As part of Care Day, the world’s biggest celebration of care-experienced children and young people, young people with lived experience of the care system share what they want others to #KnowAboutCare.
Become, the national charity for children in care and care leavers, has shared stories from young people about their care experience for Care Day.
Kim, 25, lives in London and went into care aged seven. She left care at 17, now works for the civil service, and runs her own bakery business, Helen Okani Bakery. She says all care experienced people feel loneliness.
“When you’ve been in care the things you’ve experienced have been really traumatic. They don’t leave you and there are things that can trigger that trauma,” Kim said. “All care-experienced people feel loneliness. They’ve experienced feelings of being abandoned, of being neglected or forgotten about. There are times when those feelings are exacerbated, such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.”
“For care-experienced people, friends are all they have. Always extend love and grace to the care-experienced community. It’s a long-term thing, being friends with a care-experienced person. It’s a journey and comes with its highs and lows.”
Matt, 26, went into care when he was 15 and left care when he was 17. Living in Brighton and working at a psychiatric hospital, criticised the ‘care cliff’ of 25 when you will no longer have contact with the council, your corporate parent.
“People leave the care system at 18, or in my case at 17, but what people don’t realise is you are completely on your own from the age of 25. From your 25th birthday onwards you have no contact with the local council, your ‘corporate parent’. It’s unthinkable that a parent would close the case on their own child once they’d reached the age of 25. Why should it be the same for us? It’s so frustrating.
“I am 26 now and know I am completely on my own. Most 26-year-olds don’t have to worry about where they are going to spend Christmas, or if they have a family they can lean on if they need to save up for something. In the last year, I’ve had two episodes of homelessness. The last time I had to sleep on my mate’s sofa until I’d raised the £6,500 I needed to pay the deposit and month’s rent in advance. For people who’ve been in care, life often feels like a sequence of failures, and always trying to avoid another one.”
Shaunna, 25, went into kinship care aged 13, moved back with her dad and then into residential and foster care at 15. Now studying for a PhD in Neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University, she says that care-experienced people are well-rounded “with a life outside of being care-experienced”.
Casey Armstrong, 23, went into care at 14, and is now studying astrophysics at Dundee University. She says that talking about her care experience can sometimes lead to awkward situations, when she would prefer it to not be such a big deal.
“When I am having a conversation about parents and I mention my foster parents, the conversation usually falls dead. I don’t call them my foster parents as a big disclosure, they are who looked after me, but the reaction always seems to be that I am opening up too much. And this is with people who know I am care experienced.
“I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m looking to be part of the conversation, and I get excited when we’re talking about parents and there’s a point where I can join in on. How I’d like you to react is to not react at all, to just listen to my anecdote or whatever and not dwell on the foster thing. I don’t want to hide that I was in care, you know I was in care, but that is just one part of who I am now.”
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