There comes a time when we understand something, we grasp something. Research provides us with a well respected methodology to enable us to progress.
In science, research is tested over and over again for 15 years before it is seen as robust.
Well, I have been involved with research about care leavers, being in care and the impact that it has upon a child’s life, since research into this field began. I would say that the earlier pieces of research around care leavers started around 1985 by people like Sonia Jackson and Tory Laughland (founder of Who Cares Trust?)
I heard Sonia speak once and she talked about how hard she fought to create an environment that was even vaguely interested in young people leaving care and what then happened to them.
That is nearly 30 years ago. In scientific terms this is more than robust; two times over. Why oh why then, does it still feel as though we are at the beginning of understanding something?
Today a report by Action For Children states “The emotional needs of children who have been in care are not being well looked after, a charity suggests.” May I please say that I don’t want to be negative about research into this field. I really don’t. Research is wonderful! It is used to create change, to highlight issues we were unaware of, to make the world a better place because it demonstrates something to us that isn’t working thereby giving us a better way of doing things.
When it comes to research about young people in and leaving care however, the rules are slightly different. Research doesn’t appear to tell us anything knew at all. We know, for example, that “…they can suffer from depression and anxiety, on top of dealing with the challenges of living on their own for the the first time.” I think it would be fair to say that we also know that “…about one-third of care leavers experience homelessness at some point between six and 24 months after leaving care.” This is actually a figure that has remained virtually unchanged in the 30 years of research that has been undertaken as far as I’m aware.
I’d say it was fairly well understood by anyone who knows anything remotely about the care experience that “…most young people who have been in care continue to cope with the lasting impact of a traumatic childhood.”
However, I won’t go on; read for yourself this familiar tale of research that while it is in fact robust, does not seem to help us to create any real change.
There comes a point and I guess I have reached it, where we have to say, we have enough research. It is robust. We pretty much know the answers already to what you are going to research. Please can we do something now? Please can we now use the endless evidence we have built up to change the experience of being in care for the nearly 69,000 children (which is growing year on year) who are now in the system. Please.