Love is the foundation that helps us thrive, but sometimes it isn’t enough
The care system shouldn’t be a postcode lottery because the stakes are too high, says Laura Beveridge
Laura Beveridge - Image credit: Nick Grigg/Holyrood
As a child in care I did know love. Love was in the tears I cried for my brother and sister who I was separated from.
It was in the brave face I put on for my mum as she cried at the children’s hearings and it was in the ache in my heart for what could have been.
I was loved. My mum just didn’t have the ability to translate that love into caring for me and because of that, I was taken into care, where love isn’t part of the job description.
Since then, I have had ten years working in the care system where I never saw families torn apart by a lack of love, I saw them torn apart by adversity that meant love couldn’t thrive or when love just wasn’t enough.
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Love wasn’t enough for my friend who spent a lifetime in care ‘for his own protection’ because his father couldn’t keep his fists to himself.
I loved my friend, but it wasn’t enough to help him understand the trauma and rejection of his early life. He died at 21.
I know a little boy who was taken in by his uncle when his dad died.
And while his uncle undoubtedly loves him, he too is grieving and he struggles with depression.
This little boy’s life has changed. He has lost a dad and gained a social worker. It’s complex.
Love is important, it’s the foundation that helps us all thrive.
But love alone is not what keeps a family whole or heals the scars of families torn apart by poverty, abuse and all the adversities in between.
I often think of the parents that lose children to care, what might have helped?
I think of my mum and how lost she was, no one was there for her. She didn’t need help to love, she needed help to care.
The irony for me was that I was removed from the potential, with support, for love to flourish and placed into a care system that felt cold and clinical.
It didn’t feel like home and I didn’t feel loved or claimed by it.
Loving, caring people work and live in the system, but a loving home is never a guarantee and for most, love is seen as unprofessional.
The care system isn’t a thing; it’s people and places and it’s language.
The care system has many words that grate, like ‘service user’ or ‘sibling’, when what is meant is children, brothers or sisters.
How do you think that makes us feel, that our care has a special, impersonal tone to it?
A journey through care can feel like a series of boxes. If a child doesn’t fit in the box, they’re moved on, then moved on, then moved on.
It’s treading water and each uplift leaves a scar as we’re scraped out and sent away.
That’s why by the time many leave the care system they feel isolated and broken.
I felt broken. I felt unloved and when you feel unloved, you become un-loveable. It’s a vicious cycle.
If I was asked at 15 ‘what would the best care system in the world look like?’ I would have asked for more cigarettes, more ‘time out’, maybe more ‘key time’ – key time being time spent with my care worker in residential care.
I wouldn’t have been able to think outside the box, because I had nothing else to compare it to.
But if I had been asked by someone that I really trusted what I really wanted from the care system, I’d have talked about how much I missed my brother and sister, I’d have talked about how much I just wanted to be normal, and I would have asked for whatever support it took to let me live at home with my mum.
I would have said I wanted to be part of a family.
Home and family is where love is possible and I have met so many young people that could have returned home if more community support was in place.
Conversely, I remember one mum telling me that she wouldn’t like to take her child home because of all the support her child would lose. That’s real love, however misplaced.
I’ve seen some amazing family support workers that make family life possible, but the services families receive are dependent on funding, postcodes and local authority funding and whatever third sector provision is available.
Whatever care is, it shouldn’t be a lottery because the stakes are too high.
The First Minister has set up a care review which she says will put love and care-experienced people right at its core.
I hope with all my heart that this time we will have an approach that lives up to its ambition. I’d love that.
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