By Chris Morrison, Independent Reviewing Officer. Chris is an IRO at the London Borough of Newham.
On Tuesday 27th August 2019 I held an event for Children who have been in the care system to share their experiences. The event was open for all to attend to listen to what is set to be a National Conversation regarding our young people who have been in care. The event was in two parts; a panel of care leavers and children still in care and also a panel of Children’s social care professionals ranging from Senior Management to Childcare services.
AIMS OF THE EVENT
The purpose and fundamental reason for the event was to start a conversation between the young people and the professionals. More than often we hear stories from young people who have been in care and simply “just need answers”. The aim was for the young people to share their experiences and have any questions they had answered by the professional panel. The night was extremely engaging and sparked a lot of thought provoking questions.
Various young people from the audience where also able to ask questions. One thing that sparked was the misconception young people have of social workers and the social care system. A lot of young people do not have any confidence in the system and feel very let down (to be honest). They feel let down, because the system is driven by procedures and red tape – which they feel ‘de-humanises’ workers from getting to know them on a personal level. This angers and frustrates them.
THE YOUNG PEOPLE
We heard one story of a 25 year old girl Deanesha Meade who has been in care since the age of 6 because of her mother’s mental health.
Her story moved us because we never really think about the impact giving your child away to social services actually has on parents, and also how we as society viewed these parents. Denesha is inspiring and making a remarkable change within her own life and the lives of other young mothers.
THE PROFESSIONAL PANEL
One of the 5 panellist was Lola Fadare who was a looked after child herself and now runs her own successful Semi Independence placement. Lola shared her experience of being placed with a White family being a black girl and how this impacted on her. This resulted in a lot of identity issues and left her with questions in her mind about how she is perceived.
The event has sparked a lot of interest – even Isabelle Trowler (Chief Social Worker for Children & Families) states that she will be at the next one.
ABOUT CHRIS MORRISON
I am currently an Independent Reviewing Officer / Child Protection Chair and have been for the last 2 and half years. The fact that I can advocate for a child or young person gives me so much satisfaction knowing that their voices will be heard. I love to champion good practice and I love the fact that my role as an IRO can do just that. I am very passionate when it comes to working with young people and always love to ensure that their voice is the most important in the room at that particular time. For me, I 100% give the opportunity for children to chair their Looked After Reviews (where possible). This means so much for a child / Young person , by giving them control and a sense of autonomy over their life and decisions that are significant for them.
My passion for children and young people led me to publishing my first children’s story book called ‘ Daddy’s Special Drink’. This book was written to help children who have grown up in homes whereby they have been exposed to alcohol misuse. As a therapeutic story, it aims to help children name the feelings that may have been suppressed for a long time. The character Rio grows up in a home whereby he experiences his father being abusive as a result of alcohol. The book also explains the role of a Social Worker and the process of what happens at Child Protection Conference. It is a very useful direct work toolkit for front line practitioners and anyone who works within children and families.
This is the first book from the ‘Rio&Friends’ series that I will be launching this year. Future story books will include themes of, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence and Physical Abuse etc. I am happy to do a small presentation for Children’s Services if you find this helpful.
The book is available to order at all leading retailers such as Amazon, Ebay, Waterstones, WHSmiths and others.
The book is now being used in four UK Local Authorities across their Children’s Services Department.
Please see a recent interview I had with the Social Work News Magazine – https://issuu.com/socialworknews/docs/swn_apr-jun_190417_digital/