This week marks the fourth Care Experienced Week in Scotland, with this year focussing on the success and connection of those who are, or have been, in the care system. I’ve been reflecting on my journey and how, through supportive and loving relationships, I’ve been able to demand the very best from my life.
It can be difficult for parents to provide the best care for their children, which led to me entering care at 15 years old. I spent the next year in kinship care, staying with 2 different aunts before leaving the care system just after my 16th birthday. I was an adult. Shortly after this I had to move again, this time into the homeless system. Here I met my friends, that I now call my family, who supported me to move onto the next stage of my life, my first flat.
I struggled navigating the many systems that were supposed to support me, which led to me facing a growing amount of debt. Everything changed when I fell pregnant at 19 years old, and despite being an incredibly difficult period, my son introduced new meaning to my life.
Now, I’m the proud mother of two young men, Robbie and Jordan. Being here and watching them grow and following their dreams is my biggest achievement.
Scotland’s ambition for Children and Young people is for them to grow up loved, safe and respected so that they can reach their full potential. It’s an ambition that can be started, for me, in my own home with my children. I’ve been there to catch them at every opportunity and encouraged them to follow their aspirations. Even if they want to become astronauts, I explain what steps they would need to take – if only to show them that anything is possible.
I always told my boys they could go to university, but I never told myself that. I told myself, it wasn’t a place for people like me. Despite this, after encouragement and support from those around me I applied to college for the first time to study social care.
On my first day, I immediately felt a sinking feeling. Feeling out of place as a mature student, I’d already made the decision to quit and slip out at lunch time. But before I left, I met my lecturer, Kate. We made a deal, if I stayed for the entire week, I could decide then what to do. By Friday, I was hooked.
During my first year, I balanced being a single mum and keeping up with my studies. I managed to get an A in my first year of college, and a new belief that I could go wherever I wanted to.
Looking back, Kate was my first real mentor in life. She instilled values and principles in me and helped me see my own potential. The support that I received from Kate should be given to every Care Experienced person so that we all have the opportunity to thrive. Kate changed my mindset, and I started asking myself “What’s the best everyone else can get? I want that.”
My life as a Care Experienced person hasn’t always been easy, but my determination and the support of others have helped me accomplish what I never thought possible. The Promise, which was launched last year, called for every Care Experienced person to be provided the love and support they need to thrive. Without this, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Care Experienced Week takes place the last week of October.