In a country that believes that all young people deserve care and love, it cannot be right that their wellbeing and success is often determined by the adversity and trauma they have experienced.


“The most traumatic aspects of all disasters involve the shattering of human connections. And this is especially true for children. Being harmed by the people who are supposed to love you, being abandoned by them, being robbed of the one-on-one relationships that allow you to feel safe and valued and to become humane—these are profoundly destructive experiences. Because humans are inescapably social beings, the worst catastrophes that can befall us inevitably involve relational loss. As a result, recovery from trauma and neglect is also all about relationships—rebuilding trust, regaining confidence, returning to a sense of security and reconnecting to love. Healing and recovery are impossible without lasting, caring connections to others.” - Bruce Perry, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog


Staf believes that through developing a greater knowledge of trauma and investing in supportive relationships, we can return young people to a life that is not determined by their experience of trauma.


Staf has begun a new project, with funding from the Life Changes Trust, to do just that. Here’s what you need to know about Project Return.


What is Project Return?


When trauma is left unrecognised and unaddressed it can have a long lasting impact on the lives of our young people and can make it difficult for them to live a happy and successful life.


We know that young people who have experience of care are more likely to experience poor mental health, to be involved in the justice system or to have poor educational outcomes.


Yet with an understanding of trauma, the right support and with long-term supportive relationships, we know that young people can return to a life that is not defined by their experience of trauma.


“At its core, this project is about enabling real transformational change which will ensure that children, young people, practitioners and managers have the awareness and resources to support young people with care experience to recover from trauma.” – Jenny Ferguson


Project Return will support young people with care experience to become leaders of this change, giving them an understanding of trauma and the skills to connect with and support others.


By building partnerships with employers and training providers, the project will also seek to give young people the confidence, skills and inspiration to change their future through work, education or entrepreneurship.


Who will be leading on this project?

Our new Project Return Development Worker Jenny Ferguson will be leading on this project. Jenny previously worked at See Me, the national campaign to end mental health stigma and discrimination. In this role, Jenny worked alongside volunteers enabling them to lead and grow a movement for change, challenging perceptions around mental health.


“I have experienced mental health, in truth everyone has… because we all have mental health, and this has showcased to me that when we recover from an experience we don’t just recover to being the same person; we grow as humans and have new skills and capabilities that we wouldn’t have gained had we not gone through it.” – Jenny Ferguson


What will be the outcome of the project and how will this support Staf members to improve the lives of young people leaving care?


We want this project to lead to transformative change from traumatic experiences for care leavers, allowing them to lead happy, successful lives which are manageable, predictable and reliable, and that have a sense of hope.


We hope to do this by reducing trauma symptoms, increasing coping and resilience skills and building an openness to forgiveness and reconciliation.


This will require us to support our members to increase their knowledge of trauma and give them the tools they need to support care leavers on a day to day basis.


By creating a safe, loving and inspiring environment with our young people, we can ensure they have the happy lives they deserve, underpinned by fulfilling work. 


“I believe that this project will create change for Staf members both for themselves as workers but also as care providers and will allow them to work in a trauma-informed environment which privileges relationships. My hope is this will allow staff to thrive and be able to walk care leavers over a loving, strong and inspiring bridge into adulthood, where they can flourish.” – Jenny Ferguson

To find out more about the project, get in touch with Jenny at [email protected]