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um al­ways worked and al­though we weren’t rich we had all the clothes, toys and food we needed. We weren’t taken into care be­cause of money, but be­cause mum had a short tough time.

“She did such a good job of shel­ter­ing us from her strug­gles it was a shock to sud­denly be in care. A few days in care turned into years of hell for her and us.”

At first Stef thought he was at a play school be­cause there were so many other chil­dren in the fos­ter home.

But a fort­night later when he was moved into a sec­ond home, he knew his life had changed for the worse.

“When peo­ple started mak­ing plans for us quite far in the fu­ture, I thought, ‘OK, what’s go­ing on?’. In that mo­ment, I had to grow up and be a man to look af­ter my lit­tle brother and sis­ter.”

The abuse be­gan straight away. “If we didn’t eat our din­ner we’d be beaten – and I don’t just mean a lit­tle slap across the face but full-on beat­ings that left us cov­ered in bruises.

“We used to have dumplings and stew and I hated the dumplings – slimy, hor­ri­ble things that made me feel I was in Oliver Twist, so I got a lot of beat­ings. Once one of our car­ers threw me against the oven door un­til my lip was all twisted and blood­ied.”

Eat­ing the things he loved re­sulted in one of the most bru­tal pun­ish­ments for Stef and his brother.

“I ab­so­lutely love choco­late. Me and Bran­don snuck a bar of Dairy Milk into the house and hid it in our at­tic room. One of the car­ers found it, put it in the

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