Reflections on Corporate Parenting

Corporate parenting duties and responsibilities have attracted growing attention over recent years, particularly since the 2014 Children and Young People (Scotland) Act. They are as relevant to young people involved in offending behaviour as much to those who are regarded as in need of care and protection.  Jade Kilkenny shares her thoughts on the subject.

My experience of care was not positive but neither was living at home; professionals automatically thought that my home was not safe and taking me away would make sure that I was. Taking me away from my family made me feel insecure and uncertain of my life’s worth. My home life had difficulties, but this was my reality. I was devastated when my independence to be responsible for my own safety was taken away from me. My home life was not unpredictable; the environment I knew was the place I had always known. I knew the people and the atmosphere, where to avoid and who not to approach.

Sometimes children and young people are taken into care for a number of reasons, not always positive. Corporate Parenting legislation was created to make sure that professionals are responsible for building positive relationships with children and young people, so that the young person can use this relationship to influence more positive relationships – and for the professional to provide opportunities and guidance in making decisions as a young adult. Very rarely does this happen. Before corporate parenting came in I already had relationships with professionals in the school I attended but they were not professionals to me they were just adults that made me laugh, made me feel good and helped me with my school work or provided opportunities to flourish into the person I am today. Since corporate parenting has been around I feel professionals are pushed to make a relationship with a young person no matter if the young person likes them or not, I have spoken at events and professionals always ask “how do we make the time and what about boundaries?” Every relationship needs boundaries and planning because everyone will have do’s and don’t’s of how we treat each other.

As a word, ‘corporate’ doesn’t suggest any of the things that the legislation wants to create or what it is meant for. Corporate means company and has connotations of business and management. In care I felt like a job not a person, people were being paid to come see me, to make decisions about my life and to have a relationship with me. I felt like a bought car or object in auction. While it should not be about money it does sometimes come down to this – but we are not for sale. During and after my time in care I have met some amazing professionals who have always tried their best to do what is right for me, involving me and others in the decisions they make. Policy sometimes prevents the right decisions.

Corporate Parenting is sometimes only associated with social workers and teachers but this legislation is for anyone that works with the council: administrators, janitors, dentists, people that work in maintenance, housing and lots of others. They can also be of any age, including the same age – or younger than me. This is difficult when you are 23 and your ‘corporate parent’ is 18 or 21.  It made me feel like they had an authority over my information or judging my situation, especially as I went to the same school as them. I worked for the council for a period of time and I was confused if that meant I was a professional, corporate parent or a young person who is care experienced working in the council.

They say being a parent is the hardest job you can have, and being parents comes in all shapes and sizes. Every parent has different expectations and dreams for their child, even if it is not what society expects, and every parent was once a child themselves. It might have been a negative experience, a positive one, or both. These experiences reflect how they parent today.

Corporate Parenting takes this status away from them; even though our parents are deemed not capable they are still our parents. They might not be around to teach us about life but they are still a part of us. It is offensive to me that parenting is in a legislation, amongst money and systems. When you become a parent you don’t spend six-weeks learning about policies and legislation – you learn about the child, finding out what they like and nurture them from little human to adult. You also don’t stop being a parent when they turn 26. Understanding that there are limited services, but choosing to build relationships costs nothing.

This legislation is offensive to parents too, as it implies for so many that they have been replaced and are not good enough to parent, which will only make their very low self-esteem and confidence worse. Sometimes parents are not capable of being a parent but everyone makes mistakes, especially when you only know what you know from your own experiences. A parent once said to me “why can’t we all go into care together and they can teach me how to parent?” So many parents want to parent; they just don’t know how to. Parents are told all the time this is not good enough but when is it ok to say professionals have not done good enough? There is so much in the care system that needs to be much better, but first we need to change the language: ban the term Corporate Parent and let young people who have lived in care lead the battle to change the system.

About our blogger

Jade is an apprentice at Community Justice Scotland, a member of the Justice and Care workgroup of the Independent Care Review and is eager to ensure that relationships are prioritised when supporting young people. You can hear more from Jade here, and read her previous blog here.

If you’d like to blog about your own lived experience and what helped you, please email ross.a.gibson@strath.ac.uk.


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