My story has made me the successful young person I am today. What I learnt from my experience of being in care and of life in general is that if you want something you have got to work hard for it and not every path is the right one for you. When I first left school, I attended college undertaking a sport coaching level 3 course, because at the time I thought I wanted to be a personal trainer. At the beginning of the course I really enjoyed it, but as soon as a couple of months went by, I knew the course was not for me. So my Social Worker at the time was there for me and helped me look for different further education courses and options. At this point, I was known as college drop out with a couple of GCSES under my belt. I was also going through the beginning stages of a placement breakdown and I was a really unhappy young person.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but does anyone know at the age of 16? My social worker showed me an apprenticeship with Virtual School Kent as a Participation Worker. I didn’t really understand the role at first, but my social worker said I was good with children, that I am a very sociable person and I should apply for it. So, I applied for the apprenticeship, thinking I wouldn’t have a reply. I received a message a couple days later saying I had an interview, I was so nervous, but excited to see what I have got myself into. I told my social worker I had an interview and she was happy for me and took me out to get some lunch, to have a catch up.  She also told me she was leaving, so I would have another social worker.

I hoped that I had got the apprenticeship, because it was about helping other Young People who are or who have been in care. My main roles would have consisted of facilitating the Children in Care Councils, Super Council, Our Children’s and Young Person Council and the Young Adults Council. Organising and assisting activity days and sitting on interview panels. I also needed some good news.

Happily, I got the Apprentice Participation Worker role with Virtual School Kent.

By the time I started my apprenticeship, I wasn’t having the easiest time. I couldn’t stand my new social worker or my foster carer.  I felt like everyone was against me and the only time I could have a break when I was out of the house with my phone off. But I found happiness when I was at my apprenticeship.  Everyone was so nice and understanding and I could escape the drama at my placement and I felt that people were listening to me there. I also felt that I was finally doing something positive with my life as I was helping give young people in care a voice.

During my time in care, I have had multiple social workers and a few foster homes for various reasons. Throughout my journey I can say I have learnt a lot through the bad times and the good.  I have had a chance to think about what I would have done differently knowing what I know now – I don’t want young people to go through what I had been through or felt what I felt at that time.

Since being in the role, I feel it has helped me shape my future to become a successful adult. It has helped me gain confidence and knowledge which helps me through out my day-to-day work with professionals and young people.

In 2018, I was involved in the pilot for Life Long Links, helping them develop their tool kit they now use which was shown at Kent’s Life Long Links launch. Lifelong Links helps to find and bring together people who care about the young person. This can be people they know well, people they have not seen in a while (like an old neighbour or carer) and relatives who you may have not met yet or haven’t seen in a while in a safe environment.

I interviewed Lemn Sissay about his story of being in care and how Lifelong Links would have benefited him to help him find his family. I have also done other amazing things since then and every day I am grateful I have been given this opportunity.

Now at the age of 18, I really enjoy being Senior Apprentice Participation Worker for Kent County Council. I want to give back to other young people who are or have been in care and help them face their issues and trauma as well as celebrate all the amazing things they do. I want young people to have a voice.  As their corporate parents, we need to listen, be patient and let them speak. Everyone has different backgrounds and some just need more time and nurture to get over their trauma and grow. I want to spread the message that it’s “It is ok, not to be ok” but there’s lots of support available.

I am making a difference for all Children in Care and Care Leavers as a corporate parent and a recent care leaver using the experience I have gained. As I like to say if you reach for the moon, you will have the stars to fall back on.

About the author
Chelsea – Apprentice Participation Worker at Virtual School Kent.
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