I never thought that the system that I have lived in for so long has the potential to give Care Experienced young people love. I didn’t feel love when my staff got switched around so often I felt like I didn’t want to get attached, in case they left again. It’s not there when you’re not listened to, and it’s not there when you’re scared no one is being honest with you about your future. The idea of love within the care system is completely revolutionary to me. I had never heard anyone talk about it before, but now they have, it makes perfect sense. Every young person in care needs someone who’s always there, to love them unconditionally.
There’s one quote I always think about when I think of love. “Love is not a noun to be defined, but a verb to be acted upon”. From day one my foster parents have been there for me. They’ve cared for me, and they’ve undoubtedly loved me. When the bell would go at the end of the school day, I remember how blown over I was that there were people at home waiting for me. They would be there to ask me how my day was, to cook me dinner, and take care of me. Little things like this changed me, changed how I felt about myself. The effect it had is indescribable.
Being loved hasn’t always been easy for me. Love means trust, and for me, that was petrifying. I used to run away from my foster parents as a “normal” home environment scared me. I didn’t know what a loving home was like. I used to question whose dinner it was on the table, as I always had to fend for myself at such a young age. It took me a while to realise I wasn’t on my own anymore.
I still remember struggling with the workload at school because I had missed so much. I was constantly removed from classes for meetings and it eventually caught up with me. I was falling behind. I felt like I was part of an on-going battle to better myself, but I was being held back. Because of my foster parents, I was able to get additional tuition after school. They broke down the barriers that I faced, and helped me succeed.
Love means having someone to fight your corner. Young people in care should have staff members who are always there for them, carers who will stand up for us and do what’s right by us always. If it wasn’t for my foster parents, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Here I am with an honours degree, completing a masters at the age of 22. Love helped me achieve my ambitions, it helped me overcome adversity and thrive instead of fail.
I know that a lot of other young people like me haven’t had this experience, or understood what it means to be loved. The word “care” suggests that you would feel nurtured with respect to your health, wellbeing, and emotions. I’ve never experienced this besides from my foster parents. I’ve had dozens of workers in the space of 14 years. This made it a huge struggle for me to open up. I am constantly getting used to new people nearly every year asking me the same questions, digging up my life from the dirt. I feel like it is an archaeological dig where every tiny scratch, and damaged part, is brought up repeatedly.
Instead of being referred to as a client, I should be treated like a human with feelings. Young Care Experienced people should be shown support in a loving way, as opposed to a systematic process. Care Experienced young people are growing up within a system that is meant to “emotionally support” children as opposed to love them.
We can change this language easily, and people’s actions will follow. The language we use is so powerful. We can’t prescribe love, it’s a feeling, but we can create an environment where it can thrive. Love gives us so much, it’s the root of all self-esteem, self-respect, and harmony with ourselves.
When I think about the future of care, I feel tentative hope. There is so much to change, but there’s a revolution going on. In my mind, and for Care Experienced young people all over Scotland. Love is free, and gives incredible results, just like it did for me and my education. In an industry that costs billions every year, with unfair and unequal outcomes for care experienced people, I think it would be crazy not to give love a chance.
If we can demand love, everything else will follow. Our rights, our equality, and a lifetime of support. For me, love is the starting point for everything to change, and I hope that today is that day.