Naomi Taylor, a creative for brand agency Mr President, came to our attention after being featured in Campaign – a magazine for the advertising and media industry. In the article she described hitting ‘rock bottom’ as a care leaver before getting her life back on track and winning a prestigious industry award. She also outlined her frustrations with the lack of opportunities and support afforded to care leavers.
We got in touch with Naomi and in this interview she shares her experiences of foster care and her time since leaving care, as well as the project she has started for care leavers.
What was your early experience of entering foster care?
‘I was 12 when I went into care. The first few days were difficult, and I spent most of my time isolated from the other foster kids and carers because I didn't know what to do or say to them. I moved around a lot in the first two years or so but spent ages 14-18 with just one family.’
It must have been challenging, especially moving between families. What did you find to be the biggest challenges as a fostered young person and since as a care leaver?
‘Feeling like you belonged somewhere. When you started to feel like you were part of the family, something would happen that would make you feel unloved and unwanted again. It's a mental rollercoaster.
‘I had to fight for things myself if I wanted to defy expectations – that's not easy when you don't have the full support of your real family.
‘As a care leaver, there needs to be more support for kids that have a council flat but want to pursue education or a job somewhere outside of where they are from. Care leavers should get priority of being able to transfer their home to another county without them being penalised and made to give up their flat.
‘Mental health and suicide is also a major problem, when you move out, you're on your own and you rarely have solid support and guidance, so sometimes you give up. Just because we are classed as adults, it doesn't mean we are good at being by ourselves, living independently.’
On the flip side, what are some of your fondest memories of being in foster care and of your fostering family?
‘My fondest memories of my foster family were them taking me on their family holiday, it made me feel wanted and that they considered me part of their family. They were strict on me at times but it made me better myself, I wish all kids had this opportunity when they were in care.’
Are you still in touch with anyone from your time in foster care – fostering family members, social worker etc?
‘I am still in contact with my foster carers, although I don't see them as often as I like, as I have now moved out of Essex into London. I have no contact with those I spent time with in care, which is a shame.’
You are now successful in your career. Do you feel your experience of foster care has inspired you or helped enable or you to get to where you are?
‘Being in care has shown me that although it's tough at times, you can achieve just as much, if not more than someone that grew up with their biological family.
‘The lack of role models who are care leavers is shocking, so why would kids believe they can be anything better than benefits, institutions, drug abuse or death?
‘Just because you are in care, it doesn't mean you are not worthy. You have a voice, a voice that is special and unique. Never ever take no for an answer when people say you can't do something because of where you come from. You can achieve whatever you want in your life. You don't have to be what statistics expect of you. None of us does.
‘I'm now a creative in advertising and I have started an initiative to help care leavers get into creative industries called Next of Kin.
‘Their voice is valuable and they deserve to have unexpected opportunities. Next of Kin will provide workshops, training, talks and, ultimately, scholarships. But first it needs to build a network.
‘If you were in care, I’d like to get to know you. If you have cared for someone, I’d like to know you too. Care leavers need role models – someone to look up to, someone who will go back and help others reach their destination. Surveys suck, but they’re decent at gathering data so please click here. You can say nothing or you can tell me your life story. I swear not to share anything you say without your consent. We can change statistics but, bigger than that, we can change lives.’
You can find out more about Next of Kin by following @ThisIsNextofKin on Twitter.