On Care Day 2022 (Friday 18 February), Hampshire County Council is celebrating the achievements of young people with care experience, as well as the fosters carers who so often help to turn young lives around.
Councillor Roz Chadd, the County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, said “Care Day is a global celebration of the successes and achievements of children and young people with care experience. The aim of this awareness day is to support the development of a world where children and young people who have overcome adversities are proud of themselves, their achievements and look forward to a future of opportunity, equality and equity. We echo that sentiment and will continue to strive for a care system that puts young people at the heart of everything we do.”
Lucy spent three years being cared for by a County Council foster family. She has shared her experience of living with them.
“I was 14 when I moved into ‘proper care’, for the year before that I’d been sleeping on friends’ sofas. I got called out of class one day at school to speak to a social worker, they asked if I liked dogs and when I said yes, they told me they’d found me somewhere to stay that night. I went back to my friend’s house, packed up my things and was collected that same evening. I assumed I was going to a children’s home but then we pulled up outside a nice house. I thought there must be a mistake and asked the social worker if it was the right place!
“I’ll never forget the moment Denise opened the door with a big smile! It was the most comforting smile ever. She was really welcoming, took me in and showed me around, then made meatballs and mash for tea. I stayed in my room that evening but when I ended up staying for another night, I went downstairs to join the rest of the family. Denise and Chris have three children of their own, one the same age as me, who was living at home. Another kid was staying there too. I was worried at first in case they didn’t like me, but we got on well and I felt like I was part of the family, 100%.
“I moved in with Denise and Chris about six months before I was due to sit my GCSEs. My life completely changed, I wasn’t out drinking and smoking any more, I was doing positive things with positive people. I loved playing with the dog in the garden and going to the gym with Chris. Having a routine really helped, I kept going to the same school, even though it was miles away! Chris would drive me and one morning on the way in, he asked me if I’d like to stay with them for longer. I was so happy.
“I worked really hard in the lead up to my exams, I put posters and loads of revision notes all over my bedroom walls, I just wanted to do well. When I went to collect my results and saw that I’d passed everything, I cried my eyes out! I was proud of myself.
“I wanted to train to be an electrician, so Chris took me to look at colleges. I applied to Southampton General Hospital for an apprentice electrician role in Estates Maintenance and was so surprised when they called to offer me the job! I’ve been working there since November 2018 and go to Southampton City College too. I still see Denise and Chris regularly. I’ve got a little boy and they love seeing him too.
“I understand why young people struggle in care, I suppose it could feel like you’ve been snatched away from your family, but really foster carers are there to give you a safe home and to provide for you, and I’m so glad I met Denise and Chris, they changed my life.”
To find out more about Care Day 2022 visit careday.org. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer can go online to www.hants.gov.uk/fostering.