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Care Experienced - Ask Me Anything

Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large AnchorSomewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
With care week now over I thought now would be a good time to do an AMA (ask me anything)!

There are so many misconceptions regarding care experienced people, living in care, going into care etc. I really want to help break barriers and help educate those who simply don't know or have a burning question.

Please remember I can't answer on behalf of every CE young person - I can only answer on my own personal experiences!

I'm happy to answer anything so please don't feel shy. There's not much info on the internet so now's your chance!

This is either gonna be a hit or gonna die slowly but either way I want the opportunity for people to learn to be there.

I'm happy to talk about my life in care, how I went into care and any other "touchy" subjects, because without honesty and going into harder subjects people won't learn.
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La_La

Comments

  • independent_independent_ Resident Coffee Addict ScotlandPosts: 7,733 Legendary Poster
    How did you feel when you went into care? I know you were that bit older when you went into care and Iโ€™m always curious what impact it has on people.
    โ€œSometimes the people around you wonโ€™t understand your journey. They donโ€™t need to, itโ€™s not for them.โ€
    Anch0r33
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    How did you feel when you went into care? I know you were that bit older when you went into care and Iโ€™m always curious what impact it has on people.

    Ooh this is a good one! I actually contacted social work myself but I can remember the day super clearly. Was a Wednesday and I was pulled out of my first class to go speak to the social workers. By the end of the school day they had spoken to me, done a home check and then come back to drive me to my mum's, where they ultimately said I couldn't remain there.

    Initially I felt pretty scared because I didn't know where they were going to put me. My grandparents were abroad at the time and I didn't have any other family. I was worried they might contact my dad, something I didn't want.

    They made the wrong call in my opinion of letting my mum stay with me at my grandparents house until they got home.

    I remember the first few months there was a lot going on. A lot of conflict within the family, I would overhear my grandparents talking about the situation but it was never mentioned in front of me. I felt a bit like an intruder and like I'd done the wrong thing.

    Looking back I can see how I did the right thing but my case was handled incredibly poorly (as you know!). I think now I'm out of any placement and in my own place I can really appreciate that going into care was the best thing for me.

    It was all a bit unsteady which was kinda scary. I knew they could come in and remove me whenever they wanted, especially as they didn't give my grandparents a permanency order (something that would allow me to remain there), so everything was a bit all over the place. The social workers never had any intention of returning me to my mum but they never told me that, although I think I probably knew if that makes sense.

    There's a feeling of safety being removed from a bad situation but all of a sudden I became that kid to the teachers. They all went from being pissed at me for my attendance to calling me back after class to ask how I was doing at home which was very frustrating. I was still the same person but suddenly being treated so differently all because they found out social work removed me.
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    independent_La_LaEd_
  • Ed_Ed_ Posts: 805 Super Moderator
    Really great thread idea @Anch0r33 - appreciate you being willing to share your experiences, I am sure it will help others. I guess in terms of a question, what things would you want to have told your younger self about being in care before that happened to you? You mentioned that there are quite a few misconceptions about being in care, what would you say are the biggest things people get wrong about what being in care is like or what it means?
    "Don't let them paint you gray. They're gonna see you're somebody, somewhere, someday. Don't ever let them take your playful heart away. Oh you're somebody nobody could replicate" ~ Roo Panes
    Anch0r33
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    Ed_ wrote: ยป
    Really great thread idea @Anch0r33 - appreciate you being willing to share your experiences, I am sure it will help others. I guess in terms of a question, what things would you want to have told your younger self about being in care before that happened to you? You mentioned that there are quite a few misconceptions about being in care, what would you say are the biggest things people get wrong about what being in care is like or what it means?

    Thank you Ed! I appreciate that. I'm hoping I can use my experiences to educate others, in a safe space of course!

    I think the biggest thing for me would've been to not be scared of the consequences of reporting my mum. I took so long to do it that I inevitably suffered more. That the adults in your life are there to help and support you. I wish I had been able to open up more so I would definitely tell myself not to be scared. I think often about what would've changed if I had opened up more at the start and I really feel I would've received more support. Living in care isn't a bad thing unless you make it a bad thing. Make the most of bad situations and appreciate those that are trying to help you - often they are doing their job but they're doing it because they care.

    About the misconceptions - children in care are no different to other children. Often care experience is a label used to describe people like myself but it carries negative connotations. Many people believe it's our fault we were put into care or that we are criminals but in reality we just want a place to call home and people to genuinely care for us.

    Care kids are more likely to have experienced trauma and difficult situations at a young age which can make learning difficult. I think we're automatically expected to fail so when we do something good there is a lot of celebration - which can be a good thing but at the same time, we're not stupid. We've just been given the short straws in life.

