Can you introduce yourself please?
Hi, I’m Pippa. I’m 23 years old. I am originally from York but now I live in Liverpool.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m just about to graduate my degree of health and social wellbeing at University. I was on a nursing degree before that, but i switched over. I went to Liverpool originally in 2011 and I have already been successfully employed to become a support worker in a children’s residential home.
“I have already been successfully employed to become a support worker in a children’s residential home”
Could you tell us about the reasons why you went into care?
My mother was in an unhappy and abusive marriage which caused me and my 2 younger sisters to go into care. 1 went into foster care and the youngest got adopted.
How did you feel about going into care?
I was actually quite happy to go into care because I knew it was going to take me out of a destructive environment. My sisters didn’t quite understand what was going on but because I was older i felt like i could understand the full picture.
“I was actually quite happy to go into care because I knew it was going to take me out of a destructive environment”
What is your favourite childhood memory?
Always being able to see my Dad. When i went into foster care there was always the option to either go into full time foster care or wether my Dad wanted to take me and my sister on full time. We did go into foster care, but he was always supportive so he’s been my happiest memory.
What is your biggest achievement?
I am about to graduate from University. There’s loads of statistics around the country showing that many young people in foster care don’t go on to achieve degree status. Or if they do go, they eventually drop out. The fact that I have been able to power through and have the support there to enable me to get to this point makes this my greatest achievement.
“I have been able to power through and have the support there to enable me to get to this point”
Overall, what do you think your care experience has been like?
Mine has been a very positive one because i never fought the system. I knew other children in foster care that didn’t appreciate what they had. They thought they were being outcasted from the whole society so they fought against that, whereas I embraced it. I took on everything. I thought it was a privilege that I was able to go into a happy family.
“I embraced it. I took on everything”
Has your past had a negative or positive effect on your future?
For me its had a positive effect. I know when I was living with my mother that it was not a good situation to be in. I didn’t want to be in that situation again, so I took that on as a positive to say I do not want my life to be like this, so I changed it myself.
What has driven you?
Mainly the people around me. When I first went into foster care before I was doing my GCSE’s people believed in me. People believed that I was able to do well. When i got good mock results they asked me if I had thought about going to college and I said no, i didn’t think that would ever be on the cards for me. But they supported me and helped me through to get into college. Then the same thing happened when I was in college. I was getting really good grades and I was asked if I would be going on to university and it gave me encouragement to achieve that. So the fact that I had a supportive circle around me to push me in a positive way really helped.
“I had a supportive circle around me to push me in a positive way”
Who is your role model?
Surprisingly my role model is my mother. Mainly because i didn’t want to be like her. So in a kind of backwards way, she taught me that i know i don’t want my life to be like this. Thats the reason why she’s my role model.
What keeps you going?
My friends and family keep me going. I havent spoken to my mother in years, but I’ve still had my family there. Ive had the support of social services and my friends at university. They made me feel like I’m just a normal person. When i first went to university, they didn’t know that i was in foster care. They didn’t know about my previous experience so having that support really helped.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
Yes i did once. Before confirming my place at University, I actually ran away from home. I had got a conditional offer to go to uni but I was unsure of what i actually wanted to do. I felt like it was what people were pushing me towards in a negative way. I thought this is what you have to do, not something you want to do yourself. So I ran away for about 3 days and it sort of gave me the confidence that if I can survive on my own for 3 days, I’m sure I can go to uni where I know there will be more support and I know I’m not going to be just left on my own.
Care has completely changed my life. If I would have stayed with my mother, I definitely wouldn’t have got to uni, I wouldn’t have gone to college. Even if I had gone to live with my dad instead of going to university it would of been a lot more difficult getting into uni in the first place. The fact that I have been in foster care and had all the support and the services, has completely changed my life for the better.
“all the support and the services has completely changed my life for the better”
Do you think you were ever judged or labeled because you were in care?
I felt like that at the beginning especially when I was in school. Obviously the teachers in school had to know for confidential reasons. But now at the stage I’m at, about to graduate, theres many people in my friends circle that know I was in foster care and a care leaver. So now I take it as a sense of pride the fact that I have beaten the statistics. The fact that I have done something with my life even though I have come from a disadvantaged back ground.
“I take it as a sense of pride the fact that I have beaten the statistics”
At what moment did you feel like you really started to believe in yourself?
When I was at college in the second year when my tutor said to me I could go to university. At that time in the news and everything, a lot more people were starting to apply to university and not many people were able to go because there were very limited spaces. The fact that people still had the confidence in me that I could still go and still achieve, that’s when i truly started to believe in myself.
