Hearing the voice of children in care is something we should all do more. Our Recruitment & Engagement Officer, Sam, was lucky enough to have the chance to talk and listen to one of our young people recently.
Connor, 21, came into Newcastle City Council’s care when he was 13. Now a successful Personal Trainer at one of our local universities, Connor looked back over his life in care and how it has shaped who he is today.
How old were you when you came into care and what was it like?
I was 13. It was overwhelming, distressing. Distressing especially for my sisters.
Were you all taken into care together?
Yes, but not all to the same carer. I went to some part-time…respite carers. They were only meant to have me for 2 weeks, but I’ve been there 7 years. I still live with them.
So, what was it like when you met them?
It was hard. It took a while to get used to them and their way of doing things. I was also distraught when I got there. I wanted to go back home. I wanted to see my dad. I won’t lie, I used to run away to be with my dad sometimes. When I got back, Maureen [Connor’s carer] had to sit me down and explain things to me. They needed to make me understand why I was here and why I couldn’t live with my dad. They explained the rules they needed me to follow and why.
Did rules help?
Yeah, I needed rules. I needed them to be clear, but they were key to making me realise I was safe and to help me become the person I am today. It took a while to get used to them and they did ease off after a while, so I was able to see my friends and things more once I was settled, but I needed them in the beginning and the consequences if I didn’t follow them. They were just keeping me safe.
You seem really positive about foster care, Connor, but what has been the hardest thing about being in care?
It was not being able to see my family. My contact with my dad was limited and I could see my sisters and stuff and I’ve maintained relationships with them, but I was separated from them. That was distressing for them and me. Sometimes it’s hard with social workers too. You don’t always like them. When I moved to the 16 plus team it was different though. Neil did so much for me, and it made me really feel like I was going to get somewhere after school. I think there is a lot of support for foster children, with education and things like that.
Do you think fostering helped you get to where you are today?
Definitely. I don’t know what would have happened to me without it. I see my dad still and he looks back now on how important it was that I went somewhere I could feel safe and cared for. I think it helped him, too. My foster carers are so important to me. They treat me like family, and I feel the same way about them. They support me and I’ve arranged to pay them board, so I don’t have to move out. Maureen is like my mum.
What qualities do you think Maureen has that makes her such a good carer?
She can engage with children on their level at different ages. Like she knew how to speak to me when I was 13 and now that I’m older and she knows how to engage on my sister’s level. The rules they had were very clear, too, and it meant I knew where I stood and that I was cared for.
Did you feel listen to? Do you think that’s why they engaged with you so well?
Yeah, I was listened to. What I said mattered to them. I think that’s why I did so well here because it was hard at first, but now we’re family. I think all of that will make a difference when I have my own family one day.
If you think you can foster a teenager, enquire here and speak with Sam.