Giving a voice to children in care with disabilities
This Christmas will be a bit different for all of us, but for some children and young people it will bring even more uncertainty and fear.
It will be particularly hard for one such group of children that Coram supports: those who have been in care and, as they approach 18, are having to leave that security as they are deemed to be an adult.
The support network that they have had throughout their childhood all too soon seems to disappear. This is hard enough to deal with for any 18 year old, let alone one who has disabilities. Yet this was the stark reality facing 17 and a half year old Kirsty, who was referred to our service by a key worker at her children’s home.
For Kirsty*, who has a learning disability, the prospect of turning 18 and leaving care was not a joyful occasion, but an event full of anxiety and worry. When we first met her, she was a few weeks away from losing her place in the children’s home she had been at for years, the home where she had found friends and had trusted members of staff who understood her. She was rightly extremely worried about moving on to adult accommodation, where the support networks she was used to, might simply not be there. Yet the local authority had not found another place for her to stay, which was making her even more anxious.
Thanks to the help of our advocate, using visual aids, Kirsty was able to express these worries and feelings. The advocate supported her in a meeting with Children’s Services raising concerns about the lack of transition planning. This led to Kirsty being assigned a social worker to complete an assessment.
As a result, a potential placement was identified, but Kirsty had not seen it and was told she had to move suddenly with no time to prepare. Again our advocate helped Kirsty to put her concerns across and requested the move to be frozen, so Children’s Services and Kirsty had the time to plan and to ensure that the place would be suitable for her particular needs. Kirsty was able to visit two possible places and she was able to choose the one she loved. In her new home, Kirsty has staff around her that she trusts and a key worker who helps and understands her needs.
Our advocate, who helped her on her journey, met with Kirsty and observed her laughing and joking with staff at her new home. Kirsty has been buying items for her room using her setting up home allowance and is being supported by staff with activities such as going to the cinema and riding her bike. Kirsty also attends a supported learning course at a college in her local area. As a result of all this, Kirsty is growing in confidence and is now much less anxious about the future. Kirsty now has the love and opportunity she was desperately seeking.
*All the names, images and some of the details of the children mentioned in this appeal have been changed to protect their identities.