For National Care Leavers Week, we wanted to share the stories of some of the experts by experience who help us choose and train the next generation of social workers. Read on to find out why one young care leaver chose to support our work.
I found out about Frontline from a social worker I know through a girls group that I mentor. The group is for girls between the ages of 12 and 17 who have had some involvement with social workers. I talk to them about their feelings and emotions, we do fun stuff like learning to cook and to budget, and we also discuss sexual exploitation, bullying and the more difficult sides of young people and children’s lives.
Hearing about Frontline, I thought it was amazing that they allow ex-care kids and people who have been involved with social workers to help make really good social workers for the next lot of people who need them. As someone who has had lots of mixed social workers it is great to have an input into the new generation of social workers to make sure they are all good rather than some good and some bad like I’ve had.
My experience of social work has been very difficult. Some social workers that I’ve met come across like they don’t really care and they don’t want the best for young people and children. They just do social work as a job, because they’ve got the qualifications to do it.
When I was in care I didn’t go out very much, so when a social worker would tell me they’d take me out for ice cream it made my week. If they broke that promise it really did hurt. I thought, maybe they were embarrassed to be with me. I blamed myself and thought it was all my fault because they didn’t explain, they just told me we couldn’t go.
For me, to do the job of a social worker you need to have a heart. I think some of the people that are social workers don’t have much of a heart or a feeling for children, or understand that we’re not all the same. I’ve had social workers who think that because I’ve been bullied I’m going to think exactly the same as another young person who’s been bullied. Everyone has different emotions and feelings and I don’t think they ever really got that.
I have had a really good social worker, though. She went above and beyond to find me the best therapist out there, that was tailored to me and understood me. She went and did that off her own back because she knew I needed it. She knew I had a general counsellor, but I needed one specifically for my needs, which weren’t being met by the general counsellor.
She did everything in her power to make my day, my week or my month a lot easier than other social workers did. If she couldn’t make an appointment or take me out like she’d promised, she always let me know ahead of time. I hate change and if anything is going to be different I need to know in time in order to prepare myself. She explained why she couldn’t come and gave me the opportunity to change our arrangements.
She listened and she understood me as an individual. She didn’t put me in a category or a box of people who have been through the same things as me. She treated everyone as an individual and understood that everyone has different feelings and emotions.
I’ve had a lot of social workers who told me you’re never going to get anywhere. Lots of people, including social workers, didn’t think I was going to make it to my 18th birthday because I was a very suicidal person. It really put me down. It made me think, actually what is the point? I was a suicidal young person anyway, but to have someone who’s supposed to be there for you and help you be so negative, it did make me feel even more suicidal.
But one social worker believed in me. She helped me realise that there was a light and the life I was living wasn’t the right life for me. She made me realise that I can do things if I put my mind to it. She definitely helped me change my life.
I think great social workers are the ones that listen to you and treat you as an individual. When they say they’re going to do something, they do it. And if they can’t, they give you a reason why. They keep their promises.
We need more great social workers because every child and young person deserves the best. Every child deserves to feel truly appreciated, believed, cared for, listened to and understood, through their good days and their bad days.