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to ask you to please stop calling LAC 'damaged'

(38 Posts)
NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 15:34:25

I see this frequently on here. Been in care = 'damaged' child. On on thread I read today, = 'disturbed' child.

This often comes from a well-meaning place, in the hope of mitigating poor behaviours in LAC, but still comes across in an (at best) pseudo benevolent way, and always seems patronising.

My childhood was spent in care. Yes, it was pretty awful, and there are elements of my childhood that have affected me, and yes, there are bad memories, but I am neither damaged nor disturbed. Nor was I as a child. I was vulnerable, and often quite sad, but never 'disturbed', with all its horribly negative connotations, or 'damaged', with its connotation of irreparability.

In actual fact, from my nice middle class, professional, normal life, people often struggle to even believe I was in care. They expect this image of a 'disturbed' youth. In reality, most care leavers that I know personally show no signs of being either disturbed or damaged. There may be lasting trauma, but painting all LAC as 'damaged' can be harmful in itself. Within the wider psyche, this sort of terminology removes children in care from the realms of normal society. Our 'otherness' becomes more deeply engrained, and normal expectations no longer apply.

AIBU to ask everyone to think about their use of emotive language and consider how it might affect the outcomes of the young people they are making assumptions about?

LaurieFairyCake Fri 12-Jun-15 15:42:15

Interesting, and your perspective is really understandable.

The outcomes from children in care is really poor statistically though. They are less likely to achieve good outcomes, more likely to commit crime, less likely to complete education etc.

The terms 'damaged' and 'disturbed' I assume like you are meant benevolently though perhaps other language might be preferable?

What do you think of 'traumatised', 'less likely to achieve the 5 outcomes' ?

MrsTerryPratchett Fri 12-Jun-15 15:47:04

It is important to acknowledge the damage that a lot of children suffer in care. Because if we don't, the knee-jerk of removing children is the norm (as it is here in Canada).

I also think that 'damaged' does have connotations but those should be about the people doing the damaging/allowing it to happen rather than the child who has experienced it.

MakeItRain Fri 12-Jun-15 15:47:40

I have met LAC who seem really well adjusted despite a challenging start, and who have found real and deep happiness with new families. I have also met LAC who are incredibly damaged and disturbed by their start in life, and find it really hard to accept what has happened.

NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 15:47:41

I absolutely know outcomes are less likely to be positive (quite involved in this area as it happens), but there is a huge difference between accepting the fact of statistically poor outcomes and expecting them as a blanket rule. How will we ever improve outcomes if the socially normal terminology leaves no room for anything other than the worst?

"traumatised' - often, but not always, so not acceptable as a standard description for all
'less likely to achieve...' - fine, because it offers a different possibility

In my opinion, at least.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 12-Jun-15 15:48:59

Do you have language that you would prefer?

I'm struggling to think of terminology

MakeItRain Fri 12-Jun-15 15:49:16

Sorry, posted too soon. I'm really sorry if you have found descriptions to be generally negative, and can understand what you're saying if that's what you come across.

NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 15:50:27

But, MakeItRain, I have met people who are the products of divorced families, or bereavement, or illness, or even perfectly normal family situations who show signs of 'damage' - it doesn't mean we should automatically assume it will be the case and label them as such as standard.
But it seems to be fine for LAC. hmm

MakeItRain Fri 12-Jun-15 15:51:16

Absolutely, I agree with you.

NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 15:52:18

laurie, do we need terminology? Do we need to assume a blanket level of trauma for a whole group of society, who are grouped together by a huge range of situations? I don't think we do - we can quite happily judge each person on their own merits, as we do for all other people, surely?

LaurieFairyCake Fri 12-Jun-15 15:53:02

I think we should automatically assume that LAC have had a more difficult start though - how we do that is difficult

We need to acknowledge as a society that being in care means that life has been difficult at a very crucial developmental
stage. And that this has consequences which might not always be seen.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 12-Jun-15 15:55:54

No, we definitely shouldn't judge on their own merits.

My foster children have had to access a whole range of services because of their past and their needs now as young adults - if we just judged them solely on how they come across (articulate and good academically) we might not notice their very real needs

If that persisted into adulthood and they got jobs they may still need help with situations others might take for granted - which is why they have a worker until they're 25.

NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 15:56:37

Yes, true. So is 'damaged' just laziness? Using a word when a sentence would be so much better? Because the sentences you are using are conveying the situation well without causing upset, as you are being factually correct and helpful, rather than judgmental.

NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 15:58:18

I am so happy that times have changed on this, it will make such a difference. Continuation of services for young adults is so important, and you are right there.

