Using Language that Cares (Guide for DT’s)

Language That Cares: Using language and communication that supports our young people and understands their feelings

Language is a powerful tool of communication and as professionals, we need to ensure that the language we use is understanding of care-experienced young people, particularly when writing reports like PEPs. Here are some useful suggestions from the TACT fostering agency to consider in your practice:

A
Abscond
We prefer: Run away; Go missing
Advocate
“Says what it is but it might need explaining to some children and young people.”
Cheshire East Young People
Asylum seeker
We prefer: Young people
“Asylum seeker is a home office term, these young people are much more than
a Home Office label.” Social Worker
B
Birth/Biological Parents
We prefer: Parents; Family; Mum or Tummy Mummy; Dad
“You should access each child individually to find out what they like calling their
family members.” Cheshire East Young Person
“The words can also be excluding and disadvantageous to birth parents and it is
important for this to be considered as well.” Foster Carer
C
Care leaver
We prefer: Care experienced adult
“We prefer ‘care experienced’ but we are not always keen on the word ‘care’ as this can
mean anything due to ‘care’ having a wide definition.” Cheshire East Young People
Care plan
We prefer: Future plans; My plan
“The word ‘care’ needs less usage, it is used too commonly, and I am fed up of
hearing it.” Cheshire East Young Person

Challenging Behaviour
We prefer: Having trouble coping; Distressed feelings; Different thinking method;
Difficult thoughts
“Children and young people who are finding coping tough are not ‘challenging’
they are in need of your help and support.” Social Worker
Consistent guide
We prefer: Constant support
“When we fall, you will catch us and help us get back on track.”
Cheshire East Young People
Contact
We prefer: Making plans to see our family; Family meet up time/Family time;
Seeing Dad/Mum/Grandma/etc.
“Contact should be changed to meeting with friends and family!”
Waltham Forest Young Person
“I would prefer ‘seeing family’. Seeing family is normal for anyone but ‘contact’
makes it sound like it’s not normal.” York Care Leavers Forum
“Contact means staying in touch with the people that you care about.”
Waltham Forest Young People
“For me it would be ‘golden time’, because seeing your family is golden and
it’s the best time.” TACT Young Person
Contact centre
We prefer: Family centre

D
Designated Teacher
We prefer: Teacher
“Just say it’s a teacher we can talk to, who is trained and who attends our reviews.
The word is too obvious, we don’t want everyone knowing.” Cheshire East Young People

We prefer: Can’t find a home good enough for them; Failed by the system
“The phrase ‘difficult to place’ blames the child for a failure of the system.”
Charity Social Worker

Drop out
We prefer: Early school leaver

F
Foster carers
We prefer: My family; Foster Mum; Foster Dad; People who care about me; My new family; The family
that chose us; Aunty/Uncle; Their name
“The use of language is at a very individual level, so a term used for one child may not be right
for another. Children use different words in different contexts, they may call foster carer ‘Mum or
Dad’ in one situation but not in another. Foster carers and the children they look after need to
work this out between them.” Foster Carer

Full potential
We prefer: You will make sure I have every chance to achieve my dreams

H
High aspirations
We prefer: Good choices; Wanting the best for our children
“You will try your best to help me because you want me to achieve.”
Cheshire East Young People

I
In care
We prefer: Another home away from home; Living with a different family in a different home

Isolation
We prefer: Reflection time
“I really dislike this term. It should not be in existence as it is punitive in its nature.”
Professional

L
LAC review
We prefer: My meeting or my review meeting; Improving your time in care; [Child’s name]’s Review
“It is your time to speak up and talk about what is happening or what’s happened, what is good and
what is bad.” Waltham Forest Young People

LAC visit
We prefer: Home visit; [Child’s name] visit; Catch up

LAC/Foster child
We prefer: Call children by their names; LA should say ‘our children’ or [insert name of LA]’s
children; Young People or Children
“Every child is ‘looked after’; there is no need to point us out. Some would consider themselves
looked after before coming into care.” Cheshire East Young People

“I do not mind the saying, but just don’t say it a lot.” York Young Person

“The acronym ‘LAC’ can be understood as a suggestion that the child or young person is ‘lacking’
something.” Professional

“Take away LAC acronym completely.” Herefordshire Young People

Leaving care
We prefer: Moving on or Moving up

M
Moving placements
We prefer: Moving to a new house; A new chapter or fresh start

N
NEET
We prefer: Unemployed or not in training or in education
“NEET is a silly word, no young person knows what it means yet we are called it.”
Warwickshire Young People

P
PA
We prefer: Advisor; Personal advisor; Guidance giver
Pathway plan
We prefer: Future planning for 16+; Leaving care plan; Path to independence
Peers
We prefer: Friends
PEP
We prefer: School review; Education meeting; Education plan
“It is not about the word ‘PEP’ itself, it is how it is presented in school. Some teachers openly
announce in class that the LAC student has a PEP meeting and this will arouse the interest from the
rest of students, leaving the looked after student to explain what it is and why they have it.”
Rotherham Young People
Permanence
We prefer: My home without disruptions

