All the Children’s Commissioner’s work is driven by what children told us is important to them
Being in care as a teenager, I found was quite stress free. I was away from my toxic family members and surrounded by love and what a real family should look and feel like. However, I remember every time my social worker would come to visit I would dread it, and for a while I never really understood why and then when I turned 18 it hit me..
I had been in care for about 2 or 3 years at this point, and was really happy and settled. But, every time I had a visit, all my social worker wanted to talk about was my “moving on” plan or whatever they call it.
Which was basically a 5 year plan of where do you want to be in the future.. I was 15/16 years old.. I had just come out of a toxic environment…separated from my sister and living with strangers..
I had no idea who I was let alone where I was going to be in 5 years.. I had no idea what my future looked like because I hadn’t envisioned the life I was in at that moment. So I would always just nod my head so they could tick their boxes and leave so I could get back to being a kid and having fun in my late child hood. Then my 18th birthday came and everything felt like it was changing fast. I still felt like a 15 year old. I think I was in A levels and still had no clue what career I wanted even though everyone wanted to know.
As standard, on your 18th birthday you are technically an adult and required to move out of your foster home and payments for looking after you are stopped to your foster parents, leaving them no choice but encourage you move on.
I remember my first flat was a half way house and I remember feeling so alone and like I was too young to be charged rent or handling money. But I got on with it because what choice do I have? Flash forward 5 years, I’m 23 and settled into my proper flat which I’m still in today. The neighbourhood is a terrible place for a person with a bad childhood and a history around violent toxic people. Why do they put foster care leavers in the worst neighbourhoods? It’s like they want us to become nothing, they want us to turn to drink and drugs so we become another statistic.
Nevertheless, I remember my last meeting with my social worker and she said “if you want to go to university you must decide now because after 25 we can’t help you.. any financial support you need you must apply now because after 25 we can’t help you..” again, I was 23, I didn’t really understand where I was or who I was yet.. I had stopped education in order to figure out what I wanted to be but had no clue and no one around me seemed to be able to help.. social workers were really only interested in ticking their boxes so they could go back to the office.
As I wasn’t a “problem child” or “needed any extra support” because I didn’t know what support I needed yet, I was told goodbye and to contact them in the future if I needed anything. 2 years later I did need something, I had done a lot of soul searching and decided I did want to go to university and I knew what I wanted to study.
Unfortunately, after calling multiple times when I got through to someone they said they couldn’t help me because I was 25 and the law says I’m now old enough to not need help… as a fellow care leaver wrote on one of the IMO blogs.. “I don’t stop being a care leaver at 25 so why should the help at 25?”- Katy
It doesn’t make sense to me at all that a child can completely lose their identity through trauma but we’re still expected to have the answers that children who haven’t been in care have? When you’re in a situation where all you’re thinking about is, where am I going to sleep tonight… who are these strangers I’m living with…Where is my sister…is she safe? You don’t have the time to sit and think about.. what do I wanna be when I grow up.. no foster care child does this and because of this, the law should change to give support until the foster care leaver decides I don’t need it anymore.”