Children in care, and adults with experience of care, are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Research shows that the majority have experienced maltreatment and extreme adversity, which predicts poor educational and health outcomes in later life; those with experience of care are over-represented in prisons, hospitals or psychiatric care, and in unemployment figures. Only 6% go to university at 18, compared to nearly 50% of young people who are not care experienced.
Conversations for Care is an interdisciplinary knowledge exchange project funded by TORCH and created by Aoife O’Higgins, with research assistant Rosie Canning, to connect this evidence with the lived experiences of care. The project brings together researchers, young people in care, social workers, foster carers and other professionals. Aoife and Rosie (who brought her experience of Twitter and her own network of care-experienced contacts) facilitate conversations about experiences of growing up or working in the care system, and connect these to research, with the aim of fostering an environment for more engaged research and co-creating knowledge with the care community.
On the first Monday of every month, Rosie and Aoife host a discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #CareConvos on topics such as education, relationships and transitions. In March 2020 they held a #CareConvos session to connect with the community and share coping strategies during the COVID-19 outbreak. Each month, these conversations attract more than 50 people who contribute their experiences and insights. Contributors suggest topics, and two have even hosted #CareConvos. A critical element of #CareConvos’ current success is that it privileges the voices of people with lived experience of care.
The project also serves as a platform to advocate for change for those with experience of care, on a range of issues. For example, together with others at Oxford University Aoife has worked to improve outreach, access and support while at the University. A group of 20 children in care was also welcomed to the University for a three-part outreach event. Ultimately, the project aims to develop strategies for more engaged research and promote the co-creation of knowledge with the care community.
Aoife also hopes that the ideas and connections that emerge from #CareConvos will feed into changing practice and policy, and inspire future research projects. To join in, open Twitter and type #CareConvos in the search box, then click on ‘latest’.
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