Care-experienced children and young people (CECYP)

Advice for professionals working with CECYP aged 7-18

The Care-experienced children and young people (CECYP) Index of Harms is broken down into the strands from the Education for a Connected World Framework. Each strand of the framework is summarised into at least one likely harm.

Self-image and identity

This strand explores the differences between online and offline identity beginning with self-awareness, shaping online identities and media influence in propagating stereotypes. It identifies effective routes for reporting and support and explores the impact of online technologies on self-image and behaviour.  (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Harm caused by others stereotypical views about care-experiences.

Behaviours/Indicators

  • Harm from inaccurate or ill-informed views about what being care-experienced means. This might take the form of poor information (e.g. all care leavers end up in prison) or politicised views of the care system.

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might:

  • Be able to be more open and relaxed about their care status if they chose
  • Seem more confident and accepting of challenges within their learning
  • Be more ambitious and forward thinking in their planning for the future

Possible responses

Promoting a more balanced picture of the life chances of CECYP within the school environment is important whilst adhering to the individual’s right to privacy and non-disclosure of their in care states. Additionally, emphasising the unique and individual potential of each young person is equally important. Some approaches could include:

  • Schools to use the guidance and support of the Local Authority Virtual School worker and Designated Teachers to support them with understanding needs of young person around identity culture and disclosure
  • Referring the CECYP to the “In Care Council” within their Local Authority (CECYP’s Social Worker should be able to facilitate this)
  • Making images and texts relating to care experiences available within school
  • Making good use of positive images of CECYP and those who have experienced care (Lemn Sissay, Ashley John Baptiste, Sophia Alexandra Hall, Jeannette Winterson for example)
  • Increasing awareness and recognition of the diversity of family and care experiences within the school settings. This could include partnership working with young adult care leavers and /or virtual schools
  • Making sure that there is good availability of literature that explores different care experiences (Benjamin Zephaniah, Ashley John Baptiste, Jacqueline Wilson, and the authors mentioned above all write about different kinds of CECYP)
  • Referring CECYP to Become

Likely Harm: Harm caused by other individuals stigmatising care-experiences.

Behaviours/Indicators

  • Harm from individuals with negative views about children and young people with care experience that seek to stigmatise or negate their identities through aggressive language and othering.

Assessment opportunity

Indicators of progress on these issues could include:

  • Be able to be more open and relaxed about their care status;
  • Seem more confident and accepting of challenges within their learning;
  • Be more ambitious and forward thinking in their planning for the future.

Possible responses

Positive strategies may include:

  • Talk to the CECYP about what negative responses (e.g. abuse, intimidation, online hate, online bullying, and harassment) look like and ask if anything like this has happened to them
  • Educating CECYP to understand how to create positive online images
  • Helping CECYP to know how to use strategies to protect their ‘digital personality’ and online reputation, including degrees of anonymity and privacy
  • Helping CECYP to learn how to report negative responses including how to block and/or complain to online platforms
  • Helping CECYP recover when things go wrong online by offering support to aid recovery
  • If applicable, tell the CECYP what the school/ educational setting will do next to address this
  • If applicable, empower and explain that it will be necessary to talk to the Police liaison officers and reporting to the CEOP

Likely Harm: Harm caused by abusive relationships.

Behaviours/Indicators

  • Psychologically and emotionally abusive relationships from people who target those with low self-esteem and low self-worth.

Assessment opportunity

CECYP able to articulate what abusive relationships look like. For some CECYP, the ability to differentiate between abusive and supportive relationships is difficult. Being able to identify harmful individuals or unhelpful relationships is a key area of learning. To also be reflective and aware of when their behaviours could be perceived as bullying towards others.

