Birthday Plans

Have you ever wondered when you become an Adult and when your Childhood finishes.  Is there a date? a time? maybe a place.  I still struggle to work out whether I have succeed in growing up? But for the young people we work with that are in Care, this decision is made for them.  The choice made by law.  For many an age that is counted down from the day the Care Order is granted, and often for the wrong reasons.

This week I have supported one such Young Person as her 18th Birthday draws closer.  A likeable young woman who has been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder.  Who as a child was sexually abused by a family friend, and neglected by her parents.  And as she grew older, developed an attention seeking personality for the emergency services.  

This Young Person frequently self harms through cutting, and tying ligatures or taking an overdose.  All of which would always be done out of hours in order to be seen by the Police or Ambulance service.  A misunderstanding of the Care that they provided, and a care that she feels that she is not receiving and craves from her parents.

With such little time left to her 18th Birthday, and a lack of engagement with the local CAMH’s Service was not leaving a lot of options for this Young Person to receive help and address her concerns, preventing her to live safely.  The reason why this is important is that at 18 she will be in a twilight age to old for Child Services and to young for Adult Services.  

In order to make these last few months in care work, I asked for a multi professional meeting to be arranged with the Young Person to be involved.  The aim of the meeting was to encourage the Young Person to develop her own Pathway Plan.  A plan of how she will successfully Leave Care.  

In arranging this meeting it gave an opportunity for the Young Person to share with her parents her feelings, about what she has been doing.  A chance for them to hear the pain she suffers and why.  An opportunity for this to be done in a safe manner, to offer support to both parents and the young person.  The advantage being that the Professionals could then add the support that they could offer to the young person and her parents.  Similar to a Family Group Conference but with less family and friends.

The meeting was fraught, and there was a lot of anger and tension from both the young person and her parents.  However, I was proud of the Young Person and noticed the confidence that I had seen develop over the months; as she spoke in front of everyone.  I also acknowledged that she remained present through out the whole meeting often listening to difficult comments about herself.  When I reminded her of this I could see a smile on her face and her confidence grow as a result.

For many young people 18 will always be too soon to leave Care, especially when support is needed.  But the level of support required is not enough for Adult Mental Health Services.  And with a shaky agreement to try group work therapy to help address issues and coping mechanism.  There was a positive outcome to this meeting and there is still time to help prepare her for what might be available post 18.  More importantly rebuild and re establish relationships with her family, that the young person holds important to her.

I know for myself at 18 I had left home, and I was looking after myself.  However, this was my choice and I had my family.  Further more my mental health was good.  For this young person it may not be as easy but she has been given the choice, and an opportunity to take the help one last time before she turns 18.  So far it has been 5 days since she has last self harmed……… 


4 responses

  1. It's interesting for me to read this perspective because I work with people at the other end of the 'life cycle' and we find that generally, older adults mental health also has a lower 'bar' to access to our services that adult services. Often GPs will refer someone to us on their 65th birthdays because the individual would not have had the same level of support prior to that. Not that I'm knocking the adult mental health services – they are extremely busy and take on as much as they possibly can – but it does make me wonder how much more work could be done, other than fire-fighting, with more resources.

  2. i feel for this individual having seen this situation so many times. Going off my own patch which split into affective and psychosis teams. We have high caseloads between 35 to 45. Affective teams even higher we all know we could do better work given time thats all but how do we get it?

  3. Aging out is one of the most frustrating aspects of child welfare for me. I've had some families come in for services with their 17.5 year old kids. Once we actually start getting somewhere, we have to close (unless the young person is pregnant, which is not exactly ideal.)In New York, young people have the option of extending their stay in foster care until age 21. However, without additional services in place, this basically just postpones homelessness for three years for a lot of young people. My agency runs a transitional group home for kids aging out, which is highly successful. And yet it's one of the only ones in the city.

  4. Social Workers can extend the stay in foster placements for some Young People, either because they are very vulnerable or doing well in education. But the trouble for most is that at 18 it is down to the Young Person. The After Care service has no Statutory Power for engagement and only has to see the young people a minimum of twice a year. So for many they can slip into a blur until either they are picked up by Adult Social Care or the Judicial Service through Crime. But it sounds like you have a positive group going on for the transitional group home. 🙂

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