My name is Tracy-Jane and I am 21 years old. I was in care for four years, from the age of 14.
Every day I turned up at school with massive bruises, mostly covered up by my uniform. My adoptive mother was always writing notes to excuse me from Physical Education classes. Then one day my best friend caught sight of my burnt hands and bruised shoulders. She went and told my tutor.
A school nurse was called to see me and she said she would phone my parents to talk about my welfare. I told her not to, as my mother was on night shift and my father would be the only one indoors when I returned home. She agreed to leave it as she understood that I would get hurt. That night, I went home to find that the nurse had ignored my pleas. I was abused sexually and physically.
I returned to school very early the next day and my tutor called in Social Services. I felt I could trust nobody. Two social workers came and they said they would have to visit my parents. I told them what had happened before and they agreed they wouldn’t visit until my mother had finished her shift work. Later, at lunch time, my tutor told me that the social workers had gone to my house. They hadn’t listened.
Too much to bear
I refused to go home, but I was told there were no foster homes and I would have to go back. Rather than being beaten, I decided that I had to end my own life with tablets. I had told outsiders our “personal business” and the penalties for that were too much to bear. Anyway, I ended up in hospital. The social workers said I had done a “silly thing”, but at the time it had seemed a sensible option.
After all this, I was finally put into care. I lived with two elderly foster parents in a mobile home on the outskirts of a village. I had no friends to talk to and wasn’t allowed to return to school. I had to wait for a place in a psychiatric school and it was then that I became very depressed. Education was important to me: I had worked hard to get to grammar school so that I wouldn’t be the failure my father said I’d be. Time went by and I missed my exams.
This made me start to believe that I was “thick” and “no good”. When I was at home, and being abused, I had been very happy at school. I had been getting A grades. Now, suddenly, I couldn’t. Being in foster care seemed to mean that education was less important. Counselling had become a top priority.
During this time I moved to a lot of different foster homes, and started a YTS course. My last foster family had a son and a daughter of their own, plus an adoptive daughter. The son had learning difficulties and was allowed to watch violent videos and sex scenes on television. He was a very strong 14 year old and used to act out the videos on me. After he threw a knife at me whilst I was in bed, I ran away.
Social Services refused to find me another home and didn’t want to believe what I’d told them. I spent several days “sleeping rough”. I had to eat cold chips and drink from cans left in the bins. I was desperate and suicidal.
I was taken in by my YTS employers who were Christians. I learnt how hard it is to forgive others – but how important it is. People may let you down and reject you, but I believe God is always there if you want him. Unfortunately, after 2 years the eldest daughter grew to resent me. I went to stay with some relatives of the family; they have been wonderful. I love and respect them very much. I am really happy now and love country life. I am a member of the Kent Children's Trust, which aims to help 0-20 year-olds in Kent. I have passed 9 GCSe’s and have just done my “A” levels. I am about to go to America for a year, to work with children. Then I aim to go to university.
Brave and strong
I’ve found that bad stuff goes with time, as more and more positive thinking and events blot it out. I know that many people skip school, as I did. I thought I was being clever, doing something I knew was wrong in order to direct anger at my social worker and my life. This anger and hatred twisted me up so much. I was desperate for attention and love.
I finally realised that skipping school is not the answer. It is only you who loses out, nobody else does. It is a sad fact that we have to take care of ourselves and our futures the best we can. My advice is, don’t screw up your education “think big"!
There is always somebody worse off, so keep your chin up – and your head down for studying! Remember it is never too late to educate yourself and no-one is a failure. If we are brave and strong, the abusers will not have succeeded in beating us down.
Acknowledgements to Who Cares? the UK magazine for young people in care