Chair: Dr Jim Goddard
I have been involved with the CLA or similar organisations for over twenty years. I was in care in children’s homes from the age of three to the age of seventeen. Between the ages of three and six, this was in large children’s homes run by Roman Catholic nuns in Liverpool (‘Knolle Park’) and in Birkenhead on the Wirral (‘Nazareth House’). From the age of six, I lived in a Family Group Home in Birkenhead with my brother and, usually, four other children.
I ran a care leavers group in Norfolk in the early 1990s and was a member of NAYPIC. I am now a Senior Lecturer in social policy at the University of Bradford and conduct research into issues related to the state child care system past and present. My experience of the care system can be summed up briefly by listing my happiest memories: 1) spending all day in Birkenhead Central Library, alone, 2) spending all day in Arrowe Park, without adults, 3) walking to school. You can get further biographical details from a piece I have written on access to files in that section of the site.
I have long believed that those who have been in care, whatever their experiences, should work together to improve matters for those in the child care system now and in the future, those going through the leaving care process and those adults who are still dealing with the legacy of their experiences in care and whatever led them there.
Vice Chair: Sue Myhan
Sue went into care at the age of 13 for a few days, then was returned to residential care at the age of 14 until 17, following a traumatic childhood.
Sue has been a member of the Board for four years. She is very passionate about the needs of care leavers, especially in relation to access to their care records. As a parent, Sue is also concerned about the difficulties that may face care leavers if and when they have children of their own.
As a care leaver who has accessed her care files, Sue is hoping to demonstrate to local authorities the importance that care files can have for care leavers, and how they need to look at offering care leavers understanding care and supportive assistance when they apply to access their records as she knows how difficult this can be. Also, Sue believes that once these needs are recognised by many local authorities, care leavers can be part of influencing the ways in which being a ‘looked after’ young person can be improved. Care leavers hold a wealth of experience and knowledge, which could be taken on board by local authorities.
Sue enjoys spending time with her daughter, cross-stitch and anything involving using a computer.
Like many care leavers, Sue struggles with depression, so also understands the mental health issues that often impact on care leavers.
Treasurer: Veronika Murtagh
Having spent eighteen years in the care of the Roman Catholic Church, I was ill-prepared for life in the real world – to put it mildly.
It took several decades of fear and pain, including divorce and subsequent breakdown, before I was able to realise that life was more than just surviving. It was during my recovery and healing that a friend told me about The Care Leavers’ Association. I had never realised that there was a user-led organisation where I could meet people who would understand my early life experiences. I attended a number of meetings and the ‘Speaking Out’ conference (2009) for care leavers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. Following the conference, I stood for election as a Trustee and was successful.
It has been a very steep learning curve and I feel that I have only just begun to understand the complex issues involved in child care provision and leaving care ‘pathways’. What is particularly important to me is the failure to address the emotional consequences of being in and leaving care. I am exploring ways to enable care leavers to develop the emotional resilience we all need so that we can overcome the struggles that many of us experience on leaving care. To this end, I am doing an Interactive Arts degree, which looks at ways in which creativity can be used in a health and social context.
Watch this space
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