THEY SAY IF YOU CAN SPEAK, you can influence and if you can influence, you can change people’s lives. So, here’s my story.
My name is Warren. I’m 31 years old and I’m a care leaver. I’m a father, fiancé, international speaker, and I’ve travelled the world helping people. I teach people how to become confident and how to be the person they really are – their confident self. This wouldn’t be possible without my care story.
I grew up in Oxford, and when people think of Oxford they tend to think of cathedrals and universities. My side of Oxford was very different. It was known for criminality, drugs and violence. Not many people make it out of the estate that I grew up in. My mum had me when she was 17-years-old and I’m the eldest of four. I have a younger brother, Matthew, who is four years younger than me and two sisters, Chloe and Lucy, who are five and eight years younger than me.
I remember not really having a normal childhood. Before foster care, my mum was addicted to drugs so her focus wasn’t really on parenting. There was a lot of violence in my household and my mum’s boyfriend beat her up in front of us. I’ll never forget that image, of seeing my mum with blood all over her face. It still stays with me. I remember being terrified as a kid and always being afraid of what was going to happen next. We constantly had police knocking at our door or our house being raided, and it got to a place where my mum was put into submission with drugs.
She lost herself to crack cocaine. I remember going to school and coming home to find crack pipes everywhere. I would break them because I thought if I broke them then she wouldn’t take drugs. But the more I did it, the more pipes I would see and it became a vicious cycle. The drugs really started to take over to the point where my mum just put her hands up and said to social services that she couldn’t do this anymore. She put us in care. I was 8-years-old.
My whole family got split up. My sisters went first. I’ll never forget the day that I had to say goodbye to them, not knowing when I was going to see them again. Watching them cry through the window as they were driving away was just heartbreaking. Then a week later it was mine and my brother’s turn. I never wanted to be separated from my mum. That was the worst outcome I could think of.
The first home we went to was a temporary foster home and I didn’t feel comfortable there. They didn’t really understand us. I was scared and I just wanted my mum. I felt angry at social services because I wanted my family to be together. I didn’t understand why they’d split us up and I was hurt. Shortly after, about a week or two, we went to our second foster home and they were going to be our long-term foster parents. We got our hopes up and we were excited about having solid foundations and knowing where we going to be for the long-term. After we had been there for a while, I went to school one day and then the taxi driver who normally took us home said we weren’t going to go back to that foster home. We were moved into our last foster home.
Our last foster parents were a relation to my brother’s dad’s side of the family, so that was really good because it was someone we knew. We had a really good and very strict upbringing. My foster parent, Louise, was a Muslim and I went from having no boundaries at all to having lots.
I wasn’t allowed out on the street, I wasn’t allowed to speak to girls, I wasn’t allowed to eat pork so it was very strict.
I remember my experience in foster care – I just wanted to be normal. I hated that people knew I was in care. I hated that social workers would not treat me the same or, I felt that they weren’t treating me the same, and I would get rewarded for the simplest things such as doing homework or things that normal kids wouldn’t get rewarded for. I remember just wanting to fit in and be normal and remove that tag of being a foster kid.
When I was 13-years-old my mum put herself into rehab and she went through the process of getting clean and was on the road of recovery. She went to court and won and finally got us back together again as a family. This was all my dreams in one – I was going to live back with my family again. When I moved back into my mum’s it was amazing. I can’t even explain to you how amazing it felt to be one family again. But what I realised was that the trauma that I went through as a child and my experience in foster care had affected me and I still had a lot of self-sabotaging beliefs that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t normal. I kept trying to be someone who I wasn’t to impress other people and this went on until I was 20. I didn’t love myself, I didn’t care about myself and I ended up going through depression.
When I went through depression I was adamant that I wanted to find a holistic way of overcoming it and I wanted to understand the psychology of why I was depressed so I started studying NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming. I reprogrammed and reconditioned my mindset. I had to reparent my inner child who was hurt. I had to build trust for that inner child. I had to give that inner child a different meaning to life. I had to allow that inner child to just be, not try to be anyone else but just be. When I worked on myself and my psychology that’s when I realised that it doesn’t matter what we go through in life, it’s our story. What matters is how we see our story.
I used to be ashamed of being in foster care, but now I’m proud because my story can help others. My story makes me a teacher. And that’s what I did. I created a business as a confidence coach and I teach people all around the world how to be themselves. How to be confident, how to have a voice, how to own their story and not be a slave to their story. I have coached thousands of people and helped them change their lives.
I created a movement during Covid called the ‘Got This’ Movement. Once we have a positive mindset we can create a positive life – it’s as simple as that. I have made it my mission to impact as many people as I can by helping them commit to bettering their lives. The ‘Got This’ Movement is a platform where people buy a t shirt and with that t-shirt they set themselves a goal. We also aim to support mental health on a wider scale in the process and 5% of every t-shirt we sell goes to a mental health charity, and we choose a different one every month.
The whole idea behind the movement is to help people realise that whatever you’ve been through in your life, you’ve got this. The I got this, you got this, we got this attitude. If you’re reading this story and you can relate to what I’ve gone through in my life I want you to realise that you’ve got this. That nothing happens by coincidence. Everything happens for a reason and remember to never, ever be ashamed of your story. I am proud of being in care because I can help children who are suffering, who feel like they are no one, who feel like they don’t belong.
I am a voice for them. I am a proud care leaver. ◆ Want to learn more? Check out Warren’s Got This Movement on his website: www.gotthismovement.co.