MakeItRain Fri 12-Jun-15 16:00:00

*We need to acknowledge as a society that being in care means that life has been difficult at a very crucial developmental
stage. And that this has consequences which might not always be seen.*

I think that sounds absolutely right too, and does sound different to damaged/ disturbed.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 12-Jun-15 16:00:21

Sorry, there's another reason we do more 'labelling' - it's money.

We use labels to access services that ordinary folk don't get access to.

Obviously everyone in need should get what they need but the reality is that only children leaving care are prioritised.

As an example - I have a foster child at uni - they get 52 week accommodation
As a priority provided by the university - as they may not have anywhere to go to
as an adult (that's safe). They are guaranteed to be disadvantaged by having no adults to help them.

And you might say a bereaved young adult might be the same - but people have fought really hard to get looked after children to be legally prioritised.

cailindana Fri 12-Jun-15 16:03:22

I agree. I wasn't in care as a child but I was abused and badly emotionally neglected. Basically I had a rubbish childhood (with some wonderful bits) and that is part of who I am. I'm not damaged though, in fact I think my bad start has made a better person than I might otherwise be. But I don't tell people I've had a bad childhood because I think they then expect me to be "disturbed" or some such when basically I'm an ordinary person. It makes me hide something I shouldn't have to hide.

Do you feel you hide the fact you were in care so that people won't think you're "damaged"?

NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 16:03:57

I think there is a similar argument for the use of the phrase 'broken homes'. But at least in that case, it is the home/situation that is bearing the negativity, not the victim of the situation.

I really don't like to think that people assume that all LAC/ care leavers are faulty goods or emotionally/mentally deficient. Those are the images that 'damaged' and 'disturbed' bring to mind for me.

LoveTheWets Fri 12-Jun-15 16:05:21

YANBU. And I wish people on MN wouldn't refer to adopted children as "damaged". My wonderful DS is no such thing and it really pisses me off.

SpidySensesAreOff Fri 12-Jun-15 16:05:26

I agree with you. I was in the care system, before I got there I was horribly damaged, they put me back together. Most of the others I was in care with have gone on to have good lives and are totally ok.

I hate this blanket thing people who have no experience seem to think of that just because someone is/has been in care they are damaged.

cailindana Fri 12-Jun-15 16:08:19

The reason I don't like the terms "damaged" and "disturbed" is that they suggest that there's something faulty in the child, when in fact the child is more than likely having a totally normal reaction to terrible circumstances, a reaction any other person in the world would have. There seems to be an underlying belief that there is an acceptable range of emotion for "normal" people to have an outside that you're deranged in some way when in fact it is normal to curl up in a ball when thinking about terrible abuse, it's normal to freeze when someone lifts their hand and you're used to being hit. That's not 'damaged' behaviour, it's completely understandable. It's worth tackling the behaviour if it's becoming a problem but labelling it as "disturbed" does no one any good.

NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 16:08:23

But Laurie, 'disturbed' doesn't come into it as far as securing funding / provision of services is concerned. LAs / universities / govt. agencies are all capable of using and understanding less emotive terminology, and do. 'Disturbed' is commonly used in vernacular discussion, such as on here, rather than legal.

NOTDamaged Fri 12-Jun-15 16:10:20

cailindana 'Do you feel you hide the fact you were in care so that people won't think you're "damaged"?'
No, but I used to, and I know that others do. In actual fact, I am the opposite, as I think it is useful for people to see normal products of the system as well as the stereotype.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 12-Jun-15 16:10:57

Yes, totally agree.

I think people who are just lay people and not aware of the system are trying to be kind and acknowledging their past when using it on here - rather than rude or judgemental.

Much like someone might say (wrongly) a 'special needs child' rather than a child with special needs.

BerylStreep Fri 12-Jun-15 16:21:33

I positively thrived when I was in the care system. Much better than the boarding school I was sent to before that, with the staff who absolutely abused their authority (with some extremely inappropriate sexualised grooming behaviour) and didn't give a shit about the pupils.

I feel very fortunate that I was eventually placed in an environment with lovely, caring, qualified social workers, although it is fair to say that the events leading to me being taken into care were traumatic. It taught me resilience and to have confidence in my own skills

In terms of achievement, I have a Masters degree (awarded with distinction), and work in a professional role towards the top of my organisation, earning a very good salary. I have a good, 'normal' home life.

I do agree with the OP, that negative perceptions of the Care system are often inaccurate, and the labels and assumptions mean that absolutely no-one I know, other than my DH, knows about my history. When I was taken into care, lots of my lovely middle class friends dropped me, which felt very cruel. Some were told by their parents not to go near me as I must have done something wrong hmm. Throughout my twenties I really struggled with the sense of shame that that had caused, and found it quite hard that I didn't have any friendships from my time at school. I still don't.

I feel more damaged by the shame that I unfairly felt, than being in care itself.

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