From The Guardian, 10 Nov 2018. The original article can be read here.
By Sarah Marsh
Alyssa explains the impact of being moved between more than 20 residential homes
Alyssa has been in care since she was 12 years old, and over the past few years she has been moved between more than 20 different residential homes, from the north to the south of England.
Now 15, she says being moved away from her home in London means she has run away countless times. But she says her latest placement, a smaller residential home that suits her needs, means she has not had a missing episode for more than a month.
She says: “Lots of kids run away from their care home because they don’t want to be there. No one wants to be away from family and feel like no one cares … I missed my brother and sister so much. I have a little brother aged one and he doesn’t understand who I am. I’ve never been there for him.”
Alyssa explains that she ended up in care after she became too much for her mother to look after. “I got involved with the wrong crowd and started taking drugs, sleeping with boys and not listening to my mum … My mum said I was going off the rails,” she says.
It was only after Alyssa had been raped twice that she was taken into care and moved out of London to a county town in the north-west of England. During her first night there she tried to kill herself, having been moved to an area she did not know, with little support or counselling.
“They said I would only be there for six months and then I’d come home. They sent me there while the criminal case was ongoing,” she says.
After her suicide attempt, Alyssa was moved to a mental health facility and then eventually sent to another care home. She was then moved between places for the next few years. She left after not fitting in with other children and staff and going missing on many occasions.
“At one point I ended up in London for six to seven weeks, staying with friends, just chilling … When I was caught I ended up in a secure unit for six months and I needed that time to, not change me, but put me back on a steady path,” she says.
Alyssa says that one of the reasons she kept running away was that she kept being put in places that didn’t suit her. One place told her she could not smoke, another barred her for having piercings. “They moved me to a city in northwest England at one point but I did not want to leave where I was at the time,” she says.
“When I was in one place – it was all girls and I tend not to get on with them. I am not a bitchy person but quite upfront and I find girls tend to talk behind each other’s backs … I kept fighting with the other girls there,” she says.
Alyssa also says she was sometimes placed with children that did not suit her needs. For example, being put with another girl, aged 15, who had similar problems to her. “She smoked a lot of weed, had sex with boys and she was a runaway,” she says. “They put us together but we were so similar. My social workers said she was bad for me.”
Throughout her experience in care Alyssa feels like she has never had the right support and would have been better helped if she had been allowed to stay near her mother in London.
She says: “People really need to think – is this going to help the child? I feel like I could have been home long ago if they had not put me in funky, weird places that I want to run away from.”