“All children need is someone to believe them and believe in them, LET IT BE YOU” Paul ‘Yusuf ’ McCormack is involved in the Care Experience Conference 2019. Here, he tells us exclusively what he learnt growing up in care and gives his advice for how social workers can connect with children effectively.
A little bit about me may be useful so that you get a sense of who I am, why I'm talking to you and hopefully giving you some insight that may help as you continue your journey into social work. I was born in the 60's; a product of an illicit affair between my Irish mother and 'exotic' eastern father, when society wasn't so accepting of illegitimacy or children of colour. I, along with thousands of others, was left to languish in the care system. If someone had told me that when I grew up, I'd be collaborating with social workers, I'd have laughed, maybe offered an expletive! ...And told them to “jog on”. Certainly not based on my childhood experiences. The only 'contact' would have been the stones I launched. How times have changed, in fact a 360-degree turn around and I'm fortunate to have met some inspiring individuals who work in this profession and who passionately care.
Growing up in the care system As a child, besides throwing stones, I mainly recall that social workers knew everything about me, even though I knew very little. It felt very one sided. The social worker arrived, file in hand (sometimes being 'hugged') and I would be asked a series of questions as they scribbled away, rarely looking at me. It felt as if I was some part of an exhibit where people came to view, prod, ask what they like, inspect me and then walk away with no feedback. In fact, my 'files' state “There is a sadness on his face, he looks unhappy. He refuses to speak on a personal level, he sits and refuses to look at me”. All I understood and felt was the person in front of me didn't really care. I believed I didn't matter; I never knew which social worker would turn up until they arrived, that privileged information was on a need to know basis, just not mine! Besides their
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names, I knew very little if anything about them, they never personalised my experience, yet I was expected to talk about me and how I feel etc. How does that one work? Kids are smart, they can read situations and people. Don't be fooled by their size, we get it when someone feels genuine! Hopefully you'll have picked out the references to how it made me 'feel', it's a key element of relationships and children, regardless of age need to know their feelings will be heard and respected. So fast forward to today, do I see improvement in the way relationships are developed both with children and the people who are caring for them? I think 'could do better' would be a fair comment overall; however, I'm aware of some exceptional individuals who go that extra step, who forge personal relationships and only wish these individuals had been part of my life.