Blog: Linda

The head of policy and practice development at charity Coram Voice on a writing competition for people with experience of being in care

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“People say care kids amount to nothing. But I am going to prove them wrong. I’m going to be something. Working hard being strong.”

This is an extract from the poem A New Chapter written by G, a young care leaver, shortlisted in Voices, our national writing competition for care-experienced children and young people.

G’s words echo what many other children and young people tell us about their experiences of the care system. Through our Bright Spots programme with local authorities, we measured the wellbeing of over 3,000 children in care, who told us of the negative stereotypes they often face. Our research also highlights that children in care want a greater emphasis on their strengths and achievements, to challenge some of the stigma.

This is one of the main reasons we started our Voices writing competition, now in its third year. The competition provides a positive platform for care-experienced young people to showcase their creative talents and celebrate their achievements.

Feedback from previous entrants has shown that this is one of the driving factors in entering the competition. One young person said: “My main ambition was to take [children in care] to a better place, because of all the [negative] stories in the media; I want to change it for the better”. Another added: “You get recognised for doing something good for yourself.”

Taking part in Voices has led to other positive opportunities for many of the previous entrants, with their writing being published in a book, being shared within their schools and local authorities, and inspiring them to write more.

One entrant said: “The competition can be the start of a journey… it opens up new opportunities and also shows people the potential you have.” The foster carer of one of 2017’s winners said: “His self-esteem has shot through the roof, which is the best thing.”

“I was always writing when I was growing up in care. It helps us begin to process what has happened to us.”

The competition is also a safe space where young people can reflect on their experiences and emotions, using writing as a way to address the trauma and loss they have faced.

One of our competition judges, care-experienced author Jenny Molloy said: “I was always writing when I was growing up in care. It helps us begin to process what has happened to us through our own lens, not from the perspective of our social workers or anyone else, and provides an outlet for any unresolved trauma building up inside.”

Some of our previous competition entrants said that the competition had helped them come to terms with being in care. One young person said: “I gained confidence to share parts of my life that I would have been ashamed to share before – to put what you feel on a piece of paper is quite therapeutic.” Another added: “It’s a wonderful way to embrace your history and yourself.”

The competition provides an opportunity for us to hear, and most importantly, listen to the voices of children in care and young care leavers so we can better understand them and help to make their lives better. Last year, for example, Voices entries were part of our evidence on what children and young people think about foster care to the government’s Fostering Stocktake.

We’re now encouraging children and young people to enter this year’s Voices, open until 8 February.

The theme is “Who or What Makes You Proud?” and entries can be submitted online at in any written form, including poems, short stories, raps and newspaper articles with a 500 word limit. The competition is grouped in four age categories: primary school, lower secondary school (age 11-14), upper secondary school (age 15-18) and care leavers.

Shortlisted entrants will have their writing judged by an inspirational panel of writers, authors and journalists – many with personal experience of the care system.

We are continually inspired by the resilience and maturity of young people in care, and we hope the competition will showcase the important stories they have to tell, and improve understanding of their experiences.

Find out more at and you can watch the competition animations including A New Chapter by G at You can read writing by Lancashire care leavers at

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