Can you introduce yourself please?
Hi. I’m Nicola, 31 & live in York.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m mum to two lovely boys. They’re complete opposites & I couldn’t be prouder of them. I’ve been married six years, but together ten. I work part time for a substance misuse charity and volunteer for the charities Look Good Feel Better and The Lunar Project on my days off. Recently I have gone back to college to re sit my English & Maths GCSEs.
I am hopefully going to University in September 2020 to become a social worker.
Life is hectic, but fun!
Do you mind telling us the reasons you went into care?
I grew up in a very emotionally and physically abusive household. There was never any love shown. After a very messy divorce I went to live with my mum. She was unable to fulfil her role as a parent & looked for any small reason to throw me out. Doors were locked & phone calls never picked up. I had no choice but to move in to my dad’s. My brother was able to continue with his bullying of me with no consequence for his actions. It was less of an argument for my dad to side with him. My dad remarried quickly & they decided together as a family to throw me out. I was told to leave and my stuff would follow out the window. I was 14. I sofa surfed & lived with a couple of boyfriends who subjected me to domestic violence. By this point I was a very depressed 15 year old. I ended up trying to take my life and went from hospital into foster care.
What was it like when you first went into care?
A relief! I was safe.
Overall, what has your care experience been like?
I was very lucky to live with a family who gave me freedom to be myself, whilst also providing me with the stability that I needed. I had a really supportive social worker also & they are both the reason I want to train to be a social worker myself.
I was very lucky to live with a family who gave me freedom to be myself, whilst also providing me with the stability that I needed.
What is your biggest achievement?
That I am able to give my children what I missed out on growing up.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
I didn’t attend school frequently in my final year and came out with very poor GCSE results. This really limited my options career wise. I had a big chip on my shoulder about education for many years. The thought that someone with a history like mine could go to university felt very unrealistic.
It’s only been this last 6 months that I have felt I am at a place in my life to be brave & follow my dreams. I am using what makes me different (and special) to others as the driver of my motivation.
Has your past had a positive or negative effect on your future?
As sad as my childhood was, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. It’s the choice you have to make; do you want to be a sad statistic, or make the world a brighter place?
As sad as my childhood was, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it
Who is your role model?
I have an amazing set of girl friends. Each one of them are strong and independent women & they inspire me every day.
What keeps you going?
My boys, husband & friends.
I also picture myself graduating from university. Knowing I have fought that bit harder than people who aren’t care experienced to be in the position I am.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
It’s hard work when you have so much going against you statistically. Going back into education was a big deal for me and finding out how many years I need to study for almost put me off! But everything that’s worth having is hard work.
It’s hard work when you have so much going against you statistically.
How much have you changed since you left care?
I’m a completely different person. Having lived in a very dog eat dog environment before care made me quite selfish & stubborn at times, but when you’ve only had yourself to rely on for so many years, that can become entrenched.
Living with such an amazing foster family who believe in fairness & helping those who need it most in society, has really helped me to understand the impact that peoples actions can make on the world. I’m incredibly left wing nowadays!
Did you ever feel alone?
Moving into my flat was lonely. None of my friends were in the same position, so l can imagine it was hard for them to know what to say or do as I was the only one experiencing these issues.
Did your foster parents help you?
Immeasurably. My foster mum really helped to prepare me for independence. She told me one day she was going to stop cooking for me & took me to the supermarket to buy my own food. It was definitely the best way to prepare me!
On the day I moved into my flat she came round with boxes full of food & toiletries to help get me started. Even now they still help me with advice, I can’t imagine them not being in my life.
What’s your message to children in care?
You are stronger than you know & able to achieve whatever you dream. You are worthy of every opportunity in this world, but you have to grab it with both hands. Also, don’t rush into independence, there’s plenty of time for that.
You are worthy of every opportunity in this world, but you have to grab it with both hands…
What do you think about care now?
There are a lot more support networks now, especially in York. Obviously there will always be areas that can be improved, but as long as the voice of young people in care is heard, it can only keep getting better.
Is there something you’re most proud of?
My fighting spirit.
As long as the voice of young people in care is heard, it can only keep getting better.