23 March 2020
My experience as a care leaver
Anchor Hanover have signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant and are pledging to support young people leaving care as they apply for jobs and strive to become more independent.
Bonnie Callahan is a Team Leader at Anchor Hanover’s St Edith’s Court care home in Leigh On Sea, having spent time in the care system as a teenager, she shares her experience with us.
Bonnie, I understand you were in and out of the care system for much of your childhood. Can you tell me a little about how that came about?
My parents split up when I was very young, partly due to domestic violence and mental health issues. My dad got custody of me and my brother, and then remarried. It was still a violent household and after a while my brother was sent to live with my grandmother, and I moved between care day centres and temporary foster homes. When I was 14 or 15, I ran away, ended up homeless for short time and eventually went to police station and asked to be put into care.
What was your experience of foster homes and the care system like?
My experience was during the 1970's and 1980's, so I can’t comment on the current system, but at the time I didn’t find my social workers great. Me and my friends worked out how to "play the game", and we didn't trust anyone.
After I took myself to the police station, I was made an emergency ward of the state and a meeting was held with social services and my family. A permanent placement was found, but unfortunately it was with the wrong family for me. It only lasted a year before I ran away and ended up homeless for a short period again.
What happened after you ran away for the second time?
I was lucky that I was with a friend and we both got jobs quite quickly so were able to rent a room together, and I have been working ever since. My first serious job was as a cashier and fishmonger at Sainsbury's but they couldn't offer me full time hours, so I then I got a job at a commercial laundry firm.
How did having a job change your life?
All my jobs have helped with my confidence and independence. I got pregnant at 18, and having a job allowed me to find accommodation and take care of myself and my child. I find work relaxing, having money reduces stress and learning new skills and meeting new people are wonderful.
Why do you think initiatives like Care Leavers Covenant which aim to help young people leaving care enter society and the workplace, are important?
I was very lucky that I recognised I wanted more from life and I took responsibility for it. I believe that initiatives like this, to help young people adapt to life after care, have a lot of potential as they will give kids the choices I had.
Care kids need mutual trust, honesty, care and choices. We have huge potential but some blame others and get stuck which is understandable. The workplace can provide structure, support and help young people to make a new life for themselves. I think Anchor Hanover could make a real difference to young people leaving care by joining with this initiative.
For more information about the Care Leaver Covenant visit https://mycovenant.org.uk/
Anchor Hanover has signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant
Anchor Hanover pledges support to help care leavers enter the workplace and become more independent.
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