16th July 20

Erica's story - a sense of self and stability leaving out-of-home care

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Hi, I’m Erica. Today I am going to be telling you all about my experience during and leaving care. I was placed in DHHS care at 12 years old.

My 6 years in care was rough, I suffered extreme abandonment issues, I had no stability and I felt lost living away from home. It was hard for me constantly moving from placement to placement, never really finding a place I could call home.

I lived in about 7 different resi [residential] units, attended 4 different high schools and had countless social workers, some so temporary I never had the chance to remember their names. I was always experiencing change whether it was my placement, my workers, my school or my family situation. I struggled a lot in care, everything felt like a constant battle even within myself, I was diagnosed with several severe mental health issues at only 13 years old.

Growing up I struggled to relate to my peers’ excitement for turning 18, for them it was such an exciting milestone I simply couldn’t relate to.

I would like to shed some light on my key support that has been working with me during care and beyond care. Absolutely by far the program I am most grateful for is the WCIG Youth ‘Better Futures’ program (formerly Springboard). Nisveta was my WCIG worker from when I entered the program in 2016. We got to work on my educational and employment goals. At the time I didn’t have any.

I remember Nisveta suggesting beauty related things and I laughed, now 3 years later after a few bumps in the road I have completed 2 Certificate IV qualifications and several other workshops and short courses. This has led me to study a Certificate III in Barbering and Nail Technology, with the future goal of going through to my Diploma of Beauty Services and Salon Management.

The Blueprint (life skills) workshops run by WCIG are incredible, I’ve participated in multiple such as cooking on a budget, budgeting for independent living, health and happiness, creating vision boards and many more.

It hasn’t been an easy journey for me especially with my mental health and the disadvantage I have coming from a rocky and non-mainstream educational background. Despite this, WCIG has helped me in many ways, they have helped me gain employment multiple times and supported me in maintaining it, they have encouraged me throughout all my educational adventures. I was also awarded a WCIG Board Achievement Award and Scholarship for my studies back in 2018.

There have been times I have fallen and felt like I have failed my workers and more importantly myself. In those times I have always been supported and reminded of my strengths. Nisveta has never given up on me and that’s helped stop me from giving up on myself. I tried hard to complete one of my earlier Certificate qualifications but didn’t end up making it, but I never felt as though my workers were disappointed in me, I knew my workers were proud of my effort and hard work regardless, they have always considered the challenges I have faced in my personal life and handled my situation in the most caring way imaginable.

With such exceptional insight on mental health they have always ensured I put my mental health before anything else. In saying that not only have they helped me with my education and employment they have helped me keep my feet on the ground and my mind right. Since turning 18, WCIG’s Youth team has been something I have depended on enormously, the emotional support has been phenomenal.

There’s never been a time I didn’t feel comfortable calling my workers while under stress and asking for guidance or even dropping in for a vent, especially in times of need. My workers have always made themselves available to listen to me cry and support me throughout challenging times. They have provided all-round support for me and really gone the extra mile wherever and whenever possible and for that I owe everything to WCIG’s Youth team for helping me get myself to where I am today.

 

– Words by Erica, edited and published with permission

Erica & Nisveta @ the 2018 WCIG Board Achievement Awards
Erica at a Confidence & Body Image workshop in 2019

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