This Care Experienced Week find out how support from our Leaving Care Team has helped a young person flourish.
Going to university to study Law has provided Lillie with way to achieve the goal she set herself on entering care in her teens – to become self-sufficient.
It’s also helped her overcome her shyness and lack of self-confidence to the point where she is now comfortable debating in front of over 1000 people.
“Going to university was a stepping stone into a new world where I could meet new people and reinvent myself. I’m also driven to work hard at university because I want to secure a good job, have my own home, car etc. and not have to rely on other people. Growing up I moved around a lot and didn’t have my own space, so being able to provide that for myself is extremely important to me.”
Getting the right support
With the help of our Leaving Care Team, who have been a “lifeline during difficult times”, and the introduction of the Care Experienced Education Bursary, Lillie feels more confident in herself and financially stable.
“The Leaving Care Team has always felt more like family than an organisation and I feel incredibly lucky to feel so supported and encouraged by them. They have never made me feel like I was a problem to be managed; they’ve always treated me as an individual. Their support has made a real difference to my life, especially when I was getting ready to go to university.
“Many people entering further education have significant financial support from their parents, something I do not have. That is why the bursary has helped alleviate the financial burden of studying and allowed me to have the same experiences and do the same things as everyone else.”
Although more care experienced young people are now entering further education because of the bursary, the trauma of being taken into care and having a chaotic and unstable family life can make it very difficult to gain the grades needed.
“There are still a lot of negative stereotypes about people who are care experienced including that they are in care because of their behaviour or they are troublemakers. Misconceptions like that, and the trauma of being in care itself causes, can make it extremely hard to do well academically, gain employment and even make friends.
“There’s also a misunderstanding that when you move children and young people from an unstable home to a foster carer or residential home that their life will improve considerably. That’s not always the case. The trauma of being separated from your parents and often your siblings and moving to a new area is significant. It’s not surprising that care experienced young people find it harder to achieve the exam results needed and they also don’t have the family safety net others do that would catch them should things not work out.
“I was lucky that coming to university allowed me to make lasting friendships, and my close friends now give me the support that my family sometimes are unable to. Moving away from where I grew up and having a secure place to call home allowed me to move on with my life and do well.”
Building a new life
Although Lillie has contact with her family the relationship remains strained and the stigma around care makes it difficult for her to talk about her experience because “it was a period of my life where I experienced trauma and pain”.
“Seeing others around me who have functioning and loving families is hard when you don’t have that yourself but, with the help of the bursary, the Leaving Care Team and my friends, I have been able to build a life at university which is very different from the one I had growing up and in a way I appreciate what I have much more because of that contrast.”
- The young person’s name has been changed.
- Image features a model.