Befriending makes a significant difference in the lives of young people. The role of an independent visitor can be immensely satisfying and stimulating. Whatever difficulties the young people may have experienced in their early years they generally want to give as well as receive friendship.
16 year old Shelly* wasn’t very confident and was an isolated girl. Through a difficult period in her life, having an independent visitor for over two years has boosted her self esteem, confidence and she has now even moved into independent living from foster care. Her independent visitor demonstrated how having a consistent adult in her life gave Shelly the chance to trust someone and rely upon them to be there for her. In two years Shelly has gone from being the quiet young girl who wouldn’t even say what she wanted to eat from a menu and now she is able to speak up and even have the confidence to ask questions and speak for herself in meetings.
12 year old Emily* had always wanted to ice skate. She never had a real hobby before and when her independent visitor asked if she would like to go ice skating, Emily couldn’t believe her luck. She had finally made a friend that she knew would spend quality time with her doing what she wants and even one who could teach her to ice skate! Emily and her independent visitor bonded straight away and visited a number of new places together. Although their formal arrangement has ended they still make phone contact every so often. Emily reports that she continues to skate and is becoming very skilled which has also helped build confidence in herself and she has developed new friendships with those at the ice rink.
What young people have said:
“My independent visitor is the best. She is funny and a great person to talk to. She even loves the same band as me!”
“We love going to new places together. My independent visitor has become a good friend and someone I can rely on.”
“I’ve learnt with my independent visitor that I don’t have to hide my feelings and that I can talk about things that are worrying me.”
What independent visitors have said:
“I’ve got so much out of it. The return has been out of all proportion to the time and effort I have put in. I thought I would be doing all the giving…it has been a real surprise and so satisfying. I wanted to do something to help a young person in care. It is not as difficult as I first thought it might be. We have so much in common and lots of fun. It is really good to know that I can bring some enjoyment and quality time into his life.”
“As a retired couple we thought it would be nice to do something together, especially with a young person. We just do ordinary things like going for walks, taking him swimming or playing football in the garden. The case meetings we attend to discuss his care plan are particularly interesting and it is really good to know that as independent visitors we are able to feedback to social services the positive way we have seen our young person develop.”
*Names have been changed to protect young people’s identities