Being part of the Each and Every Child project since January this year has been thought provoking to say the least. Changing the narrative around care experienced children, young people and dare I say-adults, is testing. So entrenched are some of our views as a society that we have become complicit in sharing this narrative too in many respects. Hearing endless stories about ‘damaged’ children, ‘bad parents’ and the ‘wrong choices’, is exhausting and needs to change. As a leader of a lived experience led organisation, I understand the complexities around fundraising and trying to get people to support campaigns or policy by portraying a certain image or story that will invoke feelings or sympathy and support for a cause. However, as a care experienced person, I have been victim to those strategies myself, while accessing services and while trying to engage with services, especially as a young person.

Now, as an adult and a professional in my own right, I tell my story, I write my narrative, and I decide what my future will look like. This is based on what I have learned over the years about the strengths I have because of my care experience, because of the resilience I have and because of the realisation that I am more than the negative stereotypes society has put on me. The Each and Every Child project has the power to change this. It has the power to change the narrative of what it means to be care experienced, what it means to have lived in adversity and come through it, what it means to discover how resilient you are because of what you have experienced. When we help professionals and others in society understand what can become of care experienced people in reality and not some Victorian idea of helpless, predestined, damaged children and young people, we can ensure that every young person who is in care is seen as an asset and strength in their community and not a future problem or statistic. Each and Every Child can support us to change not only the narrative around outcomes for care experienced people but the actual reality. Care experienced people are more than their trauma, more than their care experience and so much more than the perimeters society often puts them in. The change needs to start here, right now- and with all of us.

Shumela Ahmed