Byron is a young man who has been in foster care since he was 4 years old, and here he shares his journey in foster care, and for him, the important things from a Child’s perspective of what children and young people feel about being in care. More importantly, Byron has taken this opportunity to speak as a chance for him to share his life so far, and the impact that fostering, Caritas Care and the importance of getting things right, had for him, and subsequently, his future. This is Byron’s story…
It is important to have regular contact with family when you are in care.
When my brother and I went into care, we were 4 and 7 and we got placed in a temporary placement in Leeds until they found a carer which was a couple in Hambleton, we then moved to a carer in Blackpool. I was turning 7 and my brother was turning 10, and we had been together all of our lives. However, a couple of years later, I don’t think the carers could handle us both anymore, so, my brother was moved into the children’s home, and I stayed. This meant that I would have contact with my brother but throughout the years our contact was often messed with
When I was 12, I got moved from Blackpool to Preston with a couple who were foster cares for Caritas Care; then when I was fifteen, I was placed with different foster carers from Caritas Care. Thankfully, they understood the importance of regular contact for my brother and me, because the foster carers before them hadn’t. And as we both moved around, we began to lose touch with each other. It was hard enough for us to understand why we were separated; it was harder to understand why our contact was cut. This is why I think it is really important for foster carers to know how crucial it is for children to have regular contact with their family.
As I got older, I started to look at the pros and cons of being separated because you don’t understand, therefore, you are making up your own interpretation. Maybe being separated was a good thing? It didn’t feel like that, though. Now, we see each other every couple of days as we live around the corner from each other. My brother isn’t good with people however, he is very good with computers and is good at fixing things. It is nice for me to know that now he is there; however, we never wanted to be split up in the first place.
When I got older and wanted a place of my own, we had contact arranged with my brother because I wanted to be near him. He is my family, and at the end of the day, he is my brother.
The importance of trusting children in care.
When I was 13, I was placed with foster carers who had many rules, which became unsuitable for me as I got older. These rules were suitable for younger children, but not as you got older, and I felt we had outgrown each other. I always had to hand my mobile phone in then when I was allowed it, I wasn’t allowed internet I had to put my phone outside my bedroom door when I went to bed even though I was 15 and had no access to Wi-Fi.
Caritas Care has rules, and I understood the need for this. However, I think that as children get older, rules should change to reflect the belief in a child and adjustments made to recognise your trust in them; because if as you get older you should be able to be trusted.
When you are a child in care, you rely on having good foster carers who understand you and what is important for you. For me, it was important to have regular contact with my brother; however, that didn’t happen most of the time. I wanted to tell them that this isn’t about you; it’s about me, and this is your job.
Contact for children is essential, and carers need to care about this as much as they care about making rules.
The importance of being part of the Caritas Care family.
When I was with my first foster carers with Caritas Care, they had a routine. You go to Town for an 1hr or 2, then go home.
The second foster carers were different. We used to go out on trips and have activities; also, they told me when Caritas were doing activities; this was good because I got to meet other children and young people my age. I like the activities, and it was good for me to get out of the house, especially when I met the younger children. I am very tall, and to the younger children, I am like a giant to them, a big friendly giant. The majority of my placements have been with younger children; so, this is how I have some understanding of what they are going through, which helps.
Caritas always tried to make sure that I am involved with things, especially if they are going somewhere on a trip. It’s good because it gets me out and gets me in the fresh air!
The importance of education.
I was expelled from 2 main primary schools for behavioural issues then in Year 6, I was sent to an SEN school which helped me. Then, when I was in Year 7 to 11; I was sent to another EBD school because I couldn’t manage large classrooms. It was easier in this school as the classrooms were smaller, there was only about 8 of us in the class, so we could have 1:1 if we needed it, and the class had us, a support worker, and the teacher. I liked this school because we would go on trips together. I knew it wasn’t a regular school; it was a Behavioural school, and it helped me. Especially when I was rewarded for my behaviour, and it started to calm me.
I also have some Chinese ethnicity and I was racially abused because of this. I knew about racism; it is always there. However, I got used to it, it was made worse that I am over 6 foot tall, so I stick out anyway. Whenever I talk to younger children about this, I say there will always be a moment where you might get bullied for the way you look or speak; that’s just a part of life that is going to make you stronger. When you are in this school environment, bullies know they can affect you as you can’t hide. Obviously, because I’m so tall, I can’t anyway, and if you show they are affecting you, they will do it all the more and therefore, it will result in you getting in trouble. I used to use violence as my answer, but I learnt that violence won’t get you anywhere, and they know it will get you into trouble. So, I learned through racism not to raise my temper level, and now I don’t care if anyone tries to racially abuse me because I know that it won’t work; and I won’t let it affect me in any way.
