The Coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a very challenging time for many young people, but for 21 year old Jarra it has been positively life changing, because it has spurred her on to become one of just six cent of care leavers to go to university.
Jarra said: “Lockdown gave me the opportunity to take stock of my life and do stuff that I wouldn’t normally have time to do, including applying for university. I don’t think I would have done it otherwise, I kind of needed to be pushed. Lockdown helped me realise that there’s more to life than just what I’m doing at the moment.
Jarra has chosen to study social work and given that she was just 18 months old when she went into care, she has had plenty of experience of seeing the social work profession in action.
Naturally, she also knows a lot about fostering, and credits her former foster carer Mandy and Mandy’s family for providing her with the start in life that helped her thrive and finally pursue her ambition.
Jarra was fostered by Mandy when she was 18 months old for a brief period, then she returned to live with her and her family when she was three, where she stayed until she reached 18. And despite now being an independent adult, Jarra continues to have a close bond with her foster family.
Jarra said” I’ve still got all of my life story work and apparently I came to Mandy in clothes that were miles too big for me, I was bit wary at first but I think I settled really well and I started to open up and yeah I think I have called Mandy mum for quite a long time.”.
“My foster family gave me lots of great opportunities and experiences. I went to so many different countries with them on holiday. And Mandy fostered other children when I was living there, including children with complex needs, so I learned a lot about disabilities which I think is what led me to be a support worker.”
Like many young people, when Jarra left care and her foster family at 18, it was quite an overwhelming experience, and she suffered bouts of loneliness. Which is why she is a keen supporter of TACT’s Connect scheme – an innovative support service for care experienced people. Thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund, she is among several TACT care leavers to be appointed as a TACT Connect Advisor, a role which will enable Jarra to share her experiences and learned wisdom with other TACT Connect members.
Jarra said:”I know how difficult it can be to leave care and your foster family, so I understand the problems that new care leavers often face, and I look forward to sharing with them how I coped. I also want to show them that there is a lot of help out there, especially from TACT Connect, which can give them the chance to meet new people with similar experiences and provide advice and support with education, careers, independent living etc.,”
Jarra acknowledges that she is the outcome of the positive and transformative impact being fostered can have on a child’s life. And she has some advice for new foster carers.
She said:”Be prepared for the ups and the downs. There have some been some awesome amazing moments with my foster family, but I know that there were times when I used to misbehave quite a lot. Patience, communication and listening to what that young person has been through is important. It’s nice to just have someone that can listen and kind of get to know a young person on a personal level and understand why they are the way they are and what they have been through.”