For many young people, university will be the first time that they’ve left home to live independently. It’ll be a pivotal moment in their lives, leaving their family and friends to pursue higher education. It will end in a degree that will make or break whether or not they reach their dream career.
But for foster children, that dream seems much more far off than for others. Only 6% of children in the fostering system make it into university. A lot of people might argue that most foster children are lazy and will never amount to anything, that they misbehave and therefore will not provide the grades for a successful application.
However, some children are in the care system and want more out of life. To break the stereotypes that they are bound by. But when they’ve lived life hearing that children in their position are less likely to do well, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they believe they will do badly, they will.
That’s what I did, at first. I had spent years watching crime shows, where almost all of the criminals were portrayed as people who had spent their childhoods in and out of foster care, and turned to a life of crime.
I reached 17 years old, and was almost scared to submit an application. All my friends were in the process of choosing what locations and courses they wanted to apply for, whereas I was stuck questioning whether or not it was worth it.
I was just another care kid who would never be successful.
My dreams were just that. Dreams. Fantasies that would never become real.
It took a couple of pep talks from various teachers and Lynne, my TACT foster carer, before I even entertained the idea. I submitted an application to my university of choice, did two interviews for two courses and a joint honours, and then finished my A-levels. I spent the summer worrying about what I was supposed to do with my life if I didn’t get into university.
I needn’t have worried. On the day that I was to go and pick up my A-level results, I received an email. I was with my boyfriend, just scrolling through my laptop and I must have frightened him to death, because I suddenly burst into tears.
All I could say was, “I got in!” and then I attracted the rest of the household, who all congratulated me and said that they knew I could do it.
I next called Lynne, who cheered down the phone with me and was ready with a congratulations card when she picked me up from results day.
I felt a bit ashamed of myself for a while afterwards.
Why didn’t I believe that I could get in? I was just as able as any other person my age.
Starting university, I was afraid that people would see me differently if I admitted that I was in foster care. Yet again, I needn’t have worried, as all of my peers were accepting and treated me as they did everyone else. The only difference was that my lecturers were a bit more wary of how they treated me. I was often called into their office for “meetings” with them patronisingly asking how I was doing, but this soon stopped when they realised that I wasn’t handling the course any better or worse than the rest of my classmates.
At the end of the day, I am still human. I am still just a teenager tackling the difficulties of university like any other.
The only difference between my uni friends and me is that I don’t call my parental figures ‘mum’ and ‘dad’.
I still go to all of the lectures, do all of the homework and assignments, take the same exams.
My name is Charlie, and I’m just a teenager who goes to university.
Charlie Lain, TACT Young Person
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