BBC NI Appeal: Joseph's story

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Joseph is a 23-year-old care leaver who features in The Fostering Network’s new BBC appeal calling for more people to consider becoming foster carers. The appeal will air in Northern Ireland on BBC One at 3.45pm during Community Life. In preparation for the appeal, we asked Joseph to expand on his transformative experience of foster care.

At eight years old I entered foster care. Now 15 years later I’m studying for a Masters. I wouldn’t have these opportunities without the support I received during my time in care.

My recollection of entering care at such a young age was one of mixed emotions. The experience was both alien and confusing, much like most children who enter care. I often reflect, with appreciation, by asking myself ’how did that eight-year-old boy get to where I am today?’

I am currently studying for a Masters in Common Law at University College Dublin, and undoubtedly appreciate the variety of opportunities that I have been given. I would say my experience in the care system is the most influential factor in my life, even if I didn’t realise it at the time.

The transition into care, which is a difficult process, was seamless for me, without any great disruption, or most of all without a profound effect on my own personal development. It is only now, since studying law, that I fully understand the impact of the whole process, with all the legal complications, court proceedings, as well as dedication put in by the social workers, family members and even my school. The list of people involved could be tenfold, frankly, I’m not even sure. The fact that I don’t have any strong memories from that time probably suggests that I wasn’t psychologically affected, or at least not significantly.

During my experience in care I was only ever with one foster family, which created a stable home environment, to the extent that I was as much a part of the furniture as everyone else. I quickly embedded within the family and local community; joining the local sporting club, moving to the local secondary school and making friends within the community. Importantly, to my mind at least, all of these decisions were my own, but the stable environment created an element of trust to make these choices.

At secondary school, I had a keen interest in history and was inspired by my teachers to pursue my interest at university. I struggled with GCSE English, but I received tutoring with the help of The Fostering Network’s Fostering Achievement programme. I went on to study A-levels and subsequently was accepted in Queen’s University Belfast to study History. My experience of moving out for university was much like anyone else’s. I like many students, was provided with the opportunity to reinvent myself, make new friends and open my mind to new ideas and opportunities.

Without being able to pursue my interests and desires I would not be where I am today. Being in care had a profoundly positive effect on my life, and I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now without the support I received throughout. The correct atmosphere to dream and aspire was probably the most influential factor in explaining my own personal journey. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities life presented to me and would encourage people to consider how many other unfulfilled aspirations are waiting an opportunity to realise for someone to encourage them to fulfil their true potential.