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Dublin: 3 °C Sunday 24 March, 2019
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Young people share their experiences in care: 'This was the chapter where I turned my life around'

A number of young people shared their experiences yesterday and said they want to erase the stigma attached to being in the care system.

Image: Epic

JASMINE was 11-years-old when she first entered the care system.

For years she moved between foster homes and residential care. When placements broke down, she said this made her “feel not wanted and unloved”.

“This happened seven times for me. This meant new schools, new families, new friends and a new identity where I felt I had to be ‘Little Miss Perfect’ in order to be accepted and to fit in,” she told a group of peers at an event to mark Care Day 2019 yesterday.

“I felt like I have no say in every aspect of my life.”

She spent her late teens in a residential care home and said this gave her the stability she needed in her life.

This is where I found myself, where I accepted who I am and where I come from. And I felt loved, I felt accepted and I found my own voice. I began to grow and blossom and not be angry at this world over people giving up on me. This was the chapter where I turned my life around.

Now 21, Jasmine is living in a Focus Ireland hostel – she has nowhere else to go.

“We all deserve a forever home, we deserve our own home because we have no family to fall back on,” she told TheJournal.ie.

“We don’t have stability and when we have to go back to a hostel, that’s not nice. I’m homeless myself and it’s very hard to try and get a place. I think we should get a place straight away when we turn 18 because we’ve been moved around our whole lives, we deserve a stable home.”

Jasmine is on the youth council of Epic (Empowering Young People in Care), which is an Irish organisation that works with children and young people who are in care or who have care experience.

Her fellow council-member, 23-year-old Dillon also shared what he described as a positive experience in care.

He said he had “amazing social care workers and key workers” and that they helped him get a good education, which they knew was important to him.

Dillon said Care Day means a lot to him and other young people with experience in care, as their voices are not often heard and they feel there is a stigma is attached to it.

“It can be so isolating so it’s important for people to know that there is this day.”

His advice for young people entering the care system?

“Trust people, trust social care workers, trust key workers because they’re doing it for you. They’re not out to get you. When a lot of kids go into care I think they feel like people are out to get them. So I say just trust the people you’re meant to trust.”

“It’s important to remember everything happens for a reason,” Conor, who is also on the Epic youth council told us.

“Don’t be afraid of your identity – there are a lot of people out there in the care system who are afraid of it.”

‘Show your support’

Care Day is an initiative of ’5 National, 1 Voice’, an alliance made up of children’s rights charities across the UK and Ireland. This year The Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia also joined in the celebrations.

“It is such an exciting and positive day internationally, and each year it is growing,”said Terry Dignan, CEO of Epic.

“Care Day is a day where we are asking you to show your support, get vocal, get social and get involved in celebrating the successes and positive achievements of those in care or with care experience.”

Jasmine said getting involved with Epic and being on the council has given her a community and a support system. And it has given her a voice.

She wants other young people in care or with experience of care to “make sure their voices are heard”.

“Speak up, fight for your rights – do it the right way – and it’ll be okay.”

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