I just can’t seem to make my voice loud enough.
I can’t seem to find the right platform, or speaker.
I am constantly searching for something to amplify my voice to the millions.
I have a relentless dull rage flowing through me, gently growing. A rage for children who I believe, are mostly forgotten.
I am the Chief Executive Officer of Caring with Carers. A foster care training and assessment agency. For years I have quietly gone about my work, as we all do. Working in tandem with agencies and services, helping to improve the lives of children in foster care. Not feeling the need to scream.
This year though, it has been growing. The feelings of frustration and helplessness are becoming overwhelming. I feel like I am knocking on a door that just won’t open.
I deliver a program called Therapeutic Life Story Work to children from trauma backgrounds. This program is the answer to what has been missing in the foster care system and it is urgent.
For those not familiar with the foster care experience, there is a shocking, consistent reality that children in foster care do not learn about their past. These children, at best, have a life history that is extremely fragmented. Most do not know about their past at all. They do not know why they are in care.
Can you imagine? Being 5. Or 8. Or 13. Or even 18. And just not knowing what happened to you. Why you were taken from your parents? What did they do? What did you do? Where did you live? Did you just live in the one spot? Or many homes? Did other family members want you? Did other family try and get you? Did your parents try and get you back?
Aside from this being sad, not knowing about why they are in care has damaging results, the most common being that the child blames themselves. Living in multiple homes increases susceptibility to feeling unloved. If children don’t know why they are even there, they can blame themselves and feel even less worthy of love.
I have seen it. I have seen children in foster care that have NO IDEA about their life.
There are so many reasons why children aren’t given answers. Sometimes not everything gets written down, facts might be recorded inaccurately, records may be redacted, multiple caseworkers with different recoding styles, files not getting collated.
This reality is eating away at me. I keep screaming that there is a solution! We can fix this. The program called Therapeutic Life Story is the solution. It helps children to research, explore, and question their history.
There are three stages, and these three stages will do more for a child in foster care I believe, than any other program/service I have seen. The first stage is called the Information Bank and it literally involves the collection of the child’s history, pre-birth and post-birth, including records, photographs, people, and events. The information is then collated and placed in chronological order forming a factual narrative for the child. The second stage is called the Internalisation Stage. The worker helps the child to explore what it all means. They go over the trauma, they explore it, they talk about how this trauma might have influenced them and their present life. This gives way to the ability to change.
The last stage is called The Life Story Book. It is a physical book, designed by the child with this life story that they have learned. This book is their life. A physical replacement of their natural history and those things lost to them. This book is their identity, it will become their autonomy and carve their future.
Those of us lucky to have never been in foster care own our history. It is in our minds, our memories, our connections with our family. These foster children do not have that, and this book is the best thing we have to give them to fill this gap.
So why am I screaming? Why do I not feel heard? Because this program costs money. And someone has to pay for it. Someone has to pay for this program to be given to these children. Someone has to pay for this book that will change their life.
It doesn’t seem that hard does it. Surely for something this important there would be no limit to what should be paid?! Surely the rest of society, who don’t have a need for this book, can find a way to gift this book to them. Currently agencies need to pay for it on behalf of children. These children can’t pay for it. Agencies have limited funding.
I have been asking, I have been submitting, I have been knocking. Funding for this program is essential. I am trying to find it. I just need to find a louder voice.
By Shannon Kendrick