Staf's first ever online National Conference was held on Tuesday 17th November 2020.

Focusing on the importance of social connections for care leavers in the age of COVID-19, the event brought together an international audience of speakers and over 100 delegates from across Scotland. The virtual nature of the event enabled organisations from a bit further afield to attend and was expertly handled by the digital conference team at the EICC. Many thanks to them for creating a seamless and engaging platform. 

You can find below additional information about the speakers, including links to their presentations and any useful information highlighted during their discussions. We have also shared information about the various projects currently being undertaken by Staf.

Dr Stacy Blythe 

Dr Stacy Blythe

Dr Stacy Blythe is a Registered Nurse and a Research Academic. Her research focuses on the health and well-being of children in out-of-home care and their families (birth/foster/adoptive). As a lecturer in Infant Mental Health, she is particularly interested in infants who are prenatally exposed to harmful substances (eg. illicit drugs). In addition to her nursing, teaching and research qualifications, Stacy has post graduate certification in Developmental Trauma.

Stacy as has over 15 years of experience as an authorised foster carer. Drawing on her skills as a nurse, knowledge as a researcher and experience as a foster carer, Stacy provides training to health care workers, social service providers, educators and foster carers in relation to working with children with a prenatal history of substance exposure and/or who have experienced trauma.

Click here to download Stacy's presentation

Kit de Waal 

Kit de Waal

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother, who was a childminder and foster carer and a Caribbean father.

She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, was a magistrate for several years and sits on adoption panels. She used to advise Social Services on the care of foster children, and has written training manuals on adoption, foster care and judgecraft for members of the judiciary.

Her writing has received numerous awards including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2014 and 2015 and the SI Leeds Literary Reader's Choice Prize 2014 and the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year.

MY NAME IS LEON, her first novel was published in 2016 and shortlisted for the Costa Book Award. She has two children and lives in the West Midlands.

For more information about Kit de Waal please visit her website here

For details on her Creative Writing Fellowship please visit the Facebook page here 

Chris Marshall 

Kit and Chris

Chris led the Q & A with Kit following her presentation. 

Chris Marshall, a care experienced young person, is currently studying Child Health and Social Care at Forth Valley College with a view to going to university to become a Social Worker. He is an active participant in Staf's Youth Justice Voices project and has attended and spoken at many Staf Focus Groups and events.

Tony Bloemendaal

Tony Bloemendaal

Tony Bloemendaal is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist. After 10 years as clinical manager of several psychiatric wards, he now holds the position of Director of postgraduate training and Lead specialist on trauma and neglect at Fivoor, a large Dutch forensic and intensive psychiatric care institute. 

He is currently working on his PhD dissertation, investigating the influence of caregivers’ own personal history on dealing with critical incidents and stress on the workfloor.  

Mr Bloemendaal studied at the University of Leiden, receiving his Masters Degree in 1999. From 2004 until 2010 he trained for his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Rotterdam.   

In addition, Mr Bloemendaal maintains a private practice, is NMT Mentor for Europe and Fellow of Dr Bruce Perry's ChildTrauma Academy. He teaches frequently about the Neurosequential Model principles and regularly gives lectures and workshops at national and international conferences. 

Click here to download Tony's presentation

Here's the video recommended by Tony: Seth Porges on The Polyvagel Theory 

Johann Hari 

Johann Hari is the author of two New York Times best-selling books. His first, ‘Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’, is currently being adapted into a major Hollywood film by Oscar-winning director Lee Daniels, and into a non-fiction documentary series.

His most recent book, ‘Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions’ is being translated into 28 languages and has been praised by a very broad range of people, from Oprah to Hillary Clinton to Tucker Carlson, from Elton John to Naomi Klein to Glenn Greenwald. It was described by the British Journal of General Practice as “one of the most important texts of recent years”, and shortlisted for an award by the British Medical Association.

He has written over the past decade for some of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the Spectator, Le Monde Diplomatique, the Melbourne Age, and Politico. He is a regular panellist on HBO’s Realtime With Bill Maher.

For more information about Johann and his best-selling books go to

Johann's TED Talk 

Breakout rooms

At the breakout room sessions you will have had the chance to hear about the project works being undertaken at Staf, as well as meet Staf member SAAS and buy a book from CairnsMoir Connections. 

Project Return 

Project Return is focused on changing how the care system understands and supports trauma, this is being done through our steering group which is made of both care experienced voices as well as workers with experience. For Staf this project is a real opportunity to amplify the voices of people with care experiences alongside their workers and for this group's insight to be celebrated and harnessed to create meaningful and transformational change in how we understand trauma in the care environment.

To learn more about Project Return's projects and ways you can join in please click here 

Building Relationships & The REAL Took Kit 

Over the past two years the Building Relationships team have been developing a resource for young care leavers and the organisations they work with to help create an environment in which relationships can thrive. This has resulted in The REAL Toolkit which was launched at the conference. For more information please email [email protected] or click here

To learn more about The REAL Toolkit and how to influence it's content, 
join the free information session on Thursday 26th November.

Book here

The Real Toolkit

Youth Justice Voices 

Youth Justice Voices

Youth Justice Voices is a Scotland-wide participation project, jointly run  by Staf and The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ) and funded by The Life Changes Trust, which seeks to amplify the voices of care and justice experienced young people (aged 16-25) to influence national change. 

If you would like more information on the project, please contact [email protected] or click here 

Shannon's Box 

Shannon's Box was created by Shannon Brown, a care experienced young person who wanted to create a hamper of gifts for those entering care. The box also supports workers to build the relationships that are key to overcoming adversity and trauma at such a crucial time.

We are now seeking partners to deliver the box in other local authority areas to fulfil Shannon’s dream that every young person entering care receives Shannon’s Box. 

For more information about the box and how to get signed up for your Local Authority please click here

Shannon and the box she created for those entering care

SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland)

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government that provides funding to all eligible students studying a course of higher education in the UK. Students should apply to SAAS to have their tuition fees covered, and can also apply for living costs funding in form of loans and bursaries.

Our Student Funding - Key Facts Guide is here: 

And our Parent/Carer Guide is here:

The Student Information Scotland (SIS) website - - is also an excellent resource for prospective students entering both further and higher education and has a funding checker and budget calculator.

CairnsMoir Connections