Alyssa’s story ‘I missed my brother and sis­ter so much’

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Sarah Marsh

‘I could have been home long ago if they had not put me in funky, weird places’ Alyssa Teenager in care

Alyssa has been in care since she was 12, and over the past few years she has been moved be­tween more than 20 res­i­den­tial homes, from the north to the south of Eng­land. Now 15, she ex­plains that be­ing moved from her fam­ily home in Lon­don means she has run away countless times.

But her lat­est place­ment, a smaller res­i­den­tial home, meant she had not had a miss­ing episode for more than a month. “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 said.

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 very 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 said.

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 said.

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 north-west 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 said.

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 said. “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 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 said: “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.” Iden­ti­fy­ing de­tails have been changed to pro­tect the child

PHO­TO­GRAPH: AN­TO­NIO GUILLEM FER­NAN­DEZ/ ALAMY

▲ Chil­dren are moved to homes far from ar­eas they know with no sup­port

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