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‘Dear future me’: Care-experienced teens pen letters to their future selves

In a twist on The Big Issue's famous Letter To My Younger Self feature, the IMO Project (In My Opinion) from the Children's Commissioner asked young people who are in care or recent care leavers to write a letter to their future selves. Michelle Browne, IMO Project Manager shares some of these messages with us to celebrate Care Day 2020

IMO (“in my opinion”) exists to celebrate the achievements of teens in care and care leavers and to share their stories, experiences and advice with others in a similar situation. We aim to challenge perceptions about the care system, and raise the aspirations and ambitions of young people with care experience.

We recently asked teens in care and care leavers to write a postcard to their future selves – ‘Dear future me’, about where they’d like to be and what they hope to be doing in ten years’ time.

Over 100 children in care councils, care leaver groups, children’s homes and other organisations working directly with teens in care and care leavers took part, and we were blown away by the number of responses we received. To celebrate Care Day 2020 on February 21, and the start of a new decade, we’re sharing a small selection of the responses we received from all over the country.

What struck us most from reading these postcards is how ambitious, thoughtful, insightful and resilient young people with care experience are. They wrote openly about the stability they hope to have in the future; aspiring to be financially independent, own their own homes, and be in loving, stable relationships. Having children, and keeping them safe and providing the best for them, was a common theme running throughout the responses. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, ambitious career aspirations were dominated by a desire to work with and support children, as foster carers, social workers, teachers, and doctors. Many of the responses prioritised self-care, wellbeing, and looking after themselves and others around them, and they all had one thing in common – an unwavering sense of positivity, resilience, and hope for the future.

Dear future me…

“Did you finish university? Did you build healthy relationships? Did you find your self-worth? And most importantly, are you happy?”

“Remember that change can be a good thing and that life isn’t as scary as you think it is. You’ve finished university now and I hope you are following the path you started for yourself in helping those around you to learn to love themselves and others. Keep going!”

“I hope to be married with children. I hope to have finished university and be starting a new job as a primary school teacher or a social worker.”

Dear Future Me IMO

“I hope you have become comfortable with yourself and are now in a position to help others, knowing that helping others can be through actions, teaching, or just making a stranger smile. I hope you have stayed ambitious to inspire others in your position but are fundamentally happy and hopeful for years to come. Keep loving and living!”

“In 10 years’ time, I would like to have good GCSE grades and have my driving license. I would love to be starting my dream job as a foster carer or vet.”

“Remember to take life one step at a time and not to rush into decisions.”

“I hope to be making music full-time, be in a good place financially and, most importantly, be meeting new people and creating memories.”

Dear Future Me IMO

“Take it day by day… you’ve got this!”

“I am just about to start university. I am kind of nervous but also very excited. I hope everything goes OK!”

“In 10 years’ time I might understand the world of adulthood a little more. I hope for a good life, a good job, a lovely house and a couple of dogs!”

“In 10 years I see myself just finishing university and being ready to get a job and settle down. I will have a husband and most likely a child, living in a nice house and driving a nice car.”

Help at Hand: Free, confidential advice and support for children in care and care leavers

If you’re in care, leaving care, living away from home or working with social services, the Children’s Commissioner’s advice service, Help at Hand, can provide confidential advice and information about your situation. No issue is too big or too small for our team of advisors, who can give you advice about your rights and who to talk to. They can also speak to others on your behalf, and put you in touch with the right person to help you, like an advocate.  As part of the Commissioner’s mandate, they keep track of the bigger issues affecting young people and use this information to help others.

The IMO project is backed by the Children’s Commissioner for England. Follow IMO on Twitter