Introduce yourself please…
I’m Laura Beveridge, I’m a Development Officer with Who Cares? Scotland. I love working for a cause so close to my heart, making sure that young people are heard, supporting them to influence positive change in the care system and to make some happy memories along the way. One of the best parts of my job is challenging the stigma that care experienced people face, one of the best ways to combat stigma is to empower young people so they can own their care identity.
I love working for a cause so close to my heart, making sure that young people are heard
It was only when I joined Who Cares? Scotland as an Alumni care leaver that I met others with similar backgrounds, it was amazing just being able to chat freely about my time in care without fear of judgement. I’m not scared of owning that part of my identity anymore because I don’t feel alone and know it doesn’t define me, I see it as just one part of my journey. I’m also a really big Disney fan!
Do you mind telling us the reasons you went into care?
I went into care because my Mum couldn’t cope after my abusive step-dad left, my Mum struggled with disability and had very little support. I did my best to support her but I was only 12, was being bullied at school, had taken on a lot of adult responsibilities and it all got too much so I was taken into care.
I did my best to support her but I was only 12
How did you feel about going in care?
I went into care when I was 12 years old and felt really anxious about living with a foster family, I had little understanding of what care actually was. It was like diving into the unknown. I remember finding it really hard to settle into a new routine and living away from my family, I missed them desperately.
Whats your favourite childhood memory?
I don’t have a favourite childhood memory but I had some lovely moments of hope and happiness whenever I was with my Nana, where I felt safe. I also loved watching Disney films, I was at my happiest watching Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
What is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement was when I went back to the secure unit as a student residential worker! I’ll never forget the moment I was handed the set of keys that were once used to lock me up. It was such a strange time in my life and it was definitely something that I had to do because I wanted to help make care a better place to grow up.
I’ll never forget the moment I was handed the set of keys that were once used to lock me up
Looking back now I think there was a part of me that had to back and make sense of my journey and the pain and anger that I carried with me. It was traumatic going back to the secure unit, lots of memories came flooding back but I was ready to face it and was ready to finally understand and start to heal.
Overall, what has your care experience been like?
The experiences I had in care were very mixed. I met some of the most amazing people whilst in care, made so many great friendships that I still hold today with both professionals that worked with me and other young people I was in care with. No one understood what care felt like better than the other kids I shared a home with, my friends in care were my biggest support. We shared a real sense of understanding and respect for each other, they were like family.
No one understood what care felt like better than the other kids I shared a home with, my friends in care were my biggest support
I also met some amazing members of staff whilst in residential care, my keyworker Davie who never missed a birthday, who always listened and never judged. Wendy, a worker who was like a Mum to me and gave me a hug when I needed it. Although the staff were very restricted within their professional role, I always felt like I was kept at a distance and never really claimed anyone, my Nana wasn’t able to care for me and my Mum couldn’t cope. Staff weren’t even allowed to tell me that I was loved. I also felt really suffocated by rules and regulations, everything checked, risk assessed and recorded, I have files that talk about what I was eating for breakfast! I felt very different and was bullied for being in care when I was at school. I remember being asked by other kids in school “what do you do there?” referring to the residential house I was in. I also remember a “friend” introducing me to her Mum and told her “this is Laura from the home, her Mum doesn’t love her”. That hurt.
Staff weren’t even allowed to tell me that I was loved
Has your past had a positive or negative effect on your future?
My past has had both a positive and negative effect on my future. It has taken me many years to make sense of what I went through. Some of it, particularly before I went into care I may never really understand but what I do know is that none of it was my fault. When I was a teenager I carried around a lot of rage, blamed myself and struggled to trust in anything or anyone. When I was in care I was moved around 10 times, I genuinely believed there was something badly wrong with me. It was only when I was 16 and met my boyfriend Steven, after years of his support, strength and love that I began to trust and began to think more about the future than the past that I finally had hope.
When I was in care I was moved around 10 times, I genuinely believed there was something badly wrong with me
My care experience has made me very determined to do all I can to change things for the better. When I was training I learned as much as I could about caring for children and young people so that I could support them to recover from trauma too. Most children in care have experienced loss or trauma, going into care in itself is a trauma. Every child needs the time, space and support to recover from that. That’s what I wanted to do. So I worked in the care system for 10 years as a Residential Care Worker, Family Support Worker then as a Senior Care Worker in my last job. Although most of my working life felt frustrating and very challenging because so little has changed, I still see young people struggling through life with the same difficulties I had 15years ago.
What has driven you?
What has driven me? There are some young people that I was in care with that didn’t make it out alive and well, they are what drives me. There are some young people that I cared for whose whereabouts are unknown and that is a tragedy that continues. If care is about relationships, if care givers are allowed to stay in touch, never give up and love the children that they care for care will be an amazing place to grow up. That is why I will continue to do all I can so that every care experienced person has a place to return to, a place where they are loved and a place to call home.
There are some young people that I cared for whose whereabouts are unknown and that is a tragedy that continues
I’m also driven by the people around me at Who Cares? Scotland. It’s an inspiring place to work because we are all working for a cause that we believe in. I feel really driven and inspired by the young people that I work with, it’s an amazing thing to see a group of young people working together to make change happen. We all share the determination to make care a better, more equal, fun, memorable and loving place to grow up.
Who is your role model?
