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Language

The power of your words

Young people transitioning from care are likely to have experienced stigma due to their experiences of being a child in care. It is important that as practitioners, we challenge this stigma. One way we can do this is to think about the language we use with young people, family members and safety and support networks.

For example, the use of the term ‘birth family’ can be excluding and can differentiate the young person from others. Allow each young person to select the language that they want to use when referring to parents and siblings.

‘Out of home care’ is another term that young people may not like. The place where they live is their home (along with the people they live with) and instead of referring to their placement, we talk about “care arrangements”. ‘Children in care’ or ‘young person with a care experience’ are alternatives. Again, take the lead from the young person.

There is also stigma in terms of expectations of poor life outcomes for young people in or leaving care, and a tendency to compare their potential with that of those who did not grow up in care.

Young people in care appreciate that they have had a different life experience, but they don’t want this difference to be highlighted or emphasised.

Respond to stigma by:

  • helping young people to celebrate their time in care and look forward to a positive future
  • encouraging young people to achieve their dreams and raise their ambitions
  • making your own pledge to challenge stereotypes—and think before you reinforce them

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