Have you ever wondered why so many teenage foster placements break down? last week I wondered this’ as I spent the whole week supporting different young people and their carers to prevent this from happening. One in particular I was not able to prevent from breaking down. The Young Person asked to leave her placement for lighting candles to mask cigarette smoke. The final straw for the carer.
Although I suspect in this case the carer was all to pleased to be rid of this Young Person. Because her needs were slightly more than the average teenager. This is the trouble that I am finding more often than not when looking for placements. “low risk” for anything other than residential, who are all to happy to work with Young People with slightly more challenging needs and additional support needed.
The problem is does this work? No……..it does not!
A new company in our area providing semi supported living advertised their two vacancy’s “Only low risk Young People should be considered!” What worries me is that even low risk young people need support, they need guidance and someone to listen. They have friends and family and anyone of these could be used by someone to break the placement down.
For many Young People foster care may never work, as considered in research good practice when working with refugee and asylum seeking children. This is also the same for many young people not just Asylum seekers; but this should not discouraged as a route for others.
It seems that the system wants you to move on at 18 years of age whether you are ready or not. But if you are not ready your options are no better. Often the only options are Foyers, or YMCA’s. Not that I would criticise these placements, just that there is not enough of them or enough funding for support within them.
Also I worry that for some young people the only way they are going to know how to live on their own; is by living in an environment where there is no staff change overs or handover meetings. Where the main carer can offer support and develop skills to encourage independent living. However, this will not always be easy and the carer will need to consider that the young person may be suffering from emotional difficulties and maybe even Post traumatic stress disorder, from either being placed into care or a traumatic event in their life.
This can often mean that the behaviour is looked at first rather than the real support that is needed. Of course this is just not support from the foster carer but from everyone working with the young person. The outcome, greater chance of independent living or some of the skills required to make it work.
But please consider that when fostering Adolescents that every notice and placement move may reinforce their own self belief and self worth. Making it harder for the next placement to work.
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………