/, Case study/Transitions
Transitions 2019-01-28T20:01:18+00:00

Transitioning is a natural and normal part of growth and development for all of us. For children and young people in care, leaving care or moving to adult services, they have the added pressure of accessing services and there is an implicit expectation for them to be able to adapt to change and prepare for their future more readily than children and young people living with their families. For children and young people receiving services, so much emphasis is placed on ‘transitioning’ from one service to another or into independence, the customary life changes encountered when growing up are often overlooked.

I wonder if we called it ‘evolving’ rather than ‘transitions’ would it allow professionals to reflect on their own life experiences and think more broadly about the life changes that influence behaviours and affect children and young people’s immediate priorities?

As a young person who formally received statutory services and now delivers support services to young people, it can often feel to me that the ordinary aspects of ‘transitions’ for looked after children and young people are not always recognised. With a focus predominately on risky behaviour and achieving positive outcomes, there is much less focus on new life experiences at each developmental stage.

Of course professionals have a duty of care to prepare children and young people, based on their specific needs or circumstances and prioritise the practical life skills needed to prepare them for adulthood. But I wonder why we overlook or minimise the other important aspects that shape children and young people’s lives, and are they not as equally important when thinking about transitions and outcomes?

Little importance is put on the life changes that can be really important to children and young people, such as a fall out with a friend, being rejected by a ‘crush’ or being part of a social group for the first time.

Not every important change in our lives is about services, thresholds or professionals.

Do you remember your first love – and the first break up? You thought you would never get over it, right? Or the first time you were able to go away on a school trip? Or the first time you took an important exam? Well, for most children and young people these are some of the most meaningful and poignant moments in their lives. Just because a young person is receiving services doesn’t mean these milestones don’t matter.

When thinking about transitions I believe it’s important to remember the other monumental moments that occur during every human being’s ‘transitional’ period. For example, developing life skills is about more than learning to cook.

I think there can sometimes be dynamics between professionals and young people that can intensify an already pressured situation. I found that there were several misconceptions that adults around me projected onto me when I was evolving from a teen to a young adult.

I remember when I would receive my weekly subsistence allowance I would be given the patronising ‘don’t squander all the money at once’ speech. Unbeknownst to the professionals working with me, all I wanted to do was save the money to buy my first car and put money aside for my future. The assumption that I could not effectively manage money would leave me feeling that they doubted the high aspirations I had for myself.

Supporting a young person through a change means really knowing them, and their strengths and goals.

Of course, looked after children and care leavers need particular support, but I think it is vital that professionals do not overlook the important milestones that children and young people themselves say matter in their lives.

I think professionals should support young people going through change, to achieving the necessary life skills (which includes relationship skills, not just practical skills) and help young people to understand the fundamental experiences that govern how we act and feel at different stages of our lives.

This could help to achieve both practical and social outcomes for children and young people. Young people are experts in themselves, so any transitions support has to be a partnership between the young person and the professionals.

My own experiences required me to plan for the future earlier but growing up and changing is a natural process for all of us, not just for children and young people receiving services or in care… so ‘transitions’ needs to be everyone’s business.