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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

I’m a proud (corporate) parent!

I’m often struck by what a crude term ‘corporate parent’ is - we use it to describe our shared responsibilities to our children looked after and I guess it is a short hand for all the things we do and would want to do for the children in our care.

Recently I was struck right where it matters - in the heart - by the huge success of one of our care leavers in Swindon, a young man called Abdul, and his story reminded me exactly why I’ve been doing this work for the last 34 years!

Abdul was an ‘asylum seeker’ a ‘refugee’ but actually he was just a child who, now, at just 19 years old is becoming an inspirational jockey and recently won national recognition as he was nominated for and won a prestigious national ‘young achiever’ award in the Pride of Sport Awards 2016.

Abdul has overcome massive tragedies, in 2004 aged six or seven his father, mother and two sisters were killed and his home village burned to the ground. He fled with family friends to a neighbouring country and then two years later to another, after civil war broke out there… hence his journey began and he lived for two years in one of the world’s most inhospitable refugee camps. Eventually he arrived in Swindon, on the back of a lorry, like so many others we are getting to know across the country. He was placed with a foster carer and he was eventually granted asylum.

He went to the local college to study, but was withdrawn and clearly struggling. Unsurprisingly he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the Association’s own thematic report on unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children local authorities highlighted the mental and physical health of UASCs arriving in the UK as a common concern, many young people displayed psychological symptoms upon arrival, such as PTSD, flashbacks and depression. Over time, thanks to his determination and the dedication of his carers, Abdul’s confidence grew and his English improved. ‘We developed such a strong rapport and he really came out of his shell,’ recalled Ira his carer.

He then achieved sponsorship via a charity to a jockey school. ‘When I ride, I feel free of everything that has happened to me … I understand horses, they understand me,’ Abdul says.

After he won the award he visited our office, bringing his trophy with him and said he wanted to share it with us for a few days, to share in his achievement. That in itself is such a wonderful and thoughtful gesture and it proved to be one of those rare moments when all the stress fades away and you’re overcome with a tremendous sense of pride, elation – and indeed awe in Abdul’s case. I smiled inanely for hours. (Ok I know I’ve been known to do that occasionally!)

Whilst being a massive credit to our staff, it also bears testimony to the truly wonderful work of foster carers who we depend on to provide such dedicated care and support day in, day out often with little formal recognition. For Abdul, that help has proved truly transformational and for me Abdul’s fortitude, courage and achievements have demonstrated just what good corporate parenting means and looks like – I am a very proud (corporate) parent!

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