Other indicators might be:

  • CECYP able to demonstrate how to manage privacy settings and filters on social media
  • Ability to reflect on the different elements of healthy relationships
  • Differentiating between ‘a friend that you’ve fallen out with’ and someone who is intending harm or exploitation
  • CECYP aware of ways to use online spaces as a way to generate and maintain healthy relationships and when to remove themselves and talk to an appropriate trusted other

Possible responses

Positive strategies may include:

  • Talking to the CECYP about what negative responses (e.g. abuse, intimidation, online hate and harassment) look like and ask if anything like this has happened to them
  • Educating CECYP to understand how to create positive online images;
  • Helping CECYP to know how to use strategies to protect their ‘digital personality’ and online reputation, including degrees of anonymity and privacy
  • Helping CECYP to learn how to report negative responses including how to block and/or complain to online platforms
  • Helping CECYP recover when things go wrong online by offering support to aid recovery
  • If applicable, tell the CECYP what the school/ educational setting will do next to address this.

Likely Harm: Harm to self – image from presence of negative stereotypes of CECYP

Behaviours/Indicators

  • The absence of positive identities/role models for CECYP

Possible responses

  • Making good use of positive images of CECYP and those who have experienced care (e.g. Lemn Sissay, Ashley John Baptiste, Sophia Alexandra Hall, Jeannette Winterson who write about different kinds of CECYP)
  • Increasing awareness and recognition of the diversity of family and care experiences within the school setting
  • Availability of literature that explores different care experiences (e.g. Benjamin Zephaniah, Jacqueline Wilson who write about different kinds of CECYP)
  • Link in with the Virtual School and the Leaving Care Teams within your Local Authority for non-famous positive role models

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might:

  • Be able to be more open and relaxed about their care status, if they choose
  • Seem more confident and accepting of challenges within their learning
  • Be able to identify other care-experienced young people or young adults whom they can relate via their local community/school media/ local virtual school or in care voices organisations
  • Be more ambitious and forward thinking in their planning for the future

Likely Harm: Harm to self from using image searches to find birth-family.

Behaviours/Indicators

  • CECYP using old printed photos, taken at the time of their adoption/entry into care from Life Story Books and/or care records to “reverse image search” in an effort to find, for example, birth family members, previous and/or current carers, old home and/ neighbourhoods.

Assessment opportunity

This is likely to differ for each CECYP, however this may include:

  • They might be more open and able to communicate about contact with parents
  • They might show increased positive mood and better educational engagement
  • May be able to reflect more effectively on their reasons for wanting to contact previous carers
  • May become more curious and less anxious about their history
  • Would be able to explain to adults currently involved closely with them why these past relationships hold importance in the present

Possible responses

This has the potential to bring CECYP and birth families together, but this is not always wanted, or is done without considering the consequences. It is important to be clear about the need to report any safeguarding issues but do this openly and as far as possible with the consent of the CECYP.

Information needs to be passed onto the educational settings designated safeguarding lead(s).

Positive strategies may include:

  • Focusing on the problem not the person, switching from deficit to asset perspective (i.e. recognising the critical digital literacy skills, agency that the CECYP has used)
  • Strength-based work including postural work with CECYP about identity and/or life history/Life Story Work
  • It would be valuable to see incidents such as these as openings for relationship building with the CECYP, rather than just as setbacks, or as adding to a list of concerns

Online relationships

This strand explores how technology shapes communication styles and identifies strategies for positive relationships in online communities. It offers opportunities to discuss relationships, respecting, giving and denying consent and behaviours that may lead to harm and how positive online interaction can empower and amplify voice.  (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Harm resulting from contact

Behaviours/Indicators

  • Being contacted by or contacting people online who may present a safeguarding risk to the child or young person through exploitation. For example, grooming for sexual exploitation through image sharing. Behavioural changes might include increased secretiveness, being upset, withdrawn or distressed and unable to account for money or gifts.

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might:

  • Show an increasing awareness of the importance differing privacy settings in online spaces
  • Be able to implement differing privacy settings in online spaces
  • Be able to demonstrate a better understanding of the features of grooming behaviours and what they look like
  • Show an increasing awareness of how to block and avoid people who may present a safeguarding risk
  • Show an increasing awareness of those within the educational settings whom they can go to for advice and support in this area, for example, their virtual school worker or designated teacher.

