Beneath the Surface

Looking back at her teenage years, Alice (not her real name) reflects on the hurt she experienced and the missed opportunities to do things differently.

I was 13 the first time the police pinned me down on the ground, handcuffed me and put me in the back of a police van. I was 14 the first time they strip searched me and put me in the cells. The police officer who did it, stood watching a crying and shaking 14 year old girl and said ‘if you don’t do it we will do it for you.’ I was 16 when I spent Christmas Eve in the cells all night after being strip searched again. I spent the night in tears scratching my face and pulling my hair out. Within those years I’ve lost count how many times they stopped us in the street, to take drink and fags off us, write down our names, and usually to put me in the back of the police car and force me to go home.

My mum used to hoover the house on a Friday night in advance of the police knocking on the door to bring me home, to come looking for me after I’d done something, or to get details about me when I’d went missing. As ridiculous as that sounds that my mum used to hoover for the police, I guess she felt it was the only thing she had any control over. None of us had control over anything at that point. Only the police, other professionals and some of the people around me seemed to have any power.

They’d turn up at the house other times too, sometimes to charge me. One day, when I was still 15 they turned up at the door with an indictment from the court ready to take me into custody until my court date. I spent a year going back to court and getting reports written about me, and another year on probation. The social worker who wrote my report called me ‘brittle, sullen and uncommunicative’, and she recommended I get a tag and probation. The media printed my full name, address and that I had mental health problems. I still feel the shame years later.

When people talk about children who cause harm to others, I was definitely one of those children. When I look back at my actions, I realise that someone easily could have died, but that child could have also been me. I was being harmed too. The child inside me still wants to know ‘why did no-one care?’

I wonder what would have happened if the police officers who obviously saw me as at risk when they tried to keep getting me to go home, instead asked me why I was doing it, or if I felt safe. Since they were the only ones out there on the streets in a position to do anything, why didn’t they? Why did they punish me instead sometimes just for seeing me as at risk? When I became a risk to other people, why did no-one look beneath the surface to understand the reasons behind it?

When I look back I have struggled throughout the years to see underneath that surface too. The labels and words used by people around me, including professionals, have left a permanent mark on that child. Brittle. Sullen. Uncommunicative. Troubled. Young offender. I still get caught up in calling her those things too sometimes.

But most of the time, I look back and see the scared child that I was, who was trying to do everything possible to escape from being hurt. A child trying to protect herself and find safety. A child who felt unheard and in pain. When I see that child, all I wish is that the police and other professionals had seen her too.

If you have experience of the justice systems, or are a family or carer of someone who has had contact with the justice systems, please contact Ross Gibson via to discuss how your views can be shared.


Breaking the Cycle

‘You can’t and won’t put me in a box because of something that happened to me that was completely out of my control.’ For Care Experienced Week 2020, Bella explains why she’s determined to challenge misconceptions about the care system, to create a better future for others.

My husband and me have been very lucky in that we have experienced so many amazing things together. We love travelling and went on a cruise together for our honeymoon. It was amazing, we went to Sicilia, France, Italy, Monaco and Spain. Our other favourite thing to do together is to go to music concerts, we love music and always have music on in our house. So far in the past two years we have seen Tom Walker, Lewis Capaldi, Sigala, Kaiser Chiefs and Panic! At The Disco. This summer we were supposed to see Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy but I don’t think I need to explain why that never happened (COVID)…

Last December we were blessed to have a baby, the most amazing thing we have experienced yet. Both me and my husband are care and justice experienced, I think this is why we always wanted to have children and started young. I want my child to have everything I didn’t have and to know how much they are loved and wanted.

When my child was first born, I was absolutely petrified a social worker was going to take them away even though we hadn’t done anything wrong. It has taken me a long time to realise that I was taken into care because I had to be, and things were wrong at home. Things are so different with my child and their life is very different from mine, they are taken care of and loved so much, beyond words. I’m so scared of doing the wrong thing with my child and I think it’s because I know how things feel when they are wrong and go wrong. I do think after everything my experiences of life have made me a better person and a better mother to my child. I’m so aware of how my actions have an impact on my child and their life also how they feel about themselves as well. My priority as a mother is to bring up a happy child who knows just how much they are loved and wanted.

Breaking my family’s cycle is another one of my priorities. Both me and my mother went into care. My experience within the care system wasn’t great and I don’t want my child to ever experience or see what I have seen I have and I’m sure many other young people who are care experienced have.

The care system is overloaded and broken. Care experienced young people also have the extra stress of judgement and stereotypes from people who haven’t been in the care system. Since when is racism not ok but branding all children who have been and are in care “bad” people who are just troublemakers ok? I think most people would have a shock if they knew what had happened and happens to those that are in the care system. Stereotyping and treating young people differently because they are care experienced is as bad as racism and sexism. People need to stop judging young people for things that are out of their control. Not only do black lives matter but young lives matter too. Young people are the future so why are we teaching them it’s not ok to stereotype one group of people – but it’s ok to do so for another group?

I want to change these stereotypes and prejudges, and I will. That is a promise I make to myself and all other young people who have been or are in the care system. I’m starting slowly by proving all the stereotypes wrong in my life. I’m going to be the best mother I can be to my child and any future children I have. You can’t and won’t put me in a box because of something that happened to me that was completely out of my control.

