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33 OCTOBER 2001
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young people in care

From home to secure unit in eight moves

My name is Jan. I am 15 and have been in the Gardener Unit in Manchester for the last few months. It is the only National Health secure unit built especially for teenagers. I am not sure what my future is. I was raised in Staffordshire. My first few years were alright. I got on with my sister and went to a catholic primary school for 7 years. Then my stepdad moved in. We didnít get on. He used to shout at me ďyou'll go where I say!" and beat me. My mum was scared of him; he beat her too. He adopted me but even so just after that I was put into care. I lived in a Family Centre. I kept away from my family and was going to school but doing no work.

Then I was sent to a clinic in Birmingham but came back to the Family Centre at the weekend. I caused some mischief so they refused to keep me. I was sent to another Family Centre in Burton but there was no school to go to. The other kids and I got each other into trouble. I used to set fire to things; once it was a lorry. By the age of 12, l was wild and out of control. After several more moves, I was sent to the Corvedale Care Crisis Intervention Centre in Shropshire. It was an Outward Bound (adventure training) place. I stayed two months and enjoyed it. I liked canoeing, abseiling and rock climbing. It helped to keep me out of trouble. Then I went to a boarding-school in Wales. It was snobby and boring. I stayed about three months but they did not want me there.

Finally, I came here and have stayed in Manchester for nine months. This is my longest home for some time. I am not bothered about its being a secure unit. I have been ice skating and swimming and am still working on my problems. Being in one place has helped me with my education. I was never very good at reading, having missed so much school. The Gardener Unit has a school called Cloughside and I have passed an exam in English. I never thought I could do this. It is called SAIL (Staged Assessment in Literacy), Stage One. I have also taken a word-processing exam and will be doing a spreadsheet test soon. I will get a school certificate in basic maths.

Some of my art has been shown in the unit. We can use computers in art and do colour printing. We make birthday cards for people. I feel better in myself for doing well in school. I hope to go to college and work on computers. I have also found that I am good at music. My key workers applied for a grant from the Princeís Trust. I wrote a letter myself too and a couple of days later a cheque arrived; it was for ď210, to buy a keyboard. I thought it was brilliant, getting something Iíd always wanted.

I enjoyed playing it, making up my own music. Rachael, the Music Therapist, has taught me how to read music. I hope to carry on with my music when I am older. Looking back on my life, I do feel angry sometimes. I havenít seen my real dad for a couple of years. I wish I could have been kept in one place and not moved around so much. When I used to walk out of my class because everything just got on top of me, the teachers didnít try to find out what was wrong. My mum couldnít tell the social workers about all that was going on at home because she was afraid.

I know it is hard for kids in care to find good jobs. How can we get a good education when we move around so much? I know I have not finished moving. I shall be going somewhere else in the New Year and Iím not sure where. I know I will not have an easy future, but at least my education and my exams make me feel good about myself, and I really love my keyboard.

The International Child and Youth Care Network

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