I am from Scotland 

Growing up, I spent time in kinship care, residential schools, secure accommodation and foster homes. 

I had my first child when I was 17 years old. I have 2 other children; I was 23 when I had my second child and 27 when I had my third child. 

What does being a parent mean to you? OR How would you describe being a parent?

Being a parent is a huge responsibility that gives you so much joy in your life. Being a parent can also be challenging and overwhelming at times. 

Do you think your experiences growing up affect the way you parent?

I think in some ways yes, but I also believe that motherly instincts are within us already and whether you are care experienced or not, the love you feel for your child is no different from someone that has not been through the care system. 

What support do you or did you get from professionals? 

I feel like there isn’t any REAL support, its more of a check-up and tick boxes when visits take place, there is no real efforts made to support new parents who have been through the care system, nor is there any trauma informed supports for new parents after leaving care or whilst still in the care system. There are a lot of preconceptions, judgment and expectations that the child will likely be taken into care, often based on the chronology of the parents during their time in care.  

I have noticed when reading through my own file it is only the negative information that is ever recorded, never any of the good stuff. For example, after having my first child, I started college when she was about one years old. I studied Social Sciences and did this for 2 years. There is no information about this recorded and this is a pattern all through my files. I feel like this causes an unbalanced overview of a person’s life, making the judgments and preconceptions that I mentioned above, unfair and not based on ALL of the facts.  

Social workers often move on to new roles or positions fairly quickly and one child / young person can see many social workers in the space of 5+ years. Therefore, when a new social worker is allocated, they read the previous information that they have available to them. At that point, judgments can be made on how they see things going, rather than building their own independent view of a person’s case and deciding which supports need to be allocated.  

In my own experience, I asked for specific support which took a lot of courage to ask for. I was very honest and open about the problems I was having at the time which included addiction and domestic abuse. There were no supports given for these issues, however my daughter was placed on an order and soon after was removed from my care. I knew a handful of people in my area at that time, all with the same issues, all with kids the same age as mine, all with social work involvement. I have sometimes wondered, was I an easy target for my child to be removed because of my care experience? I have to say I am not taking anything away from the fact that I did need support at that time and take full responsibility for my actions at that time of my life. But I do believe things may have been different if I was given the right support at the right time. 

What support do you or did you get from friends, family or people in the community? 

I was very fortunate to have my Gran, she raised me from age 5 to 13 and she has always been a great support to me.

Looking back, what was helpful or unhelpful?  

FI would like to use my experience from my youngest child to answer this question. He’s almost 4 now. When I was pregnant with him I was very early into my recovery from addiction and not many people had much belief in me at that stage. My one child was in long term foster care and the other has been adopted. However, my midwife at the time did believe in me and when it was time to sit down with professionals, she believed it was fair to give me a chance. Also, the social worker that took the case on met with me and I felt she built her opinion based on the time she spent with me and the parent assessment that I did, rather than any historical information. She began to believe in me and I was given a chance to raise my son and bring him home. There was lots of support put in place and various services were on board. This was something I welcomed, I believe the right supports were given at the right time and also that those supports became less and less at the right time too. I am pleased to say my son is almost 4 and I have had no social work involvement from when he was 6 months old. 

What support/help would you have liked?  

With regards to my first child, I would have liked support for my addiction and domestic abuse, that was what I was dealing with at that time. However, I do feel that all young people leaving care should have access to adequate support to help overcome their adverse childhood experiences. This I feel should also be available whilst in the care system. 

What advice would you give to professionals, organisations or governments about making parenting / parenthood a positive experience for future care-experienced young people?

Allow us to share openly and honestly with you, without the fear that you are going to take our children away. Please allocate funds for mother and baby live-in facilities for mothers and their new babies to go if they have addiction issues. That way, mother and baby can bond and have a chance at staying together. This would also work if there was an option for foster carers to take on mother and baby. We are all human beings, whether we have been through care or not. We still love our children and want the best for them.

This Blog is part of our ExChange conference, “It Takes a Village: Global perspectives on care-experienced parents”

To find more resources on this topic check out the conferences below