That is a description of the words and phrases used in children’s care homes in England and implicitly at least, their effect on the children who live in them.

We haven’t felt this strongly about a piece on child welfare for some time, but this article by a children’s rights worker embraces our thoughts and feelings exactly about some of the basic problems children in care experience and why the way these places are run so desperately needs to change.

The kind of language we use around children makes a huge impact on them. Whether a child grows up within a conventional home or one run by the state, words can be comforting and kind, but they can also be cold, destructive tools that damage a child’s development. And it’s often the subtle, ongoing lexicon in a child’s life that affects them the most. Tell a child they live ‘on site’ long enough, and they won’t ever feel they have a home, a safe space to run to should they need it. It would not surprise us if the high prevalence of runaways in care homes was not amply aided and abetted by  ‘arm’s length’ language used in these places.

In the piece, which has been sponsored by Cafcass (but we’ll forgive it that for now despite their continued inability to make their services personable), a young girl in care collects all the words she hears in her children’s home and puts them into a poem. We’ve added the poem below because it shows the extent of the problem:

“On shift, offsite

Menu planner, pathway plan

Full care order, section 20

Grateful, lucky

Welcome pack, clothing allowance

Health and safety, sanctions

Staff rota, staffroom

Sign for, key worker

Your file, care plan

Back to the unit

Semi independence, comply

Risk assessment, activity

Stat visit, staff

Looked after, leaving care

Pep, hand over

Contact, siblings

Aftercare, LAC review

Notice board, negative behaviour

Residential, engaged.”

The article is very much worth a read if you have time. For those who understand the difficulties much of it will ring true, for those who have yet to see them, this piece is a must read.

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