This evening I found out some news about a young person I work with. I cried and I got angry, and then I wrote this letter. I’ve just sent it to the Director of Children’s Services. Now I’m sharing it with you.
Dear Social Worker,
When I was 12 you agreed for me to go and live with my Uncle who I didn’t know because my parents couldn’t take care of me. You never asked me about this and left me thinking I would be staying for just a few days. 5 months later and you made more decisions about my life. You decided I would move in with my cousin and her two children. Just a few months later and you did it a third time. You sent me to my parents’ house for the weekend, knowing that I would never be going back to my cousins. You sent my teacher into my maths lesson on the following Monday afternoon with a question. “Where do you want to go tonight?” I didn’t understand what I was being asked so I told her I didn’t mind. What you actually meant was ‘do you want to go back to your parents or to a stranger’s house in a place you’ve never even heard of?’. You decided I would go to the stranger’s. I was one of the lucky few, your decisions worked out well. I didn’t come out of it unharmed though.
Now I’m 21 next week and I’ve told my story to everyone who will listen. They’ve gasped and told me they can’t believe it happened. They told me it would change. It hasn’t. Now I work with the young people who are sucked into your system and damaged even more by it. Now I’m sat at home reading an email about a little boy I work with. He’s moving to another county and he doesn’t know. He won’t know until it happens and there’s nothing I can do about it. I know how that feels and I can’t help to prepare him for it.
Just take a moment and imagine something for me. You’re at work, sitting at your desk, probably doing paperwork. A stranger comes in and tells you to come with them. You get in their car and they just keep driving, you don’t know where to. During this time, you don’t know if anything will ever be the same again, you’re not even sure if you’ll see your friends and family again. They take you to a place you don’t know and introduce you to another stranger. Then they leave you. You have none of your belongings and you don’t know why your there or what’s going to happen next. How do you feel?
You can’t even begin to imagine how that would feel. You’ve still got lots of questions though haven’t you? So do they. These young people are not just problems for you to solve. The way you decide to treat them should make their lives easier not yours. They have feelings and they have stories. You are the person that is changing their life forever. Believe me when I tell you they will never forget you. They will probably hate you for the rest of their life if you get this wrong. Do you want that?
Please. I spend my life going out and telling professionals that communication is the most Important thing. Not just with your colleagues. Talk to the young people you work with. Allow them to be involved in decisions that affect them.
Why? Because you wouldn’t let it happen to your children.
You are my corporate parent and you have a duty to listen to me and protect me.
You are that little boy’s corporate parent and you have a duty to listen to him and protect him too.
I don’t want to have to protect him from you.
A girl who can’t keep shouting forever.