The importance of helping children know that I understand.
When I speak with younger children who are in care, it is important they know I understand and will listen to them. One time, a young boy with foster carers near me had run away and was seen in my local park, so I went to find him. I talked to the boy for over an hour, and, my foster carer, saw me and let me stay with him; he said there was ‘more chance of me getting through to the lad than he could’. Later, my foster care I was with, told me that he had seen me talking to the boy in the park and said,’ I left you to get on with it.’ ‘You were better at talking to him than me, and I could see you were getting through to him.’ I then told him that honestly, I didn’t think the boy would go home, and I was surprised that he let me stay with him, but I was glad because it increased the chances of him going back; I said, ‘cheers for letting me do it.’
The young boy who had run off was angry and he was swearing and kicking off. He kicked me, and I told him that I was not bothered. I asked him, why are you swearing? I know that younger children tend to act out and hit out. So, I told him that I wasn’t going to do anything I wasn’t going to make him go home because I want him to understand that I wasn’t going to make him do something he didn’t want to do. I was only going to talk to him to see why he ran off and what was the issue? I know how it feels when you run off, and don’t want to go home, because you think you are going to get in more trouble.
I also know that I could support him because of the support I have had. I have been through it myself, and the boy realised this. My past helped me to understand him because my childhood had issues, too. I told him that he was lucky when because when I was his age I was getting in trouble with police and had loads of rules. I also told him I have lived with bad nightmares from my childhood and that I still have problems myself.
Also, I wanted him to know that I knew. I understood; however, if he kicked me hard, I wouldn’t do anything, but I told him that if you start doing this to others then one day someone will kick you back and you won’t like it. I felt he needed to realise that there are consequences to our actions, and maybe he was shouting at me because he thought I deserved it? Also, at his age, kicking off is a way of getting it out there.
However, he also needed to know that you can’t go around deliberately hurting people. You are responsible for what you do and what you intend to do.
I told him that sometimes, anger was not the best way; you can’t keep getting angry all the time. You have to learn that anger can sometimes stop you from doing what you want to do; you must go home no matter what you have done and take your punishment.
You have to be accountable at some point, and I wasn’t going to respond to his anger. However, I reassured him I wouldn’t make him go home, and I will not get him in trouble. The decision I told him is yours, and that I was there just to talk to him to see why he ran off and why he didn’t want to go home. I felt this was the right thing because then he would feel a bit more comfortable; I wasn’t his carer so whatever he told me I wasn’t going to say to my carers unless it was really serious. And with a bit of luck and having someone talking to him normally, the boy went home, and I had used some of the learning given to me on someone else, which made me feel good.
The importance of leaving home and getting my own place.
I have now lived in my flat, around the corner from my brother in Blackpool, for a year. I was 17 when I left; however, I had known for a long time I had to do it, and when I was 17, I started to get to a point where I knew I had to do it. We were in lockdown, and I was furloughed from my job, and my carers and I were not getting on with each other well.
However, our relationship with each other meant we understood each others point of view; but a lockdown wasn’t making things easy for any of us. It began to change me as I was getting frustrated.
I wanted to change; I wanted to do something and learn more to help myself, and I wanted to be independent. My goal has always been to get my own place at 17. I have always wanted to live independently and have my own space that didn’t have rules that made no sense.
My foster carers knew what I wanted, and for the last 6 months I was there, they started to show me how to do things, like how to work the washing machine and cook a meal. They were getting me ready to begin to live by myself; so, I asked my social worker if I could have a flat in Blackpool because I had found out that my brother lived there.
I feel settled now I have the flat, and I set my mind to get it. Now I have set my mind to getting a job in a garage. I never thought I would ever do anything like this years ago because I could not put my mind to anything. Now, I know that having a clear plan with people who will support me and make me feel I belong, and this will get me somewhere. Also, I know that perfect behaviour and a willingness to graft will get me to the next step.
Me and my previous foster carers are still good terms even now I have left. I go around to see them when I can, and they make me my tea. We still talk to each other, and they still help me out; however, we are all itching to get back to normality. It’s my birthday soon, and I hope we can get together and have a meal.
