Date: 25th October 2017
TACT Care Leaver
Elizabeth, like many other 18 year olds across the UK, has just made the move from home to university halls. The only difference between her and fellow undergraduates is that she is a care leaver and among only 6% of looked after children who make it to higher education.
Elizabeth went into care when she was eight years old, due to the fact that her parents suffered personality disorders and could not look after her and her five siblings. Although originally all placed together, her two elder sisters were later placed with The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) carers Colin and Gary, and she soon followed.
“I moved in with Colin and Gary when I was 10, and I’ve been with them ever since,” says Elizabeth.
She is still in touch with her previous foster carers. “I was with them for two years, and because my younger brother and sister still live there I see them quite a lot. We always got on well.”
However, although she’s always gotten on with her foster dads and has thrived in foster care, it hasn’t been without some low points.
“Holidays in care are really hard. Christmases and birthdays are weird when you’re being introduced to your carers’ family when you know you’ve got your own flesh and blood.”
Being in care has not prevented Elizabeth from fully engaging with her school studies, and in some ways being fostered has actually given her extra opportunities, thanks to Colin and Gary.
Elizabeth said: “Colin and Gary have really encouraged me with my education. When I was studying for my A levels they made sure they knew the exam timetable and pushed me to revise. They also made a room in the house a quiet space for me to study.”
Now that Elizabeth is 18, she’s heading off to university to study Health and Social Care.
“I’m going to study Health and Social Care because I want to become a social worker,” she said. “I have had a lot of experience with social workers and I really know what good social working can achieve for young people.”
Reflecting on why so many care leavers do not make it to university, Elizabeth thinks that for many looked after young people it is enough of a challenge to overcome the trauma and abuse that led them to being placed into care. And without the ‘bank of mum and dad’ the thought of coping financially must be daunting and indeed off putting for young people in care. It is for this exact reason that TACT is campaigning for the care leavers to get free tuition fees.
Although she has now moved into student accommodation she will be heading back to Gary and Colin – her ever supportive foster dads, during the holidays.