In 2013 the Social Care Institute for Excellence undertook an important project to listen to the lives of nearly 20 care leavers aged 21 - 90+ who grew up in care in London. They were interviewed by young care leavers in their late teens and early 20s and discussed a wide range of issues and experiences about their lives in residential and foster care and what life has been like for them since. The interviews took anywhere from between 25 minutes to 3 hours and were predominantly free-flowing with little guidance from the interviewees.
Similar to the oral history interviews I carried out for my PhD there were a wide range of experiences and reflections on their time in care. There were both positive and negative experiences with many showing us how resilience can shine through in adulthood. There were many fond memories and practices; some of which have long since been left behind because of the over-regulation of the current care system. There are many things we can learn from these oral histories and the care leavers at the heart of them about care over the 20th century and implications and reflections for current practice.
This is a unique opportunity to listen to the lives of care leavers firsthand. We often only get to see or hear the odd quote or audio snippet of most research (in part, this website aims to rectify this in my own research!). Here participants gave consent to have their experiences fully available and recognised. As such the interviews have been archived in the British Library for generations to come and are easily accessible on the SCIE website.
After Launching this website a care leaver sent me this quote to add to this section:
I began to read the wonderful Amy's interview. I began reading that with the intention of reading in a series of ten minute sessions, as I have work i need to get on with. I kept on saying to myself "Another few minutes.... Another few minutes...." etc. until I had gone through the complete interview. There were lots of similarities to my upbringing and experiences and Amy put so many things so very clearly. If you can, please pass on my appreciation of her story. I am now going to read Lily's story, but I am going to have to be very strict with my time. I am looking forward to exploring more of your website as and when I get the time. This website is one of the things that care leavers of all ages will welcome.
It is great that those that have worked AND lived in care can find lots here.
I feel very priviledged to have worked with such an innovative and truely care-centred team. I have met and co-produced with a wide variety of people and I can honestly say it was one fo the few examples I have seen of an advisory group working successfully in practice. This project, however, was limited as it was only London-based but this was due to funding constraints. It was also an exciting opportunity to work with younger care leavers as researchers. On other projects I have worked on when young people in care or care leavers have been brought in as co-researchers it has not worked as well. This has been due to the fact that the only criteria there has been on other projects is that co-researchers are care experienced. On this SCIE project it was important that a level of maturity, education and understanding of other people's experiences were important alongside having been in care. This worked really well. It is important to recognise that those with care experience have expertise in that area, they do not have the professional experience that we sometimes require of them. We also need to acknowledge that the level of responsibility and professional knowledge required at these levels does not come in a few weeks of training. As the SCIE co-production literature suggests - there are many ways of involving individuals/service users in projects by giving them roles and responsibilities that work with their skills and give them training to further these. This is not necessarily, however, achieved by giving them roles and responsibilities which they are ultimately unequipped for and may end up disempowering them. This methodological and ethical issue has given me lots to ponder in relation to other projects in the future.