Highland Council listens to the testimonies of looked after children as it commits to its role as a corporate parent
In Highland, 458 children and young people are looked after, with 316 of these children looked after away from home, in children’s units, foster care or kinship care.
The Council is the corporate parent for all of these children, and there are new corporate parenting responsibilities for other community planning partners. The Children & Young People’s Act, which defines corporate parenting, was passed on 19th February 2014, and the new Corporate Parents and their associated duties will take legislative effect from April 2015.
Director of Care and Learning, Bill Alexander, said: "Corporate parenting is not only a responsibility, but a real opportunity to improve the futures of Looked After children and young people, recognising that all parts of the system have a contribution to make. One challenge of being a good corporate parent is to support young people through the many changes in their lives, giving each individual child or young person a sense of stability and striving to give them the same opportunities as any parent would want for their child.”
Children’s Champion, Councillor Linda Munro said: "Young people tell us their priorities are to be consulted and involved in their personal planning, as well all areas that impact on their future. We need to listen to their stories and their hopes and fears and shape our services to meet all their needs. We also need to make sure that, wherever possible and appropriate, looked after children can maintain relationships with their friends and family."
One 17-year-old from Inverness is challenging negative perceptions of young people in care - encouraging others not to judge.
Caitlin Gibson wants to tackle the misconception that young people in the care system are destined to fail in life, after she first went into care aged ten. "I went into care when I was ten. I was confused and angry and felt as though people were judging me to be inadequate.
"At the time I didn't understand what was happening to me and I felt quite lonely being on my own in such an unfamiliar place. I was angry and acted up so people just presumed I was a bad person. They had no idea that I could turn my life around. Most thought I wouldn't amount to anything.
"My campaign is all about urging people to hold their judgement on somebody before knowing anything about them. It also encourages people to steer clear of stereotypes by understanding that each individual has a story to tell.
"I have always used music as an outlet to vent my emotions because it makes me feel better about myself. I wanted the song to help people see beyond our past and understand we have feelings like anybody else."
She went on to say: "Being in care can be a tough experience for many young people which can cause them to feel isolated and angry. Maybe if I’d have seen a video like this growing up it would have helped me realise I wasn’t alone. All we want is a chance. So, I’ve decided I want to challenge the negative perceptions some people have of others like me.
"Just because you’ve grown up in care, it doesn’t make you a bad person – or someone with limited prospects. Raising awareness of this is what my campaign is all about.
"I want to encourage people to think twice before judging those in care, especially if you don’t know anything about them.
"My video is to challenge negative misconceptions about those in care. It’s my view that young people in care often face unfair, negative stereotypes."
Caitlin has written a song and made a video as part of her campaign, which was viewed by Councillors at the meeting. Linda Munro said: “Caitlin Gibson is a real star, speaking out for other young people, and demonstrating the talents and achievement of our looked after children.”