I left foster care at the age of 17, it was my decision and I had the full support of my foster parents and social worker. We went through all the formal meetings and paperwork but this was an exciting time for me, a new beginning and a chance to stand on my own two feet. My foster dad told me that I would make mistakes and get in pickles but that was ok, it was about learning to be independent and if I found things too hard or needed advice he was always there. Knowing this was a great relief, I wasn’t going to be dropped and left alone. As I have a disability I was also told that the social services would still support and advise me up to the age of 25.
I was at college when I got my first flat still living in the same town. My foster parents had set up a savings account for all the children they fostered and when we left home they give us the money to help us on our way. I had been taught to cook while in foster care so all I had to do was put it into practice, don’t get me wrong I was no Nigella but I managed. I was able to get advice from student support at college about budgeting and making my money last until the end of month. I had a wall planner that told me what bills needed to be paid on what date and how much I had for things like food.
When I finished at college I went into employment and learnt to drive but didn’t really like the job I was doing, so I was relieved when I was made redundant. I had to look for another job and it was my foster dad who told me to apply for a job at Suffolk College in student support. I applied and got the job. This for me was the start of a new journey. I then transferred to the University of Suffolk where my love for learning returned. I was supported by my employer to return back to education and undertake a degree part time. I’m now in my final year and have achieved so many things that I never thought I would.
I won the ‘Patron’s’ award for 2018 at the Festival of Learning and then I also won ‘Inspirational Learner of the Year’ and ‘Outstanding Learner of the Year’ at the Suffolk Adult Learners awards in September 2018. These achievements have spurred me on to learn and make changes within areas of disability.
No one ever said that growing up in care would be easy, but a tough start doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve, sometime you just need the right people supporting you. The rise in social media is a way of connecting people and supporting them, something that I never had when growing up. We can use this to inform people and support people better than we have ever before, so don’t listen to the negatives think of the positives. Being brought up in care made me who I am today and if this only helps one person leaving care today then it’s worth it.
Terrie Cornwell-Dunnett, Patron’s Award winner, 2018, wrote this blog for Care Leavers Week 2018