This story in today’s Guardian (4/8/2007) I found moving. I’m working with young people in Birmingham who are in care for one reason or another. It seems to me that the damage that can occur by a disrupted childhood cannot be underestimated. This is particularly so for those brought into a culturally alien environment.
The understanding which led to the removal of an Aborginal child in Australia was that he or she would have a better chance with someone from the dominant group, in this case a white European family. The comparison with the siblings who had remained with their family couldn’t be starker. Far from getting an advantage the child became confused and grew to become severely depressed as an adult spending time in prison and becoming dependent on alcohol. It is the experience that many children who have been in care have shared.
Too often the costly bureaucratic agencies tasked to care for vulnerable young people become, if not the source, a major part of the difficulties they face. The lack of co-ordination when they reach 16 and 18 has to be seen to be believed. The young person is moved to new teams, this is when the most vulnerable and at risk need continuing stability to take them forward. Teams are often short-staffed and under immense pressure from excessive workloads. In many cases where children are settled there is enforced upheaval. This is to meet with the needs of the system while the young people and their carers are put through unnecessary worry while attempts are made to sort matters out.