    Another thing is people assume that when you're put into secure care it's because you're a hardened criminal. That simply isn't the case. Often secure care is for high flight risks (so runaways) and suicide attempts. Sure there's people who have committed crimes but that's not everything.

    Living in a group home isn't like Tracy Beaker/the dumping ground. I never lived in a social work group home but I did live in a group home none the less so will speak of my experiences there. I lived in a house with 4 bedrooms and there was 12 of us there. It could be very frustrating, there was rarely any alone time but there's not as much drama. Most of the time it was just like living in a house with lots of people. It didn't feel institutional at all, but it also didn't feel like home.

    Another big one is there are many reasons people go into care. It can range from parental death, parental mental health problems or other illnesses, it may be that you're an asylum seeker without family or it could be because you've requested it for whatever reason, it may also be because of severe attendance issues at school or constant anti social behaviour. There's many other reasons including parents requesting you to be placed into care.

    That's all I can think of off the top of my head but if there's anything I missed or anything you'd like to ask regarding anything I've said (or not said!) then please do fire away.

    I'm proud of my care experience and hope I can do a lot of good with my experience
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    Ed_
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    Just bumping this as I noticed some newbies and I'm keen to keep educating!
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  • AislingDMAislingDM Posts: 594 Moderator
    Thank you for bumping this and for being so super open with us, I am beyond grateful to learn from you right now <3 I know you mentioned not being able to speak for all CE young people, but I am wondering if you have any insight on whether other adults in your life could have identified that you needed support sooner? like what do you think we should be looking out for to best support children, teens and young adults? (more than okay if you don't want to answer this tho!!) xx
    Anch0r33
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    Thank you for bumping this and for being so super open with us, I am beyond grateful to learn from you right now <3 I know you mentioned not being able to speak for all CE young people, but I am wondering if you have any insight on whether other adults in your life could have identified that you needed support sooner? like what do you think we should be looking out for to best support children, teens and young adults? (more than okay if you don't want to answer this tho!!) xx

    Absolutely a fantastic question. As I said (and you mentioned!) I can only talk from my own experience but I have read some old report cards from primary and secondary school as well as my CAMHS and social work files. Also going from memory here.

    I believe the first people who could've helped me was my primary 6 and 7 teachers. A lot of red flags were going off around about those years. I was often late for school, absent days were rising. I was noted as a quiet child. I struggled to form meaningful relationships with my peers but I was still doing well in school.

    In P5 I started pulling my hair out and was referred to CAMHS through my GP.

    I think my primary school head teacher also could have done a lot more for me.

    P7 though was really when I think it should've been picked up. By this time I had been pulling my hair out for about 2 years. My attendance had started dropping, I was regularly late, I often didn't hand in homework and I didn't return school books. Another key thing here was I turned up bruised pretty regularly. I did a martial art too so it was often presumed that the bruises were from my sport, but that wasn't always the case and this was never investigated further.

    I moved onto high school and again I never really fitted in with my peers. I struggled with hair loss and bad skin from my living conditions and again we received attendance letters from the head teacher showing concerns. I stayed at this school for 2 years and not once was anything raised. I remember in my English class, I'd shown up to class with a black eye. I'd genuinely been headbutted by my dog and when asked I did say this (to great amusement of my classmates) but again it was never investigated further, they just took me at my word.

    I can't remember where on the timescale this was but it was pre 14 years old. A police officer had came because my neighbours got drunk and assaulted my dogs (threw bricks and wood at them) and the police actually came into my hallway. They never did anything about the living conditions even though the hallway was bare, had no flooring and was covered in dog urine and dusty everywhere. I still wonder to this day why they never did anything.

    After those 2 years at my first high school, I moved to my next high school and my attendance got noticeably worse. We got called to an attendance officer meeting and my mum was threatened with jail. Looking back they were just trying to frighten me, but it didn't phase me. I can remember thinking that would be great for me if she went to jail.

    I was perfectly capable when in class but I was late nearly every day that I wasn't absent and my attendance hit about <60%. I was missing assignments and never did homework but I always worked well in class. They put me in the support classroom to try and provide me with a better environment for me to work and catch up in. I ended up being dropped from my national 5 assessments to national 4.

    Again nothing was questioned as to why I was always absent, late and missing work. I think if they'd actually taken the time to talk to me, built a relationship with me then they may have gotten somewhere with it.

    I honestly think any professional that I came into contact with could've easily figured out what was going on if they'd taken the time to build a relationship with me. It's important to remember that even if a kid is being abused, it's likely all they know so they may not even realise it's wrong or they may not want to lose the only family they know.

    I took about 2 years working with Childline before I built the courage to report my mum to social work, even then I still didn't fully receive the support I should've gotten.

