I am currently writing my MA Dissertation and I have chosen to focus on care experienced adults who left care in the 1970’s and 1980’s and the impact of certain experiences across the life course. The academic research in this area is strangely lacking and this becomes apparent in all the relevant articles that I have read who state as much too.
The shortage in academic research is met with a number of accounts of personal experiences, usually published books done so by small publishing houses so rarely getting out in to the mainstream; Fred Fever, Phil Frampton, Ben Ashcroft, Lisa Cherry (me, smiley face), Mark Riddell, Hope Daniels, Paolo Hewitt, to name a few.
But where do these books go? Who reads them? Who uses them to inform practice? Speaking from my own personal experience of writing The Brightness of Stars, it is cathartic and gruelling in equal measure to recount and recall personal experiences and process what you might include and what may not ever even enter the public domain at all! On a positive note, I have had some Local Authorities give out my book to all newly recruited foster carers. So while anecdotal, there is a suggestion there for me that personally written accounts of life in care are viewed by professionals as rich in content. I read Fever and Frampton many years ago and was amazed that I wasn’t alone. Reading personal accounts as someone who had been in care, was a very moving experience. These accounts are rich and full of insightful qualitative content.
Yet give me Academic Search Complete (the academic search engine I use for gathering articles using all my key words) and I can find a maturing and growing body of research on ‘care leavers’ and also on looked after children (especially around education) yet only a handful of articles on care experienced adults reflections, insights and/or recovery.
Is the tide finally turning? Social media has provided a desperately needed collective space fuelling connection where there had been none. Enabling, almost forcing people to connect based on a shared experience that for many had been such a source of pain, shame and hurt and had remained tightly locked away. I remember being spoken to by one of the founders of the Care Leavers Association back in the early 1990’s about getting involved and my visceral rejection at the very idea that I would willingly own that experience, an experience I was running as far away from as I possibly could, is a feeling I can still feel in this moment.
And yet, here we all are, tweeting a way, sharing our experiences, determined to create change for those who come after us. The discussion we had yesterday after my tweet below was so heartwarming and content rich that I shall find a way to include it in my dissertation.
It is baffling how little use has been made of care experienced adults in research, policy creation and as a means of understanding risk and protective factors across the life course. It’s like we just ceased to exist. Can’t wait to share my dissertation with you all!
— Lisa Cherry (@_LisaCherry) January 20, 2018
It is now time. It is time to join the conversation, whether you are a care experienced adult, or you’re working in related professions or maybe you’re a budding (or an ailing) academic (or like myself, all of the above!) It is time. It is happening right now with so many people. After my MA I hope to do a PhD and I will very much be focusing on this area and it will be with the full intention of being a part of a movement of change, similar to the one started in the 1980’s by people like Sonia Jackson who made looking at education and looked after children something worth researching. And look at how far we’ve come there? Virtual schools, data collection and designated teachers to name a few things. All of that unthinkable 30 years ago. On our own we’re good, but together we’re amazing.