When I was 15 I got taken from my Mum, and put in foster care. It was a shock. I remember I got woken up in the morning and I had to take my brother to my grandma’s. Then the next thing I knew we were in foster care. I’d never been away from my mum, and didn’t know about anything that was going on. I wasn’t allowed to see her either, only at contact centre, it was horrible.
My foster carers were so lovely. They made sure they included us as part of the family, there were lovely to us, but I still wanted to go back home. I missed my Mum so much, I took myself out of foster care when I was 16 and a half, because I wanted to live back with her, but that only lasted about two weeks… then the relationship just broke down. So I ended up living anywhere I could, like friends’ houses, people’s sofas, my grandparents. None of my friends had experienced that, everyone wanted to know why I wasn’t at home, they had so many questions but at the time I wasn’t willing to answer them, I wasn’t ready.
When I was doing my GCSEs I was sofa-surfing. I didn’t revise, I didn’t have time. All my books were at my grandma’s and I’d be staying with a friend, and trying to get into school in the morning, stuff like that, so it was difficult. I did quite well considering but, I know I could have done better if I had revised and had a stable place.
I went to the council for help and I got told about SASH. At first I was very uneasy about it. I put down very specific choices – I only wanted to live with a woman, so it took a while for a place to come available. I think I was sofa-surfing about 10 months in all. During all that time I was staying with some friends, and then going back to my grandparents for some food.
The first day in SASH, it was so daunting. When my granddad dropped me off with all my stuff I didn’t want him to leave me. I was so nervous and didn’t want to do anything wrong. But once I’d unpacked my stuff and went and sat downstairs my host made me feel so at home. She always made me feel like part of the family, always included me in things and made sure I was ok all the time. She helped me through everything, when I needed somebody she was always there for me.
I was doing my A levels. I went off track a bit; I didn’t feel like going to college anymore. But there was one teacher who sat down with me and asked why I hadn’t applied to uni, and I said because there was no point, and she was the one that said to me that I could do it. My host and my support worker from SASH helped me build my confidence up. They believed in me and they believed that I could do it, so I got the motivation to keep going and finish my A levels and get the grades I needed for university. I wanted to do something that no-one in my family had ever done before. I wanted to make my grandma and granddad proud of me, because they’ve done so much for me. I just wanted to do well for them.
I’m at York St John’s University now, doing Counselling, Coaching and Mentoring. I feel like sometimes I have more of an insight into what the lecturers are talking about because of my own experiences. When I’ve graduated and done my Master’s I’d like to work with vulnerable children or in something like SASH, helping young people who are homeless. They’ve helped me so much I’d like to give something back.
I moved out of SASH into my own flat. At first it didn’t seem real, that I had my own flat and I don’t think it was until the first night that I stayed here on my own, that I was like “I actually live here and this is my flat”. And when I paid my first bill and I was like “this is actually real and I actually have to pay my bills now and it’s so expensive!”
If I’d stayed in foster care I don’t think I’d have the skills and life experience that I do now because I feel I’m so independent I’m able to do anything now on my own. In foster care they were very supportive and they were always doing things for you, whereas now I’m able to do things for myself and my confidence has built up loads and I feel a bit more mature.
The nicest thing about my life now is the relationships with my family that I‘ve been able to build – especially the relationship with my Mum. When I first went into SASH we weren’t really speaking at all. I see my grandparents really regularly and my brother and sister as much as I can. And being actually at university … when I think back to when I was first put in foster care, I was in such a bad place in myself, I never thought I could achieve anything as big as this. My big sister is really proud of me she tells everyone ‘my little sister’s at university and I’m so proud of her’. And my grandma and granddad tell all their friends all the time.
I think SASH has been the making of me. It’s changed me a lot, but for the better. I think if I hadn’t gone into SASH, I maybe wouldn’t have put my head down so much and gone to university and maybe messed about a bit in school. It felt like I was appreciated somewhere, other than just by my family. They understood everything I’d been through.
I just want to say thank you to SASH – they have always been so good to me, they’ve helped me to get through some of the hardest times that I’ve been through and just to improve my confidence which is such a big thing for me because I’ve always been so shy and timid, they’ve taught me so much about living, and looking after myself and making sure that I achieve everything I can.