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Podcast Season 3: Episode 2 – Thriving after adversity

How do adverse childhood experiences affect people’s lives? And how can we support children and young people to recover and thrive?

We talk with care-experienced teacher, trainer and speaker, Mary-anne Hodd with Trauma Informed Consultancy Services, who shares her personal experience and her expertise on taking a trauma-informed approach to life story work.

Thriving after adversity

Transcript

Please note that this transcript is auto-generated and therefore will contain some errors and natural pauses in conversation.

DAWN: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Creative Life Story Work podcast, where we explore how to make life story work better for all care experienced children and young people. Creative Life Story Work is a new approach which can improve children and young people’s lives and their relationships with others at home.

and at school. It’s based on the Rose model of therapeutic life story work. Every month we’ll explore a different aspect of creative life story work and we’ll give insights into how you can use this approach to help care experienced children and young people make sense of their past and build a brighter future. My name is Dawn Williams and I am an associate at Blue Cabin, one of the partners on this exciting work in the region. In this podcast, we will explore the link between adverse childhood experiences and later life outcomes through a lived experience lens. I’m absolutely delighted to [00:01:00] welcome to the studio Mary Anne Hod.

Mary Anne is a care experienced teacher, trainer and speaker. Combining lived experience and psychology, Mary Anne works to support a deeper understanding of and improved outcomes for children and young people in care. Mary Anne. Her feelings focused work has supported the longevity of placements, halting unplanned endings and contributed to the changing narratives of what it means to be care experienced.

Mary Anne is a training practitioner from trauma informed consultancy services, which offers an extensive range of training sessions. related to all aspects of how we can apply a trauma informed framework to settings, services and systems. A really warm welcome to you this morning, Mary Anne.

MARY-ANNE: Thank you, Dawn. It’s nice to be here.

DAWN: You’re very, very welcome. Mary Anne I was looking at your lovely [00:02:00] website. And looked at the vision that you put out there and I was really drawn to one of the themes that you highlight where you talk about unconditional care and putting yourself in the shoes of the child.

And I wondered if you wanted to talk a bit about that about relationships being at the centre because it’s something that blue cabin. We have that in our mission statement as well. So I was really drawn to that bit of your website.

MARY-ANNE: That’s really nice to hear. I guess for me a lot of what my work is about and what I’m really passionate about doing is supporting young people to be seen beyond their behaviours, to have equal opportunities to thrive in care and beyond. You know, I think. Going into care.

Care is supposed to be the safe space that picks you up when things go wrong at home, essentially, and makes it [00:03:00] better. And so often we can be surrounded with narratives and statistics and stereotypes that might feel quite predetermining or limiting for what, for who we might be and where we want to go.

So I think this idea of, you know, unconditional positive. Regard for, for children and young people is, is a really good starting point and something I’m really passionate about in, in everything that I do, you know?

Yeah.

DAWN: Unconditional positive regard is, is also something that Richard Rose talks a huge amount about and about having that at the, the centre of, of all, all the work that that he’s encouraging us to think about it. blue cabin. I wondered that you said there about care is this is is the place that the safe place where you go when things have gone wrong.

I wondered if what if [00:04:00] you’d like to talk a bit more about what are the considerations that need to be in place for it to be called a safe space for that child.

MARY-ANNE: I think it comes back to that vision that you spoke about again, you know I think that element of relationships being at the, the. Relational practice being at the core of everything that we do, it has to be first and foremost. You know, I think it’s the educational psychologist Karen Treisman that has that beautiful quote that says, When the harm is relational, so too must be the healing.

And I think that’s a really nice starting point for us, is recognizing that for a lot of children and young people that experience early adversity, That this harm has come in the form of relationships in either things happening to us that shouldn’t have happened to us, that we shouldn’t have had to go through, or us not getting what we should have and needed at certain points. So it’s about that kind of [00:05:00] relational capacity for healing, understanding that potential for healing and that possibility of positive change. Shalom. And I think that links really nicely to the idea of aspirational practice setting the standard that, for us to have high expectations for our children and young people and to create environments in which they can go on to thrive.

