The space between.
I’ve called this short article ‘The space between’. This is simply because that's how I believe many children who leave care feel - sort of "not quite here and not quite there" - lost in the space between.
It’s a state of personal limbo -wanting to belong and wanting to share, but unable to belong because quite simply you don't feel that you have a lot to share. Whether that’s actually true or not, it was true in my case, but then I spent a great deal of time in care being me
Upon leaving care I felt full of anticipation and excitement mixed with a feeling of what is best described as fear a fear of the unknown, of a future that includes only me with no offers of support or certainties of a safety net if I fail. My head swims with questions: What's going on out there? Is it easy? Am I going to be on my own to fend for myself?
Years later, I can now answer those questions. Firstly, no it isn't easy. Secondly, yes you’re on your own and you will be expected to care for yourself. In fact, you will have to care for yourself, because you will face very serious difficulties if you don’t.
When I came out of care in 1970 I was able to simply walk out of one job and into another in the same week! In those days, it was quite simply that easy to get a job. Nowadays though, I'm not sure I could cope. Kids leaving care now almost certainly won't walk into a job. They will certainly struggle to get and pay for a roof over their heads too. It's hard, very hard and that’s why it is simply wrong to put children out onto the streets to fend for themselves at 16+ after being in care. It's quite simply wrong and in my personal opinion with government cutbacks and such its borderline criminal.
Why would you invest a great deal of time and money on children and young people in care protecting them from abuse and untold horrors only to throw all of that away by not giving them a chance? Not giving them that few extra years – at least until they’re 21 years old or, as the Children’s Commissioner recommended, 25 years old? These kids can and I believe will be a great bonus to society if only they're given that chance – A few more years of stability, emotional and practical support, education and training. Just those few extra years….
There's my case for extending residential care to the age of at least 21 but even better 25. So please sign our ECLCM petition to help make that change for thousands of children. Give them the chance that most of you probably had and the same chance you will want to give to your own children.
After all, its only fair don't you think?