Carly Glover (38) is the CEO of Jersey Cares, a newly launched advocacy group for children in care. Through advocacy and training they aim to provide a bridge of trust between children, policy makers and the wider community. Iselin Jones spoke to her about the challenges ahead, why the organisation’s work matters and why she’s so passionate about creating lasting change for children in Jersey.
Words: Iselin Jones
Carly Glover has a big job. At the moment, there are 78 children in care in Jersey, 250 children ‘in need of support’, and another 120 ‘in need of protection’. Through Jersey Cares she is spearheading a massive mission – to make all of them feel loved.
Carly herself spent time in care. She went into care when she was 12 years old, but despite being with a foster family for two years, there was no closeness in their bond. ‘They were perfectly nice’, she says, ‘but they didn’t love me.’
Carly’s mission isn’t just personal. Jersey Cares is about creating a cultural change. By working within a wider network of care providers including charities, lawyers and local businesses their mission is to stop people talking about care as a system and rather listen to the lived experience of children in care. It’s about bringing the reality of care as it is, to life, and through that create meaningful change for the better.
What Carly wants to see is a care system that genuinely cares, that builds relationships with a foundation that will last, and will give children and young people security for a lifetime, not just until they are 16, 17, or 18.
She wants to see ‘care-families’ that extend into adulthood, that partake in the next stages of care-leavers’ lives, which are still there for the graduations and weddings and births.
‘The situation with me’, she says, ‘was that I had three graduations and nobody came.’
Carly arrived in Jersey a year and a half ago, shortly after the first Care Inquiry report was out. She came from Scotland where Nicola Sturgeon had already grabbed the care system by the horns. A charity similar to Jersey Cares had asked the First Minister, to ‘just listen’; listen to people with experience of care.
‘And she did’, says Carly, ‘She listened to hundreds of people for hours at a time.
‘As she listened she came to understand three things – children in the care system need to be loved, very often they’re not, or the system makes it difficult for people to love them and for them to love people back.
‘She came to realise that stigma needs to be challenged because often these aren’t the worst of kids, but they are kids who may have had the worst things happen to them. If you come from a family that’s struggled, or treated you poorly, into a system, and on top of that you’re labelled delinquent or inadequate just by virtue of being in that system, there’s a triple injustice.
‘The way to change things is to listen to people with lived experience and to act because you’ve listened. In doing so you transform a system into a childhood and a lifetime.’
In November 2017, Carly managed to get a delegation from Jersey including the then Chief Minister Ian Gorst, the Children’s Commissioner and the head of Children’s Services over to Scotland where they all spent a day listening to lived experiences.
‘We heard from a young man’, says Carly, ‘who’s been in residential care, with bars on the windows, for ten years. He told us that in all that time no one ever told him they loved him. We heard from people who said they were 14 before they got their first hug. Ian Gorst went back and said, “I get it, it’s about listening to lived experience. We haven’t listened and we haven’t loved.”’
That’s how Jersey Cares was born, and government funding secured.
By engaging children in care and care leavers in their lived experiences, change can take place from the top all the way down to the most basic grass roots community level.
‘What I saw when I arrived in Jersey,’ says Carly, ‘was that much of the narrative about care was about Children’s Services, and the local community can’t do a lot to impact Children’s Services, but they can do things to help children be loved, they can do things to help children have a childhood and they can empathise with how it might feel to no longer be able to see your brothers and sisters.’
Jersey Cares aims to make care tangible. They want to translate what being in care is really like, and in doing that, tackle key misconceptions people have about children in care.
‘Part of the work we’re doing, ‘ says Carly, ‘is telling a nuanced story. For example if you took the stats I gained from Scotland you get 5/6% of people from care going to University aged 18/19. You draw certain conclusions. But then you see that by ages 30/35 40% have gone to further education and then you start to see the problem isn’t aptitude it’s opportunity and circumstance. What you do find, which is beautiful, is that when people do understand the issues they want to help in all kinds of ways.’
One project Carly is keen to explore is a local mentoring scheme, where people in various professions would lend support to children in care in their given fields.
‘It could be as simple as someone spotting a spark in a child in care,’ she says, ‘that they are exceptional at science or they want to play rugby but they live with foster carers who don’t have that interest. It would be about matching people with a certain skill or interest that the young person has.’
Another possible initiative is an ‘adopt-a-granny scheme’ where care leavers, who are now themselves parents but with no family support, can connect with elderly members of the community with time and love to spare.
‘A young person I spoke to the other day described living in care like a maze’, Carly recalls. ‘She said if you fly over Jersey you just see a maze, but if you’re in care you walk every corner and you hit every dead end and you need someone to walk that maze with you.
‘I for example’, Carly says, ‘when I first went into care had no idea that it was going to be for longer than a few days, in the event it was years, and no one told me, so you really do need someone to walk alongside you.’
There’s something about Carly. Despite her petite 5’4’’ stature and soft voice, she speaks with a conviction that makes you sit up and listen – you tune in.
It strikes me that this is the very essence of what she is talking about. This is the essence of lived experience. This is real. This is not about numbers or politics or bureaucracy or official inquiries. At the heart of this is something much simpler.
‘It’s hopeful’, she says. ‘It’s a universal human story about family and love and belonging and I’ve not met anyone who, once they hear that story, remains indifferent.’