I remember when I was in care, I came out of my care home to go to a shop and I walked past a family. In that family there were two young boys and a mother and father. One of the young boys, the oldest of the two turned and said to his younger brother that’s a home for bad boys and girls, pointing at the home. I was so angry and so upset I couldn’t even say something. Just because we are in care and care experienced doesn’t mean we are bad, in fact most times something bad has happened to us and that’s why we are in care. If you had something traumatic and huge happen to you as a child and didn’t know how to deal with your feelings and experiences how would you behave and how would you act? We had things happen to us which as children we didn’t know how to process and overcome which is why sometimes we did naughty things. Does making a stereotype making you a good person? We are just like you, only we have different experiences and have dealt with them in our own way. There isn’t a handbook given to children with how to deal with grief, life and trauma. We are care experienced, not care shaped or a stereotype.

Thank you to everyone who has read this far, I hope I haven’t bored you too much and I hope I have challenged some people’s perceptions of care experience young people. We are not bad people; we are just like everyone else. We want to make a life for ourselves and get past what has happened to us in our childhood.

About our blogger

Bella lives just outside of Glasgow with her baby, husband and two budgies. She’s 22 years old and has loads of hobbies, some of these are music, art, travelling, eating out – and she loves to learn new things.


Scotland – time for open hearts and minds

Today marks the launch of the Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland. These Standards have been three years in the making after a series of recommendations from the Secure Care National Project. The project identified the need for a specific set of standards for Scotland’s most restrictive form of care for our children.

In late 2017, I was asked to become a board member on the secure care strategic board. Having spent a lot of my youth growing up in secure care, this was an ask I had not a second thought about. I have been a fierce advocate for change amongst the care sector for as long as I can remember, and secure care is something that I am so passionate about. If care and compassion is delivered correctly, secure care can be a lifesaver for many. However, I am also acutely aware of the trauma secure care can either cause or further compound. I have experienced both. Therefore, I agreed to become a member of the Pathway and Standards working group. Tasked with creating a brand new set of national standards rooted in voice, it was right up my street!

Young people’s calls for action developed through the Secure Care National Project and detailed very clearly the things that worked well in secure care and the things that young people thought needed to change. Throughout the process of creating the Standards, everything we did was rooted in voice. We analysed the data and evidence so selflessly provided by young people and began to map the journey of secure care for a young person – before, during and after – and what the adults around the young people need to be doing to ensure their rights are upheld every step of the way.

We then begun to draft the 44 Standards. These were then taken to the STARR group (of which I am the current founder and chair), Scotland’s only curated space for secure care experienced people. The group discussed in detail the wording of the Standards, the importance and relevance and lastly, the strategic implications of each Standard. I was incredibly humbled at the strength, tenacity and hope for the future the group showed. Knowing that whatever they do will always be in service of young people today and will not change or alter their own experiences I think shows an incredible amount of strength, and I will forever be in awe of them.

Being part of such an inclusive and dynamic process has made my heart sing. The shared vision and values held by everyone involved has been incredibly humbling. People really care about our children whose liberty has been restricted or could be and want to make the process as conducive and trauma free as possible, but sometimes they just don’t know how to, and that’s okay. As long as they enter the process with an open heart and mind, are willing to listen and respond to the voices and what they’re telling us.

There are aspects of secure care and the supports provided before and after that need to be radically different to ensure rights are respected and upheld, and it is my hope that these Standards provide a blueprint and permission for individual centres to come together as a collective and have some creative and radical conversations. This also needs to involve everyone who works with children on the edges of secure care to make sure children get the support they need throughout and at each stage of the journey.

I will never forget my time in secure care, it is such a life altering event that I simply cannot forget, the restrictions places on my liberty caused me great heartache. I am certain however, that my time in secure has turned me into the person I am today – so for that I am grateful.

I can see myself in many of these Standards but a couple that really stand out to me are:

Standard 15: “I am welcomed at the main entrance unless it is unsafe for me or others. This is based on my individual circumstances and needs”

This Standard is incredibly important to me and many others as the admission process can be quite traumatic for a number of reasons and being welcomed at the front entrance humanises the process. It makes you feel welcomed and reassured instead of feeling like a bad secret by entering via a garage.

Another Standard which stood out is:

Standard 42: I am confident that people I know well and have trust in will continue to be involved in supporting me after I leave the service.

This is also incredibly important as it focuses on the need for consistent, loving relationships and ensuring that those relationships are supported to flourish.

Over the past few years, I have made it my mission to advocate and campaign for more awareness of secure care, what the benefits are as well as the deficits and how we can collectively overcome these. I firmly believe that if care is delivered correctly and the Standards are fully implemented, we will not see as many young people enter secure care. This should be Scotland’s ambition. I believe supporting young people to heal from trauma at the earliest stage will radically reduce the number of young people who experience secure care.

It is time everyone involved in secure care in Scotland comes together with a shared vision and morals of not depriving our children of their liberty. Ever. I believe it should be Scotland’s vision to support and empower our children to heal. These are just a few of my hopes, I could go on all day but I truly believe that this is an achievable goal and I’ll continue to advocate for this throughout my career until one day, my vision is realised. Come on Scotland, we can do this.

About our blogger

Bethanne Logan, who is care experienced, describes herself as “striving for children to have access to equitable chances”.  She is founder and Chair of the STARR group, a Board Member for Children’s Hearings Scotland and was a member of the Pathway and Standards working group. Follow her on Twitter @Beth_AnneLogan.