    In response to what to look out for, I think it can be anyone. It can be the trouble maker/class clown - they might be looking for the attention they don't receive at home, it could be the quiet one like me, who got on with everything and was well behaved for the most part. It can be the ones you don't notice.

    Obvious things to look out for are clothes too small/dirty/smelly, unkept appearance, nervous, forgetting homework (I never received the support at home and didn't have the physical space to do homework, also things got lost due to my mum's hoarding), lack of uniform, possible distraction (can be caused by hunger, tiredness, additional needs or too much on their mind).

    I think the ones you really need to look out for are the ones that go under the radar. The quiet ones who do everything that's asked of them.

    In my SW files my headteacher described me as a bright girl and said there was no issues when I was in class but then went on to say that I could be manipulative at times (I was 14 btw at this point).

    I think looking back, there was a lot of subtle warning signs and potential red flags that went amiss. It's frustrating to know that they could've removed me earlier.

    I'd say when working with kids, be the role model and support system that you'd be for your own children - if just one of those professionals in my life had made an effort with me, I'd have felt more able to open up and ask for help sooner.

    Just think, I chose to semi anonymously report my mum to a social work department that I knew nothing about, over teachers that I should've been able to open up to and trust.

    I think I've answered your question but if I've missed anything or you've got further questions regarding what I've said, feel free to let me know!
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    AislingDM
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    @AislingDM forgot to say, I think my CAMHS worker could have done a LOT more for me. I'd planned to write a paragraph about that but totally forgot so here it is.

    I was referred to CAMHS first when I was 10 due to me pulling my hair out. I was described by my doctor as an angry child with behaviour issues. My CAMHS worker strived to work with me and my mum together in the room. I was never given my own space. I didn't engage super well according to my CAMHS files and I can't remember a lot of my meetings. I have a warm feeling when I think of my worker though. I obviously liked her at the time.

    I was noted to not make much progress in sessions and it was discussed closing my case numerous times. Seemingly I was adament that I wanted to continue coming. This was probably because it was the first sign of professional support that I was getting and most attention of an adult outwith my family. I appear quite clingy if I'm quite honest. Not like grabbing onto my worker, but not wanting to leave sessions and insisting on more, even if I didn't do much during any sessions. I think it felt safe.

    My case was opened and closed numerous times before I went into care and I really feel she could've explored what was going on for me in my life.

    The first few years of CAMHS focussed on my supposed issues with my peers. I was bullied and spoke about this a lot, but it was written down as my fault - I didn't do well in 3s so apparently I got jealous. They then tried to say that I got jealous of our new puppy that I wanted because it took time away from my mum. My worker noted that we had a more sibling relationship and she picked up on a lot of red flags that were never acted upon. She wrote them in her files and she even had a session alone working with my mum to find out about her childhood.

    It was a tough read, my CAMHS files. Had me in tears a lot - much more than my SW files. They just made me angry.

    By all the adults in my life, I was deemed the problem. My mum was always made out to be the good one "no concerns with mum's presentation" and even excused abuse that I had revealed to social work. They said that it was due to stressors within the household (aka me being a difficult child) that I had been kicked in the head, hit with a washing basket and physical fights. They said I was vague on timescales and there was no evidence to back up what I was saying.

    All throughout my files, it was excusing the adults failures within my life and I feel any one of them could've made a bigger difference to my life.

    Another key adult in my life, who I am forever grateful for, but could have saved me a lot of trauma, were my grandparents. They knew the conditions I was living in and I even overheard them warning my mum that if social work got a glimpse of my living conditions then I'd be removed. So they knew it wasn't okay but never helped me.

    They did a lot for me though - I ate at their house every day, otherwise I'd have starved, they helped keep me clean and bought me clothes, they were the main childcare for me and they took me to nice places and on holiday even before they took me in when social work removed me. So yeah that's a conflicting one
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  • AislingDMAislingDM Posts: 594 Moderator
    Thank you so so so very much @Anch0r33 !! I cannot begin to express how appreciative I am of your detailed responses and your honest openness in sharing about different aspects of your childhood and teenage years. I know you began this thread in an effort to get the information out there to others, but the way you have chronicled so much to make it so very clear and explicit has helped me to understand so very much.

    In particular, I think your way of simplifying everything down to a general rule of 'what would you want to be modelled for your own kids' is really cool because it gives us a mindset to enforce each day that we are around young people! I am also grateful for you specifying the fact that children who are suffering can 'look' any sort of way, which is why we shouldn't try to define children-at-risk solely by parameters like school success, because as you say it is devastating and disgraceful that your suffering was ignored in part due to such awful misconceptions (which is not to suggest that these professionals ], and other adults, do not bear full responsibility for not taking action)!!

