The reason we incorporated and developed the toolbox metaphor was to illustrate the kind of skills we found ourselves lacking when we left care.
Personally, I had years of therapy with CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) so I was somewhat more prepared emotionally, for adult life compared to my peers, due to the tools I had developed in therapy. However, even with the years of preparation for independent adult life, I still found myself struggling to meet the practical demands of living independently. Things like prioritising my time and money, general upkeep of my home and life admin all while in full-time education.
Sometimes it felt like I was running down a hill and unable to slow down or stop.
It felt never-ending, especially when I first moved out. There were so many things I had to do, like changing address, registering with a new doctor, actually moving house, applying for benefits, starting a new college course, making new friends, making sure I was eating healthily, and so on. It was a shock to the system and I struggled to keep my head above water. Having to adjust that rapidly was very difficult even with the emotional coping mechanisms I had developed.
There should be an element of care experience that equips you for the practical and emotional demands of independent life. The variety, type and quality of the tools you end up with should not be left up to whether you were lucky enough to have quality foster carers or some form of adult role model that had a positive effect on your life and that you could go to when you needed advice. For the majority of care-experienced people, this isn’t a given.
We spend many years of trial and error trying to find a way to live independently that works. Sometimes we end up with maladaptive coping mechanisms and the mistakes we make when we set out can have a long-lasting detrimental effect.
These mistakes could be avoided if we had the right kind of investment into developing independent living skills.
It’s imperative that we have a care system that sets people up to thrive, not just survive.
Alice, Sky’s the Limit Design Group