CW: This post discusses child abuse.
85% of children who are looked after by Scotland’s local authorities, are looked after as a result of neglect or abuse. The number of children being looked after by local authorities has increased year on year over the last two decades. 16041 children in Scotland are looked after. This is 2% of all children in Scotland. The number of children looked after in care homes has fallen for the first time since 2001 but the number of children in kinship and foster care is rising.
Children become looked after by local authorities for many different reasons. Generally, it is due to neglect or physical, emotional, mental or sexual abuse or that their parents lack parenting skills because of substance abuse or another reasons. Children can also be looked after because they have complex disabilities that require specialist care. A small minority of children are looked after as a result of the youth justice system.
Basically, in the majority of cases, it absolutely no fault of the child’s own that they are looked after by a local authority and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous. That is why this article has provoked so much anger among some of my friends- some of whom are care experienced and some of whom work with young people who have left care.
East Lothian council has submitted a planning application to build a children’s house with six bedrooms for children who desperately need and deserve top quality facilities. But this has been met with “outrage” from what can only be described as a gang of NIMBYs who can’t believe that East Lothian council has the audacity to build a house for children who are part of one of the most marginalised groups in society. 130 people signed a petition to be presented at a public meeting on Thursday evening to halt the building of the children’s house.
Some of the reasons for this include that it takes away “green space” where children play. Residents were “horrified” about proposals to put a children’s home next to their home because there had been “problems with drinking and causing trouble in the park”. In a care home environment, curfews and routines, I presume, are strictly adhered to for young people. This belief that all teenagers do is hang around parks and get drunk is extremely damaging to all young people, but particularly young people who are looked after. It is a common misconception that looked after children are anti-social.
In fact, if these NIMBYs actually looked into what looked after young people get up to, they would be pleasantly surprised. When I was a student, I was introduced to a young woman who was in first year of a chemistry degree and who had recently left care. She was a political activist and is now standing to be a member of youth parliament. My friend Vonnie (I’m sure she won’t mind me using her as an example here…) was brought up by her grandparents and overcame lots of barriers to become NUS Scotland Women’s Officer and is now running to be NUS Scotland President. Another person I know was placed in foster care with the notorious child abuser Ruth Johnston and was subjected to horrific abuse, along with his brother. He graduated from the University of the West of Scotland last year with a degree in social work. His brother is doing a degree in Law at Edinburgh University. Being looked after appears to make people resilient and determined- not anti social.
Children who are looked after are among the most marginalised and stigmatised members of our communities. They absolutely deserve better than the utter bile that is being perpetrated by these residents. Many children who are looked after did not have the privilege of being born into a home where they are cared for or nurtured properly and are in the care of the local authority because their own parents lack parenting skills to look after them. These “horrified residents” are denying children a basic right to a home and I hope the people protesting against a children’s home being built reassess what they are protesting against. Children are children, no matter who looks after them.