Placement
We prefer: Our home or home; My house or the house where I live
“Placement sounds like you are being forced to live there.” TACT Young Person

“I don’t like when they say, ‘you are a normal child living in someone else’s home‘ or when they
use the term ‘child in care‘.” Bristol Young Person

“This should be a word used more for a temporary placement, not when you see it as your home and
have been there a long time.” York Young Person

“A foster home might be somewhere where you’re placed against your will, but that doesn’t stop it
from being a home.” York Care Leavers Forum

“We should talk about ‘foster homes’ and not ‘placements’, particularly when children themselves
are referred to as placements.” Foster Carer

R

Respite
We prefer: A break for children (not carers); Day out; Home away from home; Stay over/ Stay over
family; Sleepover; Time off/Time off for us/Time off for our carers
“This word does not make much sense. It is too formal and not a word we use everyday.” York Young
People

“It can be offensive as it means an escape or a break from something that is not enjoyable.” York
Young People

Restrained
We prefer: Physical help to stay safe

Reunification
We prefer: Going back to live with my family; Going back home

S
Siblings
We prefer: Our brothers and sisters; People who are related to me
“This is too formal, and it is ok in written language but in spoken language I think it should just
be brothers and sisters.” York Young Person

Sick
We prefer: Unwell
“I don’t like when they say that my Mum is sick, I would rather they say Mum is unwell.” Bristol
Young Person

Social worker
We prefer: One to one worker; Someone who understands your family background and knows what you
have been through

Special needs
We prefer: Additionally supported; The needs name, i.e. disabled, global developmental delay,
learning need, etc.
“Everyone is special, and everyone has different levels of need.”
Warwickshire Young People

Staff, Support worker, Unit manager
We prefer: Their name
“Explain their role but use their name to refer to them.” Professional

Stat visit/Statutory visit
We prefer: Coming to visit to see how we’re doing
“I didn’t know what a stat visit is. For me it is when my social worker just comes around, so I do
not feel there has to be a specific word for it.” York Care Leavers Forum

T
Therapy
We prefer: Talking things through sessions; Trying to make sense sessions; Help to work things out
Transition
We prefer: Preparing for change

PA
We prefer: Advisor; Personal advisor; Guidance giver

Pathway plan
We prefer: Future planning for 16+; Leaving care plan; Path to independence

Peers
We prefer: Friends

PEP
We prefer: School review; Education meeting; Education plan
“It is not about the word ‘PEP’ itself, it is how it is presented in school. Some teachers openly
announce in class that the LAC student has a PEP meeting and this will arouse the interest from the
rest of students, leaving the looked after student to explain what it is and why they have it.”
Rotherham Young People

Permanence
We prefer: My home without disruptions

Extracts taken from TACT ‘ Language that Cares: Changing the way that professionals talk about children in care’ (2019), TACT Fostering & Adoption service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Language

 

 

 

Placement
We prefer: Our home or home; My house or the house where I live
“Placement sounds like you are being forced to live there.” TACT Young Person

“I don’t like when they say, ‘you are a normal child living in someone else’s home‘ or when they
use the term ‘child in care‘.” Bristol Young Person

“This should be a word used more for a temporary placement, not when you see it as your home and
have been there a long time.” York Young Person

“A foster home might be somewhere where you’re placed against your will, but that doesn’t stop it
from being a home.” York Care Leavers Forum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We should talk about ‘foster homes’ and not ‘placements’, particularly when children themselves
are referred to as placements.” Foster Carer

R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respite
We prefer: A break for children (not carers); Day out; Home away from home; Stay over/ Stay over
family; Sleepover; Time off/Time off for us/Time off for our carers
“This word does not make much sense. It is too formal and not a word we use everyday.” York Young
People

“It can be offensive as it means an escape or a break from something that is not enjoyable.” York
Young People

Restrained
We prefer: Physical help to stay safe

Reunification
We prefer: Going back to live with my family; Going back home

 

 

Language that cares

S
Siblings
We prefer: Our brothers and sisters; People who are related to me
“This is too formal, and it is ok in written language but in spoken language I think it should just
be brothers and sisters.” York Young Person

Sick
We prefer: Unwell
“I don’t like when they say that my Mum is sick, I would rather they say Mum is unwell.” Bristol
Young Person

Social worker
We prefer: One to one worker; Someone who understands your family background and knows what you
have been through

Special needs
We prefer: Additionally supported; The needs name, i.e. disabled, global developmental delay,
learning need, etc.
“Everyone is special, and everyone has different levels of need.”
Warwickshire Young People

Staff, Support worker, Unit manager
We prefer: Their name
“Explain their role but use their name to refer to them.” Professional

Stat visit/Statutory visit
We prefer: Coming to visit to see how we’re doing
“I didn’t know what a stat visit is. For me it is when my social worker just comes around, so I do
not feel there has to be a specific word for it.” York Care Leavers Forum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Language

T
Therapy
We prefer: Talking things through sessions; Trying to make sense sessions; Help to work things out

Transition
We prefer: Preparing for change