    I cannot even begin to imagine how painful it was for you to reflect on each aspect of your childhood and adolescence, especially as you are working so hard to continuously heal, but the fact that you have shown such amazing amazing compassion and honesty to share this with us is nothing short of inspiring. I think I will return to this thread regularly to constantly remind myself of what we need to be doing, if this is okay? Thank you again and I hope you managed to relax after writing out such an emotionally-taxing, and wonderfully helpful, thread xxx <3<3<3
    Anch0r33
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    Thank you for this @AislingDM

    I really think that writing this thread has been helping me as much as it's been helping you guys! It's encouraging me to explore and talk about aspects of my life that I may not have thought about!

    I'm glad you've taken what you have from it, there's so much more we can be doing for all our children and teens in any sort of need.

    Feel free to come here any time you want and any time you have any questions, you know I'll be here! Ask away :)
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  • AislingDMAislingDM Posts: 594 Moderator
    I love this mindset it's truly so beautiful how much you're willing to share and I'm beyond glad to hear that doing this has allowed you to consider different parts of your life that maybe you hadn't before or seeing them from different points of view <3 I know this mustn't be easy to keep on writing about but I certainly am grateful all the same !! x
    Anch0r33
  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Posts: 2,053 Boards Champion
    Hi @Anch0r33

    I just want to highlight how amazing you are for using your own experiences to educate others.

    If I had one question it would be what would your current self tell your younger self? - What words would have comforted you the most in times of difficulty? <3
    Anch0r33
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    @Laura_tigger82 thanks for that!

    Ooh definitely a good one. I think just believing that everything happens for a reason would've been good for me. That's something I tried to teach myself in my later teens but absolutely would've been useful when times got tough.

    The one thing that did actually help me a lot was one of my build a bears. Got given him on my 4th birthday and he's with me still. He helped me to sleep, gave me someone to talk to and was just generally there for me when stuff was tough. I used to sleep with him every night. Now he stays at Mt bedside but I don't need him as much. He's there if I do need him though.
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  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Posts: 2,053 Boards Champion
    Hi @Anch0r33

    Thanks so much for your response.

    I will definitely try to bear this in mind if I'm ever supporting other people who are care experienced. Though, of course, keeping in mind different things help different people.

    Your build a bear sounds great! Does he have a name? :3
    Anch0r33
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    @Laura_tigger82 sounds great! Yes I'd definitely try and find out what works for each young person. Some people might not appreciate thinking that the abuse or a parental death or whatever had a higher meaning but looking back it's helped me. I'm not sure how it would've done in the moment! But I think you're absolutely right, everyone's different but it's good to think about how to appropriately engage with young people with care experience.

    Sometimes it's good to ensure they know that it's not their fault, some may respond well to knowing there's no higher meaning for it all and that shit happens and you're there for them.

    But my biggest thing I'd say is just support them, be there for them and even if that's just in a friend capacity.

    He does! He's a purple monkey called Mickey Monkey (but he's pronounced like Mikey) hehe
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  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Posts: 2,053 Boards Champion
    Hi @Anch0r33

    Very wise words! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. Always valuable :3

    Mickey Monkey sounds great! Purple is my favourite colour <3

    Would you like to share a photo of Mickey Monkey with us? :3
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    umgojg8ipmca.jpg

    He's just like this but obviously not wearing those clothes as this is just an online pic :)
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  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Posts: 2,053 Boards Champion
    Awww, Mickey Monkey is gorgeous @Anch0r33 :3
    Anch0r33
  • charlieboyzcharlieboyz OrpingtonPosts: 170 Helping Hand
    how long does it take to go into care?
  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Posts: 2,053 Boards Champion
    edited January 3
    Hi @charlieboyz

    Honestly, it tends to vary on an individual's case basis. According to the Government, "it can take up 26 weeks for a court to decide what should happen". You can find more information about this at Childline.

    Government - https://www.gov.uk/if-your-child-is-taken-into-care/care-proceedings
    Childline - https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/home-families/family-relationships/living-care/

    Anch0r33
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea ๐ŸŒŠPosts: 1,177 Wise Owl
    how long does it take to go into care?

    Yes I absolutely agree with what @Laura_tigger82 said.

    I went into care the same day the social workers first saw me because my living conditions weren't safe for me to live in.

    They essentially pulled me out on an emergency basis and I've never went back to live at home since.

    But it's a long process. They had to check and vet my grandparents and their house to ensure it was suitable for me, then some kids go through the children's panel or equivalent which decides where the kid stays. There's also court proceedings, any family objections etc so it really could be any length of time
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  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Posts: 2,053 Boards Champion
    Hi @Anch0r33

    Thanks so much for expanding on my answer. Really useful for @charlieboyz to be able to hear from someone who has experienced it. Neither of you is alone. We have such a wonderful community! <3
    Anch0r33
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