Annie Mac, Samantha Morton and Deborah Frances-White are sharing throwback photos of their 18-year-old selves to help explain the concerning realities of what happens to young people once they leave care.
The vital conversation around children growing up in care was recently put under the spotlight by Samantha Morton, who shared the reality of her own experience on Desert Island Discs. Explaining the long-lasting impact that it had on her, the actor publically apologised to the girl she threatened in a care home when they were teenagers, explaining: “She was a child herself. Nobody looked after us properly.”
But Morton also acknowledged and thanked some residential workers who she described as being “amazing”. Listening to these candid words reminds us that growing up in care is a complex and unique experience for all the people who go through it. And with the most recent official figures showing that there has been a 28% rise in the number of children in care over the last decade, we must keep having honest and urgent conversations around care.
Become is a charity shining a light on the issues affecting young people leaving the care system. It has asked celebrities to share photos of their teenage selves as part of the #WhenIWas18 campaign to end the ‘care cliff’.
The charity says that when people who live in care turn 18, they need to move out of their home and into independent living arrangements or unsuitable accommodation (such as B&Bs) even if they don’t feel ready or supported to live independently. This can trigger an abrupt transition into adulthood at a time in a young person’s life when they need stability the most. A concerning number of care leavers end up homeless immediately and many who struggle with the lack of support become homeless later on.
Although local authorities can use their discretion to determine when is the right time for someone to leave care, due to a lack of suitable placements in the care system, too often the default is for individuals to be forced into independence. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government stepped in to protect young people from this upheaval, pledging that “no one has to leave care during this period”. This has been a lifeline to many youngsters.
Become is now calling on the government to provide clarity on how long this pledge will last and, better yet, to permanently remove the ‘care cliff’ by giving more funding and flexibility to local authorities.
To show support for the campaign, Mac has uploaded a photo of her 18-year-old-self to show what an important and fragile age it is in people’s lives.
“Here is a picture of me aged 18, with my camouflage dress and hair twists before my debs dance at the end of school,” she captioned the photo. “There are my parents, Rosie and Dave, not seeming to show any embarrassment at my distinctly different aesthetic from the other attendees.
“It’s National Care Leavers week. A week to zoom in on the 10,000 young people who have been brought up in care, and are now, on turning 18, moved suddenly and expected to live independently, losing their home and much of their support network. Everything can change, terrifyingly quick.
After explaining the campaign’s purpose, she added: “It can be lonely enough being in care, let alone being cast out of it as a vulnerable teenager trying to find your place in the world.”
The Guilty Feminist creator Frances-White has also shared a photograph along with her own story, saying: “At the age of 18 I was living in a nice warm safe home with my mother and father having been adopted as a newborn. I was never in care. But that’s not the case for young people who are not adopted and are instead in the care system. For too many young people, leaving care means moving out of home with very few support mechanisms in place, which can be disastrous.”
For more information about Become or how to get involved, visit the charity’s website.
Images: Getty, Become, Annie Mac, Deborah Frances-White, ITV, Shutterstock