As a member of the team at Darlington Virtual School, Sophie Newton helps care-experienced children and young people reach their full potential. Here, Sophie explains what it’s been like to see children and carers take part in creative activities designed to help them understand their life story.
As a pastoral support worker on the Creative Life Story Work project, my role is to support care experienced young people and a significant adult in their lives to engage with life story work.
All About Me Creative Experiences, which are part of the first stage of Creative Life Story Work, take place in group sessions with young people exploring themes around identity, the future and their sense of self. Young people and their significant adults take part in six sessions with a professional artist and myself over a number of weeks. They’re provided with a carefully chosen box of resources to create a long lasting memento of their life story that can be added to once the project has finished – in some groups this has been a life story book, a cabinet of curiosities or a memory box.
The importance of life story work for care experienced young people is well established. Children and young people entering care should have the ongoing opportunity to explore their identity, family links and life story. This has been recognised both on a national level through policy making but also on a local level within Darlington through the ‘Promise Tree’. The Promise Tree was developed from listening to young people’s thoughts and wishes about being in care in Darlington. It is a set of promises that Darlington has made to all children in care, including the provision of life story work.
Having been a pastoral support worker through three cohorts of the All About Me groups now, it has been so incredible to observe the impact the sessions have had. Firstly, young people enjoy the sessions. They are carefully planned to be fun, engaging, collaborative and full of making and doing. Young people have enjoyed turning up to the sessions, often continuing to work on their life story box or book outside of the weekly session. The biggest impact of the sessions though has been relationships. Between young people and their significant adult, young people and their peers within the session, and with the new adults (myself and the artist).
The impact of life story work doesn’t stop when the sessions do. Feedback from care leavers has allowed us to explore the impact right through to adulthood. Early life story work can support care leavers with their identity, developing their self worth and having a clear and cohesive narrative of their own story. If care leavers have had the opportunity to engage in good quality life story work, this often mitigates the need to request their care records which can be difficult for young people to read or understand.
In Darlington, we are excited to be continuing with the Creative Life Story Work project into 2022 and continue to offer this invaluable opportunity to the care experienced children and young people we work with.
Find out more about Creative Life Story Work here.