Emma, a care leaver, shares her story

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My name is Emma, I am 24 years of age and I would like to tell you my story.

I’ve been in foster care since a very young age and I have been through quite a lot of different foster placements and homes. When I was nine I went to foster carers in Lincoln where for the first time ever I felt happy, safe and loved. I stayed in this foster placement until I was 16. I wanted to stay there longer but social services made it really hard for me. I was bullied at school so I left at 15. Social services wouldn’t pay for home tutoring so I ended up doing nothing all day except read books.

My foster carer had a friend who owned a salon and the lady was going to give me an apprentice job in the hair dressers. If this had happened I would have been a qualified hair dresser now. Social services wouldn’t allow me to take the placement, instead giving me a "to-do" list every day.

It was awful and they made me sign it to show that I’d done everything. It included waking up at 8am, be washed and dressed for half 8 and I was not allowed out, so what was I meant to do?

All of all this made me go off the rails and I started rebelling against the care system.

My foster mum and dad fought for me but social services made life very difficult for me. They made me write words out of a book it was horrible. They let my birth sister come into my life which is when she took me out the care system and moved me back to my home town. I wish so much to this day she didn’t.

I wasn’t capable of surviving the big wide world. I went through hell until I was 21. I got involved in crime, hard drug abuse and domestic violence. I had nobody except my old foster family to speak to. I got to 21 I had an ASBO and was evicted from my first council house because I breached the conditions of my ASBO three times. They sent me to County Court where they were going to give me a pre-sentence report my foster mum attended.

I didn’t get a prison sentence, it was like someone looking down on me. As of that day I promised my foster mum I would get off the drugs stop the crime and stop the drinking.

I was not allowed to stay at my foster mums as social services said that I left care. My foster parents tried to fight them but they were told they’d have to stop fostering if they took me in. I finally found accommodation and now I’m 24 with my own flat and I still have my foster family to look out for me.

My foster family was meant to leave me when I left there at 16, but they never did. They have always been there for me and they call me their own just like I call them my own family. That is unconditional love, it’s what young people need as they go into adulthood.

To support the Fostering Network's Dont Move Me campaign, please visit the campaign website.