In the following years, my mother and I developed a very close relationship. I believe that if it wasn’t for her protectiveness, caring and understanding, I would never have been able to get through the years to come. When I was 14 my mother was diagnosed as having cancer. Over the next two years, I watched her dying a slow and painful death and my frustration at being totally powerless left me feeling empty. Twenty days before my 16th birthday, two days before my GCSE’s were supposed to start, my mother died. As I was still a juvenile, my care was entrusted to someone else. I was made to live with my violent and abusive step-sister.
Amazingly I passed all 8 of my GCSE’s and I started my ‘A’ levels with Journalism. But after only a few months, I was thrown out of my step-sister’s house following a particularly violent week. As it was Friday I couldn’t seek professional help. I had no money, no clothes, no home and I was all by myself. I stayed with friends until Monday morning. My first port of call was my local Law Centre. As I was only 16, I was still legally considered a juvenile and was advised to go down to my local Social Services.
I had a long talk with one of the heads of the department who said that unless I signed myself into care, I couldn’t be helped. So I signed myself into care. That night I was accompanied by the Police Protection Unit to my stepsister’s house where I collected some of my belongings. I was then taken to a children’s home where they said I would be staying for quite some time.
The home was horrible. I was forced to attend dinner and if I didn’t eat everything, I was on “loss of all privileges”. At the age of 16, I also had to be in at 8pm and in bed by 9pm. My bedroom door was locked and if I wanted to use the toilet, I had to knock to get out. After a couple of nights, I couldn’t take it any more.
I went back to the Social Services and explained that I couldn’t stand it. I was told that because of lack of money they had had to put me into a home for children much younger than myself. After complaining for hours, I was finally told that if it was that bad, I could go into a Housing Association place like the ones I know of which exist especially for people like me. I was told that they cost too much money and as my situation wasn’t desperate, I’d have to wait for a minimum of 18 months.
I was then moved into a foster placement. I hated that too. This was mainly because it seemed to me the foster parents were fostering because of the money aspect of things. I think this is particularly sad, as it was quite obvious that their home was not suitable for a fostering situation. I was sharing my bedroom with a 25-year-old man. This was probably the most scary time of all. I wanted to get out badly but I was told that if I left the foster home, the Social Services wouldn’t be responsible for me any more. I finally realised that the only way to get out of the foster placement was to be thrown out. Ironically this happened without me even trying, as a relative of theirs came to stay with the family so there was no more room for me anyway.
After about 3 months I got a social worker. I had asked for one several times before but had been told that I would have to wait. I might as well not have bothered. I was put into another children’s home. This experience was even worse than at the first home and the foster placement. I had to sleep on the sofa in a sleeping bag in the coffee room. In the morning strangers would just walk in on me sleeping, to get to the kitchen. I wasn’t given a bedroom. Throughout the home there were bars on every window, chains and padlocks on every door and none of the windows opened. During the night the toilet was kept bolted and you either had to find a member of the night staff to open it or wait until the morning. All our belongings were kept locked up because things were always being stolen.
I can’t really say that the staff were to blame but the whole system of people going into care is a farce. Nobody seems to be able to distinguish between those who have done wrong and are in care and those who are merely innocent victims of circumstance. Whilst I was in care I was exposed to things which horrified me. Other children in the home were blatantly drug-taking and quite a few of the girls openly admitted that they were having sex for money within the home. The staff did nothing to stop those things happening. I had a lot of property stolen and was involved in quite a few fights. During this time my college work started to suffer and it was at this stage I decided that my ‘A’ levels were the most important things to worry about.
I found myself somewhere to live
through an estate agent. Housing Benefit paid my rent for me and I
discovered that I was eligible for Income Support. I was furious that
no-one had told me that I could also sign myself out of care. I did so
and to my relief things started to work out again. I took my ‘A’ levels
this year and I passed them both. I am now looking forward to starting
my Bachelor of Science degree. I now live in a 3-bedroomed house with my
boyfriend (who incidentally, is the best thing to have happened to me in
ages!) I suppose the motto of my story is, don’t accept anything you’re
not happy with; get a good education and remember, if you really
struggle for what you want, although happiness isn’t always assured,
you’re making some pretty good steps in the right direction.