Care Experienced Parents Charter Launches
published on 27 October 2021
Harrow Council – one of the first in UK to adopt pioneering charter
Harrow Council has become one of the first local authorities in the UK to sign up to a new charter enshrining the rights of care-experienced parents. The charter, ‘Supporting parents in and leaving care’ was developed by care-experienced parents working with professionals from charities and local authorities. It pledges new standards of support for those starting a family and commits Harrow to actively tackling discrimination and stigma.
One of the most significant commitments in the charter sees Harrow move from a policy of automatic pre-birth care assessment referrals to a more proportionate risk-based approach.
Cllr Christine Robson, Harrow’s Cabinet Member for Education and Social Services for Children and Young People, said, “There is widespread and enduring practice in this field that, while well-intentioned, is discriminatory and has the potential to be deeply damaging to those looking to transcend their own care experience.
“Automatic pre-birth referrals carry with them an implicit message about someone’s suitability as a parent and their ability to provide a safe and loving home. The use of these referrals, without reference to a professional consideration of risk, is I think very problematic. It can have a corrosive effect on the relationships local authorities seek to nurture with their care-experienced clients and can prove psychology harmful to expectant parents.
“We’re extremely grateful to everyone that has contributed to the drafting of this charter – it has brought the voices of care-experienced parents to the fore. Their courageous and insightful contributions create a compelling case for fundamental policy revision in this area.”
Maria, who recently left care in Harrow, said, “This change will help so many young people to think about their future and what they really want. I know many young people, including myself, are worried about starting our own families, as we don’t want the same thing that happened to us to happen to our children. Getting support and knowing that there are people out there that we can talk to is amazing.”
The wide-ranging charter also commits Harrow to helping care-experienced expectant mothers and fathers develop parenting skills, access financial help, advocacy and mental health support.
‘Supporting parents in and leaving care’ was funded by Cardiff University’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account and developed by CASCADE in partnership with VFCC, NYAS Cymru and TGP Cymru. The research underpinning the charter was funded by Health and Care Research Wales.
Harrow has been working with Terry Galloway, who is care experienced and the founder of www.careleaveroffer.co.uk a website comparing what councils do for their care leavers across the UK" was involved in developing the Parents Charter and was instrumental in encouraging the council’s adoption of these new standards.
The development of new charter was led by the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE, Cardiff University) and is launched in partnership with Care Leaver Local Offer
Terry Galloway, Care Leaver Local Offer said
“This charter helps sow the seeds for better relationships. It is designed to get rid of the stigma and remove automatic pre-birth assessments of our care experienced parents. Only then can our most vulnerable feel safe asking for help and only then will better relationships be formed where healing can begin”
Dr Louise Roberts – CASCADE, Cardiff University said
“We are thrilled to be working with Terry Galloway and are excited to see the charter feature on the Care Leaver Local Offer website. The charter is very much a joint effort and was co-produced with care-experienced parents. It is intended to provide a framework for strengthening corporate parenting support. We believe commitment to this charter will make a meaningful difference to young people’s lives and help ensure access to the support they need and deserve. We are delighted that Harrow are the first council to sign up and hope many more will follow.”
Background to the charter
The charter builds on previous research led by Dr Louise Roberts. Her book, summarising the five-year study, entitled, ‘The Children of Looked After Children: Outcomes, Experiences and Ensuring Meaningful Support to Young Parents In and Leaving Care’, was published in March 2021 and is free to download via [https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/47513].
The catalyst for the research, was young people and professionals connected to Voices from Care Cymru (VfCC). Concerns were raised about responses to, and the support available for, young people in and leaving care who were expecting a child or parenting. The ensuing study found evidence to support such concerns; highlighting the potential for stigma and discrimination, showing concerning levels of statutory intervention and separation, as well as variable and under-developed support services. The study concluded that urgent policy and practice attention was needed at national, local and individual levels to improve corporate parent support responses to parents in and leaving care.
The subsequent charter was intended to secure meaningful change for parents in and leaving the care system. The charter was co-produced with care-experienced parents with the support of leading third sector organisations in Wales; Voices from Care Cymru, NYAS Cymru and TGP Cymru. In addition, its development was supported by Terry Galloway and through consultations with statutory and third sector professionals.
Further details about this work and a range of supporting resources are available via: Supporting Parents in and Leaving Care: #MessagestoCorporateParents
Terry Galloway’s story:
Terry Galloway who was in care himself and moved over 100 times, recently launched the Local Offer Website which lists what every council does for their care leavers and has a resources section councils can use to improve their local offers to care leavers.
His sister was murdered by her boyfriend, but before she died, she was involved in care proceedings for her children, and he believes that had she had the support she needed she may still be here today.
Terry Galloway Said
“It is important that I champion this charter because so many young care experienced parents feel isolated and afraid of asking for help. The stigma of being from care is too great, they feel judged and as a result don’t ask for help when they most need it.
I watched the volatile relationship my sister had with social services as they tried to help her with her children, she did not trust them, she was angry, and as a result fought against them when what she needed was someone to be on her side, to tell her she was going to be ok, that she was a good mother and that she would not be judged.
That would have opened the floodgates for a much better relationship. She suffered so much trauma during her life, from early age when we were removed and placed with foster parents that abused us. Not being listened to or believed. Then going through a broken care system and being dumped at the end when we got to 16.
By the time Hazel was 14 she was making national headlines for the amount of scars she had from self-mutilation and anorexia, it’s heart wrenching knowing what she was suffering, we made a promise that we would change the care system together so that no one would have to endure what we did.
But it was never ending, Hazel was looking for love, a sense of belonging, validation. This made her so vulnerable and blind to the abuse she would continually suffer throughout her life. It just seemed like every predator would have a go. Until finally her boyfriend stabbed her through what was already a broken heart.
Days before she was killed it was recorded in her drug and alcohol records that she thought she was going to die. That was her last official record. Her boyfriend was in treatment in the same place and was known as a domestic abuse perpetrator, she was even attending appointments with black eyes, but nothing was done.
Trauma most often occurs through a human relationship of some kind, every interaction with social care for Hazel was re-traumatisation because of the lack of understanding, trust and the stigma that she felt. Deep down she felt like everyone was out to get her, that she was unlovable, that she was worthless.
It’s hard to comprehend the lens she saw and experienced life, and why she would be angry and volatile, she saw the world differently, that’s happens when you don’t have loving, safe nurturing relationships at an early age.
We would talk for hours about how we would change the care system together; it was the only hope she had, but that’s not possible for her now, but through her memory I hope you can join me in helping those care experienced parents that need our help right now.
This charter helps sow the seeds for better relationships. It is designed to get rid of the stigma and remove automatic pre-birth assessments of our care experienced parents. Only then can our most vulnerable feel safe asking for help and only then will better relationships be formed where healing can begin.”
The charter commitments seek to counter the disadvantage faced by care-experienced young people and ask for no more than what would typically be available to young people with birth family support. Signatories to the charter will be showing their support to ensure meaningful change in how young people are prepared for parenthood, how they are seen and responded to as parents, as well as the ways in which they are supported by their corporate parents.
Care Leaver Local Offer are writting to Every Council in England, Wales, Scotland and NI to ask that they sign up to this Charter in Care Leavers Week 2021.
The charter is available in the resources section of this website.