A care leaver shares their experiences
I was two when I went into care because my mum couldn't look after me properly. Over the next five years I was moved 42 different times. I can't really remember that time in my life now. But when I was eight I went to live with the foster carer who I now regard as my mother. She has a son and two daughters who are like my brother and sisters, and when I was 16 I took on her surname.
Foster care is an excellent service. It's there to help children; some have a good experience and some have a bad one. I've had a bit of both. I've had stability since I was eight, but it's also been extremely difficult to get over the trauma of my early years.
When I was at secondary school I felt extremely different, and I was apart from everybody else because I was so ashamed of where I came from. If I brought any friends home from school I would say I lived with my aunt because I called her by her first name. It was quite hard. When you're going through your teenage years you don't want to be different from everyone else but I felt like I was.
Social workers told me when I was nine or 10 that by the age of 14 I would be pregnant and on drugs. That was really difficult. I couldn't understand why they were saying that to me. In a way I think they gave me the inspiration and ambition that I needed to show them that I wasn't going to fulfil that stereotype. I've worked really hard and I'm proud of where I've got to.
I have met a few other people in care along the way and unfortunately all of those that I've known fit the stereotype that the social workers talked about. It would be refreshing to meet other people who have been in care and made all their dreams come true.
I've been told not many young people in foster care go onto further education so it was a huge achievement for me to get my place at university. I studied fashion at the University of Northumbria, and have since set up my own business.
At 24, I'm happy with my career and am just about to get married. My foster carer always instilled good values in me and she is the reason I've been successful. She has encouraged me to go for everything I want to achieve and has been my biggest inspiration. I'm living proof that a stable foster family can make all the difference in the world.