Introduce yourself please…
I’m Ruth Harlow, 21, engaged and a mother to a wonderful 5 year old. I have recently graduated from The Liverpool Institute of Performing arts with a degree in Community Drama whilst my daughter has enjoyed her first year of primary school.
I, alongside another graduate, are in the early stages of creating our own theatre company which is set to work in schools and community groups with the hope of creating change, helping people tell their stories and building relationships.
Do you mind telling us the reasons you went into care?
I was taken into care during my primary school years. I was with a foster parent for a short time, before I was returned to my mum and step dad. I was then having short respite periods with the same foster carer. I, alongside my sister, was taken into care due to my mums drinking problem. She was unable to fully take care of us, by going into care, we got cared for and my mum was able to find some of the help she needed.
By going into care, we got cared for and my mum was able to find some of the help she needed.
How did you feel about going in care?
I was scared. We were taken from school and told we were to be going to someone’s house. I had big mistrust issues already due to abuse in childhood so took this very hard. I was worried for my younger sister and worried about my mum and who would take care of her.
Whats your favourite childhood memory?
My favourite childhood memory was a two week holiday to Cyprus with social services. I found out I was going with one of my cousins and a friend that I knew. During the holiday I learnt what it felt like to be a child and not have any worries for a short period. On this holiday I also got to know, and trust the lady that would be working alongside my social worker and thus working alongside me. Thanks to this holiday, I started to trust social services and learnt they wanted to help, not harm.
What is your biggest achievement?
For me, I believed getting my GCSE’S, A levels & degree were my biggest achievements. Though this has changed, more and more as my daughter grows up, I see her as my biggest achievement. Everyday that I show her love, give her affection, help her grow to be happy and healthy I am reminded of how special she is to me. I am able to give to her what my parents could not for me. Without her I feel my life would have gone a very different pass.
Overall, what has your care experience been like?
I was very lucky with my care experience. The lady we were placed with was a widow and never had any children of her own. We were her first foster children and she took us in as if we were her own. The moment we walked in she did her best to make us feel welcome, she let me and my sister go upstairs and showed us a teddy for each of us, I still have mine, it’s a dog named Charlie. She did her very best to make us feel welcome, did everything for us that I wished my mum would have done for us at that age. I understand it must have been very hard for her, I know myself how much hard work I was. I would steal more food for me and my sister and hide it, we would write on the walls, have tantrums, but throughout it all she stood by us, unwavering, fully supporting and full of love. Her love helped, I still see her now and she is a godmother to my daughter. The only downside to being in care was the way that people at school spoke to me, they treated me differently and bullied me. I was told by them that my mum didn’t want me which is why I was sent away. This hurt a lot, I felt as if other people couldn’t understand what I was going through, other parents also stopped their children playing with me.
The moment we walked in she did her best to make us feel welcome, she let me and my sister go upstairs and showed us a teddy for each of us, I still have mine, it’s a dog named Charlie
Has your past had a positive or negative effect on your future?
My past has had a positive experience on me. I was told I wouldn’t achieve anything in life and that I would just be like every other person who’s in or been in care. I was told I’d end up been on benefits my whole life just like my parents. It gave me strength to prove everyone wrong, prove to everyone I can achieve and that I am nothing like the stereotype they try to place on me. I believe I’ll always keep fighting to prove this.
If you didn’t go in care do you think you would have finished school and gone to college?
I believe that if I hadn’t of been in care and was taught that I matter, that I would have ended up dropping out of school. Before care I couldn’t see what future I wanted, I didn’t know how I’d ever leave my mums house.
Who is your role model?
My role model has, and will always be my Aunty Kim. Throughout my childhood she was always there for me, she always took me in to prevent me and my sister from going into care. She guided me and I believe she always will.
What keeps you going?
There are three things that keep me going daily. My daughter, My Fiance and the dreams for our future. We plan to own a house, get married and support my daughter in whichever way she needs.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
Many times. A lot before my daughter came along, there was nothing in my life to focus on, no change that I could see happening. She gives me stability, hope and joy. I know if I feel close to giving up, she needs me not to. One time, I very nearly gave up, it was during a period in my first year of university where I was dealing with two court cases where I was a victim of different types of abuse in both instances. I didn’t think I could go through with giving evidence, with carrying on, I wanted to run away. My daughter gave me the strength to go on, because I would never want her hurt in the same way I was.
How much have you changed since you left care?
I have changed completely. Before care I was shy, I was scared, I had no confidence or self believe. Now I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to, some days I have doubts in myself but then I look back at how far I’ve come and know I can do it.
Do you think you were ever judged or labeled for being in care?
As soon as anyone knows you are in care/ were in care they label you. Parents of my best friends stopped me seeing them because they believed I was the problem, not anything going on in the family. I believe this is the same for most people in the care system, we are always seen as the problem.
When did you start to believe in yourself?
4 hours after giving birth. I was left alone to look after a newborn child at the age of 16. After her first feed and first nappy change, I was confident I could take care of her, keep her safe, give her what I never had. I knew then that If I was to do that, I needed to carry on with education in order to create a stable life for her.
Did you ever feel alone?
Many times. I knew I could take to my foster mum or my aunty but I didn’t. I never wanted to upset anyone or let anyone know the pain I was in.
Did your foster parents help you?
My foster mum helped form me as the person I am today. She taught me that I could be cared for, that I could be a child and most importantly, I was important.
Believe in yourself, it will be the hardest thing you ever learn to do, but after that everything else seems easier.
What’s your message to children in care?
Don’t listen to the labels people are trying to give you. Don’t listen to the people trying to tear you down. You can do anything you put your mind to, you can achieve anything you believe. Believe in yourself, it will be the hardest thing you ever learn to do, but after that everything else seems easier. You’ll feel like you want to give up sometimes, don’t. Show everyone, especially yourself, that you are a fighter, that you can overcome anything. You are not a number in the system, you are not a problem child, you are as bright as a star in the sky, your time to shine is now.
What was it like when you first went into care?
Frightening. I was very protective of my sister and it worried me that I didn’t know what was going on or if I would still be able to protect her.
If you could change anything about your life what would it be and why?
I would have told social services about the abuse I suffered from my brother earlier on, I would have ignored his threats, been strong and stopped the thing that ruled my childhood.
In the difficult moments what kept you going?
Before my daughter it was my sister. In the difficult moments I knew I had to be strong for her, because my mum was unable to be for either of us.
Do you think professionals took that on board?
Not at all. In the end social services ignored our cries for help and left me to care for my sister and for my mum.
How did it feel proving people wrong?
Refreshing. I felt a huge weight go from my shoulders.
What do you think about care now?
I am grateful that I had such a brilliant experience, but I have heard many bad experiences. It’s one of my main reasons for wanting to utilise drama to help those in care, I want to bridge the gap and build upon relationships between social workers, foster parents and those that are placed with them.
I want to bridge the gap and build upon relationships between social workers, foster parents and those that are placed with them.
What challenges have you had?
I suffered with depression during college, my daughters dad had left and I was struggling with feeling like everyone had abandoned me. It took a few months of being on autopilot before I was able to come out of it, this wouldn’t have been done without my fabulous springboard worker Debbie.
How do you become successful despite a care background?
Believe in yourself, ignore those who doubt you. Reach for those stars because they’re a lot closer than you think.
What is your message to professionals and foster carers?
Listen to what is been said to you. Notice if a child is saying one thing and then changing their mind once in a room with their parents. Keep those involved informed from the start, help them to make sense of the situation, make them feel welcome.
Is there something you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of where I am in life at the moment. I have my own little family, with plans for our future.
There has never been a better moment than now