Our latest blogger is Kieran McWhirter, who went into care when he was four-years-old. After going between his home and the homes of others, he returned to Paisley for the last move of his care journey at age 11.
Roots are important. Knowing where you are from. Understanding the history of your home and knowing what that means. Being sure that wherever your life might eventually take you that there is a place where you belong. That matters.
At least, it mattered to me because growing up I didn’t really have that, at least never for long.
I was born in Paisley in the Royal Alexandra Hospital and to begin with, I lived a really normal life. I went to a now demolished nursery in Linwood and then I started at my local primary school. I had a bad haircut, a school tie that I could tuck into my waistband and ears I wouldn’t grow into until my teens. That was the standard though, right?
I suppose things stopped being standard not long after that. My home life wasn’t very good and it reached a point where my mum just couldn’t look after me or my siblings anymore and I went into care for the first time not long before my fifth birthday.
I went back and forward a dozen times between my home and the homes of other people who looked after me for the next six years of my life. I didn’t really find a sense of home and belonging and community again until I moved back to Paisley and what would be the longest and as it would turn out last placement of my care journey when I was eleven. I stay in that same place now and by the time I leave in a few months, I’ll have lived here for ten years.
Staying still, I’ve been able to integrate myself into a community, to start a career, to become an undergraduate at the University of Strathclyde, to build healthy relationships with people in my life. That’s not extraordinary. In fact for most of the kids I went to school with, it’s the norm. Not, however, for those children who grow up in care.
For most of my life, I’ve been one of the hundreds of care experienced young people who live in or are from Renfrewshire. We are a group who historically don’t perform as well as our peers. Our educational attainment is lower, our sufferance of mental health issues are higher, as is our chances of becoming incarcerated or dying at a young age. I lived with the knowledge that simply by the virtue of being in care a situation I wasn’t responsible for and couldn’t control, I was less likely to succeed in life.
I believe that’s changing though and living in Paisley I get to see that. I live with and know young people who are going on to do great things with their lives. Who are having children, getting married, raising families. They are succeeding in education, employment and in their own homes. Young people achieving in ways that any might take for granted but which to a community often stigmatised for being different is a sign that things can change and are doing so.
I guess for me that’s what makes 2021 something special. Something that we can aim for while representing all that is offered in Paisley. That represents the lives, difficulties and experiences of our massively diverse population. Something that’s for everyone and that everyone can be proud of because it includes them.