Can you introduce yourself please?
My Name is Billy Mulvaney. I am 32 years old, married with 2 children. Liam, who is now 6 years old and Connor, who is 18 months.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I currently work as a senior manager with various vulnerable young offenders in a Secure Children’s Home which is a custodial placement for the past 6 years. Prior to this I have worked in various Children Homes in the Greater Manchester area. I have always worked with looked after children in various roles and from my personal experience have great empathy, understanding and experience with the trauma, difficulties and needs with children in care.
I am a Parent Governor for my son’s Special needs school. I have been in a long-term relationship with the wife for 12 years and we got married this year. This was the happiest day of our lives, concentrating our stable relationship and family connection. We all enjoy great family time making memories doing various activities, from games at home, time in our garden, going on holidays and regular day trips out.
Our oldest son has profound complex needs including Autism Spectrum Disorder which brings its own challenges but has a very active comical lifestyle. Liam always has a smile and commonly is up to mischief. Although he can’t talk he is very sociable and always very entertaining indeed.
I enjoyed various leisure activities including swimming, climbing walls, I love socialising, anything to do with technology, eating out, visiting new destinations and quality family time.
Do you mind telling us the reasons you went into care?
I went into care at the age of 6 along with my twin brother Jonathan, older brother Chris and 2 sisters – Suzy and Caroline.
The reasons for me going into care was abuse. Myself, and my siblings suffered from physical, emotional abuse and neglect.
There was a family ‘break down’. A dysfunctional way of living. An award of court now known as a care order was issued after failing to act on the changes recommended from social care.
What was it like when you first went into care?
Being so young, split up from everyone I know with the exception of my twin brother, I felt lots of emotions. Isolated, guilty, sad and confused. I remember thinking what did I do wrong?
“I remember thinking what did I do wrong?”
Overall, what has your care experience been like?
My Care experience has a complex journey, a real mix of good and bad times. I remember a flippant quote that a Care worker said about me and my twin ‘Those boys time in care, is far worse than it was at home’.
Although I don’t agree fully with this statement, there was some truth in the comment that the ‘system’ failed me in many ways. With foster carers who abused me just as bad as my parents, various social workers who didn’t take our opinions into account and placing us at available vacancy’s rather than placements that were ‘the right fit’.
The journey proceeded to a brighter twist when I and my twin dodged our adoption from the ‘strange family’ and went to some fantastic foster placements, Children’s homes and semi-independence with had the best staff from the Children’s home. I am still extremely close with some of the staff from my final placement in ‘care’ and consider these people to be my extended family.
“Those boys time in care, is far worse than it was at home”
What is your biggest achievement?
I have achieved a lot, going to university, professional development in my career and an affectionate dedicated family. The biggest achievement in my eyes, was proving people wrong and making a success of my life despite the odds stacked against me.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Trusting people and investing with people. I always kept people at arm’s length for fear of being disserted. Meeting Steph helped me overcome this and helped me to learn to trust and bond with people.
“I always kept people at arm’s length for fear of being disserted.”
Has your past had a positive or negative effect on your future?
There at times it still affects me in a negative fashion such as Christmas Day, but since having kids, I am so focused on them I don’t dwell on my past. I am now more positive. I could not see how my past had shaped me until a few years ago, after some counselling (which I essentially needed at the time).
After reading my care files and family history, which makes me think of it as a more positive effect, making me a strong determined and passionate person.
What has driven you?
I have always been determined to push myself to better myself. To prove people wrong and not live up to the label of an underachiever – which was a thrown around remark that stuck with me whilst I was in care. During those times, I didn’t have the confidence.
My wife motivates me and encourages my journey. Always showing dedication, commitment and compassion.
“My wife motivates me and encourages my journey. Always showing dedication, commitment and compassion.”
Who is your role model?
This is a difficult question to answer, People usually have one role model. It’s not uncommon to be a hero, celebrities or a close family member. Being true and honest to myself, I would say a few key people in my life our true role models in my eyes.
Those who have always been loyal, committed and energetic in supporting me in the right direction.
My life and success would not have been possible without my dear wife, Steph, who has known me since I was 12 being my rock at the good and bad times.
My care workers; Shani who is like a mother to me and Jake who has always been in my life and like an older brother.
All these key people have been fundamental, true role models.
What keeps you going?
