Increasing up on a south London estate in the early 2000s, Trevor Elliott considered there have been just four ways his future was likely to pan out: medicine, prison, gangs or criminal offense.
Little did he know that by the age of 25, he would turn out to be one particular of the UK’s youngest foster carers – much under the normal age of 45 to 54 – and that just four decades later on, he would earn an MBE for his providers to vulnerable kids.
“Fostering is the ideal factor I’ve at any time completed,” suggests Elliott, now 29. “It’s designed me see kids differently. I received challenging like growing up, but fostering has designed me see that the one particular factor children need to have is like – pure like, with out judgment.”
As a teenager, football was Elliott’s only solace. Faculty was academically complicated: mates have been carrying knives. Life at residence, wherever his one mom was boosting five kids on rewards, wasn’t uncomplicated, both.
“There was very little for us wherever we lived: no reasonably priced football golf equipment, no just after-college programmes,” suggests Elliott.
“It was all about postcode rivalry: you could not go remaining due to the fact there would be a gang from a further estate. Football permitted me to escape all that. It permitted me to not be a further statistic. It received me out of a ton of difficulties.”
Immediately after talks to pursue a skilled football vocation broke down, Elliott decided to make investments in his neighborhood rather. At 19, applying funds from his perform as a sports mentor (as effectively as donations), he co-established Lambeth Action for Youth with a close friend. The not-for-gain social inclusion challenge, aimed at diverting kids away from gang-linked violence, integrated a football club featuring coaching to young people, as effectively as the only youth club in just Streatham village. The golf equipment have been so well known – and so active – that Elliott realised there was an even more substantial need to have than he’d realised.
“We experienced 70 children attending per working day – it was amazing,” suggests Elliott. “But I was struggling with the fact that these children would arrive to the football academy or youth club and be impressed to concentration on their CV or perform on their sport, then go residence to their similar messy residence setting. The subsequent working day, it was like they’d been reset to zero, declaring items like, ‘My mum does not believe in me staying a footballer or an architect’. So I started on the lookout into the care sector to see how I could do additional.”
When jogging Lambeth Action for Youth in his spare time, Elliott worked as an estate agent for five decades and saved up enough income to obtain his have 3-bed household. He then approached a number of neighborhood authorities to talk about fostering. “I was only 24, and they said no, due to the fact I experienced no knowledge [with fostering],” suggests Elliott. “But I obviously experienced knowledge with children: at the time I experienced ten siblings concerning my mum and my father and 8 nieces and nephews. Luckily for us, Camden council in north London observed what I was trying to do and accredited me to foster at 25.”
In just two months, Elliott experienced taken on two teenager boys on quick-expression placements (they ended up being extended expression, he suggests, due to the fact of the progress they designed). Just a handful of months on, he took on a further teenager, and a fourth child was going to on weekends for respite care.
One of the foster kids was an unaccompanied asylum seeker who experienced fled his native nation at 14. He hardly spoke English and experienced no mates or relatives below. At first, Elliott was overcome by the enormity of the circumstance.
“That first working day, when I picked him up from the children’s residence and introduced him below, I was in tears. It strike me that he was my obligation. Out of all the items I’d completed in my lifetime, I’d in no way been dependable for someone else’s child – let by yourself one particular who did not converse English. It was complicated. Now, he can converse English seriously effectively, he’s handed his GCSEs and driving licence, he’s long gone to college and is studying car or truck mechanics, and he’s received a work. He’s completed astounding.”
The other two foster kids have completed similarly effectively, suggests Elliott. All 3 young people are still residing with him but in a 2nd, much larger household in semi-independent and totally independent residing, which indicates that, aged 16 and more mature, they are generating several of their have conclusions about their lives.
“Being in care, the stats of heading to college and passing your GCSEs or heading to uni are really trim,” suggests Elliott.
“The one particular factor I tell my children is that they have my comprehensive aid for whichever they want to do, but they have to understand and be educated. I might not be in their lives forever, so it’s important that they have their skills.”