“The fact that people still had the confidence in me that I could still go and still achieve, that’s when i truly started to believe in myself”
Did you ever feel alone?
I did feel alone at the beginning. Especially when the confirmation of my younger sisters adoption went through because then it was just me and my middle sister. Because she didn’t understand what was going on she didn’t appreciate all the information like I did. I was the only one that really knew and i couldn’t tale to anyone about it, I felt like I couldn’t even talk to my foster carers about it to begin with so I felt really alone at that point.
Do you feel like your foster carers helped you and if so how?
I think my second lot of foster carers helped me more just because I was there longer. I was with 2 families. The reason I went on to live with the second family is because the first family were wanting to retire.
What would you say to children in care?
I would say to really believe in yourself. I know its easier said than done. But if you have confidence in yourself then other people will see that and want to support you. If you give off the impression that you don’t want to go anywhere in your life then people will say whats the point in giving them support. Always believe in yourself, then more people will believe in you too.
“I would say to really believe in yourself”
What was it like when you first went into care?
It was really really difficult. Mainly because I felt like I had lost my youngest sister. The 3 of us were a unit. Before we went into care I felt like I was bringing my 2 sisters up, I felt like I was more the mother instead of just the eldest sibling. So when I lost my youngest sister i felt like i had done something wrong because i wasn’t able to protect them both.
If you could change anything about your past, what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t change anything because if there was even just 1 thing different I wouldn’t be where i am today.
In the most difficult moment what kept you going?
My friends and family kept me going. I got to where I wanted to be because of my own perseverance and people liked me for who I was. So i thought why would i change when these people already like who I am.
“I got to where I wanted to be because of my own perseverance”
How did it feel proving people wrong that you could get a proper life?
It felt amazing! When I was switching from my first degree to my second degree I told my Dad about it and he said “you are making a huge mistake”. He said “you should not switch courses you should try and carry on”. He said I wouldn’t be able to do anything with this degree. But when I got my job offer I called my Dad and he said “I’m proud of you. I was wrong to say you wouldn’t achieve anything”. Thats been the proudest thing I’ve ever heard from my Dad.
Did you ever run away, and if so what was it like?
Yes I did just before I went to university. It was scary at first. I got on a train and I just went. As soon as i got to my destination i thought ‘What do i do now?’. I felt really scared. But I thought I can do this and carried on eventually I came back home.
What do you think about the care system now?
I don’t think it’s changed that much. But thats ok, because I felt that the care system was good when I was actually in it. Compared to what it was like 10, 15, 20 years ago, its come on leaps and bounds. It’s gone from family focused care to child centred care which is so much better for the child. When you look at family centred care, the child can sometimes be put to the side a little bit. Their direct needs aren’t being faced, compared to now where the child comes first and foremost.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Because of the support system that I’ve had, I don’t think I’ve had to face any major challenges. If something has been worrying me I knew who I could talk to, so it never escalated into a big problem.
Why do you think the statistics show that acre leavers achieve less?
Care leavers don’t do as well because they go through care and don’t learn from it like I have. They don’t see that they can make a change, so it becomes a slippery slope.
What did you do differently to the people around you that you saw were failing?
I knew that life could be different. My mum and dad divorced when I was younger. It was only that when my mother went on to other marriages when the problems started and when we had to go into foster care. My Dad showed me that life can be normal and that life with my mother was not normal, it was wrong.
How do you become successful despite having a care back ground?
Just having the belief in yourself. We’re quite lucky nowadays that even in educational settings theres always someone to help wether its personal tutors or if you are dyslexic there are tutors for that at school. Theres a lot more support in educational settings now than what there was. Theres always help there. If a young person engages with their social worker then thats also going to help. Support services can’t do all the work you have to meet them half way. You have to show that you want it.
Tell us a bit more about why you wanted to work with disadvantaged children?
I have accepted a job as a residential child support worker. It’s kind of like a key worker. The reason I went into that is I want to take what I’ve been through and turn it into a positive. Its one thing to say children from disadvantaged backgrounds can go on and do good things, its another thing to actual prove it in person. If children can see that theres actually someone that they know does it its going to give them more hope and aspiration to do well.
“I want to take what I’ve been through and turn it into a positive”
What is your message to professionals and foster carers?
To professionals I would say that even though the rules and regulations that are in place to help kids, try not to make it so black and white. We’re all human, we all have emotions we all make mistakes.
“We’re all human, we all have emotions we all make mistakes”
Sometimes foster carers can be quite harsh on foster kids to their own detriment. Foster carers become your parents, you live with them 24/7. If foster carers alienate foster kids then you will distance yourself from them even further and feel like you’re not part of a family anymore.