When I was growing up in care I loved to think ahead to the day that I would become independent. I pictured a nice big house with a beautiful garden, a shiny new car, and no more social workers!! I would be able to eat whatever I liked, spend as long as I liked in the shower and take a nap whenever I felt like one. I didn’t in a million years expect to want or need help from my local authority once I had made the move to independence. It is only now that I can accept just how young and vulnerable I was back then! (I will write up a clearer account about what it was really like in my next blog I just wanted to get this out there).
When I was a teenager in care I didn’t like to see my social workers; I wanted as little contact with them as possible. I just wanted to be normal like my friends! As far as all my friends were concerned I lived in a normal house with normal parents and I had definitely not been abused. I rarely went to my LAC reviews because they would be during school hours and I loved going to school – school was the only place that I could forget about my home life and pretend I was normal. I also hated filling in the forms so I would always lie and say that everything was fine, even if it wasn’t. My answers would be as short as possible and straight to the point. During the most important years (leading up to my move to independence) I had too many social workers coming and going. None of them stayed around long enough to get to know me or assess my capabilities or vulnerabilities. I was very shy back then so I wouldn’t have openly talked about my feelings to anyone – not even my foster carer. I had become very good at telling people what I thought they wanted to hear so my pathway plan is not a true representation of my actual needs.
I often get asked whether I was prepared for independence and back then I probably wanted to believe that I was. I think if it is used right then the pathway plan is an excellent tool in identifying where our capabilities and vulnerabilities may lie. But exactly how it is approached and by who should be thought about carefully. Am I in the right environment to talk about my negatives? Are you treating it like a tick box exercise or are you truly interested in what I have to say? Remember, I probably don’t care about your workload or other tasks you need to get done – I cannot and should not be rushed into answering questions that could later mean I don’t get the support I need to successfully transition to independent living. Let me give you some examples from my pathway plan. (The black writing was what my social worker had written at the time and the red/green writing is my personal thoughts about it now – remember that we are all individuals)…
**Remember to write up as much detail about me as you can – especially the positive – I may not be able to ask my parents questions and I may need to explore my past through my files in order to develop my self identity.
I was surprised to see how little was asked about my actual independent living skills!! The other thing that I find a bit concerning is that the whole plan was written in one session with my social worker – which could only have been between half an hour and an hour! I think I should have been given information on nutrition and cooking nutritious dinners! My idea of cooking was to oven cook highly processed foods! I also should have been given information on budgeting and how to keep track of money because I ended up getting into dept when I turned 18.