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‘There’s a stereotype that is something we all hate’: Welsh Poet is working to challenge perceptions of teens in care

Former Children’s Laureate Wales, Connor Allen, has partnered with Foster Wales in a bid to change the way teenagers in care are perceived by the public.  

According to recent statistics, there are almost 5,000 children in foster care across Wales and 53% of those are aged 11 or above. A large number of them have come from abusive and neglectful backgrounds, but when asked, the majority have claimed that it is society’s negative perceptions of them that hurt them most.

Molly, whose name has been changed to protect her identity within this article, is 14 and is in a foster care home in Bridgend.

She has said: ‘As young people in care, we get judged before people even get to know us, people think we’re just troublemakers who do drugs and get pregnant underage. It’s just not true.

‘We’re just normal people like everyone else, apart from our story is a little bit different. Everyone is human, and we make mistakes, some of ours are down to the traumatic experiences we’ve been through.’

To challenge these misconceptions, a group of care-experienced young people (11-16) from Bridgend County Borough have been working with the former Children’s Laureate Wales,’ Connor Allen, to create a piece of poetry, which is known as ‘Our voices’,  sharing their life experiences, in the hopes of educating the public around the realities of fostering.

In addition, the young people also hope their poem, which is due to be displayed publicly on Brackla Street in Bridgend, will encourage people to think about fostering a child aged 11 and over.

The poem is as follows:

 

Our voices

Fostering and adoption is not the same

You always think you are to blame

People think your parents don’t love you

But most people don’t have a clue

There’s a stereotype its just trouble we make

And that’s something that we all hate

There are stories behind our scars

Yet we hide our feelings in jars

So listen to our stories, Respect our choices

These are our lives, These are our voices

 

Alastair Cope, Head of Foster Wales, the national network of 22 Welsh Local Authority fostering services, says there are many benefits to fostering a young person aged 11+.

Alastair said: ‘When people think about fostering, they often have a preference for younger children, but in some ways it’s easier caring for teenagers, and that’s where our biggest need is. In many ways, teenagers in care are easier than fostering younger children. They have more understanding of what’s going on in their lives, and able to do things on their own.

‘They need involvement in decision making and a place where their voices can be heard, support, a mentor, someone to stand by them, advocate for them and champion them.

‘The young people are on a trajectory to adulthood, so foster carers enjoy being involved in the rewarding stuff such as getting them through their exams or supporting them into university, a job, and maybe even a family of their own one day.

‘All local authorities, as Foster Wales, want to create a positive lasting change where teenagers in care are seen positively, have a voice, and are championed and supported by foster families to achieve their true potential.’

Image: Foster Wales

More on foster care:

An influx of new foster carers are urgently needed in England, research shows

Pioneering new approach fostered to help care home residents

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