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‘Hard truths told in a gentle way’: how life story books help adopted children

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Life story books can help adopted children understand their past, but are often not prioritised by social workers

Baby Charlie* was unable to live with his birth family, but they were determined that he would know where he came from. Although it was sometimes painful, Charlie’s birth mother and his maternal birth grandparents all spent time sharing memories and anecdotes, and explaining what happened in their own words.

Charlie’s mum also pointed out where his cot used to be (the glow in the dark stars were still visible on the ceiling) and his scan picture on the fridge, allowing me to take photos that his adopters can show him when he is older. The family shared many photos and a video.

Memories in care are slippery because there’s no one to recall them as the years pass. In a few months I would be in a different home with a different set of people who had no idea of this moment … This is how you become invisible.

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I wasn’t told why I was taken into care. For years I thought it was my fault

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How can you adjust to a new situation, feel safe and settled, when you don’t know how you got there?

When I was taken into care at 15, I was moved 80 miles from home. My relationship with my mum had broken down and I felt isolated and frightened. I barely knew my social worker and didn’t know any of the staff or other young people in the care home. I didn’t know why I was there. I felt I simply had to accept everything these strangers were doing.

My experience will resonate with many young people taken into care; they may feel terrified and struggle to adjust to a new place, sometimes far away from where they have grown up, while strangers take control of the key decisions in their lives. They may not understand the jargon that gets bandied around.

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Violence traps scared kids in county lines gangs. They need help before it’s too late

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Young people are exploited for years before getting support. Social care, schools and police need to know the warning signs

Josh* had just turned 15 when the police caught him with more than £100 worth of cannabis and £200 in cash. They seized the drugs, took him home and gave the money to his mum. No referrals were made, or support offered. His mum, unaware of what was going on, simply gave the money back to Josh and left it at that.

He was a scared kid caught up in a world he didn’t know how to get out of. But rather than getting the help he desperately needed, he was given a slap on the wrist and a pep talk to shape up his act.

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I grew up in care. I wanted to break the cycle and be the good parent I didn’t have

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My beautiful daughter was never taken away from me, but not all care leavers are so lucky

I was 16 years old and eight weeks pregnant when I moved into my 12th foster care placement. I’d moved so many times over the previous two years that I missed almost all of years 10 and 11 at school. But I was looking forward to a fresh start.

I joined teenage parenting groups and met other girls in care who were pregnant. But I was shocked to find many were having their babies removed within weeks of their birth.

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Homes, hope, work and love: what learning disabled people want from life

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Social workers are changing the way they work to help people with learning disabilities achieve their aims

Severe, complex, challenging: these words are casually used in the specialist world of learning disabilities. They are used to justify disproportionate and unnecessary involvement from social care, which can lead to dependency, restricted lives, unhappiness and even abuse, as called out by Sara Ryan.

In our local authority, Bradford, we rejected the idea that learning disabled people were complex and challenging. Instead, we decided to trust and believe in them and the user-led organisations and small local charities that support them. We set out to work with learning disabled people in the area and over the past year asked: what does a good life look like and what do you want from us?

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Black boys wait too long to be adopted. Is the system institutionally racist? | Krish Kandiah

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BAME children are overrepresented in care, and seemingly have their futures written off based on their skin colour

They were found by the postman; two young children home alone. They spent most of the day in a police station before social services took over. Eventually they found themselves in our home. Like so many children taken into emergency foster care, they looked frozen – like rabbits caught in the glare of car headlights on a dark night. It wasn’t until the next day that one of them spoke. Dummy? My wife offered one but he shook his head. The other child helped: “in-dum-my”. With Google’s help we discovered that Indomie was a brand of instant noodles popular with children from Western African countries. A bowlful was rustled up and the barriers began to come down.

This experience brought home to me the need for a greater diversity of carers. These shellshocked children should have had carers from their own community who would have known better how to understand and look after them.

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It’s time to declare a social care emergency

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Citizens are prepared to tackle the climate crisis. We should do the same for the most vulnerable people in society too

It’s hard to go a day without the climate crisis hitting the headlines. In May, MPs endorsed a motion to declare a climate and environment emergency. It’s a positive step for the country to take an active role in finding a solution to these problems. But another issue has been missed off the agenda: social care.

We see protesters on TV holding placards with messages such as “stand up for animals” or “planet before profits”. But what about “people before profits” or “stand up for vulnerable humans”? These ideals do not need to conflict with one another but instead should stand side by side. Creating a sustainable future would also benefit individuals’ and communities’ health and resilience. With a new prime minister and hunger in the air for social justice, let’s take this opportunity to make a real difference.

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We fell in love with our adopted daughter – but didn’t ask key questions about support

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The adoption support fund is a lifeline for parents like us. At a time of political turmoil, it must not be overlooked

It was the question that brought serious, life-altering consequences for our family. The social worker sipping coffee in our lounge leaned forward and casually asked us whether we could consider adopting this little girl.

Adoption was not on our radar. We had three children by birth and our journey as foster carers had only just begun. Our first foster placement – the baby crawling between us – was healthy and beautiful and, as far as I understood, about to be wrenched away to be adopted. But the social worker wanted what was best for this child, who had already suffered enough early childhood trauma without an additional move to another family.

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Social workers are being blamed for their own stress and burnout

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The concept of individual resilience is diverting attention from failures in a system hit by funding cuts and a staff exodus

What is resilience? The dictionary defines it as the capacity to recover from trauma and stress. In practice, social workers are expected to identify and develop coping strategies to help manage the demands of their work. Indeed, it is a professional requirement.

But we have heard disturbing anecdotes from practitioners who suggest the notion of resilience is being used by employers to focus on individuals’ failures, rather than exploring the wider context of practice. Workers say resilience is being used to divert attention away from failures in the system, caused by significant issues such as funding cuts and workforce churn.

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How to tackle the foster care recruitment crisis? Value us more

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Ineffective ad campaigns are not bringing in anywhere near the number of foster carers needed to support vulnerable children

It is Friday afternoon and my phone keeps buzzing. It’s my WhatsApp group of local foster carers. One is expecting a little girl to arrive any moment, and is asking to borrow toys to help her settle. Another is on standby for the result of emergency court proceedings, and may possibly be welcoming two babies. A third would like help with two sisters on Saturday night as she has a prior commitment. I wish I could help, but my home is full already. Luckily someone else offers support and the children are safe and sound tonight.

What will happen next week if all our homes are full? What if there is another child urgently in need of a foster home?

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