SOCIAL SERVICES

Social Services get a lot of stick and for the majority of the time I really don’t agree with it, they are there to be the parent that some children need, the parent that I once needed to say ‘This environment is not a safe place and these children need to be taken out of it’ It may seem that they are the ‘bad guys’ but they serve a purpose, a purpose that many children need to have a chance of a healthy and happy life.

Now all of this is all well and good but what about when all of that is done, you’re finally an adult and can make decisions for yourself, then what?

Not that long ago I found out that once you turn 21 social services completely stop working with you unless you decide to go onto higher education (University) in this case they then work with you until you’re 25 (If you stay in education of course) This wasn’t a problem for me as it was something I planned to do anyway so I never really thought twice about it however now that I have come to the end of my education I have come face to face with the reality that they will no longer be a part of my life. As someone who has relied on having them there I would have expected some sort of work to have happened to make sure I would be okay without them, what I have learnt has made me question parts of Social Services and here is why:

As a vulnerable young person who has left the care system, there are so many different situations you can be in, good, bad and ugly so to think if you are not able to get into University or you don’t want to go into University that you will lose that support it can be quite daunting, they told you they would help and protect you but then when you need them as a young person living alone with no family help, they are no longer there. Clearly they understand that this is our reality ‘We know that young people leaving care frequently feel isolated, lonely and lacking the safety net of someone to talk to and to advise them in a crisis.’ As found here so why are we left in this position? Also if you are in or were in the care system and are under 21 or are in higher education in Wales then also check the above website out to see what you are entitled too.

I understand that strings need to be detached at some point, there are so many young people who also need that help but if things are tied up the way they have been with me then things need to be looked at and changed. Yes, I have lived alone for 6 years and am now 22 years old but that doesn’t make me an expert and it certainly does not make me any less scared of any future dilemmas which I am sure many young people agree with.

I have recently finished University with little help since doing so, however I have been informed that my case with them has now been closed, so quickly and without any encouragement from them. I believe that they have a responsibility to ween you off, slowly giving you less and less help until you are comfortable that you feel 100% responsible for yourself.

There are so many sides to social services even some of which I don’t even know about but what I do know about I have always fully supported, so it has come as a shock to me to have come to this point and to feel let down by them.

This needs to be changed and I hope to start the change here, the more that young people express their concerns, the more local authorities will have to start to listen to us and maybe one day things will be different for future care leavers.

I have slowly come to terms with this news however I am upset for the more vulnerable young people out there who may feel completely scared and alone during this time, I want to tell you that you are not alone and there and many places to turn to for advice starting with me, if you just want a friendly chat with someone who may be able to understand how you are feeling then feel free to E-mail me (Details on my About Me page)

If you are looking for help or advice concerning things like:

  • money worries
  • housing issues
  • how the care system works
  • your rights in care and leaving care
  • your education and plans for the future
  • your health and wellbeing
  • getting the things you are entitled to
  • contact with your siblings and family members
  • finding national and local services that can help you

Contact: The Who Cares Trust on their Care Advice Line on 020 7017 8901 between 10.30am and 3pm, Monday to Friday (Charges apply however you can ask to be called back) or E-mail advice@thewhocarestrust.org.uk, Check out this website for more information.

I would like to finish by saying that although you may feel scared and alone, think about everything that you have overcome and use that to tell yourself that you are strong enough to face anything that may come your way, ups and downs are a part of life and if you remain positive and work hard, there is no reason as to why your past should dictate your future.

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FOSTER CARE

I grew up in foster care, spending most of my teenage life there, I struggled. Your teenage years are already extremely hard as it is but when you live somewhere that isn’t home it becomes twice as hard.

Whilst growing up I was scared to make mistakes in case my foster carers decided they didn’t want me anymore, this truly was a real fear for me. I felt that I was never a part of the family so I couldn’t make the same mistakes that their own children would make. I was lucky enough to be with my brother so the thought of being split up in different homes made growing up really hard, being a teenager is about making mistakes and learning from them but I don’t feel I really got that opportunity because I was so caught up with being what people wanted me to be and creating an unrealistic expectation for myself.

With statistics like ‘Children who spend time in the care system are less likely than other children to achieve academic success or benefit from stable relationships.’ and.. ‘They are more likely to have problems with crime, drugs and mental health than their peers.’ It is easy to see why it feels like the world is against you because of a choice that you couldn’t make for yourself, so for me ‘experimenting’ like my friends were was terrifying for me: What if I enjoy it? What if I am clinically depressed? What if I don’t want to go to University? Do these questions make me just another statistic? For a teenager these are questions that you shouldn’t feel compelled to ask yourself, mistakes and illness makes you human, not a result of the care system.

Being in foster care can feel never ending. Meetings in the middle of the school day: teachers, parents and social workers gathering around and talking about you like you’re not in the room and making you feel like you don’t have a voice, I sometimes felt like I was screaming inside of my own head to be like my friends, I felt like I would never be ‘normal’ and for me this was all I ever really wanted, I didn’t want to be known as the girl in care or the girl with alcoholic parents.
I came to a point where I was feeling extremely depressed and decided that I could no longer be in that situation and made the choice at 16 to leave and move into supported lodgings: Supported lodgings is a household that take young people in and give them a place to stay but you have to supply your own food etc so its ultimately like a stepping stone to living alone. I didn’t live there for long though, it was more like a pit stop until there was space in a hostel. Moving in to a hostel was the best decision for me, I didn’t want to be a part of somebody else’s household anymore, I didn’t want to feel like I was somebody’s job.

I eventually moved into the hostel, there were other young people living there too which made the experience a bit more bearable, I ended up being there for a year while waiting for my own home. Whilst in the hostel the feelings of loneliness would become unbearable because no family or friends where aloud inside, looking back now it was a price worth paying because I’ve now been in my own home for almost five years and it’s the most happiest and content I have ever been.

During all of this I decided to carry on with my education, I had recently finished school and it gave me some normality to my life. I soon moved into my own home, finished college and I have now recently graduated from University, that in itself being an achievement for someone who has been in the care system as statistics say only 6% of care leavers go into higher education compared to 38% of young people, I have left with an with an Upper Second Class Honours degree and I feel like I have my whole life ahead of me to become successful.

The point in this is that, bad times won’t last forever and you can overcome anything. There are so many young people in the care system and unfortunately a lot of them end up on a path they feel they can’t come back from because when you’re in that moment it does feel that nothing will ever be okay but as someone who has been there, it can. So if you’re in care, just remember you are human and your experiences can make for two different lives and I promise you that choosing the right path is the best path, that doesn’t mean that everything is always great because its not but if you can overcome statistics, you can overcome anything.

Now I’m just another young person living alone and trying to become the best version of myself I can be and to finally be at a place of ‘normality’ is a massive achievement for me, its something I thought I would never have. Social services have now stopped working with me, honestly it does bring a little fear as ultimately they have been the parents I didn’t have, making choices for me that I was to young to make but I’m ready to let that part of my life go and you will get to that point too even if it doesn’t feel like it now. These have been the best years of my life, of course there has been hard times but everyone has them and its natural!

Lastly, you may be in a position that if by choice you wouldn’t be in but life throws different obstacles at all of us and its how you handle them that makes you who you are.

Statistics were found here: http://www.thewhocarestrust.org.uk/pages/the-statistics.html Also check this website out, they offer support for children in care.

There are so many websites that can offer support but if you just want to talk to someone who can relate then please feel free to contact me via my contact details on my About Me page.