Celebrating National Care Leavers Week: “If I can make a difference to just one young person’s life, then I will be happy”
- 24 Oct 2023
“If I can make a difference to just one young person’s life, then I will be happy”
This National Care Leavers Week we hear from 19 year old Amenta, one of Sutton’s care leavers, about her journey, where she’s at now, and her plans for the future.
Amenta is a bright, sparky, but, she admits, shy young woman. Amenta came into Sutton’s care when she was 15 after spending her childhood in another country and being home schooled for 10 years. She had no experience of schools and the education system when she had to come to the UK after her mother fell ill and was unable to look after her any longer.
Amenta was placed with a foster couple in their family home. “It was confusing. And terrifying. I felt completely alone”, Amenta says. She started attending school but found it difficult in a totally new environment, with so many other people around and a new way of learning. Then COVID hit as she was about to take her GCSE mocks. However, she settled in and concentrated on her education and when the time was right, made a plan with the school to look at suitable schools for her to take on her A Level studies. The day she started her new school, she moved into semi-independent accommodation. She was 17. Quite a feat for a young person to deal with all in one go.
Four years on and now 19, Amenta is now studying her second year of A Levels and is already making plans for applications to several different universities. “I want to study social work,” Amenta says. “If I can make a difference to just one young person’s life, then I will be happy.”
Amenta is now involved with Sutton’s work with care leavers, to make sure that the council learns from their experiences of the authority’s care approach, to make it better for the next young person, and the next one after that, through the authority’s Children in Care Council, which has recently restarted with a new cohort of care experienced young people. “When we all met at the first Children in Care Council meeting it was very surreal,” said Amenta. “Meeting all these other young people who had been in care. We all have such different experiences of the care system and how it was for each of us.”
The group will be working on a new training programme as part of the induction process for new foster carers and social workers, amongst others. The aim is for them to share their experiences of the care system as they experienced it, to give carers and professionals a far deeper insight into how a young person feels when they go into care, and what they can do to help the next child have an improved experience. “It’s so important for them to understand the challenges and difficulties that we have to deal with when we go into care.”
As well as that, Amenta, along with other care experienced young people, are helping shape things from the top, having taken part in two senior leadership interview panels, for director and assistant director roles in the People directorate.
“That was also a rather surreal experience, but one that I really enjoyed. As people experienced in the care system, we are the ones who can tell the decision makers how it was for us, and how the council can work to make it a better experience for every child and young person who comes after us.”
Amenta is looking forward to the next chapter in her life, studying her passion for social work at university. And then who knows where she will go next! (maybe back to Sutton?!).