To Planet Care We Go
In April 2022, the Participation Team spotted an opportunity for children in We Do Care to help develop a resource for other children and young people coming into care. They offered young people who take part in We Do Care Juniors the opportunity to create a storybook that reflects their experiences.
The aims of the project were:
- to support the children taking part to reflect on their own experiences
- to create something useful that helps other children and young people who are coming into care
- to help the children connect with each other and the wider community of children in care
The fictional storybook approach was used to help the children reflect on difficult feelings and experiences in a sensitive and constructive way.
About the project
Four children chose to take part. They attended a 3-day project in the Easter holidays at a young person-friendly venue with the Participation Team.
During the project, the children spent time sharing their own experiences, talking about how they dealt with the emotions they went through, and what their journey into care involved logistically, such as how long things took, how regularly they spoke to different people, and where they were included in decisions.
The project also included fun team-building activities and games to get to know each other, as well as arts and crafts.
Over the course of the 3 days, the children worked with a framework provided by the Participation Team to develop their storybook. The framework centred on aliens, astronauts and other planets.
The activities included:
- Labelling emotions that the aliens might be feeling in different situations
- Deciding what were the most important things to include in the book. This centred on what they wanted other children coming in to care to know, and ways to help other children coming into care to feel less alone.
- Writing the story
- Creating the illustrations for the storybook
- A therapeutic exercise; the children wrote their own worries on pieces of paper, ripped them up, and fed them to a worry monster who ate them up
On the last day the young people built a prototype of the storybook. They cut words and drawings out and stuck them into a large craft book. They also made recordings of their words being spoken, so that other children could hear their voices.
At the end of the project, the young people were given a certificate for taking part and a gift of some monster socks and a monster bookmark to match their storybook.
The children matched emotions with the characters in the story
The children people drew pictures of characters for the story
The children wrote down the thoughts and feelings the monster coming into care might have
The children wrote their own thoughts and worries on pieces of paper, and then ripped and folded them up
In the therapeutic exercise, the young people fed their worries to the worry monster
The project also included fun games and exercises like playing with a parachute
The children also did arts and crafts relating to the story
The children wrote the story based on the alien framework and their own experiences and discussions
This is the front cover of the Planet Care book
What happened next
The Participation Team then got to work turning the prototype book into a printable version, which they then sent for publishing. 6 copies were created initially – one for each child, and two for the Participation Team to showcase.
The Participation Team also worked with the Buckinghamshire Council Communications team to turn the book into a digital version (Youtube video), which includes the voice recordings of the children that took part in the project.
Once these had been put together, a member of the Participation Team, Angel, who worked with the young people during the project, arranged a home visit to see each child that took part again. During the home visit, Angel gave them their copy of the book, showed the the video, and they read the story through together. Angel also collected some feedback and reflections from the children on their experience of taking part in the project.
What difference it has made
The book and the YouTube video has been shared widely with colleagues across Buckinghamshire Council Children’s Services and other services that work with children and young people in care, such as health services. The feedback has been really positive, and the video is going to be included in training for staff.
One of the children that took part has done an assembly for her school and a presentation for young people who are new to the UK. They took the book to show it off and showed their classmates the animation. After their presentation, she got a standing ovation and some pupils even asked her for an autograph.
Another child that took part in the project will be doing an assembly at her school in January.
Errol Albert, Head of Children’s Safeguarding Services, Help & Protection and Court Teams, said this about the project:
“We were so impressed to see the work that had been done and the happy little faces leaving the building after the session.
Angel and colleagues did an amazing job.
This is fantastic work which absolutely needs showcasing which Aman and I will do at every opportunity to support.”
Luke Rodgers BEM, Director of Strategy, The Care Leaders, said this:
“Well – bravo. This is really good from so many perspectives.
You have really managed to capture a true story with this and it’s super impressive.”
How the children feel about the project
The boxes below show the feedback that the young people gave about their experience on the project.
“I felt nervous because I thought I wasn’t good enough, but I also felt excited because I could achieve so much in the project.
When we started the project, I felt confident that we had good teamwork.
[Now that the book is finished] I felt super proud of myself but I felt sad that I had to leave :)”
“[When I found out about the project] it made me feel scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen.
On day one and two I felt happy because it was so fun.
On day three it was exciting and how I’m proud of myself to get the book.”
“[When I found out about the project I felt] very excited to be involved in such an amazing activity. Excited, fantastic, happy.
[At the start of the project] I felt really happy and fantastic.
[Now that the project is finished, I feel] relieved and very proud. All my feelings have stayed the same.”
“[When I found out about the project, I felt] excited and happy because everyone will know about it 🙂
[During the project I felt] proud because we’ve nearly finished, and it sounds great.
[Now that the project is finished] I felt proud because it sounds good when it was finished. I’m proud because I achieved something.”
How did we listen, act and respond?
The Participation Team listened to children in We Do Care Juniors by inviting them to a 3-day project in the Easter holidays. The project was structured and used a framework to help the children reflect on their experiences to create a resource for other children and young people coming into care.
The young people’s experiences and ideas were included in the storybook in various ways – through their writing, their drawings, and through their spoken words, which were sometimes transcribed for them.
The Participation Team worked creatively to sculpt the children’s contributions into a physical storybook and a video. They then worked hard to get the final products and the stories out to as many people as possible, and continue to do so.
At the end of the project, the children that took part were given a certificate and a thank you gift, to recognise their contributions. Once the book and video had been put together, the Participation Team responded with a home visit to each of the children that took part, to share with them the book and the video, and to gather their feedback on the project. The Participation Team continue to be in close contact with the children through the We Do Care programme.
Angel, who led on the project, said the following:
“The We Do Care Team and other professionals are extremely proud of the four children that took part in this project.
We can’t thank them enough for sharing their experiences with us and being so amazing.”
Impact and learning
- The children that took part in this project have an improved sense of self and story, and are proud of their work and themselves.
- Increasingly, staff have an improved perspective of what coming into care, or moving between placements, feels like. This supports staff to be sensitive and trauma-informed.
- We hope that children coming into care will feel less alone. The book is being included in our New To Care boxes.
- We hope that more children and young people will engage with We Do Care when they see the book, enhancing youth participation in the future.