My experience of the care system is primarily as a service user, growing up with many long spells in various children’s homes, foster parents, assessment centres and eventually a community home with education, from where I eventually left care at almost 16 years old, having taken it upon myself to go AWOL. That’s how it remained for some time, spending long periods living homeless and jobless and seeing my choices as very much limited.
I had spent the majority of my childhood in care as described above, but did have some periods of time at home, however, they were short lived and only whilst it was deemed ‘safe’.
Following many failed moves between children’s homes, foster parents, assessment centres and my mother’s home by the age of 12, I was eventually moved out of the County and taken to York where I was admitted to a Community Home with Education that housed some 150 boys, from various backgrounds and for various reasons. This was the most stable period of my life up to that point.
I came out of care with no qualifications and was led to believe that my prospects were limited having been told that the school had no mechanism by which to take students through formal examinations and as such my requests to take exams as would be normal was I in a regular comprehensive school fell on deaf ears.
I was determined to take those exams and I eventually enrolled in college in 1996 – I worked extremely hard to gain GCSE’s in a classroom of 16/17 year olds (I was 24 at the time and had two children) being asked many questions as to why I was there. I dealt with that and went onto take an Access course (taking A level subjects as outlined in the above section).
This led onto my application to and acceptance into the University of Leeds, where I attained a very good BA (Hons) degree in Sociology. I took it to the next level and did a Masters` degree in Social Research, graduating as post graduate in 2003.
My natural progression into work took me into community development work, with a particular focus on young people and equality. I have continued this work to the present day and have had the privilege of working with some extremely talented young people who have experienced similar disadvantage and who continue to aspire for more. My own life experiences have molded my passion to work towards a fairer society, where young people have a voice and influence.
As a social researcher my interests have a focus on exclusion, identity, labeling and social divisions in urban society; asking questions in a policy context of current discourses on social cohesion, the law and social control as experienced by ‘excluded groups’.
My role at the CLA affords me the opportunity to bring my community development, research and networking skills to an organisation that works to benefit care leavers.
I hope to work with care leavers across the country in building a strong, vibrant and unified care leaver community that has an increasingly stronger voice and influence, campaigning and advocating on care leaver issues across the life course.
For some reason of late I have been a little reflective as a number of life events have occurred that have led to me considering my place/space and all that other deep crap we come up with now and again. I began thinking like I did as little boy but could never articulate what I was thinking as my head space never afforded me the right to do so. This led onto a thought process that took me thorough my life course up to when I was saved through meeting a girlfriend and the mother of my children – the rest is history so they say.
Anyways, in writing/scribbling I came up with a line of argument, a trajectory you may call it in respect of my young life up to about 18. This I though was quite poignant and relevant to the care experience of very many people from broken homes past and present as much of what I say is relevant to those having suffered and survived in the past and those who continue to experience similar disadvantages today.
Hence, I have attached a verse or two here as I think it demonstrates very clearly the idea behind putting a plaster over a problem, never solving it and in the process never having taken care of the emotional well-being of the vulnerable, which of course we all are as children (from care or otherwise).
Emotional well-being of course being the one constant that crosses the lifespan of all of us, hence the need for the CLA to keep its focus on care leavers across the life course and never forget a care experience and the emotional side of that is something that does not change for generations, regardless of policy and practice interventions.