Do you know what the typical kid in care looks like? Do you know what their interests are or what experiences they have gone through? The truth is that there’s no typical kid in care. We can read statistics or stories in the media about what children and young people in care face, but you never know somebody’s story until you learn it from them. Yet many people have preconceived ideas of who kids in care are. Why? Young Consultant Miriel tells us it’s because the child protection system is hidden and that educating others can help snap the stigma of having a care experience.
Tell us a bit about yourself – your age and what you are doing at the
I am 22 and at the moment, I’m living in Brisbane and studying Social Work full time.
What are your interests?
I am interested in politics, child development and mental health. I also enjoy reading.
Are you involved in any advocacy or any kind of work where you contribute to the community? If so – tell us about these!
I’m a CREATE Young Consultant. I am helping to work on the Snap that Stigma campaign at the moment and recently I sat on a interview panel for staff being hired for a service that works to make sure that children in care have their health needs met and everyone involved in their care has a better education about health in general.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Hopefully practising as a social worker – working in either mental health, child protection or juvenile justice. Maybe I will live in Brisbane or I have been toying with the idea of moving to Germany. If I don’t move to Germany I will be buying a house on the Gold Coast.
Do you think there is stigma in the community about children and young people with a care experience?
Yes, I think it is from a lack of education. My biggest thing with child protection in general is just how hidden the whole thing is – when you don’t give people answers or images then people run wild. There are many people who live in the community with a care experience but don’t feel comfortable to talk about it, due to the stigma, and then the problem perpetuates.
If so, where did you experience stigma?
I’d be the first to admit half of it is probably is your head. If you’re sharing and someone doesn’t respond the way you want them to respond then it discourages you from sharing again. I say it is in your head because maybe that person didn’t actually mean it.
Personally, yes I did experience stigma when I was in care – when I got my first job at a bakery. At the start of my employment I disclosed that I was in care I was in resi (pretty hard to hide!) the boss took me to a separate room and said that she was going to trust me BUT also said she had never hired a kid in care before and had a bad impression of us. I was the only new employee to be given a talking to like this.
Much later at uni I was in a class with someone who had a care experience and we were asked to reflect on our childhood. Naturally this person talked about being in care. Later I heard one of the other students complain that “she just keeps going on about being in care.” To me that was unfair because that student was just talking about her childhood as we had been asked to do – it was just that her childhood involved the care system.
What do you think should be done to address this issue?
Educating people about the care system and kids in care, particularly in the education system itself. There needs to be more of a positive focus in research and academic studies/research. Why don’t more people do research about those with a care experience who succeed? We need a similar shift in the media to focus on the good things that happen in care. I think there should also be education in schools about child protection like there is now with domestic violence, to make the care system more normal for people in the general community. There are kids in care and they are not special and they are not aliens.
What’s your advice to other young people who might be experiencing negative attitudes from others because of their care experience?
Don’t let that the negativity be what stops you from speaking up about your care experience. Don’t let the views of others shift how you look at your past and yourself. Don’t let the negativity shift your reality.
Do you know a young person in care achieving amazing things?
Help CREATE snap that stigma and share a positive story over social media, just hashtag #snapthatstigma or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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