Why Care organisations cannot ignore

the self-esteem of the young people they support

Self-esteem is the value placed on a person, by that person. It can also be described as self-worth - the terms are identical in meaning.

Whilst working with young homeless people I was seeking to motivate a young lady to think about using night classes or college to develop an already well-developed natural artistic talent.

My efforts stalled when she asked me, "Why should I make an effort - when I don't think I am worth making an effort for?"

Low self-esteem locked that young lady into a pattern of self-destructive behaviours that removed any possibility of her achieving her true potential.

It is the same for the majority of Looked After Children in the Care system.

Researched behaviours associated with low self-esteem include being anti-school, more likely to bully, more stressed, increased drugs/alcohol use, poor communication skills, more likely to truant, more likely to experience depression, self-harm, manifest violence, be a school refuser, be in trouble with the Police, lack respect for others, manifest anti-social behaviour and to be excluded from school.

These behaviours, and others like them, will be very familiar to residential home staff and foster carers alike.

Researched causes of low self-esteem include low levels of parenting, poor/no emotional support network, poor communications with parents, being ignored by parents, having stressed parents needing “protection,” having few roles models, low family togetherness, inappropriate/no rules at home, poor/no guidance in life from parent figure, having parents who “lean on” child and parents being over-controlling.

Almost by definition, any child or young person in the Care system will have experienced many of these causes and most LAC's "tick" just about every box for having a low self-esteem.

Residential Care companies and staff, as well as foster carers, put enormous amounts of time, effort and money into encouraging their young people to put these behaviours behind them, yet rarely do they have any real, lasting success. The usual approach is for Care companies and foster carers to seek to motivate their young people without first creating a mindset within the young person that says, "I am worth making an effort for."

Residential Care company staff and foster carers who understand self-esteem and are equipped with strategies to help young people raise their self-esteem will see remarkable behaviour changes in their most challenging residents/foster children, as well as those who - whilst not particularly behaviourally challenging - are known to be seriously under-achieving.

SEED training and resources impart that understanding and equips Care professionals with the strategies to get results that will bring improved attendance at school, reduced peer-on-peer/peer-on-staff conflicts, enable greater accessing of school lessons, better social integration, less self-destructive behaviours, reductions in placement breakdowns and, through all that, reduced stress levels of staff and foster carers and increased professional satisfaction.