Favourite places

Building strong relationships and belonging

Analysis of the young people’s responses to our activities around spaces, sounds and objects illustrated often very strong relationships with current and former carers, as well as suggesting practices that helped to build such relationships in new placements. Some of these factors are discussed above; notably being involved in collective activities and decision-making around the decoration of communal spaces and bedrooms, and of being able to listen to music, play computer games, read or lie on their beds there. Having other quiet places to be alone was again important. The front porch was a place Penfold could think in the early days of his placement.

Out on the front porch that’s where I feel safe.. when I first came here I used to always run away and then eventually when I got brought back.. I wouldn’t come into the house, I’d just sit there and I’d get used to it.

Later his favourite place became his corner of the conservatory where he had his gaming chair, computer and games and could calm down, alone or with a dog. Similarly, Liz (12, foster care) remembered:

When I was at my first carers..whenever I got really stressed or angry they put a cardboard box in the front porch for me and I’d go and like step on it and …vandalise it [laugh]…got my anger and stress out.

In contrast, other respondents pointed to difficult placements where they had been unable to find or create such places or to listen to the music they liked.

Animals were often important in new placements, allowing respondents to give and receive physical affection. Mackenzie (14, living with mother) explained:

 that’s my favourite cat.. He’s so cuddly and friendly..you can just pick him up and cuddle with him.. I just sit there and talk to him!

Some animals also had biographical significance. Maylak talked to his dog which had previously belonged to his late mother. Penfold spoke of his carers’ dogs in very human terms, describing them as his and looking after them throughout the interview. He also liked the dogs being with him when otherwise alone in his corner of the conservatory.

Charlie on my gaming chair. Penfold
Charlie on my gaming chair. Penfold

That gaming chair’s exactly where I sit, and Charlie’ll come up and sit on me while I play it …he’ll just lie across me and I’ll play the Xbox.

None of the participants in residential or secure units spoke of pets, but Steven loved a new bee-keeping and gardening project in a secure unit.