The importance of Lucy, my Social Worker
Lucy, my foster carers Social worker from Caritas Care, calls me even though I am not with them anymore. Lucy always helps me see the end goal, and sometimes when I don’t know what to do, she writes out a plan for me, step by step. Lucy knows how to help me, and each step she leads me to takes me to a point where I am facing forward. Lucy’s advice helps me to see where I am going wrong, and this gives me strength. Sometimes, I don’t know how to get out of situations, and therefore, she helps me figure it out.
When I got my Level one and two in car mechanics, I wanted an apprenticeship, but it didn’t happen. Lucy did the pros and cons of an apprenticeship with me where maybe I could look at things from every angle? Perhaps at this time, it wasn’t the best time to leave my learning and maybe I should stay to do my Level 3?
Lucy made me see the consequences of what might happen if I left, and the opportunities I may get because of a Level 3. She made sure that my dream wasn’t an impossible dream for me; I had one of those because I wanted to become a football player! Realistically, we knew that I had a better chance of a future if I stuck with my car mechanics and got my Level 3, though.
I realised early on that car mechanics was something that I would love to do when I got older; it suited me, making me calmer. Also, a positive environment enables me to see how I got to where I am now, especially as I was kicking off in school when I was 7 or 8 years old. I managed to get myself expelled from Primary school, so I never thought I would get to be where I am now. I went from nearly getting a criminal record because of my behaviour and found out I had ADHD, to now where I take medication to help me with my ADHD and getting a Level 3 in Motor Vehicle; all with no GCSE’s.
Lucy helped me a lot, and she still does. If I have an issue, she helps me to sort it out. Sometimes, I don’t know what to do next, I get a bit stuck, and Lucy shows me how to make plans to get past it. Her support and guidance give me clarity on what I need and what to do next.
The importance of studying car mechanics.
I began learning Level one Motor vehicle at a specialist training school, Achieve Training in Bury, every Wednesday. At first, I went there because it was something to do, as I wasn’t sure what I wanted. However, after a while, I thought I would like to fix cars because it began to help me with my ADHD, because fixing cars takes my mind off things.
Mainstream education wasn’t good for me; I was worried about the large classrooms, and I knew that could get me into trouble. At Achieve, the staff really understood me, especially Roy, who taught me. I got on with everyone, and ultimately, this worked because, for once, the focus was on me. Therefore, I could now get on with getting more experience and learning more.
The training at Achieve Training was part of my alternative education with my EBD school; however, I knew that I would like to do this after being taught by Roy.
So, I completed my Level 1 and thought, that’s it, I’m going to get an apprenticeship. However, that didn’t happen, so I went on to college and did my Level 2. Again, after I had completed it, I thought I would get either a job or an apprenticeship. Again, it didn’t happen. After I left school, I wanted to focus on learning as much as I can.
When I was in Year 11, I felt I was getting on fine. However, I didn’t pass my GCSE’s. I think the pressure of the exams got to me because they kept saying these exams decide your future. I decided to get into college because after doing my Level 1, I knew there was no chance of someone keeping me on. The same happened after Level 2; I thought, get your level 3, and go from there.
The importance of earning my own money for my future.
When I left school, I wanted to be active rather than do nothing. However, we were in lockdown, and I stayed in and played on the X box for a couple of months, but I got bored. So, I got a job part-time cleaning cars and studying Level 3 in Car mechanics. I have been there for over two years; however, I want to get a job in a garage when I get my level 3 Car mechanics next month.
I live in Blackpool, and my job is in Preston, but I have my bike. So, I cycle to the train station, get on the train, and then cycle to my job, I like working at the car wash because its earning money, it is keeping me active and teaching me about having a job. My boss is a good person, and this job means I can afford to keep my flat going, pay my bills, and follow Manchester United.
My dream job is not in a car dealership; I want to work in a smaller garage where I feel I would belong, and it is with a smaller group. Ultimately, it will be somewhere that I can carry on learning my trade. I don’t mind where it is, I have my bike, and I’m happy to commute.
I have been told a couple of times by people at Caritas Care and Lucy that I am good with children. Maybe they like me because I tall, I am a giant to them and possibly because I understand them as I have been through similar things to them? Maybe it’s because when I was younger, I also had major issues? However, I like helping out with the younger children, it is a nice feeling when I do this, and Caritas Care is great because they make you feel you belong.
The importance of my future.
