When being in foster care, when you turn eighteen, you move from being a child in care to being a care leaver, which a lot of the time means you move from your placement into either independent living or in my case moving to higher education. This transition for me was extremely terrifying, as it meant going somewhere knew that I needed to fit in at.
For some people, this might not be an issue as some children in care cannot wait to be independent, but for me, the idea of being independent at the time was an idea that did not fit true with me, mostly down to the fact that I felt that everything was going too fast for me to make sense off. At first, I moved from being in my placement in foster care to supported accommodation for a brief period while I was doing my interviews for university and making plans to pack and move up to campus at the time.
For the first few months of living independent in supported accommodation, I felt that I was at home, as I was somewhere that I felt safe, but most importantly I felt that I was somewhere that I could live and safely secure the future that I want to move into by transitioning into higher education. Strange thing is this was nearly five years ago now.
When transitioning from supported accommodation, this was for the most part a smooth ride being able to pack all my stuff up and travelling halfway up the country from Dorset to Devon, however, when I arrived in Plymouth, I had massive anxiety as everything felt strange and I truly was not ready to live on my own in a new city. I remember very clearly that when I arrived, for the first few weeks of being in Plymouth, I was finding it hard to sleep and was experiencing night terrors for the most part of every single day.
A lot of people that I talked too felt that I was being stupid and silly which caused my mood and anxiety levels to increase very quickly, as since then all I felt was that people were judging me for being nervous and scared of being in an unfamiliar environment, what they did not understand was that for a care leaver, it is hard to be away from home for a prolonged period especially if going to university cause if something went wrong we could not just pack up and move back home.
When thinking about it now, I feel this could have been half the reason why I was worried cause being in a new place for education was worrying enough but the fact that if I messed up, what would I have done regarding moving back home, as I could not expect my personal advisor to jump in the car to come and move me back straight away. I feel that this is a massive struggle and has a dramatic impact on the social and mental health of care leavers who are transitioning as if they do move away to higher education, there is always going to be that fear of what is going to happen if anything goes wrong.
However, in my opinion and experience, apart from the fear of being independent and not knowing how to pay rent, or where to do shopping and how to budget and all the rest of the worries that everyone who lives on their own gets, being independent has given me a lot of challenges that I am glad to have had otherwise, such as when you are living with foster carers or with family a lot of the time you get everything done for you, but when your independent you have to think about everything such as doing washing, making sure flats tidy etc. When going independent in university accommodation, for the first year I had all this taken care off for me except for my own washing, but now that I live in my own flat, I must do all this on my own which does sometimes feel like a lot of work especially when you are running around before a lecture or a shift at work.
For me it has taken a lot of time to get used to doing all this on my own, but I would not change any of it cause being independent gives a lot of people the best experience of their lives especially when they think they cannot cope which is especially how I felt in my first few weeks alone. I will admit though that when I went independent, I felt that I was on my own not having any support from anyone, but oh my god was I wrong.
There is so much support out there, from social workers, social care and even your personal advisor who will help and support care leavers who are transitioning as this can and is a stressful time when moving into your very first place. I learned this the hard way as I always felt that I was alone in all this but knowing that my personal advisor was there the whole time was a stress taken away as I now know that if I struggle again until I am 25, there is support there for me if I need it… just like all care leavers who are in transition or are about to transition into independent living.
By Anonymous Care Experienced Blogger.