Sharon’s experience in foster care

My name is Sharon* and this is my story… 

I have been in foster care since the age of eight and it was probably the best decision that was made for me.  There was nothing I wanted more than to get away from my mammy.  I just knew it wasn’t the way I wanted to grow up or the kind of environment I wanted to live in.  I have four brothers; two older and two younger. 

The night I was taken into care, I was placed with a childminder until a more permanent place was available.  I was moved to a foster home and lived there for just over three years.  A lot happened in that time and it wasn’t easy for me to trust people or want to tell them the truth which resulted in me having to move out.  It never really bothered me moving from place to place, it was just upsetting sometimes having to leave someone.  After that placement I moved to Strabane temporarily and to another place for a few weeks until yet again a long term foster home was available. My social worker did not want me to go to a residential home because I was quite young.

I was 12 years old when I moved to Derry and it was a little scary because a few other people were fostered here too. On the 17 July 2002, I never felt more at home that I did that day.  As soon as I saw my new foster mum I stood up and gave her a big hug and that’s when she knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I wasn’t used to living with all girls so this was pretty new to me. I did and have since pretty much got along with everyone that ever came to live with us; maybe there was the odd person that I didn’t.

I’ve realised that some people can think of children bought up in care as underachievers.  They are so wrong. I went to school and got my GCSEs then went on to do my A Levels and then a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design. I studied Graphic Communication at the University of Sunderland and probably had the best three years of my life so far. I met a lot of people on the way and this education wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the 16+ Pathway Team and my social worker who has worked with me for ten years. 

Growing up in care was not anything that I would be embarrassed about. I had a normal childhood, people around me that loved me and a woman who I can honestly say is like a second mother to me and treats me like one of her own. I’ve never felt so close to anyone as the bond that we have. I am who I am today because of her. She has supported me through everything since I have lived with her, whether it was dealing with me not wanting to go back to my mum or dealing with two deaths in the family and supporting my decisions in Education even if one of them she wasn’t too pleased about. She’s always been there. It’s not about being blood related it’s about who cares for you. I’m 22, soon to be 23, and I’m still here in my home which always will be.

Although I couldn’t ask for anything more, growing up without my brothers wasn’t always easy. It’s one of the things that I missed. I didn’t get to see them grow up and didn’t see them often enough. I would just sit some days and whether I was watching a film about a happy family or just watched the family around me, I’ve missed having my family around me.  I’ve missed not being a part of my family and I’ve missed not being like any other normal family like arguing with my brothers and mammy etc.  It doesn’t matter how much I am treated as part of the family, I know I am not and that makes me sad.

Someday when I’m a lot older I am going to have my own family and make sure they have the best upbringing I can possibly give them. I also want to pursue my dream and that is to become a Podiatrist. It’s always something I have wanted to do and I think I would be great at it so fingers crossed.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my foster family, my family and the 16+ Pathway Team.  I am so grateful for everything they have done for me and I owe them a lot.

(*Name has been changed)