There are fleeting moments of uplifting inspiration in the work I do, granted it's rare but it does happen from time to time. Earlier today, one of the girls I keywork was going on her first driving lesson. Catriona, 17, who left foster care last year is one of our success stories. Her Mother was an active alcoholic and from a young age Catriona had to play the role of parent to her two young siblings. She was very close to her Father, whom the Mother left and then informed Catriona and her siblings that he wanted nothing to do with them, this tunred out to be untrue and Catriona has located her Dad and now sees him regularly. Catriona entered the care system aged 12 and was split up from the siblings she was close to and loved dearly.
Catriona had a mixed experience of the care system with some succesful foster placements and some not so successful. She admits that until she was 15 she was a bit of a troublesome teenager until she had an epiphany of the trajectory her life could take. In her own words:
"At 15 I realised that I was more or less all alone in the world and that whatever I did and how I behaved would affect where I was going in my life. Although I didn't like school and had no interest beyond GCSEs I decided to work towards doing something with my life and not just sitting around drinking and drawing benefits like so many other people I know."
Catriona was so responsible and mature in her attitude and behaviour that Social Services allowed her to leave care at 16, most kids stay on until they are 18. She now lives with us in our Supported Housing project and works part time in a local hairdressers and is almost finished a hairdressing course at the local college. We never have to write her letters about paying her share of the rent or talk to her about bad behaviour. In fact, Catriona often has to stay elsewhere as she loses sleep due to the undealt with anti-social beahviour of other residents. Now, instead of holding up the likes of Catriona as a shining example that one's childhood doesn't have to pre-determine your path in life I have to listen day in day out to the disempowering mantra that young people with anti-social behaviour problems behave the way they do due to their negative childhood experiences. A convenient theory that then allows the young person to self destruct and the agents of state intervention to abdicate all responsibility.
I've been getting a bit of attention in the National press this week. Im in the Daily Mail today and the Guardian yesterday. I find it interesting and quite reassuring that a lot of the supportive comments on the Guardian's website are from people that have or are working in the same or a similar field.
I'm crossing my fingers that I make the Orwell shortlist that will be announced later today.
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