This month’s Year of Young People blog is written by Rosie Moore, a social work student at the University of Strathclyde. This is the first of three blogs that Rosie will publish via CYCJ, on this occasion sharing her experiences of her past. Rosie’s next two blogs will look at her life in the present, and her hopes for the future.
In person, I’m a student.
In person, I’m a professional.
In person, I’m an independent young woman working to improve both herself and the Scottish care system.
On my police record, I’m violent.
On my police record, I’m volatile.
On my police record, I’m out of control and aggressive.
Which one am I? I see the first woman. Others see the second.
The truth is, I was a child when I became known to the police. My first arrest was a week after my 14th birthday and my last when I was 18. Over 7 years ago, yet they still haunt me; still taint my reputation when it comes to job applications, forcing me to continually justify to others that I am safe to work with children and vulnerable adults.
I was never physically hurt by my kinship carers, but I was hurting. I was never exploited, but I was not spoken to for days if I didn’t do as I was expected. I was never abused, but I never experienced unconditional love. I was loved if I was behaving, loved if I was getting A’s in school. Dare I come home late, get in trouble at school, I was shunned for days, sometimes weeks. Not spoken to, not allowed to eat with the others at the dinner table, kept in my room and not even looked at. Most days I used to dread coming home from school. To my teachers and neighbours, I was the perfectly cared for child, always clean and well-mannered. But I was so scared to make a mistake in any way, constantly on edge about doing something wrong, terrified that I would do something that would throw me into the silence again at home behind closed doors.
I can’t actually remember what got me so angry the night of my first arrest. At 14, I was in the frame of my door slamming and shouting ‘I hate you’ as I stomped up the stairs. That night as I sat in my bedroom trying to calm down, my door suddenly opened and the police walked in. They arrested me for affray. My family had called the police and asked me to be removed from the family home.
I was terrified; my only knowledge of the police at that age was that they arrested bad people and put them in prison. I freaked out, desperately trying to escape as they grabbed me to put me in the back of their van. I ended up elbowing an officer and earning myself the additional charge of common assault. They did not wait until I had calmed down, nor did they explain that I wasn’t going to prison for years; instead they dragged me kicking and screaming out the house and into the van, in front of all my neighbours and friends who had gathered in the street.
I spent a long 24 hours alone in a cell, confused and frightened. After my interviews and processing, I was eventually collected by a social worker and taken to the local social work department. She explained that I might have to wait for a while whilst they found me a new home.
Welcome to care, Rosie.
I spent the next several years bouncing between different foster carers, different schools, different local authorities and a failed attempt to transition me into the care of my mother.
At 15, I met a man on the bus home from school. Let’s call him Mike. Mike was 28, an alcoholic and unemployed. He started talking to me on the bus, and I was in awe. I didn’t see him for what he was, I saw him for what he made himself out to be. Here was a cool, older man, who could go in the shop for me, buy me alcohol and cigarettes, didn’t work but still got £112 a fortnight (a lot of money to a 15-year-old) and he wanted to be my friend.
2 weeks later we were in a relationship.
I told my foster parents and social worker that he was 17. They knew he wasn’t. In reality, the drink and drugs had made him look about 40. No-one stopped me, no-one said anything and at 17 I packed my bags and moved in with him.
The violence started about a week after I moved in. A classic case of domestic abuse, starting small and getting worse each time. Social work never picked up on it but my college tutor did. She asked me about it after class one day and I broke down. She rang the police.
The police came and saw me not long after and I denied the whole thing. I said I had exaggerated an argument and that I was sorry for wasting their time. They believed me.
I had been in a relationship with Mike for over three years, when one night I fought back. He went to pull my hair and I grabbed his hand and broke his finger. A fight broke out, a neighbour called the police. They broke into the flat and restrained Mike.
And arrested me for ABH. Mike was visibly injured, I wasn’t.
I moved to Glasgow at 22 years old for a fresh start. I decided to go to university and study social work, but my record meant it took 8 months to be approved for SSSC registration. I got a job as a youth worker but had to explain to the director why I wasn’t a danger to children. I volunteered abroad twice, and twice I had to justify that I wasn’t a risk.
I’m not a risk, I never was.
I was a victim of systems that couldn’t see what was happening right in front of them.
About our blogger
Rosie, a social work student at the University of Strathclyde is also working as part of the Discovery Group in the National Care Review and is an experienced youth worker for both Aberlour and the Sound Lab charity. Rosie volunteers at the Life Changes Trust as part of the care experienced advisory group.
You can hear more from Rosie via her twitter account: @RosieMoore1993