The Right to Relationships

In this blog to mark Care Experienced Week 2019, Bernie and Charlie write about the rights that all care experienced individuals should enjoy. They are members of the Why Not? Trust, which seeks to enhance personal relationships amongst those who have lived experience of the care system.

As well as individual connections, the Why Not? Trust is supporting young people, including young parents with care experience to develop our own community networks. These networks allow us to access experiences and events which give opportunities they may not be able to access on their own.

The trust has allowed us to reflect on our collective experiences, and how these have affected our time in care. By having community meetings, it allows for discussions around how we can improve the way that relationships are continued through care and after care. It has always been a goal of the Why Not? Trust, to enable young people to have meaningful connections with those who have cared for them and we want to ensure this for all care experienced young people, not just us.

During our most recent community meeting, we realised the need for a means of change and decided we would be the ones to kickstart this.

From there, the Right To Relationships charter was developed. With the insight of the Why Not? community, we decided to highlight ten rights that are uniquely important to each one of us.

Everyone has different experiences of being in care, but what we all have in common is a passion to ensure that other you people like us can maintain contact with those who matter to them. Having meaningful relationships makes such a huge difference, and allows for hope for future relationships when leaving care. Along with the right to continued relationships, we also highlighted the right to be valued, believed in and to be nurtured. Our ten rights are:

THE RIGHT TO CONTINUED CARING RELATIONSHIPS

We will have access to a network of people, adults and young people, who we have developed trusting relationships with during our care experience, after we have moved on.

THE RIGHT TO BE VALUED

We should be able to celebrate bonds we have developed with carers and other young people, through gift giving and gestures of care, concern and affection.

THE RIGHT TO BE BELIEVED IN

When people believe in me, recognising my strengths, skills and talents, I understand more about myself and what I may need support with.

THE RIGHT TO BE NURTURED

The possibilities of continued relationships should be the basis of relationships in care services, with policies and procedures flexible enough to allow differences in relationships with strong connections being supported and encouraged.

THE RIGHT TO BELONG

We should be able to visit the places we were cared for and the people who cared for us. We should be supported to meet up with young people who have shared our lives as part of a community.

THE RIGHT TO OUR OWN IDENTITY

Opportunities to understand and reflect on our stories through connections to the people who know us and the places we’ve lived. We should be supported to resolve any difficulties we experienced while we were in care.

THE RIGHT TO TRUST AND BE TRUSTED

We are able to make our own decisions supported by the people who know us well and who will look after us. We must be able to take risks and make mistakes without being judged or rejected.

THE RIGHT TO HOPE

We are more than the difficulties we have lived through. Our ambitions must be nurtured and respected and we should be given opportunities to pursue these.

THE RIGHT TO BE SAFE

The relationships we have formed with carers and other young people create safety for us because we can share concerns and get support through these.

THE RIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED

Carers and services will look after the memories of those of us who have moved on from care.

They will look after things that remind us of our childhood and keep in touch with us as long as we want to keep in touch with them.

The right to our own identity and to belong was a common need amongst the community members. We need opportunities to understand and reflect on our stories through the connections to the people who know us and the places that we’ve lived. We should be supported to resolve any difficulties we experienced while we were in care. Not only this, but we should be able to visit the places where we were cared for and those who cared for us. We should be supported to meet up with other young people who have shared our lives as part of our community. Why should being in care stop us from developing friendships and relationships with other care experienced young people?

One of the most important issues raised was that of being remembered. Carers and services should look after the memories of those who have moved on from care. Photographs and keepsakes should be kept to remind us of our childhoods, along with keeping in touch with those who have influenced us and helped us through our time in care. Even when young people may have moved from placement, we’d like the opportunity to keep in touch with them as any meaningful relationships should be encouraged as an important part of our development.

We are more than the difficulties that we have lived through. Our ambitions must be nurtured and respected and we should be given opportunities to pursue these. Our ambitions should reach further than getting a job and our own house when we leave care, we should live our lives while constantly pushing ourselves to reach our own unique goals.

The Why Not? Trust for Care Experienced Young People grew out of a successful initiative started by Care Visions Children’s Services in 2014.┬áThe Trust became a charity in 2018, to support long term connections and relationships between young people with care experience and the people who matter to them. You can sign up to the Rights To Relationships Charter here.

If you would like to blog about an issue that is important to you, please get in touch with ross.a.gibson@strath.ac.uk.


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