I am a care leaver, and I wanted to share my story and the lessons I’ve learnt in recent years with you.
On the 28th July 2017, I went missing from residential care. It was my last night in care and I was petrified. I went out, made bad decisions and got a lift home from the police.
The next morning I didn’t feel so good about the choices I had made, but I knew that my future was now in my hands. I had to make better decisions, so I decided I was going to say yes to every opportunity I got, I was going to seek out opportunities and make myself proud. A year on and I haven’t said no to any opportunity since, I have worked hard and played hard and I wanted to share with you where I am today.
I have studied law credits with the Open University, and I am going on to study law at university. I want to specialise in human rights because, being in care, I learnt that rights are too often seen as optional. I am a trustee of a children’s rights charity that aims to protect the rights of children living in institutionalised settings. I have had the opportunity to be part of the creation of my local authority’s offer for others in care. I have written blogs for the Howard League Reform, an amazing charity that are working to reduce the criminalisation of looked-after children. I have interviewed social workers. I have attended amazing events with law professionals and so much more.
I am not saying all of this to brag or big myself up. I am telling you because when I was in care, I felt hopeless. I felt that doors were closed to me because I was a looked after child and when I left care I refused to accept that and, with hard work and determination, I’m not doing so badly.
Everybody’s circumstances and interests are different but I truly believe that being a care leaver means I am more resilient, more self aware, more determined and it has helped me get to where I am today. I see it as a badge of honour, an asset.
When you are selling a product it needs to have a unique selling point, and when I am selling myself I always tell people about mine, because professionals in my experience both in social care and other fields recognise that being a care leaver does not have negative connotations. It means that you have experiences that make you a stronger individual.
I am proud to be a care leaver and I guess what I am trying to say is that you should never feel like it defines who you are or what you are capable of.
I didn’t take a conventional route to university, I did all right in my GCSE’s, then I did performing arts for a year to annoy my mum! I then didn’t do any education for a year, and then I did a law module with the Open University, somewhere anyone can enrol. I got accepted to university with that qualification and quite frankly, I think taking the conventional route anywhere is a little bit boring! Why do what everybody else does? It’s a competitive world, you want to stand out.