Possible responses

  • Have regular training for staff and provide frequent learning opportunities for pupils about online relationships and safety
  • Talk with the CECYP about their interests and feelings
  • Make yourself available for them to share their concerns with you
  • Be clear about the need to report any safeguarding issues but do this openly and, as far as possible, with CECYP’s consent
  • Seek support from senior colleagues as appropriate

Likely Harm: Harm from contacting birth relatives

Behaviours/Indicators

Being contacted by or seeking contact with birth relatives who represent a safeguarding risk to the child or young person. For example, a birth relative makes contact through social media, even though there are Court Orders prohibiting this. Children and young people might present with behavioural changes. These may include:

  • A loss of confidence in their role and identity within their care setting
  • An angry or depressive response to a resurfacing of earlier childhood conflicts or issues
  • Demand avoidance or openly seeking conflict in school settings
  • Talk more about birth family members
  • New unexplained items /gifts
  • Spending more time alone

Assessment opportunity

This is likely to differ for each CECYP, however this may include:

If safe contact can be enabled by social care, CECYP may:

  • Be more open to communicate about contact with parents more coherently;
  • Have increased mood and educational engagement;

If safe contact is not possible, CECYP are able to communicate the reasons for this.

CECYP might also:

  • Have a more coherent and positive narrative about their life story.
  • Be more open to the idea of challenges and the development of their capabilities (growth mindset).

Possible responses

  • Being contacted will have different connotations for each CECYP depending upon their care placement, personal history and relationship(s) with their birth family member(s)
  • Teaching professional must not take a critical stance on the CECYP’s past and their relationship with their birth family members
  • Pastoral work with CECYP could include discussions about previous life story work, including how the person or people contacting them feature in their personal history. This is a sensitive area and needs skilled and careful guidance with work with the Team Around the Child (TAC) so that everyone is working together and clear on their roles
  • It is important to be clear about the need to report any safeguarding issues but to do this openly and as far as possible with the consent of the CECYP
  • Information and concerns should be passed on to the School Safeguarding lead as soon as possible.

Online reputation

This strand explores the concept of reputation and how others may use online information to make judgements. It offers opportunities to develop strategies to manage personal digital content effectively and capitalise on technology’s capacity to create effective positive profiles.  (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Harm to caused by negative online experiences

Behaviours/Indicators

CECYP may choose to share their care status in online spaces. There may be circumstances where this may elicit negative responses (e.g. abuse, intimidation, online hate and harassment).

Like other children and young people, CECYP experiencing abuse online may:

  • Spend a lot more or a lot less time than usual online, texting, gaming etc;
  • Seem distant, upset or angry after using the internet or texting;
  • Be secretive about who they are talking to and what they are doing on digital devices;
  • Have lots of new phone numbers, texts or email addresses on their digital devices;
  • Be afraid to go to school, being mysteriously ‘ill’ each morning, or skipping school;
  • Not be doing as well at school as they have done previously.

Assessment opportunity

When checking the impact of suggestions, CECYP may:

  • Be able to identity if they are being bullied online
  • Be able to communicate clearly how to block and/or report online bullying behaviour
  • Be able to describe and/or show a teacher how they manage their privacy settings
  • Exhibit less anxiety about being active online
  • Be more open about how they manage contact with others online

Possible responses

  • Talk to the CECYP about what negative responses (e.g. abuse, intimidation, online hate and harassment) look like and ask if anything like this has happened to them
  • Educating CECYP to understand how to represent themselves online safely
  • Helping CECYP to know how to use strategies to protect their ‘digital personality’ and online reputation, including degrees of anonymity and privacy
  • Helping CECYP to learn how to report negative responses including how to block and/or complain to online platforms
  • Helping CECYP recover when things go wrong online by offering support to aid recovery – If applicable, tell the CECYP what the school/ educational setting will do next to address these experiences
  • Being non-judgemental and understanding that CECYP’s past experience(s) may mean they have a different narrative around online sexualise behaviour, allow this to be spoken about

Online bullying

This strand explores bullying and other online aggression and how technology impacts those issues. It offers strategies for effective reporting and intervention and considers how bullying and other aggressive behaviour relates to legislation. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Harm from bullying behaviours

Behaviours/Indicators

May take the form of targeted systematic attacks. Bullying (including online bullying) can have long lasting effects on physical and mental health which can continue into adulthood

