Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 18:46 UK

Children in care: Your experiences

England's care system needs a radical overhaul with the state acting as a "pushy parent" to get the best for children, MPs say.

Here, BBC News website readers with experiences of growing up in care share their thoughts on the report.

DAVID WHELAN, SMALL BUSINESSMAN, LONDON
Young children - generic
All children in care should endeavour to play a part in society, says David

I left the care system 30 years ago, but reading the report now it seems that depressingly little has changed.

It is of no surprise that children in care do not attain the same merits in education as other children do.

It seems that the authorities' goal is to feed and clothe the children in care - and little else.

Helping children gain a decent education was a low-priority when I was going through the system. Little was done to assess my potential. I would never have even sat O-levels, had a teacher not taken care to spot my potential and push me to do them.

There should be a greater expectation of what children in care can achieve. I now work as a businessman, and I know many other children who have gone on to lead full and active lives.

I also know others that have been damaged by their experiences. Unfortunately I myself had a horrific time in care, suffering abuse.

But children in care should not use their situation as an excuse for committing crimes or to gain sympathy for their plight. We all have a choice - and not everyone in care chooses to commit crimes. All kids in care should endeavour to play a full equal part in society today.

Until such times as they invest in decent, quality staff with the right skills mix nothing is going to change.

Children would also benefit from personalised care plan that would allow them to reach their potential.

DAVID MANNING, SALES DIRECTOR, RUGBY

I was in the care of social services in the London Borough of Enfield from three months of age to 18 years of age.

I have nothing but praise and admiration for all those that had a hand in my upbringing

I have every faith in the care system. The social workers and care workers that I encountered were an inspiration and guidance, despite there not being a single influence over a sustained period of time.

There was some abuse that happened in the home, but it was fairly innocent, and was never anything to do with or known about by the staff. It's just that a little bullying will always happen in this environment because children have hierarchies.

The social workers had the vision to support me educationally, and sent me, with public money, to Brighton College, one of the leading public schools in the country. I think I might have been one of the first children in the system to do this.

I am now a well adjusted, intelligent individual who heads up a model family and has a fantastic career. I am forever grateful for that.

The service will never be perfect, and there will always be very poor examples that are touted by he media - and that is a good thing, because it draws attention to some of the problems and challenges that exist.

That said, I think that it is important to point out that sometimes the system does work, and I am a shining example of this.

I have nothing but praise and admiration for all those from the London Borough of Enfield Social Services that had a hand in my upbringing.

THOMAS MCNAMARA, WESTERN ISLES, SCOTLAND
Thomas McNamara
Thomas says we higher ambitions for children in care

More should be done to help vulnerable children reach their potential and to stop them being stereotyped as difficult kids.

My childhood and teenage years were disrupted as I was moved across Scotland from foster care to a care home and back.

The time I spent in a children's home was sheer hell for me, as I was lived alongside difficult children who would delight in re-wiring plugs or stuffing kids in duvets and beating them up.

As a result I went to four different schools whilst in foster and felt like no-one really cared for me at all.

Once you are a foster kid you stand out and get labelled as one.

For example, my residential carers could not afford sports trainers, so I would run around the sports field in ordinary shoes.

Teachers would pick up on this and tease me about this. It's a little thing, but something that sticks in your mind and knocks your confidence.

At school I was lumped into groups of troublesome kids just because I was in care, even though I didn't get in trouble.

I didn't get to see a careers adviser, no-one talked to me about my ambitions to become a mechanic.

As the report suggests, we should have higher ambitions for children in care.

Children in care should have a chance to meet with their foster parents, a teacher and the headmaster. This would allow the child to talk about what they want to do. It would allow teachers to see the child as a real person and not just as a foster child.

Now I'm settled down in a job and have been taking Open University classes. But my life could have been very different had I been given a better chance from an earlier age.



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SEE ALSO
Care children 'need pushy parent'
20 Apr 09 |  Education
Leaving care: Speaking out
03 Mar 09 |  Newsnight

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