Helen first met Katie in 2009, when Katie was only 9 years old and living with her foster mum . Helen was working for a primary care trust at the time, but had taken up a volunteer role as an “Independent Visitor” in her spare time because she was keen to support young people living in her community.
There are Independent Visitor schemes in every local authority in England and Wales. They aim to link up children and young people in foster or residential care with volunteer adults who are independent from the care system. Young people have to be keen to take up the offer of an IV, and if they want to take part in the scheme they are linked up with their own unique person who will befriend, visit and support them until they leave care.
Since Katie and Helen first met in 2009, they have spent time with each other regularly once month and had a lot of fun together. They have done all sorts of different things over the years, including playing games in the park, having picnics together, going to a local carnival, visiting the theatre and even canoeing (on an activity day with the IV scheme). They have got to know each other really well.
Katie has now left care but is still living with her former foster mum, as part of her “shared lives” family In October she will be 21 and will be leaving the IV scheme, but she has chosen to keep in touch with Helen and they have both decided they will carry on meeting just as before … this time as a normal part of their day-to-day lives. They have known each other for 11 years and have become really good friends. They can’t imagine a time when they haven’t known each other!
Katie and Helen two years after they first met
Katie and Helen today