Interdependancy and Independance by Lisa Cherry
published on 11 September 2021
In 1993, I wrote my dissertation on how the absence of building community and relationship networks impacted on the self-esteem of those leaving care. I was 23, living alone in a tower block in Battersea, trying to put all that had gone before as far behind me as I could push it! Little did I know that all these years later, I would still be having to advocate so strongly for relationships to BE the work for those who have had disrupted childhoods.
The obsession with the idea that independence is the goal when interdependence with a healthy community has not been at the centre of the work, is at best naive. At worst, it is dangerous. That might sound quite dramatic but if we accept the idea that belonging is a fundamental human need and the absence of it can create a pathological/adverse response (Baumeister and Leary, 1995) then those young people who have experienced adversity and trauma in childhood are set up for more suffering. Many care leavers are exposed to isolation as though it were ‘normal’ for humans to be so. This idea around ‘independence’ as the goal shows up in the conversations that begin at age 14 at a time when choosing which GCSEs to do is the priority, it shows up in the age that young people are expected to leave care and it shows up in the types of accommodation on offer after 16 years old.
Understanding that we are interconnected with the community, with society and with our friends and ‘family’ (whatever that looks like) enables a way of understanding as to how we build capacity or resilience. It helps us to understand that we need each other and we need to feel that we belong to someone, to somewhere and to something and if we don’t support that human connection for our children and young people and the adults that they will become, we are complicit in adding to harm rather than seeking to mitigate any harm that has already occurred.
The Local Offer, has been set up to provide information about all the areas that are relevant to all young people, such as education, employment, health and wellbeing, relationships and accommodation. However, the Local Authority is the ‘corporate parent’ so the Local Offer for care leavers is about so much more than what has been listed; it is a call to action about how to create an interconnected network of services and support that create a sense of belonging to a community where that person invests in the community as the community has invested in them.
What is your Local Authority doing with regards to the Local Offer? This is everyone’s business!
Author, Speaker & Trainer on Trauma, Resonance and Resilience