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Testing our ideas with young people

Wednesday 22 March

Today we had the privilege of working alongside a group of young people who have recently transitioned from out-of-home-care. The aim of the session was to test our understanding of the challenges faced by young people as they approach 18 and prepare to ‘leave care’ with those who have lived it. Their insights challenged and inspired us.

Prior to the session, we reviewed each team’s ‘problem definition’, as below, and quickly realised that we had framed the challenges faced by young people using a deficit approach – i.e. emphasising the qualities that young people in out-of-home-care ‘don’t have’ or ‘lack’.

  • Strengthening Practice: Lack of resources and support is leading to young people feeling disconnected, alone, scared and hopeless for their futures.
  • Housing: At 18, young people don’t have the complexity of skills and emotional capacity to be able to create and maintain a ‘home’
  • Community Connection: The knowledge or resources to facilitate community connections for young people leaving care isn’t currently working. Too few young people have strong positive relationships with people who aren’t paid to support, encourage and care for them.
  • Employment A: Young people can’t see a positive future and need more support to become aspirational first (motivation to work) and then to journey to getting and keeping a job.
  • Employment B: Low employment prospects, due to lack of System and/or Framework, to support Young People leaving care with Training and/or Experience to find Employment

This reflection was confirmed on speaking with young people, who shared stories of resilience and strength – and examples skills they put to use every day. One young person shared shopping and cooking strategies she uses to save money and stay healthy: “Meal prep is where it’s at. I buy my rice and tuna and whatever else in bulk from the supermarket; cook for 3 hours on a weekend, and then I’m set for the week. No dishes’.

Another young person reflected on the mentoring and support role she played for young people who “just want someone to talk to and share their stuff with. They also need clear boundaries and to know that sometimes their behaviour is not on”.

This is not to say that young people didn’t speak of the need to provide young people with more support – to build living skills or maintain employment – but the idea of reframing how we perceive young people was central to the conversation.

This has prompted us to shift our mindset from one of ‘throwing fish’ to kids (to meet their needs until they are 18); to ‘teaching them to fish’. We will take this learning into Session 4.

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