Always on the move

When I was seven, two police officers from the child protection
team came to my mother’s house in Willesden, west London.

They took to me to live with a new “mummy and daddy” because my own
mother was too unstable to look after me. To this day I am grateful
for this because when I went into care I was bruised and battered
from the beatings I’d take from my mother.

I stayed with those foster carers for five years until I developed
a rebellious streak as I neared my teens. My foster parents
struggled to cope with my difficult behaviour and, on my 13th
birthday, I moved out.

From then my life became a jumble of foster placements and
children’s homes. I moved six times and went to three homes. The
memory of one of these still makes me shudder. One night the other
residents came into my room, hauled me out of bed and took turns
kicking and punching me in the face. The staff just stood on the
staircase and watched as if it were a TV show.

The next day, with a swollen face and a gash from where my head had
been banged on a computer in the staff room, I called my social
worker. I was immediately removed and put into a children’s home in
Kent. The home I left closed soon afterwards. I still can’t go near
there. Thinking of that night still fills me with terror.

After a few months in Kent my social worker told me another family
wanted to foster me. I stayed with the foster family until I turned
18. It wasn’t easy at first. I had developed an eating disorder and
my self-esteem had hit rock bottom. I fought my eating disorder and
my confidence crept back. Meeting my boyfriend helped enormously
and now, at 19, I can truly say that I love my life.

After a tiring day at college studying for my BTEC national diploma
course in media, I look forward to going home to my cosy Victorian
converted flat. I often say a little thankyou to social services
for giving me the chance to make a life for myself. I know that if
I had stayed with my mother I wouldn’t be where I am now. I may not
have always had a great time in care, but I am grateful for what my
social workers have done for me. Since the age of seven they have
been the main support network for myself and my younger brother. We
don’t have any contact with our parents.

I am an independent woman now but social services still help me. I
was recently diagnosed with clinical depression and received a lot
of support. I am not ashamed of my illness and I look forward to
the future with anticipation. When I picture my future I see myself
graduating from university and I am determined to forge a
successful career in journalism.

It may sound strange but in many ways I am glad I’ve had the life
I’ve had because it has made me stronger and more determined to
succeed. As a thankyou, I give a monthly donation to the NSPCC and
I plan to do that for the rest of my life.

Cheryl Andrews was formerly in the care system.

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