Talking transitions: “It’s not just a stock cube” – A conversation about foreign children and youth in care was initiated and organised in partnership with Lawrence House.
This was a conversation between young people, child and youth care workers, and civil society aimed to promote sharing and learning through personal experiences. By listening actively to others and showing that diverse experiences hold value our task was to start a discussion that could continue, and in turn drive change.
Child and youth care worker story extract: “I didn’t know my story was a story. It is my life, it is who I am… my parents were political activists in the struggle…It was for me to care for and protect the children, it wasn’t a duty I had, but it was part of me.”
Young person story extract: “When we found ourselves in Lawrence House two important things were that the staff received me in a comforting way that made me feel at home, and that I was able to make a cultural connection with other kids.”
What we learned:
For foreign young people living in care a number of important considerations were highlighted, all focused on building positive futures and resilience.
Belonging: Building cultural connections are important in strengthening identity. Language was an important aspect of this, although it has been both a site of loss and hope for young people. Food was also shown to build deep connections to cultural roots.
Care: A central component of building security for young people was care. Care comes in many forms. One aspect involves care in listening to young people and taking the time to understand the complexity of their stories. The role of caring connections can also help build supportive relationships within future lives.
Documentation: Provides an important sense of legal and emotional security for young people. It must be explored early so that young people are not left behind, and so fear does not dominate. It has been shown to impact young people’s education, an important aspect of their development, in particular at grade 12.
Child and Youth Care Workers, Centres and young people all have an important role to play in addressing the above challenges. This involves equipping ourselves with the personal strength and knowledge to be able to navigate questions of identity and belonging in a caring, inclusive and empowering way.
This means, for example, that even when we cook, ‘it’s not just a stock cube’ that we cook with. Even the stock has a particular meaning for the young person that eats the stew, and it is this level of connection that we need to create meaningful change.
In what can often be a confusing and challenging time, the importance of maintaining a future focus with clear goals is important. Young people outlined that they wanted to take leadership in securing their futures, however that having organisations, care workers and friends alongside them can provide the emotional, and technical resources to ensure that legal and social belonging becomes possible.