Behavioural changes may include:

  • Withdrawn or depressed presentation
  • Loss of self-efficacy (a reluctance to engage in activities at school for example)
  • Attempts to hide or change appearance
  • Not attending school

Assessment opportunity

CECYP may be able to:

  • Be more aware of the signs of bullying (including online bullying) and how to report these on platforms and in educational settings as appropriate
  • recognise that bullying (including online bullying) is not ‘just banter’ or ‘everyone does it’ and they are knowledgeable and empowered to respond appropriately
  • Take a critical perspective on different peoples care journeys
  • Be able to challenge generalisations about CECYP – ‘just because lots of care leavers end up in prison doesn’t mean I will’
  • Talk about their own experience as an individual rather than being part of a homogenous group

Possible responses

  • Ongoing dialogues within school about what bullying (and online bullying) is and what it means for people
  • Working with children and young people in PSHE about boundary setting and the right to report and withdraw from bullying (and online bullying) relationships
  • CECYP being encouraged to exercise their right to report and complain about online bullying via social media service providers and schools to engage as per their local procedures

Managing Online Information

This strand explores how online information is found, viewed and interpreted. It offers strategies for effective searching, critical evaluation of data, the recognition of risks and the management of online threats and challenges. It explores how online threats can pose risks to our physical safety as well as online safety. It also covers learning relevant to ethical publishing.  (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Harm caused by anxiety linked to online vs offline persona

Behaviours/Indicators

  • CECYP experiencing anxiety about how they present on social media; Difficulties in setting boundaries for sharing information about their circumstances (e.g. “Do I say I’m in foster care? If I don’t am I lying? If I do will I be rejected or targeted?”).

Assessment opportunity

CECYP may be able to:

  • Be comfortable about who they are and how they chose to represent their experiences in online;
  • Be able to adjust these representations as they see fit;
  • Take a critical perspective on different peoples care journeys;
  • Talk about their own experience as an individual rather than being part of a homogenous group.

Possible responses

  • Recognising that online relationships are ‘managed’ just as face to face ones are
  • Encourage CECYP to see themselves being in charge of the information that they choose to share and nor share
  • Recognising that not everything and everyone are as they appear in social media

Likely Harm: Harm caused by viewing misleading information

Behaviours/Indicators

  • Harm through misleading or malicious information about the experiences of CECYP. For example, websites or social media groups that suggest that children in care have been ‘stolen’ from their birth families. (Also well-meaning but unhelpful tropes such as ‘Care leavers are more likely to go to prison than attend University’)

Assessment opportunity

CECYP may be able to:

  • Take a critical perspective on different peoples care journeys.
  • Be able to  challenge generalisations about CECYP – ‘just because lots of care leavers end up in prison doesn’t mean I will’;
  • Talk about their own experience as an individual rather than being part of a homogenous group.

Within the school environment there might be:

  • More discussions within the school environment about diverse family structures;
  • More open acknowledgement of different kinds of childhoods that people experience, beyond the stereotype of the nuclear family.

Possible responses

  • Making good use of positive images of CECYP and those who have experienced care (Ashley John Baptiste, Lemn Sissay, Sophia Alexandra Hall, Jeannette Winterson for example)
  • Putting CECYP in contact with organisations such as Become
  • Challenging stigmatising narratives in school by promoting discussion about different kinds of childhood and different family structures
  • Not all CECYP have positive experiences of foster, kinship or residential care and there are many things that need to improve in the United Kingdom (UK). Try to be open, balanced and realistic about the range of experiences
  • Building on the idea of a ‘growth mindset’ and applying this directly to CECYP.

Health, wellbeing and lifestyle

This strand explores the impact that technology has on health, well-being and lifestyle e.g. mood, sleep, body health and relationships. It also includes understanding negative behaviours and issues amplified and sustained by online technologies and the strategies for dealing with them. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Harm from pornography and explicit material online

Behaviours/Indicators

The seriousness of harm will vary in accordance with the age, developmental stage, temperament and personality of the child or young person. Not all CECYP will have open or supportive relationships with their carers, and opportunities to talk about sexuality in a healthy and supportive way may be limited. For CECYP who have been sexually abused, this may be particularly fraught and complex.

