Young people share what they want others to #KnowAboutCare
“All care-experienced people feel loneliness”
Kim is 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.
“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. 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.”
“From your 25th birthday onwards you have no contact with the local council, your ‘corporate parent’”
Matt is 26 and lives in Brighton. He went into care when he was 15 and left care when he was 17. He lives in Brighton and works at a psychiatric hospital.
“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.”
“We are well-rounded people with a life outside of being care-experienced”
Shaunna is 25. She went into kinship care aged 13, moved back with her dad and then into residential and foster care at 15. She is studying for a PhD in Neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University.
“The stigma and discrimination that’s attached to being care-experienced means that you’re either considered amazing and resilient for getting through it – or anything you do wrong is blamed on having been in care. Truth is there’s a lot that’s in between and we are well-rounded people with a life outside of being care-experienced. We’re not just troublemakers or need saving.
A member of staff at my uni confided in me that she was care-experienced. She said if she told anyone, especially after she left university, it would have been career suicide. That’s so sad. I’d love to see people represented in the media or in a TV drama as care-experienced but also as normal people doing normal things. We need to normalise the care experience, so society is more accepting of us and doesn’t keep making presumptions.”
“I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m looking to be part of the conversation”
Casey Armstrong, 23, went into care at 14, and is now studying astrophysics at Dundee University.
“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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