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Liberating the Story from the Stigma: My Journey for Freedom.

“As the shadows of danger receded and the once looming threat to my life diminished, I discover freedom. This freedom has become a guiding beacon that illuminates the path for change.” 

Today, I feel so fortunate to be given the opportunity to share my story. I didn’t think I’d live long enough to get the chance, let alone fulfil the promise I made as a child, that if I were ever to be truly free, I would share my story to help others. Yet, thankfully, here I am faltering with an uncertainty of what words to use next or where to start. I don’t mind admitting this, as it’s a blessing in itself.

I went into foster care aged 14. This was the first time I’d formed words to describe some of the danger I was in. Covered in bruises and hurting all over, it may not sound like it, I had made my first step on my journey for freedom.

A lot of firsts happened. First time I had a toothbrush and a hairbrush, first time I ate an egg, first time I wasn’t hungry and the first time I was safe. Eventually, first time I was loved.

I’d like to be able to say the battle stopped and my new life began, sadly this isn’t the case. The people who I’d escaped continued to have access and I remained in danger until an emergency protection order was granted. I moved between 13 foster homes and 3 children’s homes where a distance was created. This was a very similar process to witness protection, only I was still a child.

Leaving the children’s home many battles were fought. The biggest were being alone, PTSD and the stigma that came with the label of “Care Experienced” 

With my determination to overcome all adversity, I dived into the social care sector, working in children’s homes, education and supporting children who had been through similar to me. 

I taught entire staff teams strategies for best practice that were born from the malpractice of the children’s home I came from.  I became a foster Mum, Incredible work with incredible children.

Then just over a year ago aged 40'ish the risks were heavily reduced, giving me the freedom to start telling my story publicly. Sharing my pain for the purpose of change. A chance to liberate my story from the stigma, with the hope that no one else will struggle in the ways I have.

I am the Director of Living Legacy Learning creating bespoke training specialising in disclosure, safeguarding and care experience inclusion. Taking my personal survival of Child sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation and my 30 years of professional experience.             

There are millions of children and adults with similar experiences to me. Sadly, I sieve through redacted files to find my memories and piece together my story. There is a lot missing and they’re not in memory form. My files contain, reports, conversations, telephone calls and police statements, none in order and currently too painful to timeline. 

No childhood memory of going to a park or a trip out, just redacted pages of harms done and opinion. I’m so glad that as the silent generation speak out, we can inform about our experiences, so others don’t have to struggle in the way I have to access my memory. Sadly PTSD and anxiety create a fog that’s hard to see through, reading reports of case conferences and reviews doesn’t fill in the missing pieces, to the jigsaw puzzle that is my life. 

I am so glad that After Cloud exists and hope it’s legacy shines a light on stories untold and fogged over. I can see it changing the future of every care experienced person. They will have their story, they will have the compassion written in reports, regarding the horrors they may have seen or the crimes committed against them. They may have the chance to look back at photos and remember some of the good stuff.

               Care File puzzle Poem

My life's been a puzzle, scattered wide

Pieces were lost in the shadows hide,

Though the picture forming, bleak to see,

The gaps that unfolded, bothered me.

Each missing piece a silent cry

Lost in a time where echoes would lie,

Jigsaw puzzle of life incomplete,

The void where the whispers would fleet.

Care records that came in a zip

In that moment like a dodgy drug trip!

Unpacking the files, unlocking the code

Redacted pages of secrets bestowed.

Artwork. gifted by a survivor.

Alone as I opened my files

Read of one little girls saddest trials

The feeling back then present now

Wondering how I survived, really how?

Reading of when the battle first started

And how I lost all that was dear, we were parted,

When the social and police went to war

For a girls safety and all that she saw.

Preserving the puzzle, fragile and good,

Careful hands, where memories stood,

At the start it was plain clear to see

That all the adults really did believe me.

This was enough at that time,

Though there is plenty more for this rhyme

Like reading my files a little's enough

As part two is where it gets rough.

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