use your discretion as to whether you should continue reading and urge you to reach out to Kids Helpline or Lifeline.
The below is a guest blog by Aimee, a QFCC Youth Champion
Some of what I have to say is confronting, it’s true that it wasn’t always easy, I spent most of my time in care living in residentials. It isn’t all bad, I was persistent and met an aftercare services case manager that changed everything for me. But for you to understand what it is like for a young person leaving care, I want to share with you my story...
Just after I turned 18, I found myself in an induced coma in an Intensive Care Unit after a suicide attempt. I remember waking up in the Intensive Care Unit and looking around to see that every other patient in the unit had flowers, cards, or balloons near their beds. Most had family or friends by their side. I had no one and nothing around me except for the nurse, a complete stranger, at the end of my bed. I had never felt as alone in my life as I did in that moment. I was homeless, in a violent relationship, addicted to methamphetamines and had no one to turn to.
The actions of child safety officers, youth workers, or other members of a child’s care team shape the people that kids in care will become. Their actions are what can turn those negative self-beliefs that a lot of young people have, around.
When I met my case manager from an after-care service, it was clear that they were not willing to support me. This worker allowed their own beliefs, values, and attitudes to get in the way of providing the service that they were funded to. This worker, along with every stakeholder before them, let me down in more ways than my parents ever could.
I often think about the abuse I was exposed to as a child. It hurt me, but nothing compares to finally feeling that I may be safe and maybe someone cares for me, just to be dropped off with nothing and no one the next day, to be taken away from the only safe people in my life and to be removed from my home, all because I turned 18. And then to be promised support from an aftercare service and to meet a case manager and believe that maybe this person may be able to help, only for them to dislike the activities I was partaking in and refuse to provide a service.
My parents SHOULD have cared but they didn’t, so I was taken away with the promise that someone else would be able to care for me and provide me with safety and stability, but what happens when the very people that are mandated and legislated to care, don’t?
As I have gotten older, and have been able to reflect on my time in care and transition out of care, I have been able to recognise more and more workers in this sector that have allowed their own personal attitudes and beliefs to impede on the work that they do with young people.
Not long after leaving the hospital, I needed to move regions. The circumstances for the move were not good and I was angrier than I had ever been. However, after this move was when I met my aftercare next case manager. Although at the time I was unable to recognise it, this case manager cared for me and really wanted to support me. She wanted the best for me and walked beside me every step of the way, showing me unconditional positive regard and reminding me that I was worth it and that I was enough. With her help, I sourced stable housing, re-engaged in education, and built a support network around myself. I will be forever grateful for this worker, without her, I do not believe I would be in the position I am advocating for young people leaving care.
I want you all to remember that we are people, not just another number on a caseload. Your words and actions hurt and will stay with us forever. Maybe we can't articulate that at the time, but please know that it hurts us more than you think, we may forget your name, or the conversations had, but we will never forget the way you made us feel.
Currently, 30% of kids leaving care end up homeless within the first year. This is not a reflection on the young people themselves, this is a reflection on the care system as a whole and the support that was given, or in these cases, not given.
These statistics need to change. The gap between the outcomes of children living at home and children in out of home care is too big, it should not exist to the extent that it does. We know that when adequate supports are put in place and children actually FEEL supported, the outcomes are drastically different. I know that engaging young people can be hard, I have been on both sides. I have been both the young person and the worker attempting to engage the young person, but please try. Do not give up. Be creative, be persistent and most importantly, do not allow your own attitudes and beliefs to get in the way of supporting young people.