The Board of Trustees is the governing body of The Care Leavers Association. It usually meets every two months, on a Saturday. The Board decides on the policies and priorities of the CLA and oversees the work of the staff. Ever since the foundation of the CLA, it has been a requirement that all Board members were in care as children (usually in foster care or residential care). Board members are elected at our Annual General Meeting and serve a term of three years.
Chair: Dr Jim Goddard
I have been involved with the Care Leavers Association (CLA) for over twenty years and have been Chair since 2011. I spent my childhood in children’s homes from the age of three to the age of seventeen, in Liverpool and Birkenhead. In Liverpool, in the late 1960s, I lived in some of the big institutions (now all closed) that were run by Roman Catholic nuns. In Birkenhead, in the 1970s, I lived in a Family Group Home. From there, via ten months at my father’s house, I was lucky enough to get to university at the age of 18, in 1981.
I was a non-active member of the National Association of Young People in Care (NAYPIC) from the mid-1980s. I then ran a care leavers group in Norfolk in the early 1990s, whilst completing my PhD. From there, I moved to Portsmouth to start my academic career and increasingly focussed my research and writing on issues related to looked after children, leaving care and adults who were in care as children. I moved to Bradford in 1998, helping me to become more involved in the CLA as it developed. I have recently retired from my working life as a university academic, giving me more time for the CLA and for writing and research related to its work. You can get further biographical details about me 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 try to work together to improve the lives of those living in the child care system now and in the future. I also think we should try to improve the experience of those going through the leaving care process and help those adults who are still dealing with various legacies from their care experience.
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.
I came to the CLA when I was trying to source my care records and was so touched by the support and direction that was offered that, shortly after that, I chose to join as a Trustee too.
I passionately believe in care leavers having a voice that is heard and shared, so that change can be implemented going forwards. I still feel there is so much more to be done to raise awareness and effect meaningful change.
I have been an advocate for care leavers my entire adult life. I grew up in and out of the care system from the age of three. I found solace in education, books being the safest place to escape to. I have reached a place of understanding that, as care leavers, it is important, both individually and collectively, to voice the many, diverse stories we have to share.
I have explored many ways of sharing my experiences, in all of its technicolour of sorrows and daily successes. This includes using journaling and movement, such as dance and yoga, as a way to heal. I am currently writing a book, ‘Clean Sheets’, which is also part of a wider project that I have recently created, with support from various partners, including the Arts Council. This work includes workshops for young people and adults. My intention is to continue republishing the journals each year and share them with care leavers, both nationwide and globally. This work led me to create the Alchemy & Grace Foundation CIC, a space to facilitate and curate arts projects that combine wellness, writing and opportunities to be seen and heard.
I hope to bring a varied approach to highlighting the myriad challenges that are often the legacy of growing up in care and navigating life after leaving and beyond.
This year, after being involved with the CLA for five years, I will be co-editing, with Sue Myhan, our new quarterly magazine/newsletter. This will be available both digitally and in a paper version.
I am honoured to be on the Board of Trustees. Our campaigning for change coalesces with being in a welcoming community for care leavers of all ages and stages of their lives.
Rebecca spent much of her early teenage years in care, in residential and fostering placements, before being placed in long-term foster care at the age of 13. She left her foster placement aged 19.She believes that empowering and supporting young people in care to obtain education and training is crucial. Rebecca would like to see a future where care leavers are encouraged to succeed, free of stigma, and treated as equals amongst their peers. She also believes in the importance of support, post-care, to help care leavers understand and make sense of the care experience as they progress through adulthood. Rebecca’s education was disrupted in the early years of care by multiple placement moves. She feels as though she was largely written off by those looking after her in residential care and was rarely encouraged to aim high. This improved when she was fostered long-term. The stability this provided enabled her to thrive. Rebecca went on to graduate with a First Class honours degree in Law and was admitted as an Australian lawyer in Victoria, Australia in 2017. She now works in health and social care regulation (in the UK), reviewing and advising on fitness to practice decisions by the ten health and social care regulators. Rebecca has previously worked within the criminal justice system and held a number of policy roles before qualifying as a lawyer. She lives in the South East of England with her husband. Like many care leavers, Rebecca experienced problems obtaining her care records and is keen to work with the CLA to improve access and support once these records are received. Ultimately, she hopes to use her skills and experience to help the CLA exercise its functions and meet its strategic aims.
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