“I lived with my parents in Sheffield until I was about 8 years old but they both ended up in prison so my siblings and I went to live with a relative. After a while it was decided we should all be placed into foster care and we enjoyed a couple of years in a short-term placement in Sheffield. Eventually we had to leave, and we were moved to a more permanent foster family outside the South Yorkshire area.
“I never felt completely accepted in my new foster home and although I did stay for several years, it got to the stage where I couldn’t live in that home anymore and in my early teens I decided to run away. The obvious place for me to go was back to my roots in Sheffield. I was able to return to my relative’s home and since that day I’ve never looked back.
“I can’t say it was easy returning to Sheffield. I didn’t feel as though I was in control of my life and I found my situation confusing because I was constantly being told by adults that I had to do things I didn’t want to do. Some of the decisions that were being made about my life didn’t feel like the right thing for me but at that time I didn’t know that I had the right to challenge them.
"I didn't feel as though I was in control of my life… I was constantly being told by adults that I had to do things I didn't want to do."
“One of the first things I wanted to do when I got back to Sheffield was make contact with a children’s worker from the NSPCC called Tessa. I had met Tessa several years before when I was placed into care. She had offered me support and advice back then.
“I made contact with the NSPCC and I was so happy to find Tessa still worked there. I told her about some of the concerns I’d had in my foster placement and why I’d run away. Tessa explained that I was entitled to have a say in what was happening to me in terms of my care order and where I wanted to live.
“I think I’d always thought that as a child I had to do what adults and people in authority told me to do. The NSPCC helped me to see that children do have a right to ask questions and play more of an active part in decisions being made about my life.
"I hadn't realised I could sit on the review meetings about my care order."
“I hadn’t realised I could sit on the review meetings about my care order but the NSPCC’s advocacy service helped me to get access to the meetings, which meant my voice could be heard. The more I learnt about my rights the more empowered I felt and eventually things were going so well that my care order was removed. The support I received helped me to feel like a worthwhile person.
“I used to worry that adults wouldn’t believe what I was saying and wouldn’t trust it to be true because I was in the care system. I thought adults would always take the side of other adults and initially I think I was almost ‘testing’ the NSPCC to see if I could trust them. I didn’t tell them everything at first. But as time went on, I began to trust them more and more and realised they really did have my best interests at heart.
“The NSPCC helped me to understand the information I was given about my care order. The documents weren’t particularly child friendly but Tessa helped me to make sense of them without patronising me. With Tessa’s support I felt more comfortable if I had to attend meetings about my situation; and knowing she was there meant I had the confidence to challenge what the other adults were saying.
"Coming to the NSPCC and finding support, friendship and people who believed in me… gave me the drive to achieve."
“Knowing I had the support of the NSPCC also made me feel more at ease about my situation. I felt less anxious about things in my home life which meant I could be more at ease to concentrate on being a teenager, having fun and doing well at school.
“Before all these changes in my life I didn’t really go out much. I didn’t think about my future and I just went through the motions of my life on a day-to-day basis. Coming to the NSPCC and finding support, friendship and people who believed in me meant that I started to work much harder at school and gave me the drive to achieve and excel.
“Despite some people thinking I wouldn’t amount to much and being pigeon-holed as a kid in care, I’ve chosen to channel their criticisms in a positive way and I’m proving them all wrong. The NSPCC showed me a way to constructively prove people wrong. My academic achievements and the fact that I am now a confident young person continues to prove them wrong every single day.”