My experience of leaving care was that I was in a Young Offenders Institution at the time my Social Worker ceased to have contact with me. I was Sixteen years old nearly Seventeen.
Only my Youth Offending Officer came to see me while I was in custody and that was only a few times but I appreciated him coming as it got me out of my cell for an hour but mostly I was pleased to have the support and enjoy the positive nature of the man. He was empathetic and a very decent person who seemed to actually care what happened with me and where I would go when I left custody - although he was limited to the options he had at his disposal to work with. The options were to go to my moms where it had never worked when I had been placed back there in the past.
I was in care and the local authority became my corporate parent. Sadly they were less than good parents to me after I turned Sixteen. I had already had a tough start to life and had damage and trauma in my life as a young person/child.
I was put back with my mom, within weeks I was in a B&B for a week in a place called Stainland. Where it was an awful experience and the start of the loneliness and isolation so I didn't get in trouble hanging round with friends who were still committing crimes to pay for drugs.
From there to a hostel in Range Lane, Boothtown. It was another place in which I isolated myself and wasn't eating. Shortly after I was placed in a Psychiatric ward. I was suffering with depression. I was lonely, isolated and feeling alone in life with know one to turn to. Who did I have to turn to? I had no-one. The state of mind I was in was I didn't see much point of being alive. I could see no future other than drugs and crime.
From the Hospital I went back to the hostel. I had a little more support in place and was feeling a lot better but still had the feeling of going nowhere in life. That was until my youth offending officer told me I had a place on a course. It was called Project Challenge. I started there where I had a routine, rules and boundaries. The project helped equip me with the skills and experience to move forward with my life in independence. I was struggling a great deal before. It was a fantastic experience and some of the most amazing sights I have ever seen walking across the Alta Via1.
A short time I after I had my son and was with his mom for 6 years. I struggled in the relationship as I had so many unsolved problems. I had seen so many things people couldn't or wouldn't want to see. Changing mates and leaving drugs behind was all a struggle and a strain on the relationship.
After a short time after splitting I was again in a Psychiatric ward for seven weeks due to loss and grieving and my head just couldn't take it. It was the most awful time I have probably ever had. I had lost so many friends who left care unsupported who have taken their own lives or drug overdoses.
After I started playing football and running to combat the depression. I then wrote my book which was hard but therapeutic at the same time and helped me express and get it off my chest.
I have struggled to find jobs in Social care where my heart and passion lie. So I am now in the early stages of taking steps to university to study Social Work. I left school with no G C S E's but that hasn't stopped me making a difference in some ways to professionals and young people in the care system. I need to go to university to progress with my career in social care and be where I want to be. I just want to make a genuine difference.
If I had been given the option of a care placement be it Foster care or Residential care when I was seventeen I would of benefitted massively from that support and safe environment. Instead I was at risk of suicide through loneliness. At risk of drugs and crime. I was lonely, isolated, un-loved and desperate. All of this could of been avoided and should of been avoided. It's sad that 14 years on this is still happening to vulnerable young care leavers.
I was lucky enough to get the support and have bags of resilience and determination to want to have a better life and for my son to never experience anything I ever did.
Children and young people first, money second. These young people are our future and we need to be turning all these negative statistics into positive ones.
"Never Give Up Ever" I believe it and have it tattooed across my back as a reminder to myself.