I moved in with my current carers, Annette and Andrew, along with my sisters, when I was 10 years old. When they came to collect us for the first time, they had balloons on the car and had matching balloons on the lamppost outside the house that we had to find. It made what is normally a daunting situation, moving into a new house with a new family, fun and exciting.
Even though I was pretty closed off at the start and preferred to be on my own, they made sure I was always included and made to feel part of their family. They gently encouraged me to come out of my shell and helped me to build long-lasting friendships.
Whenever I have felt lost, they have encouraged me and helped me to find direction. They have been supporting me for half of my life now and I consider them my family. When I turned 18, I continued living with them and my sisters in a Staying Put arrangement.
This past year I have been working as an apprentice Children’s Resource Worker at TACT. I had a really good experience and learnt so much that helped me to grow and develop as a person and a professional. In particular, I learnt how to communicate better with both professionals and young people.
This experience will really help me in my goal of becoming a social worker. I am currently doing a social work access course, and aim to study it at university afterwards. The pandemic has meant that part of it is virtual, but it’s going really well.
The pandemic and lockdowns in general have been challenging for me. It was OK at first, as I had work, but when we could no longer leave our house it became difficult. There was no longer a separation between work and home and everybody in the house was on top of each other all day which caused some arguments. Not having the option to see my friends was hard and it affected my mental health.
For the care-experienced community, COVID has likely made the issues they face like isolation and financial burdens even more prominent. Many care-experienced young people don’t have the support network that most teenagers have. Once they turn 18, they are expected to move out and survive on their own which can be really overwhelming. There needs to be more support put in place for the care-experienced community, particularly from local authorities.