Before this 12 months, Elliott took on a further challenge and converted his first 3-bed household into an Ofsted-accredited household care residence for kids who have professional severe trauma and shortcomings. Ladywell Children’s House opened its doorways in March, just as Covid-19 was forcing several other care households to freeze their intake of new arrivals. Two highly vulnerable kids, aged 14 and fifteen, now are living there with comprehensive-time employees although their care is reviewed every six months, Elliott expects them to remain right up until they are eighteen.
Stats display that Elliott’s decision was an abnormal one particular. Covid-19 observed about half of the UK’s non-public children’s households refuse to get on new referrals meanwhile, the number of kids needing foster care rose 44%, nonetheless the number of likely foster carers fell by half.
“Schools have been shut and educational institutions are typically the ideal factor for a child in care due to the fact it allows them escape [residence] abuse. So I said we have to get children in,” points out Elliott.
“We could not not get referrals just due to the fact of Covid. I’d fairly catch Covid with kids in my care than catch Covid at residence by yourself.”
Different experts have spoken out in latest months about shortcomings in the care procedure, which presents for additional than 75,000 kids in England. In June, the children’s charity Barnardo’s warned of a “state of emergency” as kids who might have professional abuse and neglect wait for placements with foster families. On Tuesday, the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, accused the care procedure of staying a “bad parent”, failing thousands of vulnerable kids by managing them “as a risk to be managed, not a lifetime to be lived”. Longfield is calling for urgent reform and critical investment.
Elliott, who last thirty day period gained an MBE for his providers to vulnerable kids, significantly for the duration of Covid-19, agrees that “the care procedure is failing young people”.
“Society, in normal, is failing children. We believe that due to the fact we’re older people and they are kids that we know better, that we can make conclusions with out inquiring them their belief,” he suggests.
“The crucial is listening and developing a nurturing setting. It’s been seriously uncomplicated generating children’s lives better. In my belief, all we need to have to do is listen.”
Future 12 months, Elliott aims to open up a further household care residence, as effectively as serviced apartments in East Sussex for 16- to 19-12 months-olds as they changeover into independence, through the Kennedy Elliott Partnership, an umbrella care and lodging business he co-established in 2018.
He urges any individual with a “clean heart” to contemplate fostering, as irrespective of well known myths, there are no requirements demanding foster carers to be in nuclear families or have kids of their have. Millennials are significantly effectively-suited to caring for teenagers due to the fact they can relate to what they are heading through, Elliott believes.
“Now, additional than at any time, is the time we need to have to be encouraging our children. If you have a spare space, contemplate it. Finally, whatever’s heading to materialize with this virus or just after, we’re both heading to get through it together or on our have. And I really don’t believe any individual wishes to get through hard stuff on their have,” he suggests.
“We simply cannot end caring for kids. We need to have to present some normality. Absolutely everyone rewards.”
Spouse and children: Partner, no kids.
Instruction: Dunraven Faculty (Streatham), Amersham & Wycombe College (Wycombe Wanderers FC).
Job: March 2020-present: household residence supervisor, Ladywell children’s residence, Lewisham 2018-present: controlling director, Kennedy Elliott Partnership and youth mentor at Woodford Small children 2010-2020: challenge supervisor, Lambeth Action For Youth C.I.C 2015-2017: senior profits negotiator, Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward 2012-2015: senior profits negotiator, Townsends Estate Brokers 2010-2012: sports mentor, Brentford FC Group Athletics, and youth aid employee at the London boroughs of Hounslow and Bromley 2009-2012: sports mentor, AFC Wimbledon 2008-2011: sports mentor at Welling United Football Club.
Awards: MBE, October 2020 24 Housing Tenant Winner award, 2015 Lambeth Winner award, 2013.
Pursuits: House, my Sunday league football team Lambeth All Stars (we just lately gained the London Cup), spending time with my relatives, travelling and heading on holiday getaway.