The name of the young person has been changed to protect their identity.
Lifelong Links coordinators are central to the success of Lifelong Links. They are experienced family group conference coordinators who have received specialist Lifelong Links training from Family Rights Group. The below is a snapshot of the work a coordinator from Bath and North East Somerset is doing with a young person. It highlights the importance of going at the young person’s pace and getting to know them, taking the time to help them think through Lifelong Links and who they would like to try and reconnect with. Sometimes that isn’t limited to people. Places also play a key role in our feeling of connectedness and belonging, shaping who we are and our sense of identity.
I am working with Diego, a 16-year-old who came into the care system when he was aged six. Prior to that he had lived with several different family members at various addresses. Within seven years of being in care Diego had lived at five different foster placements.
When I first started working with Diego, he was a little unsettled as his social worker, who he had really connected well with, had just left. So understandably he was apprehensive about my involvement which coincided with him getting to know a new social worker and I worried that I’d struggle to connect with him.
I visited Diego a couple of times at his children’s home and during the course of our chats he told me that he really wanted to connect with some people from his past. This led us on to doing the Mobility Mapping exercise together. He was very excited when I turned up with my big roll of wallpaper and colourful pens and we started the process. He drew the pictures whilst I did the writing and at the end of it, he showed it off to the children’s home staff with great pride. His memories of the physical aspects of the places he lived were excellent – he remembered what the gardens were like, where cars were parked, the building design and recalled happy and sad memories about his time at each.
However, occasionally Diego got frustrated as he couldn’t remember things. For example, he could remember a house design but not the location, and he couldn’t remember where his bedroom had been. He also struggled to remember the sequence of certain events. One placement had come to a very sudden end as his carer became ill and Diego left it never knowing if she was alive or not. During our mobility mapping exercise together, he told me several times that he would really like to revisit a certain address or a place.
Following on from this, I spoke to his social worker and the children’s home manager and asked them both what they thought about me taking Diego around some of the areas where he had lived. They both thought it was a great idea. So, I researched all his previous addresses and sent the list to his social worker. Once we had agreed on what addresses would be suitable to visit, I drew up a ‘roadmap’ and sent it to the children’s home manager so she could go through the map with Diego to check he was happy with it.
On the day of our road trip together, from the moment we met, I could tell how excited Diego was. He held the map eagerly as we drove from place to place. At each place we stopped you could tell another piece of the jigsaw of his memory had fitted into place. He remembered what his bedroom was like at each house, his journey to school or to the shops, the friends he had made, where he had fallen off his bike, the neighbours, their pets, the list went on and on. Also, at the home of the carer who had become so suddenly ill, he recognised her car and her cat so was reassured by that.
By the end of the day, we had driven 158 miles together. We chatted, we ate McDonalds, we sang songs . . . we connected.
This led to him opening up to me about how let down he felt by his mother, and he told me about two maternal aunts who he hadn’t mentioned before. This new information was so valuable for the Lifelong Links work we were doing.
In the car on the way back I asked him what had been the best thing about today? He said, “Just going back to the places I used to live and remembering things that I’d forgotten and also knowing now that things I remembered are actually real – it’s been a great day.”
For me, it highlighted that we all belong to not just people but places too and I feel privileged to have been able to be part of the process that helped this young person to feel more connected.