Where will I be in ten years? I’m not sure. I want to work in a garage as a staff member, and I’m trying to get to where someone would think about taking me on. Also, I have a council flat which is great as it is round the corner from my brother, but I would like to have my own place. I don’t want to be on benefits. I am on Universal Credit because of the furlough, but I want to pay my own rent and manage financially without relying on benefits. All I have ever wanted was my independence to have my own rules and pay my bills, which is why I now want a job in a garage. Possibly one day, I might even have a car of my own.
I also understand that being taken into care made me angry, mainly because I didn’t understand why I was angry and why things had happened. However, as I get older, I have started to understand more, and I find that my past does not matter other than it helps me get the gist of my future.
Being placed in an EBD school helped me hugely as it meant the focus was on me, and subsequently, it allowed me to learn more; However, it meant I learned about bullying. I am very tall, and I look half Chinese, and these two things were the cause of the bullying, but I soon became accustomed to it.
I learned to deal with bullying, not through anger but through realising that I had to get on with things even though I might not like it. I knew if I reacted to the bullying in the way it was expected of me, I wouldn’t have achieved what I wanted to do. My experiences in life help me put things into perspective, and if a situation gets more severe and I can’t cope with it, I get help with it.
I think the way it is today, it is more difficult for everyone to understand how we feel because people are afraid of offending each other. I wish it weren’t like that because I think it is petty. People need to understand that sometimes we might not gel with someone, and sometimes placements with foster carers don’t work out.
When that happens, it’s okay, and if it doesn’t work out, you should leave. For me, placements come and go. Sometimes you have foster carers that you know are just in it for the money, but no matter what, all placements should work, but they don’t, and you just have to deal with it.
The importance of having the right foster carers.
When you have foster carers who understand you, it helps you deal with things better. If I were unhappy in school, my foster carer would see me and say,’ what’s up?’ He could tell from my body language and see that something wasn’t right with me; sometimes it helps to have this and sometimes it doesn’t. Especially if you don’t understand it yourself, like when I didn’t pass my GCSE’s.
However, I knew it was important that my old foster carer and I understood each other, and we would chat to make sure that we resolved any differences.
My previous foster carers always knew when something was wrong with me. However, some foster carers don’t understand, and also, many children don’t realise that foster carers don’t understand. I have gained perspective on these situations, and I now understand these things better. My support and experiences now help me see how important it is to see all angles under challenging situations.
My older foster carers taught me that we have to have rules; however, I think these rules must be flexible, especially as you get older. Before I moved to Caritas Care and came to love with my foster carers, I had never been allowed the internet at home. I was 16 years old, and they let me access the internet and the Xbox like any other teenager. However, the bedtimes rules changed, and they became more relaxed because they knew I had missed out on the normal things in life that most children had. My foster carers knew I was getting a bit older, and they could see I wanted my independence, so they set about teaching me to move on.
My male foster carer started off by making me clean my room more, and he taught me to wash and keep on top of this cleaning by being responsible for it. He also introduced me to cooking and other bits and bobs that he knew I would need. I thought to myself, he’s getting me ready to be independent. I knew it wasn’t his responsibility to do this, and even now, my previous carers still checks up on me; it’s nice.
I know that my previous carers are not foster carers who are in it for the money. When you are a child in care, it is nice to know that you still belong to someone and are there for you if you have an issue.
My male foster carer got me ready to move; he knew it was what I wanted to do, and he is a positive figure in my life. My foster carers arranged for me to go to CAMHS to help with my nightmares, I would have sleepless nights because of them. My foster carers, especially the female carer and Caritas Care also arranged for me to have CBT therapy to help me with my nightmares.
Lucy, as always, shared the good sides and the bad sides with me, and she helped to decide on the pathways that were suitable for me, that I could take.
It is really important for someone who hasn’t been in care to understand children who are.
When I was growing up, and as a child, I didn’t have the best, but I don’t let it affect me now. If I feel upset or remember something from my past, I don’t let my feelings show. It’s not that I don’t have those feelings, but my past is not my future, and I have learned to move away and move on. I know I am not the smartest; however, I will graft, and if I get stuck, I can get the help that I know will help me. Most importantly, when I was asked to do this article for Caritas Care, I agreed because it is a chance for me to let others see things from my perspective. It is a chance to understand life as a child who has been in care.
So, this is the life I have lived so far; I know what I had to do to get through it. Now, let’s see how it goes!
P.S. If anyone knows of a smaller garage looking for a young man with Level 3 Car mechanics and willing to graft, please get in touch.