Is there a stigma attached to being in care?

Author: TACT Fostering

Tags: Care Leavers, Foster Carer, Fostering, Long term fostering, Staying put

Date: 21st August 2018

TACT Care Leaver

The care system is often viewed from afar as chaotic, dysfunctional and cold.

Because of this stereotype, young people and children who are in care can sometimes be victims of bullying and can be shunned in their community, family, school and society.

Many children and young people may try and hide the fact they are in care, through fear of rejection from peers.

From my own experience, it was always a worry for me as my foster family are of a different ethnicity to me, therefore it was more obvious that they were not my biological family. Sometimes if they were going to an area where I had friends, I would choose to stay home in case someone was to see me with them and wonder who they were. Or worse. Figure out that I was in care.

Parents evening can be a foster child’s worst nightmare because although confidentiality is a big part of the system, if in previous years the biological parents have attended, a change of parents can be slightly obvious. I remember voicing my concerns to my foster mum and how I was worried that our strikingly different appearances would give away that I was in care and we ended up having a light-hearted conversation about how I would want to deal with it if that was ever to happen. She let me know that I would just have to call her mum if I preferred and she would instantly play along.
She also pointed out to me that if she had an Asian partner and they had a child, their child would most likely look a lot like me so, were our appearances that different? She was completely right and made me feel much more comfortable immediately about dealing with the stigma which I believed existed.

However, once I started university, I made new friends and began developing as a person. I decided that I was proud to be a care leaver and if anyone had issues with that then I would stay away from them and continue friendships with people who did not judge me based on my background of being in care.

Thankfully, the new friends I made saw me for me and did not react negatively; in fact they were very intrigued by the care system and asked questions in a respectful way. One of my friends always tells me how I should start a YouTube channel answering common questions about the care system to educate people and remove some of the misconceptions.

It is no surprise that some stigmas and misconceptions around children in care exist. In the media, Tracy Beaker is a character that many associate with the care system, so there is really no surprise that some parents can be wary of their children getting to know young people who are or were in care.

Many have been through traumatic experiences and may need more support than children who aren’t in care. Many can struggle at school. According to the Department of Education, children who are in care are five times more likely to be excluded from school, while the Guardian in 2017 stated that only 6% of care leavers go on to university.

When a stigma exists from your peers and teachers, it can cause children who are in care to feel like outcasts and a lack of understanding as to why they may be academically slightly behind other children their age or not reaching their goals as quickly can all play a part in their school life.

If a child is given a label from a young age, that child is literally being taught that they are destined to be a certain way and no amount of trying will result in any different.

That is exactly why attitudes need to change within schools and society.

Understanding and supportive foster carers like mine can make all the difference and can help tackle issues that can hold children and young people back.

Rejection from society will not make young people’s situations any better; acceptance and promoting education about fostering and children who are fostered is the way forward.