By Caoimhe Hegarty
A Magherafelt woman, who was separated from her family when she was five years-old, has spoken out about her life growing up in care.
When she was first separated from her parents and siblings, Andrea Glenn was told she was going to stay with another family for two weeks. She thought it was a holiday, but two weeks turned into two years.
Over the next 15 years, Andrea Glenn would go on to live in 12 different homes and attended seven different schools. But despite it all, the 20 year-old is a confident, ambitious young woman who has just applied for a place at university.
Andrea has now decided to speak out about her childhood in a bid to show other young people living in in care, that they can have the same dreams as everyone else.
Reflecting back on her early childhood, Andrea said: “I remember when I was six, I always wondered why I wasn’t with my family - I thought they didn’t care and that they didn’t love me. I now know that wasn’t the case, but no one ever explained it properly to me,” she said.
Continuing she said: “People at school used to call me an orphan and tell me I wouldn’t amount to anything. But my experiences have made me the person I am now, and I’m proud of myself. I want to go to university to prove that kids from care backgrounds can have normal futures too and try to change the stereotypes.”
She added: “My siblings are all inspired by me and my mum is really proud – she cried when I told her. I still feel angry at my mum sometimes for not being able to look after us, but we are really close now,” admitted Andrea.
During her teenage years, Andrea was supported by the charity, Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC). She believes that support shown to her by the charity has helped her to find her voice and gave her the confidence to live independently and apply for University in Wales.
VOYPIC has recently been awarded just over £590,000 in National Lottery funding from Big Lottery Fund to support children and young people who are or have been in care and foster families across Northern Ireland.
The project will build the young people’s skills and confidence, help them get involved in the decisions about their care, and help them share their views and experiences to help shape the care system of the future. They will also produce a resource for schools about young people in care.
Speaking about the new project, Andrea said: “It is going to make such a difference. The resource for schools would have been really good if it had been in my schools because teachers and pupils didn’t understand and didn’t know what to say to me.
“I want a better future for young people in care and I want them to know that they are just as capable of reaching their goals as everyone else,” she said.
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