• Ben Westwood

Most people don't even realise when they are degrading foster children

Updated: Jun 19

#childrenincare #stigma #labels


It's been a very thought-provoking week for me for many different personal reasons, but one of them has been about recent responses to young people in the care system and how degrading people can be about them, sort of innocently though.

It's certainly not anything new or unique, this has been going on for years and it's widespread throughout the UK, and I presume in other parts of the world too.


Before I go on I'd like to stress that I've come to learn not to take people's lack of understanding personally as a former foster child, and that I think most of the time when it comes to some people's degrading and uneducated views of young people in the care system, that they don't even comprehend they are even doing it.



For those still bamboozled as to what I mean, I'm talking about the labels that so many of you give us, without even really thinking too deep into things.


Recently on two separate occasions I was chatting with someone and the subject of my future role working with young people in care had came up.

Both had said pretty much the same response along the lines of "Oh right, like naughty children with behavioural problems and that?"


Even though I'm thirty-four years old now and have learned to handle it, it's never that great to hear and certainly as a former young person in care it felt degrading.

Still I knew that they didn't really mean anything by it, but when that's your life and what you know, and your roots in many ways, it can bring about the wounding feelings of being completely misunderstood and judged by most of society. Like, this isn't simply anxiety or paranoia, this is actually people misjudging you.


Over the last few years of my life I've noticed how some people treat you once they find out you're a care-leaver. I really do believe that once some people hear about your past that because you've often had it a bit rough that they seem to think you'll settle for less and somehow survive the rough seas like you always have done by struggling with your head just above the water.



That is where some of us are vulnerable even as adults in a world that largely isn't very educated about the life of young people in care.

Will an employer take what they may see as a 'gamble' on someone they may know has had a past in care? Or will they just presume criminal activity or that the particular person doesn't have what it takes?



When people find out you lived in numerous children's homes, what will they think about you?

OK, so we all have our own perception on things, and of course all of this is just my opinion, but I really don't think most people have taken the time to understand us care leavers and children in care yet.

It's understandable I guess, foster children and young people aren't nearly enough mentioned in the press and when they are it's often either negative or slight feelings of alienation as if people are trying to speak up and represent us - but we are still screaming to be fully understood within the workings of society.


It's a revolution that apart from natural social workers, only mostly foster children, the adopted and care-leavers will fully understand.

To all of those young people out there growing up out of the care system, be prepared for this but carry on in your pursuits regardless. In time others may 'get it' a bit more but unless they've lived it they never totally will.

Something which took me personally many years to come to grips with.



Why are children and young people in care?

For those that don't know or may simply need reminding, children and young people enter the care system for a very wide variety of reasons.

Here are just some of them, and I'm sure there are many more.



Some children are neglected and/or abused and are taken into care under a child-protection court order.


Some children come from families experiencing severe poverty which can often be because of reasons beyond anyone's control.

Mental health issues can also play a major factor too in families from either end of the poverty and privilege scale.


Some children go into care just for a few weeks or months whilst families either work out relationship difficulties or parent's take a needed break due to stress, illness or bereavement etc. This is called respite. Some children also grow up in care for all of their lives.


Some children in care have no family there for them. One of their parents may have passed away whilst the other is simply not around at all, or both parents may have passed away etc


Yes, some young people in care have been placed in a children's home or with foster parents as part of their bail conditions, but in my own personal experience of living with other foster children as well as at children's homes, they were always the few and far between rare cases and were never really bad or dangerous people anyway.


Sadly, some children are just not really wanted by their families. Perhaps it's a psychological thing that can happen to parents relating to trauma or something but however unbelievable it may sound to some, care leavers themselves will tell you that this is often the case and that no sense of a family relationship is too often the case.



Of course there are many more reason's why children go into care, and I don't even know all of them myself.

But one thing that I really do think is true, is that we have always been a movement waiting to happen. That's what happens and always has when large numbers of people hear, and feel, baseless labels thrown to them.

Just like when ethnic minorities at times experience racism and prejudice, given degrading labels and even treated as a lesser being, we too as care leavers and children in care are not free from this stigma.


Oh in an ideal fairy-tale world we would be, and so many that don't understand where we have come from will think that I'm now playing the victim or being negative.

But only we will know my friend. Only we will know.

Let people judge. Many out there wouldn't be able to comprehend the sort of loneliness a young person in care or care leaver can feel.

I could list all of the in's and outs, perhaps another time in another blog, but I can pretty much guarantee it really won't be easy for most of you to swallow.


And I've been around the block to know most people will dodge this post anyway.

The mainstream public aren't rushing to learn about the lives of children in care if you get what I mean.


But that's something that we have to change, the point of any truly social revolution is to be fully included into society as respected life. To be inlcuded, no suppressed. We don't need to feel special to be honest, most of us would feel enriched if just basic human understanding was expanded I should imagine, but I guess that stuff comes with dedicated souls tinkering with the cogs of the machine.


One day the #CEP community will be able to lay this hashtag to rest, but for now there is still much work to do helping to put children in care and care leavers on par with everyone else in society, and I do believe part of this must come not only from the workings of social work, state and government, but from society itself.


Big Love! :)


You can get my book 'Poems From a Runaway' on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981314350 or signed colour copies from the 'my book' section of this website.



55 views0 comments