In this list, Hannah Bradley tells her story of growing up in foster care and how it influenced who she has become today.  Now aged 18, she’s an inspiration to others and is currently studying to become a social worker so she can help other children who are in need.


Going into care

  • I was 10 years old when I went into foster care for the first time.

  • Before then, I lived with my mum and dad. It was a combination of things that led me to going into care.

  • I lived with a number of different foster families in the first three years, I can’t specifically remember how many, either four or five.

My first long-term foster family

  • When I was 13, I lived with a really nice foster couple in Hartlepool, Jean and Hossein, who foster with Five Rivers Child Care, I stayed there until I turned 17.

  • When I moved in with Jean with Hossein, there was already another girl living there, also in foster care. Soon after I arrived, there was a little boy who joined the family’s care, and somewhere in those three years a young mum and her baby came to live with us too.

  • Jean and Hossein were great foster carers and were always there for us.

  • Everyone got on really well, it was a safe space.

  • Having the security of being with one family for over three years really gave me the stability and support I needed at that time in my life.

  • I was treated like I was part of their family.

  • They allowed me to progress into the person I am today.

  • They helped me with my physical health, my emotional health and my mental health.

  • I was involved in some really tough things during that time, and they helped pull me out of that.

  • They made a huge difference to my life, and I don’t know if I would be in the position I am today without their support.

  • They helped me persevere at school and encouraged me to follow my goal of becoming a social worker, even helping me with my uni application.

Beyond foster care

  • Even though I’m not in Jean and Hossein’s care anymore, I’m still close to them – we WhatsApp a lot to check in with each other and sometimes I arrange to go visit them when I’m back in Hartlepool.

  • I should have seen them last month, but Jean had Covid.

  • I’m now 18 and no longer in foster care.

  • I actually moved back in with my dad over a year ago. It’s complicated, but I’m glad it could work out, we now have a really good relationship.

  • My dad is now a huge source of support in my life.

  • For the past few years, I’ve shared my experiences of being in care with people who are training to become foster carers. This is called ‘Skills to Foster’ training, and it’s for Five Rivers Child Care, a national social enterprise fostering provider.

  • I’ve always been open about my time in care, as I think anything I can do to share my own experiences can only inform others who are looking to try and help youngsters in need.

  • The training gives foster carers a chance to hear the real story of what it’s like to be a child in care.

  • Things like:

  • What it feels like for a foster child when they have to move into a new and strange home.

  • Why it feels ‘strange’.

  • Why certain things can be triggering for a child in care.

  • Why it’s important to build up trust slowly.

  • The importance of understanding why children sometimes act the way they do.

  • The importance of foster carers, because some of them don’t realise how much they’re helping.

  • The more people who want to help those in care the better, and I’m proud that I can have an active and important role in the future of fostering.

  • Last year, I was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award at The Fostering Network’s Fostering Excellence Awards, an award which celebrates the achievements of a young person who has succeeded against the odds on their journey through foster care.

  • I was absolutely ecstatic when I won the award considering how many people were nominated for it.

  • It was actually a real shock, I was overjoyed.

  • It made me feel like I’d achieved something with the work I’m doing, and that means a lot.

  • At some point during my time in care, I realised that I wanted to one day become a social worker.

  • Now, I’m studying Working with Children, Young People and Families at Leeds Beckett University.

Thinking about the future

  • When I finish this course, I hope to do my Masters, which will then qualify me to become a fully-fledged social worker.

  • I want to be able to help children and young people who are in the position that I once was. In need of someone to help them.

  • I was placed with so many different social workers over the years and some of them really went above and beyond to help me succeed.

  • As a foster kid, you naturally have some mistrust towards people despite them wanting to help you, and it’s the job of good social worker to break down these emotional barriers and show you that genuine support does exist.

  • It was during my time with Jean and Hossein where I met my social worker, Monica, who I’m still in touch with today.

  • Beyond my time in care, I was also put in touch with Gloria, my independent reviewing officer (known as IRO’s). She’s the social worker appointed to help plan my future outside of care.

  • Both Monica and Gloria inspired me to follow in the same career path because of the round the clock support they provided – and still provide – when I need it most.

  • And because of this, I now want to be that person for other children and young people in care who need that support.

  • I want to share real insight and ideas on how to improve social care practice from my lived experiences because all I want to do is have an impact on the lives of children for the better.

  • I think social care can be improved through:

  • Listening to young people’s experiences of being in care.

  • More information and promotion of foster care and becoming a foster carer.

  • And reducing the stigma of being a child in care.

The need for more people to give

  • Across the UK, there are currently over 70,000 children living with almost 56,000 foster families.

  • This is nearly three-quarters of the 97,000 children in care away from home on any one day in the UK.

  • This number is expected to reach 100,000 by 2025.

  • Around 30,000 more children come into care over the course of 12 months, with similar numbers leaving the care system to return home, move in with another family member, live with new adoptive families, become subject to a special guardianship or residence order or move on to adult life.

  • That is a scary number of children needing some sort of care.

  • And they all want – and need – is love and care.

  • Reports have found that better relationships with children and young person’s social workers is the ‘key to tackling foster carer crisis’.

  • The more people who want to help those in care the better, and I’m proud that I can have an important role in the future of fostering.

  • You don’t have to be perfect to be a foster carer.

  • You don’t need to have your own children to be a foster carer.

  • Fostering can be challenging, but it’s also really rewarding.

  • As long as you can provide kids with the care and love they deserve, you could do it.

** People from all backgrounds and communities can be considered to become foster carers but they must be over 21 years of age. This includes single people, co-habiting people, people from the LGBT+ community and those living in rented accommodation. Each child must also have their own bedroom. 

For more information on foster care, contact Five Rivers Child Care on 01138 686 896 or email And their Instagram is @fiveriverschildcare



–  READ Gay Dads And Their Adoption Story; a beautifully uplifting list about Tom and his husband’s journey to adopting their son. 

–  READ I Was A Homeless Teen by Lianne, who spent her teenage years living in hostels. It’s a remarkable story from a remarkable person.

–  READ this incredible list Not Your Average Family about how a couple became Special Guardians to their niece and nephew after the sudden death of their mum.

–  READ Indiana Murphy’s list Finding Out My Dad Wasn’t My Dad After He’d Died, which details how the foundations of her world were utterly shaken. 

–  LISTEN to Robyn Donaldson talk about Estrangement on Honestly podcast as she unpicks the taboos around the subject. She’s also written a list Estranged From My Mum about how it’s shaped her outlook on life.

–  LISTEN to But Why? podcast with Julia Samuel talking all things Family, including separation, step-relationships, leaving home, trauma and loss





Find submission guidelines here. All writers and topics are welcome.



** ‘But why do adults drink beer and what does it do?’ But why don’t I feel happy all the time?’ and ‘But why do people die and are they just sleeping?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to order now and also on audiobook.**

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