There’s that beautiful quote which, which says, when a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower. And I come back to this time and time again. I just love it so much because it’s, it’s really, that’s what it’s really about for us. I think it’s about us looking at our environments and saying, okay, if this young person isn’t flourishing, isn’t thriving, what can we do to support them?

In, in that growth and it becomes kind of about us and the adults problem to change the environment rather than necessarily [00:06:00] labeling or Blaming children or focusing on, on the behaviours which are so often, you know, born out of a, a desire to protect ourselves in an environment that’s not meant for our, for our survival so often, you know.

DAWN: I love that you use the metaphor of the flower because certainly the artists at Blue Cabin who’ve been delivering our All About Me sessions huge on use of metaphor in the sessions that they’re, that they’re working with. And, and also I wondered if, A lot of the things that we think about, it’s about also celebration.

So those places where stories are being told, but it’s also about celebrating some of those moments as well. And I wondered if that was, I know you talk about inspiring positive change, and I wondered if that was if that aligns with your thinking as well, about a space to celebrate those young people and who they are.

MARY-ANNE: Yeah, absolutely. To build on that good, right? And again, I know that’s part of the [00:07:00] Richard Rose model is is that strengths based element. I think for, for children and young people that experience this early adversity and are in the care system, we can so often be surrounded with a list of what might feel like is stuff that’s wrong with us or things that have gone wrong in our life.

But every child has something good about them and every child has, deserves that to be celebrated. And so absolutely, I think it’s that, that point of celebrating and pointing out and labeling the good stuff and building on that time and time again, those like little small daily doses of, of of Of celebration, of connection, and yeah, labelling and naming those strengths I think is is really, really important, isn’t it, for young people to, to hear that you’re good at something, or to hear that example of when you were caring or kind or funny, and to read that as well.

I know[00:08:00] from my own files journey, when I got my files Which, the files process itself, getting my paperwork from the social services is quite an in, unhuman journey in a sense. You fill out that online subject to access request and then you wait. And it was about a year later that I got an email with a link to my files. No words, no kind of pre warning of what I was about to receive. I just opened it up and there was my whole life, not in chronological order, that I had to work through. And it felt like a lot of the time that I was reading paperwork that was about somebody else. That wasn’t, that didn’t reflect me as a child. There’s actually just one line in about eight hours worth of reading that says, It was written when I was seven years old and it says, Mary Anne wants to be a vet when she’s older and I have clung onto that line because it really reminds me of the little girl that I was that was obsessed with animals and would talk to all the [00:09:00] cats as I walked home and had this, was friends with wood lice and it brought me to life and I think, you know.

That, that’s what it’s about sometimes, isn’t it? It’s those small moments that, that can make the world a difference for young people that we sometimes don’t even realise the impact of, of what we’re saying and how we’re saying it.

DAWN: And, and certainly your point there about about animals. It just reminds me of the, some of the all about me sessions that I’m in and some of them during COVID, well, all of them during COVID were online where Animals became such a huge part of all of the sessions that, that, that were in there.

And it was the stories and the pictures that those children were drawing and the little avatars that they were making about these were their animals and the artist I meant. One of the artists in the end was knitting as, as a thank you gift at the end of them knitting little coats for all of the dogs that were being sent there.

She was kept busy, I remember [00:10:00] for that, but it was those children

being the narrators and the, the writers and the graphic artists and the musicians and them being able to, as you say, that tiny little moment of who they are to go in.

MARY-ANNE: Yeah.

Yeah, absolutely.

DAWN: Let’s go to a break now where you can find out more about the benefits of a Creative Life Storywork membership.

BREAK

One of the things that, that you mentioned, Mary Anne, was about how can the… Change the environment in order for that child to thrive. And I’m wondering about what might be put in place in order to support.

I suppose a gap in understanding. about the reality of that care experience journey that you’ve just talked about when you received the email to get your [00:11:00] files. What, what can be put in place for some of the foster carers who are perhaps listening to this podcast to think about supporting the child so that they can thrive?

