Leaving home for the first time is a daunting enough experience for anyone, but imagine leaving at 18 years old and not having anyone to call if something goes wrong.
At Team Fostering, we feel it is essential before young people leave care to provide them with the tools and experience that they need in order to prepare for the future. In our Yorkshire and East Midlands offices we run monthly Life Skills Sessions, aimed at teaching many of the skills required when leaving home. However, there are just some things which you can’t teach in a classroom and that’s why we developed our ‘Journey to Independence’ residential.
The idea behind the weekend was to cover as many life lessons as possible, but also having lots of fun! To achieve this we teamed up with the team at Acclimbatize, and Mount Cook Adventure Centre who provided a range of activities to build resilience, confidence and self-esteem.
After waving goodbye to their carers, our young people boarded a train destined for Cromford in Derbyshire, a journey which had been discussed by our Education and Support Service staff at the residential planning evening. The group had been tasked with planning the route themselves, already beginning to build on key planning skills for the future.
Arriving at Cromford, the young people had a short walk before teaming up and working together to canoe down the Cromford Canal. This not only tested their coordination, but in some cases, their patience! Next, they were required to navigate for three kilometres up a steep trail to find Mount Cook Adventure Centre. Once the young explorers arrived at the centre, they were each issued their own bedroom with en-suite bathroom, before coming together to prepare tea. The group regularly cook at our Life Skills Sessions, so were no strangers to the kitchen. They quickly rustled up some tasty chicken fajitas and afterwards cleaned up ready for the night walk.
In the evening the group walked to Black Rocks where they watched the sun setting over the Derbyshire Dales, a beautiful view to say the least. The head torches came out in full force and the group made their way back to the centre to end the day with hot chocolate and marshmallows around the campfire.
The next morning the group woke early, energetic and excited for the day ahead. After cooking and enjoying a full English breakfast, the team headed out for a session on Mount Cook’s new High-Ropes course, which aims to develop a sense of cohesion within groups by increasing communication and teamwork experience. All individuals were given the opportunity to take on The Gladiator Challenge, and each decided how far they wanted to step outside of their comfort zones. For the daring, the next step was the much more intimidating Leap of Faith. The group ended the session with the crate stack challenge, where two of our young people managed to build a stack of crates 17 high before it toppled over!
During lunch, the group received a talk from Jess (one of our former care leavers) and her foster carer Phil. Jess discussed some of the life skills that she’d learnt the hard way, as well as highlighting key tips and including amusing anecdotes which kept the group engaged. Jess emphasized the importance of budgeting and knowing how to ask for help when things go wrong. Phil explained some of the things which foster carers can do to help with independence, and it was great to hear the group members asking both Phil and Jess a lot of questions. Mandy, the Guest Services Manager at Mount Cook, then taught the young people how to clean their rooms, including what to do to clean the toilet and bathroom. The task proved beneficial as for some, this was very new territory, while others were more comfortable with the task.
The weekend was rounded off with an evaluation and reflection session, where the young people were encouraged to talk about their comfort zones, and what had pushed them during the weekend. The feedback was extremely positive, they’d all had a fantastic time and all agreed that it had been a valuable weekend. Mount Cook Adventure Centre, which opened in July 2016, is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to provide activities for young people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience them. All that was left to finish off the trip was the trek back to the station and the train home.
While the weekend was a great success, the young group were all left very much aware that the journey to independence is a challenging road, and that there will inevitably be difficulties along the way. With a bit of luck, our young people will now feel more confident when the time comes to tackle any hurdles, and more resilient to overcome the challenges that they may encounter.
For more information on the fantastic work Team Fostering do for young people, please visit their website: www.teamfostering,co.uk