Often the bonds that come from family and friends have been lost through multiple placement moves for children and young people who are looked after away from home. Some do not have a place they can call ‘home’. Our Therapeutic Parenting model reminds us of the need for relationships with significant adults as being key in addressing insecure attachments. Whilst care environments often share the resources of a care team, one significant person in the role of mentor/befriender can bridge the gap where those meaningful trusting relationships are very much needed, not least where young people may be transitioning toward independence. Cat recalls her placement being ended and the next day, age sixteen being expected to survive in the world alone. She was largely alone and ill-prepared for the future, hence her longstanding interest in championing better throughcare and aftercare support for young people in care who are transitioning to semi or independent living. Moving towards independence without a close network of support or even one person who cares enough to be there can leave an individual feeling hopeless at best. Cat is keen to provide long term social relationships aimed at empowering and enabling young people to realise their own potential. However, for now, her primary goal is clear; to befriend and build trust. The success of the relationship isn’t focused on the achievement of goals or outcomes. Trust and connection is the goal for Cat, our young people’s mentor.
Cat has been a mentor for young people in our care for over seven months. She works with a small number of young people across our homes in Scotland. As a successful young woman in her twenties, Cat loves the opportunity to be in a role where she can truly just ‘be’, using her non-judgement and highly empathic ability to relate to the experiences of those she supports. She has spoken about allowing the individuals she supports to lead the conversations, especially where they feel safe to talk openly and freely about things that are important to them. Cat feels that little will surprise her, and they know that she can relate to their feelings and experiences. Cat is a young woman with care experience who wants to make a difference. She has developed strong and trusting relationships through her ability to respond and offer support. Often by drawing upon her own experiences she has been able to support her mentees to look beyond the ‘here and now’ and envisage a better future for themselves. As a trainee nurse Cat is aware of and has been trained in the importance of safeguarding and child protection. However, her mentor role isn’t that of a residential carer. She doesn’t feedback through handovers, write reports or daily recordings. She is humble, yet fierce in her passion for children and young people to have the care they deserve. She simply hopes to have fun, build trust, and support young people to grow and see the potential in themselves that she sees in them during every meeting. Her affection and pride for her small group of mentees is clear. She gives lots of herself and claims that she receives so much more back in return. Most of all she just enjoys being present or in the moment with them.
Whether it’s alpaca or dog walking, cinema trips or horse riding, Cat loves the opportunity to enjoy the relationships she has built. Those she has befriended mean a great deal to her. These relationships are most certainly reciprocated. One young person has given permission to share her experience of having Cat as a mentor.
“Cat has been a really good role model since she came into my life, and I look forward to seeing her every week. She’s there for me all the time and I can talk to her about anything, and I know she won’t judge me. We usually go to the cinema or to see her horse, Promise. She lets me ride him and is teaching me to do groundwork and stable work, which is helping with my confidence massively. This has inspired me to look forward to getting my own horse and I just want to say how much I appreciate her and thank her for everything she does for me.”
Managers of the homes where Cat currently spends time also speak highly of her.
Cluster Manager Helen Kelly states,
“Cat has been an amazing mentor. Our young person loves her time with Cat and feels that she can talk to her about how she is feeling. Staff say that Cat is always smiling when she arrives to collect our young person and is easy to chat with. Keep up the amazing work Cat as you are a dream to have around”.
At Highview, Cluster Manager Eileen Robson has commented upon how one of the young people loves it when Cat comes to visit, describing the positive relationship they have. It was good to hear the Care Inspectorate acknowledge the positive relationships she has developed through our creative and somewhat pioneering approach.
Cluster Manager Sheena Hannigan goes as far as to say,
“I feel personally that Cat has added to the support networks needed in in helping this young person to stabilise and support her in her placement at Kippsbyre.”
Comments like this from Cat herself, surely say it all,
“There isn’t a day when I don’t go home buzzing after being with a young person. I laugh so much on the way home in the car, reflecting upon just how much fun we have had that day. I feel as if I have the best job in the world.”