As part of our CASCADE Parents group and network we have offered the opportunity for members to contribute to blogs if they would like to. These will be stories, messages, or priorities for research from their perspective. We hope this will be a regular blog feature at CASCADE and another way for us to amplify the voices of those with lived experience of children’s social care.

This week is Care Leavers Week, and that seems the perfect time for Jens’ reflection on the importance of role models for young people in care.

When people think about being in care, they normally have very negative associations. People think if you live in care you are criminals and we are often portrayed negatively in the press or media. Growing up I never saw positive role models of people in care, people like me. More recently I’ve learnt of some huge stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Pierce Brosnan have care experience.

Marilyn was sent into an orphanage for two years. After that, she then lived with a family friend for four years.

Brosnan was brought up by his grandparents from the age of four, due to his mother moving away as she was training to be a nurse. However, his grandparents died when he was six and after that, he stayed at various relatives until being sent to live in a boarding house until age 10.

I really wish I had known this growing up.

I think it would be great to have a list of champions. When I was in school, I’d constantly be asked about Tracey Beaker. In my secondary school lots of the classmates were jealous of me and thought being in care was glamorous, as my peers didn’t have pool tables or the latest PlayStation in their house. We had clothing grants, so we could buy new trainers when some of my classmates couldn’t. But what they didn’t understand was all I wanted was a loving family at home, somebody to take the time to see how my day was and a family meal all together. I wanted a home environment that was calm, settled, and safe. In my residential home I never knew if someone would start kicking off or what I was going home to. I feel like the whole experience made me grow up quicker than my peers.

My role models at the time were the staff in my children’s homes – I wish I knew then about all the superhero care experienced individuals out there. It could have pushed me to work harder and inspired me to aim higher, rather than just accept the limitations implied by the statistics around care experienced children and young people. I want everyone to remember the young people behind the statistics and to make efforts to share some positive stories!

Written by: Jen, CASCADE Parents Group

Of course, we think Jen and all the care leavers that get involved in our work are amazing role models and we couldn’t do it without them.