Coping with mental health struggles as a child living in care: Rachel’s Story

Photo of Elijah Cruz against blank wall
Elijah Cruz - Digital Communications Officer
Thursday 16 May 2024
Rachel young ambassador standing in front of Big Ben

This Mental Health Awareness Week, we're spotlighting our Young Ambassador, Rachel, who grew up in care and is using her voice to help children in the same system.

Please note this blog contains mentions of suicide and depression.

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Rachel's move into foster care:

Rachel was put into care at the age of nine along with her two siblings. This was because of a family breakdown at home.

However, after two years of moving into her first care home, Rachel was split up from her siblings as her foster carers said that she was becoming “too protective” over them.

Rachel then moved into a new care home, while her siblings moved into another. During this time, she was only allowed to see her siblings for their birthdays and at Christmas.

It was such a difficult time for me. Going into a new school is a difficult process and has its own pressures. Put this on top of adjusting to not being able to see your parents or your own siblings.

Scared boy on staircase

How being a child in care worsened her mental health:

“After a while of only having limited contact with my siblings, I was moved into a new placement where all contact between us was cut off. They told me that my sister no longer wanted to see me or loved me. It didn't make sense."

She added: “I ended going up to every single meeting with my social workers. I really fought for my siblings, and I tried everything possible just to find out if they're alright. I even went on a hunger strike. My biggest worry was that they weren’t okay.”

Rachel told us that this back and forth continued for five years until she finally gave up.

I was speaking a lot to my counsellor at the time. I got very depressed – suicidal even. I just felt hopeless.

Young  girl sitting by the window and crying

Getting an Action for Children advocate:

Rachel’s counsellor mentioned that if she felt she wasn’t being listened to, she could get an Action for Children advocate:

“I got in contact with Action for Children, and they selected an advocate for me. His name was Chris, and he was really lovely.”

She described how her advocate would take her to the cinema, take her out for dinner and make sure that she felt comfortable and happy with him. Part of the role of the advocate was to have meetings with Rachel to discuss what she really wanted and to make her feel heard.

More importantly, Rachel's advocate made sure that she got to see her siblings face-to-face at least once a month.

Talking to my advocate was the best thing I ever did – I would’ve killed myself had he not intervened. He sat and listened to every word and told me, ‘we’re going to do something about it'.

Realising that her voice matters:

Rachel’s advocate advised her to become part of the fostering panel to interview people looking to become an Action for Children foster carer.

The advocate also pushed her to appear on several radio stations across the country speaking about her experience.

She said: “I remember that after speaking on radio stations, my foster carer told me that now, in certain care homes, young carers weren’t allowed to separate siblings from one another.”

It made me realise that my voice mattered. I was in a position to use my trauma to better my life. It also made me realise that I wanted to make a difference.

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Rachel continues to be an ambassador for Action for Children and more importantly, she’s helping make a difference to children living in care across the country. We couldn't be more proud of the progress Rachel has made.

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