To whom it may concern’
I'm just sat at home thinking; thinking about how concerned those people who were supposed to be looking after me were when they got me arrested for refusing to go to bed after a difficult transition in to care from a home. Before then I had always lived at home and although it wasn’t always easy and I am certain there were nights when I had refused to go to bed I am pretty sure that the police were never called.
How concerned were those same people when I was in a cell in the pitch black with no bedclothes or even a cover, crying, traumatised and in need of support? Were they thinking about me being criminalised and developing feelings of hatred against the police? I don’t know – no-one ever said anything if they were.
How concerned was the state when I was sleeping in waste paper bins along with all the other ‘rubbish’, scared and hungry and a damaged young person aged thirteen years old? Not concerned enough to come to look for me I guess.
How concerned were they when I was missing from home and stealing peanuts to survive or eating out of a bin? I was such an unhappy and damaged young person. I became a re-offender on the basis of a 50p packet of peanuts. They were concerned enough to spend goodness knows how much on that prosecution. Maybe they thought that was ‘best value? How concerned was anyone that I was stealing because I was hungry and missing from home with no chance of stability? Not once was I ever asked if I was OK that's how concerned they must have been.
How sad I am looking back on my experiences of growing up in the care system and criminal justice system. I will ask again, how concerned was anyone for me? The best ‘therapy’ they could offer me was a move out of area, that would make things better surely? No it didn't, I went on to get physically abused by the foster carer. Something I don't talk about much as I don't want to be seen as being negative all the time. I was let down by my social worker. When I was abused I ran off to Liverpool, then I was caught and returned to the abusive foster carer. So I jumped a train back to Calderdale where I took an overdose and was admitted to hospital where I stayed for a few days. I was then taken to a video suite where they recorded interviewing me about the complaint that I had made about the abuse. After reading my care files, my social worker was told not to contact the foster carers as this was going to be done by the police and they didn't want the carers to know about the investigation. How concerned was my social worker for me? She was so concerned she rang the carers and told them about the investigation and then went off work – sick I guess. It makes me sad to read it in black and white from my files years later, I always wanted to know what happened to those foster carers and the investigation, that was the main reason I wanted to get my care files. After reading my files and doing some of my own research it turned out they aren't fostering anymore or even together - luckily for them and luckier still for any other children they may have fostered. The investigation couldn't be taken forward because of a lack of physical evidence. That makes me mad and sad because I still remember it vividly and the memories haven't gone away. I am concerned because no-one ever thought it would be the right thing to tell me what had happened – I was only the victim.
Then when I was sentenced to custody I was abandoned by my corporate parent, I guess they were happy to stop caring for me as I would save them so much paperwork and money. I was left in custody and when I was released from custody my transition was home for a couple of weeks, then to a bed and breakfast, then to a hostel and finally to a mental health ward. I never thought I would make it past 21 years old. How concerned was my corporate parent about this? If they were in court accused of being concerned and caring the case would be dismissed because of lack of evidence.
It makes me appreciate the life I'm making and to survive until 32 years old has to be an achievement in itself for me. I'm not sure many people can comprehend some of the experiences I had growing up and seeing some of the most tragic things anyone could ever experience in life. Am I unusual? No I don’t think so. I suppose I am not dead, homeless, taking drugs, on a mental health ward or in prison so perhaps I am a bit unusual – like most care leavers who somehow manage to survive the system and even succeed. But like them I am concerned that I have done this despite rather than because of the system. Now that’s a concern we should all have.
I find it disgusting young vulnerable kids can be abandoned as young as 16 years old, all looked after children and young people deserve to be treated fairly and equally. If the state is taking children and young people in to care then it has a duty to support them all. The options of aftercare support should be available to all of them, no matter where they happen to live. Are you concerned enough to support Every Child Leaving Care Matters?