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Language guide launched for children in care system

Children leaving the care system would prefer to be known as a 'care experienced adult' rather than 'a care leaver,' a new guide aimed at changing the way professionals talk about children in care has said.

Fostering and adoption charity TACT has produced the guide in collaboration with young people saying that "language is a powerful tool for communication but sometimes the way that it is used in social care creates stigma and barriers for understanding".

"Language can be a weapon but it can also be emotional armour," said Andy Elvin, TACT CEO. "We have asked children and young people about their wishes and feelings on the day to day language used with, or to talk about, them and Language That Cares is their work."

"Language That Cares is not an absolute list of all words used in the care system and does not represent everyone’s view. However, it starts a much necessary discussion about the way we communicate and engage with our children and young people," it adds.

The guide highlights a number of words that children in care would prefer to be used:

Abscond - Young people prefer: Run away; Go missing.

Birth/Biological Parents - Young people prefer: Parents; Family.

Challenging Behaviour - Young people prefer: Having trouble coping; Distressed feelings; Different thinking method; Difficult thoughts.

Contact - Young people prefer: Making plans to see our family; Family meet up time/Family time; Seeing Dad/Mum/Grandma/etc.

Foster carers - Young people prefer: My family; Foster Mum; Foster Dad.
In care - Young people prefer: Another home away from home; Living with a different family in a different home.

Leaving care - Young people prefer: Moving on or Moving up

NEET - Young people prefer: Unemployed or not in training or in education, saying NEET is a "silly term".

Permanence - Young people prefer: My home without disruptions.

Social worker - Young people prefer: One to one worker; Someone who understands your family background and knows what you have been through.

Ashleigh, TACT care experienced young person, said: "I think the new dictionary of the words and phrases used by professionals like social workers is really helpful, because some words used in the care system can be really complicated at times.

"Professionals’ vocabulary would confuse me even when I was 15, I was still a bit puzzled by what was being said during my meetings, because it seemed to be all in some kind of professional, social worker code. Therefore, I can only imagine how confusing it must be for younger children to understand it all. Professionals need to understand that not everyone speaks the same language as them, and for children it can feel complex and overwhelming, and sometimes even embarrassing, as there is a lot of stigma attached to some of the terms used by professionals.

"In general the words chosen by the young people in the new dictionary are helpful but at the same time they could make it difficult for professionals, like social workers, who need to use professional language in their work. However, I believe social workers and other care professionals should leave the big words for other professionals who understand them, and adopt the words provided in the new dictionary when talking to both young people and children and make the language they use around them more accessible, clear and sensitive," he concluded.

Language that cares - Changing the way professionals talk about Children in Care

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