Recently on a cloudy August morning, I was simultaneously texting a young person to see if they were okay after collecting their exam results the day before, whilst also putting together a resume for another youngster who had been struggling due to being excluded from school a few years ago.
I found myself getting quite upset on their behalf as they are both bright, remarkable young people who have survived abuse and trauma many of us cannot imagine. Yet, the same survival instincts and coping strategies their brain and body had to learn in order to survive has been what ultimately made accessing their education a very real challenge.
As it turned out, the exam results were not good according to ‘national standards’ and the resume proved tricky given the permanent school exclusion and the lack of understanding from the young person about what had led up to it. So, whilst putting the resume together with her, I got the urge to write a ‘real’ resume, so we can all understand and value these young people’s achievements and their life and work experience.
Keeping myself and my brother and sisters safe
Comforting a distressed and depressed parent
Keeping things secret to protect my parents
Knowing when to run or keep very still
Knowing how to hide evidence of living with alcoholic parent
Being able to read signs that trouble is coming
Caring about and for someone who scares me daily
Working hard to keep opinions and feelings to myself
Regularly clearing up broken glass and spilt food
Keeping a scary parent happy and a scared parent safe
Repeatedly getting self and siblings to school every day despite being awake most of the night
Helping drunk parent to bed
Ringing emergency services and securing assistance
Regular storytelling to keep things hidden
Detection of mood changes
Cleaning and clearing
High levels of discretion
Ducking and diving
No one would want a resume like this, but it is very sadly the reality for too many young people in the care and child protection system. Yet, they still have hopes and dreams despite their traumatic early years.
As professionals and society, we need to understand their journey fully, see them and advocate for them in the context of their achievements, courage and resourcefulness. We must help them identify their qualities, skills and tenacity, and how it will serve them on their onward journey.