Young people state language they wish to be used in care system

Young people prefer 'care experienced adult' to 'care leaver'

Published on 19th March 2019

Young people with experience of the care system have produced new guidance outlining the language they would prefer to be used during proceedings.

TACT children and care experienced young people have produced the guidance in collaboration with the fostering and adoption charity TACT specifying terms and phrases they would prefer to be used.

For example, young people would like the term 'parents' or 'mum/dad' to be used as opposed to biological or birth parents. The guidance states that 'care experienced adult'  is a preferable term to 'care leaver'.

"Language That Cares is a collaborative effort led by TACT that aims to change the language of the care system. Language is a powerful tool for communication but sometimes the way that it is used in social care creates stigma and barriers for understanding. Language is power, and we want children and young people to feel empowered in their care experience," said Andy Elvin, TACT CEO.

He added that: "Language can be a weapon but it can also be emotional armour."

The guidance outlines that young people would rather use the term 'foster mum or dad' rather than foster carer, 'living in a different family away from home' is preferable to 'in care' and 'moving on' or 'moving up' should be used as opposed to 'leaving care'.

"Professionals need to understand that not everyone speaks the same language as them, and for children it can feel complex and overwhelming, and sometimes even embarrassing, as there is a lot of stigma attached to some of the terms used by professionals," said Ashleigh, a care experienced young person.

The guidance adds that 'unaccompanied asylum seeking children' is a Home Office term and asylum seeking young people should just be referred to as 'young people'. The term NEET (not in education, employment or training) is slammed as a 'silly term' with young people stating that they would like 'unemployed or not in training or in education' to be used.

The term 'abscond' should be replaced by 'run away' or 'go missing' while 'challenging behaviour' should be scrapped in favour of 'having trouble coping; distressed feelings; different thinking method; difficult thoughts'.

"In general the words chosen by the young people in the new dictionary are helpful but at the same time they could make it difficult for professionals, like social workers, who need to  use  professional  language  in  their  work," said Ashleigh.

"However,  I  believe  social  workers  and  other  care  professionals  should  leave  the  big  words  for  other  professionals  who  understand  them, and adopt the words provided in the new dictionary when talking to both young people and children and make the language they use around them more accessible, clear and sensitive," he concluded.

Language that cares - Changing the way professionals talk about Children in Care

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