In the run-up to Care Day, islanders have shared their experiences of living in care and their thoughts on how to improve the system for all.
Today’s is an insight from Quinlan McFarland…
I think the worst thing about being in care, is that no matter how hard you try, you can’t live like a normal kid. You can’t have sleepovers with your friends, or go stay with your parents. I couldn’t even sleep in the bedroom of another child in the same house as me.
In my experience, care is supposed to help rehabilitate children and reintroduce them back to their families, but that never happens. You never have a chance to get back to where you once were.
For the first three months I was in care on an Interim Care order, I wasn’t allowed to leave my house without staff. I was 13 years old, and if I didn’t walk straight home after school, they would phone the police and report me as a missing child.
If I’m honest it becomes embarrassing for most people, all your friends knowing that you know every Officer on the Police Force.
There are so many bad sides to the care system that I couldn’t pick just one, but if I did, it would definitely be the fact that care reminds you how not normal you are. Or rather, it makes you feel as though you’re more abnormal than before.
It forces you into a certain kind of box, where you’re now not a kid, you’re “one of those kids”. It kind of limits what you can do, because in school some kids don’t wanna hang around with you because they think you’re messed up.
Some kids don’t believe what you tell them about why you’re in care, and they push you for “better” answers.
I suppose if we’re talking about a truly good experience, it would be meeting my last keyworker before I left the care system. He was always different than other staff members, because as much as your personal opinions shouldn’t interfere with this line of work, he would always let me know his own opinion.
I guess he was the only staff member I actually managed to bond with properly. He taught me how to shave, he used to always try and find the best opportunities for whatever it was I was planning on doing.
He was like a regular member of the family, you know? I think he would be my good experience, because at the end of the day, that’s what he gave me; his experience. I think a lot of what my keyworker taught me I still apply today, actually.
One of his favourite points that he always stressed to me was “if you don’t know why, ask why”. So now as I’m older I still question everything I do, and he promoted a lot of freethinking in me. Without him, who knows, maybe I wouldn’t even be writing this article. For that, I’m truly grateful.
In regards to a way to make the system better, I think overall we should help kids feel like a family.
While the vast majority of LACs (Looked After Children) do have a family outside of their placement, I feel like it’s important to promote familial needs involving the home, like being able to spend time with your “corporate siblings”.
Despite how hard we try to deny it, for that time you reside there, they are your corporate family. I spent years running away from that. I think it’s important to promote this idea that you’re all in the same boat, and to some degree experiencing the same things.
I know when I was younger I would appreciate being allowed to sleep in my “corporate brothers” room, or have him sleep in mine. I think it is important to promote a sense of normality, rather than alienate kids. Some former LACs I know have formed lifelong bonds with others, so I feel as though that is something that should be encouraged, and not ignored.
I am currently working on forming a LAC Council, made up entirely of young people to help advocate for each other, and to help express themselves without becoming angry or upset, so in time this will hopefully bring forward not just the changes I want to see, but the changes the children want as well.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember that even though we are all different, we’re all in the same situation, just there for different reasons, and in my mind, it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, only where you’re going.
*This article first appeared on Bailiwick Express.