I was nine years of age when the Social Worker knocked on our door, to take me and my sister away to live with a foster family some 50 miles away. As I grew up I realised that my start in life wasn’t the greatest. My parents both struggled to look after me and my sister and neglected us due to them taking drugs and drinking. I had a series of failed placements in foster care which all ended badly. I remember thinking at the time “why was I being placed with another family when my own had not worked?” I found it really tough to develop relationships with foster parents and struggled with their rules. My sister was then moved with another foster carer and this was the worst point in my life.
By the time I got to thirteen I was in a real mess. My behaviour was out of control and I was already dabbling with drugs and having inappropriate contact with older boys / men that wasn’t good for me.
At the age of fourteen following yet another failed placement in foster care I was told that I would be placed into a children’s home. I was very anxious about this and I believed that if my behaviour got worse that they would reconsider and not send me.
I remember that I was at the social workers office waiting for the social worker to take me to the children’s home. I was awful, shouting & swearing in the office and not listening to anyone.
I was placed in an all-girls home in Yorkshire. I had never been to Yorkshire before, let alone a place surrounded by countryside and fields. I was encouraged to keep my links with London although I haven’t been there for years. I came here and was in a real mess, I didn’t trust anyone! All my foster placements had broken down and I saw no reason that the same would not happen here. I was a real nightmare, swearing and really aggressive towards the staff.
At first I missed my friends and while I don’t think young people should be moved too far from their homes, sometimes it’s the right move. If I’d stayed down south rather than coming up to Yorkshire, chances are I’d now be in prison.
It took a long time but the staff helped to settle me down. For the first time in my life I began to realise that there are people in the world who actually cared about me and really wanted me to do well. The staff wanted me to keep the links with my home town and when my family visited me they told me how I had changed and how I wasn’t angry all the time.
My previous placements all broke down due to violence and aggression towards other people, including a number of convictions, from criminal damage and assault.
I remember when I first arrived at the home I didn’t trust a single person. I was a real pain and argued with staff almost all of the time. I had no respect for them and I felt they didn’t understand me and certainly had no respect for me.
I remember being so scared in the home and I felt that I had to be seen as tough so that no one would hurt me. During one incident I spat into another girls face and we ended up in a fight, I also kicked the staff member in the stomach and hit her in the face. The staff physically intervened and separated us. Despite my aggressive behaviour and physical attacks the staff always helped me to regain control of myself and never acted themselves in anger towards me. Following many of these incidents I slowly came to understand that the staff were trying to protect me and help me to understand that violence and lashing out wasn’t the answer. The staff never gave up on me and eventually I learned to manage my behaviour.
I used to go missing a lot from my foster care placements and I remember thinking that I would just do the same at this home. I did go missing a few times from the home but got a real surprise to find that the staff would simply follow me. I thought I was quite clever and sometimes gave them the slip. The staff didn’t give up on finding me and would walk the streets to find me. I learned that I was cared for and I had no need to run from the home. I had loads of respect for the staff and I really wouldn’t want to let them down as they had taught me to respect myself and not to go missing and put myself at risk. The staff had gone out of their way to make me feel part of the home and ensure that my thoughts and feelings were taken into account. I felt like I was being listened too.
My schooling attendance had been bad for ages. At the home I was in a mainstream school within four months. I’m not saying that this wasn’t without problems. I had a few issues with the other kids but with the support of my keyworker and the school I soon settled down. I actually did really well and worked hard on studying for my exams. I got GCSEs which helped me enroll on a B-Tech in hair and beauty and now have a job in a local hairdressing salon.
I outgrew the children’s home but was supported to live independently in a flat for a year attached to the children’s home. This was a tough year for me as I was excited to leave the children’s home but was nervous and worried that my support networks would end. I had a tiny blip in my flat and got with a crowd that wasn’t good for me. Through the support of my keyworker, who stuck with me through good times and bad, I was able to get through this part of my life and helped to continue to make positive choices.
I am now in my own flat away from the children’s home. I am in a relationship that is very positive and I am happy. I still have contact with the staff from the home and they are always at the end of the phone if I need them. In fact they have helped and bought me a fridge freezer when mine broke.
I am grateful for the time that I have had in this home and will never forget the support I have been given. The staff and in particular my keyworker has given me the tools to deal with daily life.
I shudder to think what may have happened to me without such support.