Powerful video from Falkirk youngsters with experience of living in care
A group of young people who are – or have been – in care in the Falkirk area have made a video with a powerful message.
Written in their own words and using their own experiences, the film is being widely shared among Falkirk Council staff.
But those behind the project also hope it will be used to tell younger children in similar situations that they are not alone.
And, most importantly, they hope it will show that “things can change”.
The video is their response to a national, independent review of the care system that heard from thousands of young people about what could be done to make things better for children in care.
The review showed there were lots of things that had to change to make the system less bureaucratic and more child-centred.
And it led to the Scottish Government making ‘The Promise’ – “that every child will grow up loved, safe and respected, able to realise their full potential”.
When the young people were asked to explain to Falkirk Council staff what the Promise meant to them, they decided a video was the best way to get their message over.
“We want to reach all of the people in the care system, head of social work, head of housing, head of education – so we can explain it from our point of view,” said Morgan Sweeney.
The Promise is, she believes, “is making a difference that needs to be made” in an uncertain and difficult world.
But the video also shows why that transformation is so vital: people who have been in care are less likely to do well in school and go to university; they are more likely to become homeless; and they are much, much more likely to go prison.
The statistics are “mind-blowing”, says Morgan, who researched them for the project.
“Getting it out there and trying to get it to reach as many people as we can is really important,” she said.
But it’s not just about persuading professional staff to change their attitudes – they also hope it will reach other young people in care.
“It will allow them to know not only are they not alone but there are people on their side,” said Morgan.
Kacie Ferguson agreed, saying what matters most to her is showing that “things can change and it’s not always going to be stuck that way”.
Her hope is that younger children now going through the care system “will have it better than I do because of what we’re working on”.
Isa Santos also hopes that the video will also help younger people understand exactly what The Promise is trying to do.
She said: “Even as an 18-year-old, trying to read it was really difficult and confusing so I can only imagine from a younger persons point of view how difficult it is.
“The video was to make it a bit more simple, so younger people know what it’s about and know that it’s there!”
The Promise includes changes that could well be life-changing – in particular the commitment that brothers and sisters should not be separated unless absolutely essential.
Another huge commitment is to use more resources to help families manage the difficulties and challenges they are facing, in a bid to avoid young people coming into care in the first place.
The group behind the video are all members of Falkirk’s Champions Board, a group of care-experienced young people who regularly meet with very senior members of council staff.
And the insight they can offer into the care system is already driving change.
They have become “a force to be reckoned with” says Vivien Thomson, children’s services manager.
But it’s vital that their work reaches all young people in care, says Morgan.
“Obviously being on the Champions Board we know what can be achieved through the Promise – but a lot of young people don’t know that yet.”
The fact that the video is being shown as part of Falkirk Council’s induction for new staff is a major step forward, they believe.
And it has also been seen by many people across the whole of Scotland, where it is making an impact.
The more people that see it, the better, they say – to help break down the many stereotypes and prejudices around care.
“There is still an assumption that the young person who is in care must have done something wrong – and nothing could be further from the truth,” said Vivien.
“They become into care because of what has happened to them – not because of what they have done.”
The young people – and all members of the Champions Board – will continue to push to get their voices heard so that change happens for everyone.
“We don’t expect to be treated like royalty or put on a pedestal – our main focus is just to educate people, to make our lives and other care experienced kids’ lives easier and just more normal,” said Isa.
The video is available to view on YouTube: https://youtu.be/TVPKQnm6gtQ