The Brightness of Stars: Stories from Care Experienced Adults to Inspire Change
In this poignant book, Lisa Cherry brings together a collection of candid and personal reflections on the care system in the UK, offering alternative ways of thinking about the care experience, supporting better ways of working, and providing justification for a trauma-informed lens to be applied to all forms of work with those in care.
Through personal insights and reflections, the book brings often-unheard stories vividly to life, beginning with the author’s own. These are stories about love and pain; hurt and isolation; the depth of lived experience that makes up a life; how we live our lives through our relationships with others and where we feel we fit in. In this thoughtfully compiled third edition, original contributors look back on their own reflections from the lives that they live now, new stories bring new perspectives, and discussion points provide the opportunity to consider the realities of the care experience as well as life beyond.
Whilst each story is unique, shared themes reveal the truth of the care system and, coming at a time where there is a real opportunity for change, the narratives in this book are ultimately stories of hope and connection. This is crucial reading for policy makers, those working in social work, education and adoption, as well as care experienced adults.
Table of Contents
Foreword, Preface, References, Acknowledgements, Contributors, Care Home Flickerings, Introduction, 1970-1980, 1980-1983, 1983, 1984-1985, 1986, 1987-1989, 1990, 2021, Tim - Education, Jane - Recovery, Noel - Identity, Dianne - Connection, Carrie - Strength, Pav - Integrity, Siani - Visibility, Rosie - Literature, Isabelle - Love, Sean - Care Activism, Jamie - Growth, Shaunna - Relationships, Conclusion, Mentors, Index
Lisa Cherry is a leading international trainer and consultant, specialising in assisting professionals working with vulnerable children and families to understand trauma, recovery and resilience. Lisa brings nearly three decades of working in educational and social care settings and a 30-year journey of recovery in overcoming her own experiences of trauma.
Lisa Cherry is not only a great thinker and writer, she’s a deeply wise, insightful, courageous, loving and humane presence, with a truly remarkable capacity to communicate how she transformed her childhood of neglect, pain and trauma, including being in care from the age of 13, into a life of personal growth, healing and helping the vulnerable. The other immensely impressive care experienced adults she brings together to tell their stories in this wonderful book do the same. The result [This] is a truly inspirational book that provides the vital ingredient of hope that is usually missing from such analyses, along with countless insights into how vulnerable children, adults and families can be helped.
Professor Harry Ferguson, Department of Social Work and Social Care, University of Birmingham
This new edition of the ‘The Brightness of Stars’ powerfully captures the lives of adults who have experienced care. It is an enlightening book which includes their current reflections on their original stories told in 2013, as well as additional contributions. There is much to learn in these stories about how care casts a long shadow on their adult lives, as well the development of resilience in adulthood through love, education, human agency, support and self-fulfilment.
This book is essential reading for all those who work with care experienced young people and adults, as well as those who care about how society does or does not care for its most vulnerable children.
Professor Mike Stein, University of York, author of ‘Care Less Lives: The Story of the Rights Movement of Young People in Care’
Profound and deeply moving, these personal accounts of care experienced individuals speak of their courage, strength and resilience in the face of adversity. Skilfully and sensitively curated by Lisa Cherry, who also shares her own story, this is a masterclass for those of us seeking to learn by walking in the shoes of those with lived experience. Please do read this book. It has given me new insight into myself and into the work that has been my life’s passion.
Charlotte Ramsden, Strategic Director for People, Salford City Council
The contributors to this collection (all, but one, raised in care as children) are of various ages and cross the generations. Their chapters are like a Christmas bran tub, full of gifts of different shapes and sizes. That the stories also run the gamut of care experiences, from the positive to the traumatic, reflects the kaleidoscopic reality of that experience. It is a particularly welcome feature of the book, since it challenges the tendency to stereotype both the care experience and those who go through it. For me, having read through the chapters was like sitting there as a child, on Christmas morning, surrounded by wrapping paper and delighted by the variety of presents I’d uncovered. Dr Jim Goddard, Chair of The Care Leavers Association
In providing this third edition of The Brightness of Stars Lisa Cherry gives another opportunity for 10 adults (herself included) to reflect on how their lives, before during and after being ‘in care’ have shaped who they are now. It also provides the chance for some to ‘up-date’ and add further reflection. They each had a different journey through childhood and beyond, not least because entry to care came for some (welcome or as a profound shock) after time with their first families, and for others before they had known their families. Even acknowledging that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ in-care experience, these are far from ‘familiar’ stories as these are ten of the, thankfully growing number, of ‘bright stars’, those who in their own estimations and those whose lives they have touched, are making a success of their lives. The stories told are personal, and more about their internal responses to what life in care did to rather than did for these individuals. They tell us little about the detail of being in foster or residential care. But they remind us that ‘care’ is a necessary public service, and provide messages about how it can do better. Despite some upsetting statistics and shocking stories, most who need to come into care do ‘well enough’, and most do better than if they had remained at home without the services their families would have needed. But as Lisa Cherry reminds us children who need to come into care are– each in their own way- special – they all need love and parenting but ‘Good Enough parenting for these children is not good enough – they all need the Very Best Parenting, Parenting Extraordinaire’.
June Thoburn, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, The University of East Anglia