One of our fantastic Student Social Workers has very generously shared how her personal story of a really challenging childhood living in care has drawn her towards a vocation of helping children when they are at their most vulnerable.

We're blown away by her strength of character and courage to completely turn her life around, so we wanted to tell her success story.

We are not revealing her identity to respect her privacy and that of her family.

“I had a really difficult childhood. My dad had mental health issues and was really violent, so I ended up being looked after from the age of 13 and a half.

I was the youngest child in my family, my sister’s four years older so she had already left home at this point.

'I was living in such a stressful situation'

My mam was offered the chance to leave with me to live in a women’s refuge, but she opted to stay with my dad as that was just how it was back then. I realise now that she felt like she had to stay and was scared of my dad.

I felt like it was my fault that I was removed from my family, as I wasn’t very well behaved, but I can see now that it was because I was living in such a stressful situation.

I was initially taken in by a foster family, but that broke down. They already had kids of their own and it didn’t feel right for me at all.

At this point I stopped going to mainstream school and went to a special unit for looked after children and teenage mums.

So after the fostering experience I moved into a residential care home, where I stayed until I was 16. I was living in a house with about eight other kids around the same age as me. It wasn’t always great.

Some of the other kids could be quite violent and aggressive and were from really challenging backgrounds.

Fresh start

One of the things I used to do to cope with all of this difficult stuff was to dance – it was my way of addressing my emotions.

There was no funding for dancing lessons for kids like me, but one of my social workers fought and fought for me to be able to dance. She made such a difference and gave me hope that I could do something positive with my life.

So when I turned 16 and was faced with what I was going to do next, I made the decision to buy a one-way ticket to Gran Canaria to make a totally fresh start. No one would know me or be able to judge me on my background.

I didn’t know anyone or have a job to go to, but I was absolutely determined to make a go of it. I made a living by selling time shares and dancing in hotel entertainment shows.

'I decided to take the leap'

I returned to the UK two years later feeling a lot more confident.

At this point I had a young baby so I moved back in with my mam and dad which felt a bit weird given everything that had happened. Plus my dad was drinking heavily too so I got my own flat sorted out.

My mam helped me with childcare by looking after my daughter so I could go to college and do my access course to get all those qualifications I’d missed out on when I was growing up.

I got married and had my second baby, and once he turned three I decided to take the leap, I left my job selling houses and went to University to study to be a Social Worker.

I wanted to be that ONE person to make a difference to a child’s life. Like the social worker who fought for me to be able to pursue my dancing.

I feel like because I’ve walked in these shoes I can understand what’s going on for vulnerable families and children. I know that you can turn your life around, you just need someone to believe in you.

When I qualify I definitely want to work with children’s services because it’s where my heart is.

Doing this course sometimes does rake up difficult feelings and brings back painful memories, but because I’m settled in my life now I feel strong enough to take it on. My husband is really supportive.

I have a great relationship with my mam now and I’ve recently started building bridges with my dad.”

Volunteer with us!

If you're feeling inspired after reading this story, find out about how you can work with children and young people, via our Volunteering Opportunities

We need your help to continue being able to support vulnerable children living in the North East - please consider making a donation.

Please select a donation amount: *
Set up a regular payment Donate