Yesterday was a day I won’t forget for a while. I’m going to try and explain why but be warned, I may fail.
I have mentioned before that previous to Stone Girl’s publication I barely talked about my past. It was a secret, a thing I had to hide.
Most didn’t understand the world of the residential homes that I spent my teens in. I have spoken with many people in the past few months who’ve been shocked and caring and lovely but still had difficulty grasping it all. And that is understandable. It’s so far from their own experiences.
But yesterday I was a facilitator at an event – OurCall – which was run by The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare. My role was to chair a panel of young people who would share their stories about time in care.
I arrived early and it began. Story after story, speech after brave reveal. I laughed, I cried and I connected. People spoke about experiences I instantly related to. They called for change so that kids in care right now and in the future don’t feel unloved, unwanted, unimportant, unstable, disconnected, judged ect ect ect We asked, why doesn’t the majority of society understand/care/protest that this is happening to kids every day?
And I realized… writing Stone Girl had achieved something beyond self-therapy. Yesterday I felt a sense of peace and sadness and comradeship and this is a difficult thing to explain.
See, I told you I might fail.
Here is the short introduction, I made before our panel:
Thank you Dylan for the introduction. I hope our political leaders are listening right now, because it’s time to change the leaving care age to 21. We’ll be discussing this on our panel too.
Today I share the stage with three young and inspirational leaders who have such a strong voice. Their message is why we are here today, sharing stories and making sure that people are heard, especially those with a deep understanding of the implications of life in care.
When I left the out of home care system over twenty years ago I honestly never dreamed of an event like this. I didn’t think anyone cared what I thought. I felt invisible.
But sometimes perspective is everything, and sometimes you just need to hear what another person thinks to see that you’re not alone. We need to park our preconceptions and really listen to each other.
On this panel today we will discuss many of the challenges people in care face and ask how we can make the system work better. What goes wrong and how can we fix it. It’s a huge area to tackle, one with endless difficulties but also opportunities.
My own sense of invisibility in my youth was palpable. Society seemed either ignorant or indifferent about the out of home care system that had impacted my life so greatly.
So I did the only thing I knew how to do and I started writing. I spent ten years striving to find the right way to articulate the complexities of the world I’d left behind. Stone Girl was published a couple of month ago by Penguin and tells the story of one girls journey through institutional care.
I hope it assists in the same mission this event strives for. To increase awareness and give kids in care a voice. We need more stories, more voices and more perspectives and so it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to our panel.