I was never an angry black woman
Today, if you asked me to describe myself I would say that despite having a child in care, I am a happy and successful 24 year old mother. However, this was certainly not always the case. Growing up, I had a very difficult upbringing in which I suffered abuse
At fourteen I placed myself in care
Through no fault of my own I had been moving around different houses, sleeping on friends' sofas. It was not a safe way to live.
Foster care was in no way an easy option. I had grown up living with my white grandmother but I was put in a series of homes with black foster carers which was a big culture shock.
I had so many different social workers. They just kept turning up and expecting me to trust them when I didn't even know them. I knew that they saw me as difficult but what did they expect? None of this was my fault but I was the one who had to live like this. Most of them didn't even bother to tell me that they were moving on, not that it would have made much of a difference to me at the time.
Imagine, I was constantly being told that I was living in these different homes because I had to be looked after but in reality I didn't feel that anyone understood me or was caring for me.
This changed when I met a new social worker who actually showed me some respect and behaved in a way that made me want to respect her. For the first time I felt able to talk to someone about why I felt so angry about how I had been treated.
Having someone that genuinely wanted to hear what I had to say gave me the confidence to explain to her how it felt. I told her that I could not face living with strangers on a daily basis which was the reason I kept running away.
I needed my own space and some help to find semi-independent housing.
At the age of sixteen I found out that I was seven months pregnant. As I was still in care myself my son was put straight onto a child in need plan. However, after a month of closely monitoring me caring for him they had no concerns and allowed me to move into my semi- independent property. I felt that this was a new start with my baby and loved being with him in our own home.
Unfortunately, when my son was eighteen months old children's services came back into our lives again as I was in a domestic violence relationship.
This time my son was placed on a child protection plan. However, I had a really lovely social worker who recognised my potential as a mother and the love that I had for my son and within four months he was removed from the plan.
I gave up my relationship to keep my son safe and for a few years things continued to go well for us and there was no contact with children's services. But as he grew up it became clear that my son had some educational needs. I tried to get help for him and support for myself which was really difficult. My son needed routine and if things changed unexpectedly he found it difficult to cope. As a single working mum with no family support it was really hard but I just got on with things, praying that things would improve as he became older.
My son got into a mainstream school and I hoped that they would be able to support him with his needs but unfortunately this was not the case. They were nice people but they were unable to cope with his behaviour.
I will never forget the day I got a phone call from my son's school telling me that he had tried to commit suicide. He was only six years old. I immediately took him to see our GP.
Over the weekend my son started asking me questions about death which he never done before and when he was supposed to return to school on the Monday I didn't feel confident about taking him. I contacted the school and they said it was fine. But within twenty minutes a social worker called and asked me to take my son to the hospital for a check-up. I knew they were going to start assessing me again but I knew that I had not done anything wrong.
From that day not one social worker listened to me. I was pushed onto a path that was so frustrating and upsetting. Although I had never harmed my son I was told I had to go into a mother and baby unit so we could be assessed. I told them that my son does not like changes to his routine. I knew this was not going to go well as if he's slightly out his comfort zone his behaviour erupts. No one listened to me.
As I had warned, my son could not cope in the placement and one day he was so stressed his behaviour took a turn for the worse and children's services issued care proceedings. I was devastated. I had loved and cared for my son for six years and had done a good job. But because his school could not cope with his behaviour I was now in court trying to justify why I should be able to take him home.
All the way through the care case I felt ignored by all the professionals until one day the Judge gave me an opportunity to speak for myself. I told him about how I felt and I was so shocked, he listened to me. It was clear that he didn't see me as a "large, black woman" as social services had described me.
Instead he said that he saw a good mum but he was torn between how worried social services were.He actually gave me the option to allow my son to be cared for under a full care order with me seeing him once each week and as time went by having unsupervised contact with him.The alternative would be carrying on to a contested final hearing which I could lose and end up seeing my son only every three months.
By having this conversation with the Judge for the first time since the proceedings started I felt I had a bit of control. Even though I agreed, not knowing where my son was going to live was the most difficult thing I have ever, and will ever, go through. The social workers still weren't any help but my son was placed in a care home which is one of the best homes they have. The carers made him feel comfortable and it couldn't get any better, other than him being at home.
Currently my son has remained in his excellent care home, has one of the best social workers anyone could ask for who listens to everything I have to say, even if he does not agree with me he still respects my opinion.
My son's social worker has fought for what is right for my son whether I like it or not. I feel confident that he is going above and beyond for my boy
I have come so far from the beginning of this horrendous ordeal from September 2016 until now. I am in a great job and enjoy going to meetings about my son where I am no longer considered as angry but professionals now see my passion.
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Established in 1974, Family Rights Group is the charity that works with parents in England and Wales whose children are in need, at risk or are in the care system and with members of the wider family who are raising children who are unable to remain at home. You can find more information about the projects and initiatives led by Family Rights Group on the Get involved pages on this website.