Amanda Louise Burchill, aged 17, reflecting on her experiences in care
I was fourteen years old when I first went into care due to being hit around by my mother. I was unhappy at home because my mother and stepfather were going through a divorce after 9 years together. My real Dad left us when I was 4. I have a sister of eleven and a brother of fourteen. He’s in care too and going to boarding school soon because his foster homes kept breaking down. He tried living with my real Dad, but it didn’t work out.
Being placed in care was a new experience for me, having not gone through this before. Being in care is not something you should be proud of, well in my case, it isn’t. I would rather be at home living with my parents, leading a normal childhood. However living with foster parents isn’t at all bad, but for me no-one could ever treat me as their real daughter because it just isn’t the same as your real parents. I felt very hurt going to foster parents, knowing that if I had tried hard enough I could have picked up the broken pieces with my Mum, but I just left it too late.
I was very lippy, I must admit, but I was under a lot of stress with my Mum going through a second divorce. She had always given me the odd slap, but then everything began to get on top of her. One day, she began hitting me with a belt which she’d never done before: she couldn’t stop. When I went to school next day, my mates asked me why I’d got all these marks on me “legs, face, neck. I told them. They told the Head, who phoned Social Services. They called the police and the next night they came to my house to arrest my Mum for Assault and to take me away.
She’s never said sorry to me, but then not many mums do admit to their children that they–ve made mistakes. I have been home since, but she started again “this time I hit her back but then I regretted it. I wish I could turn the clock back to when I was three years old and my Mum and Dad hadn’t got divorced. I’ve asked my Dad if I could live with him and his new wife and her son. But he just says it wouldn’t work.
I got expelled from school for being caught drinking and smoking. I never did any homework either, I had just gone back into care for the second time and wasn’t handling it too well. I stayed with three sets of foster parents, one of them often and often. She was very strict and as soon as I ran away to my Mum’s house, they would send me back to this same foster mother.
Changing my life
Then I started being a volunteer for Community Service Volunteers which I heard about through school. I have really enjoyed being a volunteer. I have been in quite a few different places, including working in a play-group with young children. I found them very demanding at times. It was good fun and I learned a lot, but I wasn’t used to it, being only 15. So I left to work with elderly people at the Bryn Activity Centre where they were very friendly and understanding. They used to say, “What letter comes after S?” I’d say “T”, and then they’d laugh, “Yes please, I–ll have some tea!”
I used to help selling cuddly toys and woodwork that they had made. They always thanked me for everything and knowing I was doing something useful made me feel good. The old people were very friendly and understanding when my Mum would phone and give me the hump: they’d give me advice about what I should say. At the moment, I am working with the elderly again but arranging transport and meals for ones who can’t get out. I have gained a lot of experience and one day I want to train to be a social worker. Most of the social workers I know haven’t been through anything much. If you–ve been through care, you know how people feel. I am in lodgings now with a nice landlady and it’s much better than before. I can positively say that CSV has helped me a lot in the past years and I think other young people should try it. I hope it will go on helping me and others in my position.
This feature: Burchill, A. L. “In my experience”. Who Cares? Vol. 12. p 16