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