100 years ago, women got the vote, but we still have a long way to go to reach equality. When I think about the progress Care Experienced people have made even in the last few years, I feel really proud, but I think it’s the same for kids in care. We are making some improvements in policy and legislation, but we still have a long way to go for people to view us as equal.
Care Experienced people are less likely to achieve academically, in fact, we’re more likely to end up in prison than in higher education. Women are underrepresented in loads of important fields, like science, technology, engineering and maths. What do we think the odds of a Care Experienced young woman reaching the heights of a career in engineering are? We owe Care Experienced girls like me much better than this.
For me, progress means women having the same opportunities as everyone else, and Care Experienced people having the same opportunities as everyone else. It makes me mad to think that I’m disadvantaged once for being a girl, and twice for being Care Experienced.
I’ve moved 7 times in the last 7 years, and I never found somewhere I could really call home. Every time I had to move, I found it harder and harder to trust anyone. I felt like whatever relationship I built, it would just be ripped apart again. Being in a situation like that is even harder when you have questions any other girl would ask her Mum, but you have no one to turn to. Having a strong female role model is so important for young women, and girls in care need it just as much.
Imagine having to talk to a virtual stranger when you started your period for the first time, or wanting advice about relationships but being too shy to ask. It’s only been the last few years that I’ve had someone to speak to, and it’s made so much difference to me. A worker who started supporting me when I left one of my placements has been close with me ever since. I remember at the time saying to her, “I don’t even see the point anymore. I don’t feel like anyone cares, or that anyone listens.” She said, “I love you and I care for you” and we both sat and cried with each other.
I dread to think how I would feel about myself now if I hadn’t had this relationship. The world can be a difficult and sometimes frightening place to navigate as a woman, it’s even harder when you don’t have a shoulder to cry on, or guidance from someone who you can trust.
Lack of self-confidence is something I think a lot of girls struggle with, same with mental health issues. Care Experienced people are more likely than their peers to suffer from mental health conditions. Girls in the UK right now are suffering what some have referred to as a mental health epidemic. Despite everything I’ve been through, it’s not until recently that I’ve learnt what it might mean to have mental health problems, and it’s really a horrible experience.
I know a lot of Care Experienced friends who haven’t been taken seriously by doctors or carers, or who have waited for months to see a trained psychiatric professional. Sometimes it seems that you have to be on the brink of a really serious incident to be listened to, and for action to be taken. We owe it to girls like me to provide us with opportunities to talk about how we feel instead of ignoring us or assuming we’re attention seeking.
When I think about my future, I think about having a successful career, a job, and a family. A lot of women who are Care Experienced are automatically assessed if they become pregnant, to make sure they can be fit mothers. My parents didn’t teach me how to be a great Mum when I get older, but they did show me a lot of what not to do. It’s not fair, for someone to assume I would be the same, for someone to assume the worst of me.
I know I’m capable of achieving, of being a Mum, of building a loving family and of having the job and career I want. I also know how much harder that struggle is going to be for me, and how Care Experienced girls like me deserve every support possible along the way. In 100 years time, I hope there won’t be any barriers for a young Care Experienced woman to become an engineer, that she’ll be treated the same as men, as every other member of society, and that she’ll learn about what I lived through now, and be happy that it’s part of our history, because her future is full of opportunity and potential.