Tara: Surviving the care system
Tara* is in our care and has written a piece about her experiences to help other young care experienced people.
Hi, I'm Tara and I've been in the care system for almost two years now.
This is a book that I'm writing for my English work for school but who knows this could get somewhere...
I'm going to tell you my story. All the bad and good things I did so you don't have to do the bad things and you can live a better care life than I did.
I got separated from my twin sister Sarah* the second we went into care and I haven't lived with her since. I hate it but that's life in care for you.
My twin and I got picked up from my house by the police when we were 13 because we threw a party whilst my dad was on holiday. I had to sleep on the couch of a police station meeting room till 3 am but then a policewoman came on shift and said I shouldn't be sleeping there so found me a placement.
The only one she could find was in an all-boys care home so that's where I stayed for the night. The policewoman stayed awake downstairs all night till she woke me up at 9 am and took me to my social worker. We went and picked my twin up and then we were on the search of a placement again but me and Sarah soon got separated again and put in different foster placements. That was my first ever care placement and I hated it. It was scary and it wasn't what I wanted so I kicked up a fuss - I do not recommend doing this.
They moved me into a full-time foster placement, but things got worse.
I kept getting into trouble with my best friend. A few Saturdays I got so drunk that my best friend had to pick me up from the floor and carry me home. Later in the year, we drifted and I met a new group of friends.
That new group of friends made me realise who I really was, so in January 2020 I told my parents that I was lesbian. I had already told my dad I was bisexual but never my mum, I was too scared, but she told me she still loves me and I'm still her daughter.
I moved placements twice as things were not going well in foster care and then finally I found the Together Trust. This is where I've felt more comfortable. I’m in a residential home and it’s full of madness.
This is the placement I've always wanted since being in care, somewhere where people care and want to see me do well in life. Fiona* lives with me, she's welcomed me into her home and made me feel like this is my home too. She didn't want me to move in at first, but we made it work and I couldn't be more thankful for what she has helped me with. We share everything including our cigarettes. Fiona is like my best friend and I'm happy that we have come so far.
That’s another thing don't ever start smoking just because you're in care! It's one of the most expensive habits ever and I can't afford it.
What I've learnt
First off, social workers can't choose where you get placed, so don't give them a bad time. Placements are low all the time.
Your birth family
Contact with parents and family will start in a centre. Don't go against that because after a bit, depending on your situation, you will be able to go out into restaurants and have unsupervised contact. Let your parents fight for more contact and only get involved unless it's necessary because you could mess it all up.
Just don't give up. Give it a chance it will take time. It took 6 months till I could see my parents without a supervisor.
Holidays and birthdays are difficult especially if you come into care later in life as you are so used to spending special occasions with parents. If you have contact in the community, you can go for meals and go round to your parent's houses. It can be hard, I get it, but to get through it you also need support from your parents. The best thing to do is to ring your parents as often as you can because although some parents don't show it, they do love you, they just are not able to look after you right now and that's okay.
Money can be tight sometimes and if you’re younger than 16 it's going to be hard to get a job. I've applied for 2 jobs recently and I'm turning 15 in a week or so. They're not that exciting but you have to start from the bottom.
Talking to staff
In your first placement, you might feel uncomfortable, but you have to show them who you are, not what they want to see. Don't act shy, get out there. If you need someone to speak to your carers and trust them because they do care.
Tell them what you need, don't hide things from them because you have to build trust with them, and they won't trust you if you lie. If you want to go to a party tell them. Tell them where you are and who you're with because that's all they want to know - they don't want you to be lying about where you are.
Going missing is a big thing in the care system and I know life can get hard but there are lots of people you can speak to. Life gets hard and I know that I've been through it all - going missing every week to stay out with my mates getting drunk... But before you do that think about all the paperwork your carers will have to do, how much your parents will worry! If you do go missing keep in touch and let your carers know your safe.
If you want to stay out tell them and they will speak to your social worker. Trust me, it isn't worth going missing. But if you do sleep out, send your carers a text and tell them you're okay so they know you're safe.
If you’re in care, I hope this helped you and makes you understand good things do come around. Things take time remember that.
If you have a story to share about your care experience you can email Ali our Communications and Campaigns Manager and she'll arrange a time to chat: firstname.lastname@example.org