Care Leaver Story: Louis

“I was taken into care aged 9.  A long term placement was found for me by The Foster Care Co-operative hundreds of miles away from my immediate family. So long was this placement that I am still here because this has become my home. By the way I am 26.

At first I stuck out like a sore thumb. I had cockney accent and a stammer so people had trouble understanding me. I can honestly say the family matching was perfect for me and I would even go as far as to say it was the best thing that happened to me. Of course, I was on a roller coaster to begin with – I had mixed emotions and was very angry, sad and felt very sorry for myself. I was scared. I grew up in a very rough area of London – in Newham. Life was tough. We all went hungry. We had no heating or electricity some days. I also witnessed a lot of things that children should not. My parents were abusive. We also didn’t attend school on a regular basis. We didn’t have the clothes or shoes to go in!! There was no love. My dad died whilst I was in care. All of these things play a vital role for young minds and development.

I was very fortunate in being placed with Pat and Brian. They gave me the best of everything. They repaired the damage. It can’t have been easy for them; we kids carry a lot of baggage but don’t come with any instructions. They gave me love, stability and above all believed in me. I wasn’t perfect the child. I tested all the boundaries – even ran away to be with my siblings when I was 14, who were also placed with me at various times. But I was welcomed back into their home. I gained a lifelong mother and father and a new sister. They have been perfect role models and have played a key part in my success today. I have, with their help, turned my life around.

When I ran away to the greener side (ha-ha), I returned to 10 different foster homes in a short period. I then asked to return to Pat and Brian. I had been in trouble with police, battled with substance misuse and struggled with homelessness, depression and debt. I made a lot of bad decisions and poor choices and did things I’m not proud of. At 17 I realized I had to get my life in order and on the right track or I would have ended up in prison – but I had no qualifications.

My carer, a retired teacher, helped me get back into education and from there I decided to join the army and have never looked back (you tend to trip and fall anyway if you do! J). I joined up in 2009 at 18yrs old and have travelled all over the world: Kenya, Canada, Cyprus and Afghanistan. I gaining a whole range of skills and knowledge throughout my time in the British Army. Pat and Brian gave me the encouragement I needed to succeed and I can’t thank them enough.  During my time with them they touched the hearts of many youngsters and encouraged them all to do well. One young boy was spotted playing football and is now in a top under-18s league team.

So no matter how much of a bad start you have had in life, however many setbacks you have experienced – with the right kind of help you can achieve your goals. It’s not too late to make amends. Talk through your concerns. Don’t bottle things up, because you can with the right tools love and care and support. You can follow your dreams.”