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Kids, a Sympathetic Snapshot of Childhood Trauma 

The new Channel 4 documentary series, Kids, gives a refreshing but complex insight into children’s experiences in care. Could these stories help to change the narrative that these teenagers are a burden to society?

Documentary maker Paddy Wivell has done what many cannot; breaking through seemingly hard exteriors, he has built relationships to tell deep, thought-provoking stories.

The documentary beautifully swerves the dismissing stereotype of ‘teenage troublemakers’ and unassumingly tells a powerful story of childhood trauma. You do not see tough teenagers but, in contrast, children who desperately crave love, protection, and stability.

This documentary feels different. It is decisively not sensationalist, and there is a felt vulnerability throughout. In scenes where the young people could be dismissed as gobby and angry, instead, you feel their deep, entrenched fear and sadness.

The economic and sociological challenges facing these families are stark.

The sympathetic storytelling helps to build a picture of why things are so difficult in the first place; this is a helpful education for anyone on the outside looking in.

The professionals build a story arch centred around the ‘feelings behind the behaviour’. Destroying property accelerates moving on because goodbyes are too painful. Taking drugs helps to escape today’s bleakness and tomorrow’s unpredictability. All the teens are doing their best – applying for jobs, preparing for independence, and trying to find themselves in a world where the odds are stacked against them. It is undeniably hard.

This series brings to life the profound impact of childhood trauma. It is painful to imagine how much deeper the wounds could be without therapy. It is also a stark reminder of how crucial psychological support is for professionals working in child protection, something that the organisation I work for prides itself on providing.

Whilst this is a highly sympathetic and, at times, uplifting production, there is also a strong and sorry sense of hopelessness. Even with the best efforts from social work teams, foster carers, and residential workers, it is tough out there facing independence when you have suffered severe childhood adversity.

It leaves many questions about their futures and what will happen next. I hope this small but powerful glimpse into the experiences of traumatised youngsters will help to engender compassion and kindness. I hope too it will be a positive step towards a re-characterisation of children in care.

Emma Heath, Head of Communications at Five Rivers Child Care

Five Rivers Child Care is social enterprise and national provider of looked after children’s services. Five Rivers provides specialist educationresidential children’s homes, fostering and assessment and therapy

Contact Emma Heath, [email protected] for more information, 07894110577.

Image: © Channel 4

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