MARY-ANNE: I think that’s a big question in itself, but for me, the starting point is always this element of trauma informed care and being able to support carers, for example, to have an understanding of why I might behave the way that I do and what’s led me to have these kind of behaviours that might be viewed as…

Challenging or might might be difficult to manage at times but from a, from a young person’s perspective have been behaviours that have helped me survive in an unsafe world and starting with that ability to see beyond behaviours, because I think the life story work process in itself, you know, comes with times where you, you hear it where carers say, you know, they’ve [00:12:00] regressed or that, that time. That might bring with it more challenges for a young person because we all deserve and all want to have a link to our stories, to understanding where we come from who we, and what that means for us in terms of who we might be and where we might go. And I think for supporting care experience to young people, it’s kind of that understanding of, Being on a journey, you know, I remember I used to hope that I could. Heal, basically, and it, like, see healing as a, as a tick box exercise as such. Do my life story work, or do some therapy, or do my somatic exercises that I like doing, where I kind of shake and stamp my feet. And that would be it, I’d have ticked it off, and there you go, I’m done. And I remember having a day a few months ago now, where, I couldn’t get out of bed and I was crying and I was [00:13:00] just really dysregulated.

And I spoke to my friend, who’s an educational psychologist and Emma Woodward and who also grew up in care. And I spoke to her and I said, I just want to be better. I said, I’m fed up of. Feeling like this. I said, I built all of these resources in my life that, that helped me get by day to day. I eat well, I exercise, I do my routines.

And then I have a day like this. And she said, well, you better get used to it. She’s quite straight talking. And she

said, because

DAWN: I like the cut of Emma’s jib.

MARY-ANNE: Yes. She said, you know, in those early years you learned that you weren’t that you weren’t lovable, that the world wasn’t a safe place and you weren’t worthy.

And she said that voice would always be there. And all you’re doing now every day is building the voice on the other shoulder to be louder and prouder and bigger. And I think that’s what our duty is as the adults supporting our young people is to keep Giving and supporting young people to see the good, to build that voice louder and prouder, to prove to ourselves that we are [00:14:00] worthy, we are lovable, we are safe.

And I think some of the beauty of life story work with that is, when you get that autonomy to piece together bits of your story, it helps you… Start to formulate who you are separate of your caregivers and also separate of your story as well. You get to decide which bits you want to keep and that is just so so powerful, isn’t it?

To be able to say, actually, you know what? I like this bit of my parents. I’m going to keep that. But, but this bit, that’s not meant for me. And going on that journey is, yeah, that’s exactly, isn’t it? It’s a journey. It’s, it’s a, it’s not an end point to it, I think.

DAWN: I know I asked you a big question before but also one of the things that you write on your, your website, which I was really drawn to was aspirational practice where you’re talking about improved. outcomes for young people and about [00:15:00] demonstrating that they’re believed and trusted.

But you go on to talk about that being reflected through policies and procedures. You’re really talking about the big. bigger system question there. And at Blue Cabin, we often talk about what would it be like if the system in which we’re working, where there was love at the heart of it. And you talk about what it would be like if there was trust there.

And I’m wondering about what would that be like if there was trust and love at the heart of the system? What would, what would What would that system look, sound and feel like? That’s a massive question. But your last comments have just prompted me to ask that.

MARY-ANNE: Yes I think we’re moving more towards it with, with this trauma informed approach to care that, that is becoming more of a standard practice. You know, we’re moving away from old school behaviorist authoritarian kind of I’m the adult, you’re the child to [00:16:00] a more sense of connectedness and understanding the, impact of disconnectedness and trauma and, and what it takes to repair that.

But it’s, it’s, I think that there’s a long journey to embedding that in the reality of practice still, and I don’t know what the answers are with that. You know, one of the things that I talk about a lot is the idea of interdependence, thinking about young people in their leaving care journey. This idea that we focus so often on independence and independent living skills, but actually no man is an island, right?

We all rely on somebody. And I think about my brother when I speak about this, who had experienced homelessness for a bit and a very different route out of care to myself because he just felt so isolated and alone and so much pressure to get it right the first time. And actually this idea of interdependence and creating kind of networks of [00:17:00] support and focusing on social and emotional skill development and. I will share at this time, you know, I’m the founder of the guarantor scheme, which is a scheme that enables the local authority to act as the rental guarantor for their young care leavers who would like to go on to rent in the private rental sector. So I guess that’s an example of a policy that can kind of be put in place that actually fulfills that role of a corporate parent that says, you know what, I’m treating you the same as I would my own child because if my own child wanted to rent in the private rental sector and they had the ability to do so, then I would act as their guarantor.