My role model has been my children’s rights worker Lorraine Grady who I met when I was 15 in residential school. Lorraine always listened, never judged and I felt like she was always on my side. I remember going to Lorraine’s group work programmes where I’d meet other young people and talk about the issues that we faced and talked about how care could be better. I felt really supported at these groups, felt like I belonged and didn’t feel so alone when I was there chatting freely about my care experience with the group. I remember thinking that I’d love to do what Lorraine does for young people. The work that Lorraine did with me definitely inspired me because I love working with groups of young people now.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
I have felt like giving up a number of times in my life, at a time when I was around 11, a serious attempt on my life at 15 and in my early twenties. What kept me going was having staff around me that believed in me, my Nana and my husband Steven who I met when I was 16, he never gave up even when I was at my worst. What keeps me going now is our wee girl Maia. I feel very proud to be her Mum she’s an amazing 3 year old that shares my love of Disney!
What keeps me going now is our wee girl Maia. I feel very proud to be her Mum she’s an amazing 3 year old
How much have you changed since you left care?
I’ve changed a lot since I left care. I’m much more aware of my mental health and how to look after it. There are times when I do struggle but I know the warning signs and get support when I need it. When I was younger I was very quick to anger and struggled with relationships. I am now able to trust and look forward instead of back, the past is right where it needs to be. Holding on to anger was my biggest battle, through years of reflecting and retraining myself I’m much more positive than I was and have realised that life goes very fast and is too precious to waste on feelings and the people that hurt me in the past. I now surround myself with people I love and choose to make happy memories with them because that’s what’s important.
When I was younger I was very quick to anger and struggled with relationships. I am now able to trust and look forward instead of back
Do you think you were ever judged or labeled for being in care?
I felt judged as soon as I stepped into my first foster care placement and was warned that lying and stealing wouldn’t be tolerated in their house, even though I had no intention of lying and stealing this is what they expected of me, this placement didn’t last long. I felt it more when I went into residential care, when I started to get excluded from school for swearing. This was something I did when I was in foster care too but it was only when I was in residential care that the school changed their approach and I was treated differently. I remember kids at school asking what it was like to live in “a home” and remember my guidance teacher asking me to step out of class so he could ask how it was going in “the home”. I felt like I was expected to fail, my Mum was told not to expect much from me. When I was locked up at 15 my Mum was told that I was on the road to jail. The labels and judgement ate away at my self-esteem and I had little hope for the future.
The labels and judgement ate away at my self-esteem and I had little hope for the future
When did you start to believe in yourself?
I started to believe in myself when I went back to school. After a year out of education, detox, support from my children’s rights worker, support from a supported landlady and my boyfriend Steven I was able to go back and finish high school. I went to a new school so I could get a fresh start. Education opened my eyes to what could be, where I could go and what I could do, life started to have possibilities and I felt more in control.
Education opened my eyes to what could be, where I could go and what I could do
Did you ever feel alone?
When I was homeless at 16 I felt very alone, as I slept in a doorway I realised that I had no one left to phone. I was so scared. When I ended up in a B&B, using alcohol and drugs I was at one of my lowest points. It was during this time that I bumped into a guy I went to school with, he asked me what I’d been up to. So I gave him an in a nutshell account of where I was at and he said “I thought so”. Those words cut through me, it was the last straw. I had been judged and written off for years and I’d had enough! I wanted to prove people like him wrong.Did your foster parents help you?
I had some amazing people that cared for me, many of them I am still in contact with. I’ll never forget the kindness they showed me, the words of encouragement and guidance they gave me. When I was in care it was difficult to attach to anyone, I was too scared and they weren’t allowed to get attached to me. I think a lot of people tried to help me but just didn’t know how to.
When I was in care it was difficult to attach to anyone, I was too scared and they weren’t allowed to get attached to me
What’s your message to children in care?
My message to children in care would be to keep moving forward to carve the life you want for yourself, keep chipping away and you’ll get there. My dream was to go Disney World, fall in love and have a happy family of my own and I did it! I married my boyfriend Steven, who I met when I was 16 and we married in a little town called Celebration in Disney World. We love going to Florida with our little girl. The thing about care is that it’s only the beginning of your journey, one day you’ll look back on it as a memory, a moment in time that you’ll have learned so much from. The most important thing to remember is that none of it is your fault and being care experienced is something you don’t need to hide or be ashamed of.
The thing about care is that it’s only the beginning of your journey
What was it like when you first went into care?
When I first went into care it was traumatic, it felt like grief because I missed my family so much. I would go through a process of crying, despair and disbelief, bargained with my Social Worker and my Mum, blamed myself and felt like it was somehow my fault. Looking back now I don’t think the reasons why I was taken into care was ever really discussed I was just expected to keep going to school, to behave well and accept what had happened. No one could see the chaos that was in my head.
it felt like grief because I missed my family so much
If you could change anything about your life what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t change any part of my journey because even the worst times have made me appreciate the good times so much more. I have learned so much from the experiences that I’ve had, however I do hope being in care in the future is much more about relationships that continue beyond a child’s time in care, that there is more support available so that children and young people can recover from trauma and that children and young people always have a home to return to where they know they are loved.
I do hope being in care in the future is much more about relationships that continue beyond a child’s time in care
Watch Laura’s inspiring Tedx Talk “Kids in Care: Let’s start a revolution”
In the difficult moments what kept you going?
In the difficult moments, especially in my late teens, early twenties I held on to my dream of having a family and a place to call home. Having that goal kept me going.
How did it feel proving people wrong?
How did it feel proving people wrong? I look back and I think I proved myself wrong more than anyone else. I didn’t believe it was possible or that I could be capable of having the life I have now. It feels really incredible to have come so far, finally have my dream and to be in a job that I love. I find it such a privilege listening to stories from other care leavers, children and young people because I can understand the struggle and strength behind each story.
It feels really incredible to have come so far, finally have my dream and to be in a job that I love