Jemma Sherman, 26, is a Personal Adviser (PA) at Wiltshire Council, she supports young people who are care leavers. Jemma understands some of the emotions and situations those young people are facing and how they may be feeling as she was once a care leaver. Jemma kindly shared her story with us and hopes she can provide inspiration to those who may need it.
Jemma entered care at the age of 15 after years of living between her Mum and Dad’s house, whilst she felt her Dad was meeting her basic needs and put a roof over her head, she also wanted to have a relationship with her Mum. Whilst she was unable to meet Jemma’s basic needs, she allowed Jemma independence and free choice therefore Jemma opted to stay with her Mum who provided her more flexibility and didn’t insist she went to school. After various incidents and due to family break down, Jemma was left with no choice but to call Social Services and was placed into care.
Her time spent with her first foster family was challenging personally as Jemma wasn’t used to a clean, tidy environment, which had rules such as no phones during the evening, curfews, set meal times and having to go to school. But this was to be the turning point for Jemma, having missed most of Year 10 Jemma knew she would need to buckle down to complete her GCSE’s. Having a foster family who provided routine and boundaries helped her to focus and she was supported by the Virtual Schools team with extra tuition at school to ensure she got the best results. The hard work and focus paid off and Jemma finished with A – E grades in her GCSE’s.
During the Summer after Year 11, the foster family she was staying with went away, unfortunately Jemma didn’t have a passport therefore she went to stay with another foster family for the holidays, this proved to be another turning point. A supportive and nurturing relationship with her new foster carer began and Jemma decided to continue living in this placement as it met both her wants and needs. She also secured employment in Bradford on Avon with a supportive and understanding employer, her confidence grew with the praise she was given and she also signed up to Wiltshire College and started a Level 2 Childcare course.
Despite moving into a home of her own, having financial problems, losing one of her brothers and falling pregnant with her son, Jemma still continued to work hard and found herself applying for a degree course in Childcare at Wiltshire College. Jemma never imagined she would find herself studying for a degree but with encouragement from tutors and peers on the course Jemma succeeded finishing with a 2:1 – she even had another child during her second year at University! Proving that nothing could stand in her way and she was going to be successful.
Determined to find a job she loved Jemma applied for a role at Wiltshire Council, inspired by her own Personal Adviser (PA), she applied for a PA role to help other care leavers. Jemma described what her simple ‘wants and needs’ were.
At one point, all I wanted was routine, to have a family of my own, to drive to give me independence and to have a job, I have achieved all of that, I can’t believe I completed a Degree I didn’t know anything about the process at one point but somehow I did it and I still can’t believe it.
My advice to care leavers is if you don’t speak out and tell anyone how you are feeling and what you want, you can’t be helped. I learnt that I needed to speak out to make things happen, be honest and you will achieve your goals. Use whatever means you have, whether it is written, drawn, text or email find a way to express what you need and ensure you also think about what you want too.