So I’m going to do that for you.

But that’s just one small snippet and I guess that’s a long way to go.

DAWN: That example that you gave then is an amazing example of how you’ve affected change on that bigger system. So, your program that you set up is to enable care [00:18:00] leavers to have a guarantor so that they can rent their own places.

MARY-ANNE: Yes, that’s correct. So it’s currently in, I think, approximately six local authorities. Devon were the original. Kent has been the the most successful with it. Most recently Coventry are coming on board. And Barking and Dagenham are one. There’s a, there’s a few that have… This is part of their local offer and it’s exactly that it’s saying, you know, if a young person, there’s, there’s an application process that goes with it.

So if a young person can. show their readiness for private renting, just as a parent would expect their child to, to show that they’re ready, that they can manage a budget and look after themselves and they know who they’re going to ask for help if they need it. That’s what we do with our young people.

And then the local authority act as that rental guarantor. Yes, it’s it’s, it’s amazing. You know, it’s been life changing for some young people. It was for myself as well, getting, it I got to move in with friends and really changed the trajectory of my future.

DAWN: [00:19:00] Goodness, I think that’s absolutely an incredible story. What a pioneer and a trailblazer to, effect change that’s going to impact on so many care leavers lives. That’s absolutely fantastic. Thank you for sharing that example.

MARY-ANNE: Oh, thank you

DAWN: On december the 5th, you are going to be part of the fantastic program of live classrooms that we have on at Blue Cabin. And I wondered if you wanted to say, not give all your secrets away, but if you wanted to say a bit about what people could expect who are thinking about joining us on December the 5th.

MARY-ANNE: It’s really about combining, really taking that lived experience element alongside the adverse childhood experiences research. So, I’m kind of combining… Let me get this right. So yeah, December the 5th, December the 5th is going to be all [00:20:00] about combining my personal experiences of my own ACEs journey as such, my adverse childhood experiences, of discovering what that meant for me in my own life and the impact of understanding the statistics, the stereotypes and the language that surrounded that.

Moving through to a real kind of strengths based approach to understanding how we understand the impact of trauma and adversity and how we can support our young people to go on and thrive after after those kind of early childhood experiences. It started from myself asking, it started from me asking myself the question, why might I be okay? When everything around me tells me that I shouldn’t be. And so we kind of really delve into that and asking, you know, what makes the difference really?

DAWN: So incredibly useful for some of our foster carers and [00:21:00] potentially staff from virtual schools. About as a really great starting point for supporting the children that they’re working with to thrive. Thank you. Mary Anne for your time this morning. Thank you for sharing such insightful stories.

And it’s been an absolute pleasure to meet you. And I look forward to being in your session on December the 5th. Thank you very much.

MARY-ANNE: Thank you so much. Yeah, thank you for having me. One last thing that I would like to add is I am actually in the process of training to be a therapeutic life story work practitioner myself as well. So just going through the Richard Rose model, because it’s something that I’m so incredibly passionate about.

Very grateful to the Reece Foundation who are sponsoring my place on the course and can’t wait to be able to, you know, to talk about that and in a bit more detail as well throughout, throughout our time together on in December.

DAWN: I didn’t realize that you were [00:22:00] doing that as well. That’s absolutely fantastic. That might have to be another podcast with some of the other therapeutic life story workers who are working with Richard Rose as well. I love that he’s the thread that goes through all of our podcasts. That’s fantastic.

Really pleased that you shared that.

MARY-ANNE: Yes, that’s great. Thank you so much.

DAWN: Whether you’re a foster carer, someone who has experience with the care system, or you work with children and young people, we hope this episode has given you an insight into how we can make Life Story work better for young people and how you can use it in your own practice. You can find out more about Creative Life Story Work on our website creativelifestorywork.

com and you can find us on LinkedIn and Twitter or X as it’s now called or at Creative LSW. Please do get in touch there with any comments or questions as we’d love to hear from you. If your podcast app [00:23:00] allows you to do so, please take a moment to rate or review our show. It really helps others to find the podcast.

So until next month, bye for now.

Produced and mixed by Will Sadler of Anya Media. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts by clicking one of the following links:

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