Lots of things. I want the very best for my wife and children. My drive for progression at work, stability and proving that I could make something of my life. Being the best person I can be.
I have recently become a school governor at my son’s special needs school after demonstrating my passion about challenging and questioning rules and progresses.
I really enjoy this role and find time (I don’t know how) to help all children reach their full potential in Education.
I had a promotion last August at work, into a manager’s senior’s role and this comes with its own set of challenges that I am eager to get my teeth into.
“I want the very best for my wife and children.”
Have you ever felt like giving up?
Yes, there has been lots of times I felt like giving up, the most difficult time in recent years was finding out my first born had Autism Spectrum Disorder. I always knew he was ‘different’ but hearing those words made it real!
I went a long time embarrassed over hearing this news, I blamed myself, blamed the wife, the injections he had as a baby, anyone and everyone. After coming to terms with this, it has really opened my eyes, we are all different and unique in our very own special way.
Liam has a very endearing smile, laugh and personality. Seeing him happy, develop and achieve makes me very grateful for what I have and gives me motivation to move forward especially on those days when you are tired, lacking energy and feel deflated.
“Liam has a very endearing smile, laugh and personality. Seeing him happy, develop and achieve makes me very grateful”
How much have you changed since you left care?
On reflection, I think I am changing all the time, as I grow older I am becoming more democratic (I have always been 2 feet in first, before thinking kind of person).
I am finding better methods to express my opinion that has always been passionate about people being treated fairly and being supported in the right way and now that I am very experienced and qualified with working with children, this has given me good direction and knowledge.
My perception of the world has changed, there is always good in people, I have learned to trust, be open minded and less cynical. This has made me happier and more content and I have therefore made great relationships with a variety of people.
It can still take time to fully bond with someone but once were connected it likes concrete.
“My perception of the world has changed, there is always good in people, I have learned to trust, be open minded and less cynical.”
Do you think you were ever judged or labelled for being in care?
Yes, being in care there is a massive stigma. This has decreased over the years with children, however I remember being treated different by teachers and health professionals.
I used to feel guilty and to blame for being in care because people either felt sorry for you or labelled you as bad. Both approaches put me in a box which I didn’t fit and it was a horrible feeling to not be judged for being ‘me’
Did you ever feel alone?
Yes, I always felt alone growing up, scared and unsure of my future. I would not know if I would have my tea with the same adults or come home from school and have a bag packed ready for a drive to another ‘placement’.
I could not get close to anyone as it was safer not to get to emotionally involved in case I was moving on again.
As a child losing someone was hard but knowing your losing someone is harder, it plays with your mind and makes you introverted and withdrawn.
That feeling never went away as an adult for a long time. I delayed in starting a family thinking I would be no good as a Father and I felt that no one totally got me or understood me. That they only judged or labelled me.
This soon changed with my wife, Steph, who always was open, blunt, very warming and compassionate. Steph was the total opposite to me and we instantly ‘connected’ in a very emotional way that I had not experienced before.
This caring, nurturing and commitment shown by Steph began to rub off on me and now I never have that ‘alone’ feeling and it appears to be a distant memory.
What’s your message to children in care?
Working with Children in Care now, I see so many failures in the ‘system’. One thing I always tell the children I work with is that ‘You control your future, you have the power to change your pathway’.
There are some outstanding workers / carers working in care system. With their help and support this will steer you in the right direction. If I could talk to me as a child, I would want to know that you’re not to blame, and hold the keys to your future.
“you control your future, you have the power to change your pathway”
How did it feel proving people wrong?
I am very proud of myself. Thinking of all the achievements I have accomplished makes me very grateful for all the great support and close friends which have all helped me on my journey.
What do you think about care now?
Care now is very mixed. Some excellent workers, systems in place and services.
However, I consider the current country’s financial situation to have a detrimental impact on fundamental services. On one side, it has come a long way. But it needs more change and the voice of children need to be heard and to influence their important experiences and life journey’s.
“the voice of children need to be heard”
Is there something you’re most proud of?
I am proud of my loving family. Waking up in the morning and seeing my wife and boys happy, gives me focus and direction. We can all be stressed at times and row like most families, but we always find quality family time together which gives me a real satisfaction. I think the ‘small things’ in life are the most important, that considerate gesture and nice complement always makes me proud from the replicated endearment and love.
“I am proud of my loving family. Waking up in the morning and seeing my wife and boys happy, gives me focus and direction.”