How a life in foster care helped Jack achieve his dream

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Kelly Corcoran - Digital Communications Officer
Tuesday 11 June 2024
Jack McCann

From a young age, both Jack’s parents struggled with addiction. But after his mum passed away when he was 14 years old, he decided to move into foster care. By doing so, he ensured he got the life he wanted.

At a young age, Jack realised his homelife was different from his peers’. Both his Mum and Dad struggled with alcohol and drug addictions. This took a toll on Jack.

Jack became the main caregiver at home. He would look after his mum and ensure she was okay before he thought of himself.

I always made my mum my priority. It was my job to look out for her.

This responsibility started to affect Jack’s schoolwork and social life. He couldn’t concentrate or put his mind to anything. He was always worrying “is my mum okay? Is my dad looking after her? Is my dad okay?”

Jack also knew he couldn’t afford to fall behind at school. He said: “I couldn’t be bad at school because if I got a detention I couldn’t go home. […] I needed to be home to look after my mum. I had to make sure she was alright”.

This also meant Jack missed out on social plans and after school activities – when his friends would go out, he rushed home.

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In 2014, Jack’s mum sadly suffered a stroke and passed away. He initially moved in with his uncle, but whilst trying to cope with the loss of his mum, Jack started caring for his younger cousins. Soon his behaviour started to deteriorate, and he was getting in trouble at school.

I was babysitting for my uncle almost every night while he went out, so the pressure of looking after my mum had been replaced with another pressure.

“My behaviour at school was appalling. Eventually, I got put into a private unit at school – taken out of mainstream education to get my grades up because I was affecting other people’s learning.”

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Getting the support he deserved

It was around this time that the school reached out to Action for Children for help. Jack was matched with support worker Chris and his life began to turn around.

My support worker, Chris, was that transition for me. He became a father figure. He was someone that I looked up to, and I still do.

After Jack had been living with his uncle for six months, he was told they’d be moving away from his hometown. It was at this point Jack realised he could take control of his life again.

He said: “I was in a good school with good people around me, so I made that choice to go into care.”

He discussed his decision with Chris, who supported him every step of the way. Jack found a foster family who welcomed him with open arms.

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Jack McCann and support keyworker Chris

A brighter future growing up in care

After moving into foster care, Jack’s future was looking bright. Going into care meant he had the freedom to start playing football after school. He started playing for an amateur grassroots team when he was 14. And by 16, he was offered a placement with a semi-pro team that went alongside his education.

Jack’s dream had come true. And his support worker, Chris, remained a steadfast friend:

“The first person to come and watch me [play] was my Action for Children support worker. It was absolutely fantastic! I’ve never had anyone at the side of the pitch supporting me before. When I saw Chris at the side of the pitch, I thought “wow” someone’s actually come to support me.”

Chris means everything to me. Someone I could strive to be. If I’m 10% of Chris, then I’m 100% a man.

With the support of Action for Children, Jack is completing his coaching qualification so that he can continue a career he loves.

When reflecting on how far he’s come, Jack said: “If I look back four or five years ago, I’d have been over the moon with what I’ve done. I never thought I could. But now I know what I can achieve and I’m not stopping there.”

Through foster care, Jack found a home and the space to be himself. Somewhere he feels cared for.

How you can help a young person like Jack

Children don’t choose their childhoods, but we can choose to help. That's why we've partnered with Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, the National Children’s Bureau, and NSPCC to create the Children at the Table campaign.

Together, we're asking the government to put babies, children, and young people at the centre of decision making. To bring children to the table.