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might be able to:

  • Talk more openly about the potential risks and harms that are associated with looking at pornography;
  • Be able to discuss the legal issues related to pornography;
  • Feel confident about finding reliable sources of information about their sexuality and sexual development and be able to relate these to an appropriate adult.

Possible responses

Shame and anxiety, as well as the legal issues around young people accessing pornography, mean that this issue is likely to remain hidden at school. The same is the case for CECYP, but there are additional complexities which mean the following may be of use:

  • Accepting that although pornography can be and is often harmful, children and young people might seek it out of curiosity and a desire to explore their sexuality;
  • Sexual abuse creates particular dilemmas for CECYP as their sexuality develops; these may be exacerbated by exposure to pornography;
  • An open and non-judgemental attitude is important in responding to CECYP who have concerns. Expressing disgust or disapprobation risks reinforcing the ideas that sex is dirty and something to be ashamed of;
  • Advice and teaching about sexuality should be part of the school curriculum. This should encourage more open discussions and a more comfortable atmosphere for CECYP to approach trusted teachers when they need guidance.

Likely Harm: Harm in the form of sexual harassment

Behaviours/Indicators

This could include the sending of unsolicited pictures of a sexual nature; entrapments to send such pictures (see also grooming); sending emails or messages with a sexual content; making derogatory comments about a person’s sexuality; Unwanted sharing of sexual stories/links to pornography etc. This behaviour is likely to be disturbing to most if not all people, but the severity of impact will be mediated by age, developmental stage and previous abusive experiences. Re-experiencing past trauma is possible in the latter case.

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might be able to:

  • Explain and or demonstrate how to block unwanted material to their social media feeds;
  • Talk more openly about the potential risks and harms that are associated with sexual imagery;
  • Be able to discuss the legal issues related to sexual imagery;
  • Feel confident about finding reliable sources of information about their sexuality and sexual development and be able to relate these to an appropriate adult.

Possible responses

  • Teach CECYP about the meaning and dynamics of harassment
  • Encourage CECYP to recognise their rights and to complain to service providers about harassment and abuse
  • Show CECYP how to block unwanted content using filters and to block abusive individuals for their social media
  • Through pastoral services within school, make resources available to CECYP, including one to one discussions
  • Peer group trainers can be effective for developing awareness and understanding in ways that young people can relate to

Likely Harm: Harm from being outed as a CECYP

Behaviours/Indicators

Where this occurs CECYP might experience a sense of loss of control, as well as a threat to their sense of privacy and security. There might be concrete negative outcomes for CECYP where they have been carefully managing their status and identity in their social world.

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might be able to:

  • Explain and or demonstrate how to block unwanted material to their social media feeds;
  • Be more aware of the signs of harassment and how to report this on platforms and in educational settings as appropriate;
  • Recognise the signs of coercion and control and are empowered to respond appropriately;
  • Be able to communicate clearly how to block and/or report individuals posing a risk

Possible responses

  • Teach CECYP about the meaning and dynamics of harassment;
  • Talk with the CECYP about the boundaries of relationships in their lives – who they share which parts of their lives with and when;
  • There is a need to emphasise that the loss of control of information is the key harm here, rather than the fact of the CECYP’s care status being disclosed;
  • Talk about the importance of security and privacy settings on social media and other online spaces.
  • If applicable, agree with the CECYP what the school/ educational setting will do next to address the situation experienced

Likely Harm: Harm to physical well-being from suicide or self-harm.

Behaviours/Indicators

Suicide and self-harm rates are higher amongst CECYP than in the general population. Some websites actively promote suicide and self-harm; CECYP may seek them out or have their attention drawn to them through their social circle. Self-harming, such as cutting, is characterised as a way of managing extreme emotions. It may also have a dual role as signalling distress to others (although self-harming is also associated with deep shame and many people go to great lengths to hide evidence of this).

Assessment opportunity

  • CECYP able to talk with carers and/or a key member of teaching or pastoral staff about their need to self-harm
  • Reduction in low mood and or signs of self-harming when the CECYP is within the school environment.
  • Improved communication about feelings and beliefs within the school environment

Possible responses

  • Provision of good pastoral services within the school including, or through access to a local specialist service to provide support and counselling.
  • Training for school staff to identify signs of self harm;
  • Training for staff to approach and manage self harm and suicidal thoughts with young people and children;
  • Foster an understanding within the school that suicidal despair underlies different forms of behaviour. Some might be internalising (self harm, withdrawal) but some externalising (aggressive behaviour, fighting, disruption)

Likely Harm: Harm to emotional well-being from digital self-harm

Behaviours/Indicators

Digital self-harm is a behaviour that occurs when an individual creates an online account and uses it to send/post hurtful messages or threats to oneself and/or may deliberately provoke and offend online to receive the negative attention and responses. Self-harming in this way can be characterised as a way of managing extreme emotions and/or a cry for help. Research indicates this is increasingly likely for those whom experience bullying/ online bullying – to which CECYP are more likely to experience

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might be able to:

  • CECYP able to talk with carers and/or a key member of teaching or pastoral staff about their need to self-harm;
  • Reduction in low mood and or signs of self-harming when the CECYP is within the school environment;
  • Improved communication about feelings and beliefs within the school environment.

Possible responses

  • Provision of good pastoral services within the school including, or through access to a local specialist service to provide support and counselling;
  • Training for school staff to identify signs of digital self-harm;
  • Training for staff to approach and manage digital self-harm and suicidal thoughts with young people and children;
  • Foster and understanding in school that digital self-harm may be underlied by despair. Despair can be linked to internalised (self-harm, withdrawal) and externalised (aggressive behaviour, fighting, disruption) behaviour.

Privacy and security

This strand explores how personal online information can be used, stored, processed and shared. It offers both behavioural and technical strategies to limit impact on privacy and protect data and systems against compromise.  (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Risk to privacy and safety caused by loss of control of personal data

Behaviours/Indicators

CECYP may share, receive and store more emotionally sensitive information than their peers . How they manage the sharing and storage of this information is important as it helps them gain a sense of privacy and of control over their online and real world identities.

Issues might include:

  • The storing and sharing of photos from the CECYP’s present or their history;
  • The management of access to shared computers in care placements.
  • Access to reflections that the CECYP has recorded in trying to develop their life story.

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might:

  • Be able to describe and or demonstrate how to manage the security and privacy settings on their social media;
  • Be able to describe how they go about deciding who to share information with

Possible responses

  • CECYP may also be encouraged to use platforms which are aimed at this group which may store emotional/life history information (e.g. Mind Of My Own);
  • Talk with the CECYP about how they might manage sensitive information online.

Copyright and ownership

This strand explores the concept of ownership of online content. It explores strategies for protecting personal content and crediting the rights of others as well as addressing potential consequences of illegal access, download and distribution. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Harm to online reputation through lack of consent to share images

Behaviours/Indicators

CECYP shares image of themselves/ birth family member/ carer(s)/ Social Worker(s) on social media/ online platform(s)

Assessment opportunity

CECYP might:

  • Be able to reflect upon and explain why they posted the image;
  • Be able to understand and describe what the possible consequences for themselves and others might be;
  • Be able to describe how they might go about doing things differently on another occasion.

Possible responses

This will be different for different CECYP depending upon if it is safe/ appropriate/legal for them to post an image(s):

  • Teacher to link with Safeguarding Lead to find what is the agreed arrangement for what is possible for the individual CECYP;
  • Try and understand CECYP reason for post/share through discussion;
  • Talk to the CECYP about how they might ask permission to share images of others.

Useful resources

See our list of useful resources for further support.

Inclusive digital safety resources

Professional Online Safety Helpline

Over 13 – Report Harmful Content Professional Online Safety Helpline

Project Envolve

Childnet Star resource

Making the internet safer and more inclusive

Together with SWGfL we've created this hub to provide online safety advice and guidance to support parents & professionals working with children and young people experiencing vulnerabilities.

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