Jack

Jack, 17 from Bolton, may be on the brink of a football career, but life growing up wasn’t always so easy. Jacks parents were both heroin addicts, but it was only after his mum’s death in 2014 that he made his own decision to move in to foster care to get the love and support he needed. 

 

Jack

When he was at primary school in Bolton, North West England, he loved football but he had to stop going to practice so that he could go home and look after his mum and dad, who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.

Jack recalls: “I knew that straight after school I needed to be home looking after my mum. I had to make sure that she was alright and that if she was drunk she didn’t fall over and hit her head or anything. I couldn’t be bad at school because, if I got detention I couldn’t go home. If I didn’t go to detention I’d get put in the unit, which would mean I had to stay after school, so I just couldn’t.”

Jack’s focus was always the wellbeing of his mum “it was my job to look out for her” but in 2014 Jack’s mum died and his dad struggled to cope with his grief. Jack initially moved in with his uncle, but while trying to cope with the death of his mum he was also given caring responsibilities of his younger cousins and Jack’s behaviour at school began to deteriorate. Jack was supported by Action For Children following his mum’s death and with the support of keyworker Chris, Jack decided to move in to foster care.

Jack explains: “I was babysitting for my uncle almost every night while he went out, so the pressure of looking after my mum had been replaced by another pressure. My behaviour at school was appalling. Eventually, I got put into a private unit at school, taken out of mainstream, to get my grades up because I was affecting other people’s learning.

“Then my uncle wanted to move to Manchester and I was in a good school in Bolton with good people around me so I made that choice to go into care and I’ve been with my foster family now for nearly four years. It’s coming along great. I started to feel part of a normal family. I was given a lot more freedom and a lot more time to express myself. After about four months of being in care, I got out of the behaviour unit."

There wasn’t a patch when there wasn’t stuff going on, you know. I grew up thinking this was the norm.
Jack

"Having people from Action For Children around me was a massive help. Chris came along about two months before my mum passed away. If he hadn’t been there then, I wouldn’t have made the decisions I did.

“Speaking to Chris, gradually, over many weeks, my confidence grew until I was able to tell my auntie and uncle that I didn’t want to move to Manchester with them and also cope with the intimidating moment when I moved in with a brand new family that I hadn’t met before. I was about 15 then but even now I know I can still speak to Chris if I’m struggling with something.”

Winding the clock back, Jack explains that he was 13 when he first met his parents’ drug worker. That was the moment he realised that what he thought was ‘normal’ family life was far from it. Jack had grown up witnessing his parents inject heroin, so to him, this was normal. But when his dad told him social workers were coming round to tell him they did drugs and that he needed to act surprised, otherwise he would be taken into care, Jack went along with it because he didn’t want to leave them, even though he witnessed them using heroin every day.

Jack recalls: “I remember saying, ‘Oh yeah!? I was so surprised when my dad told me because I didn’t have a clue.’ I knew I had to protect my mum and dad. But looking back now I shouldn’t have been put under that amount of pressure. Seeing my mum, dad and uncle injecting heroin in front of me I classed as normal because I saw it every day. It was crazy!”

 

Seeing my mum, dad and uncle injecting heroin in front of me I classed as normal because I saw it every day. It was crazy!
Jack

The impact of his parent’s lifestyle affected the whole family. Jack’s sister was taken into care and meanwhile, Jack’s brother was in and out of jail for stealing from people on their estate, which made the family a target. When his mum died in 2014, Jack’s dad struggled to cope so Jack went to live with his uncle. But he would bring girlfriends home and stay in the back room drinking, taking drugs and arguing.

“Action For Children worked with me for a while and then it got to the point where they asked me: what are your goals? What do you want to achieve? Where do you want to be in 10 years’ time? What pathway do you want to follow to get there? When I said coaching football, they said, right, to get to there, what do you need to do? Just setting goals worked wonders really.”

Jack is now achieving those goals. He’s studying Sport at College but his time in education finishes this year. Through various contacts, he’s applied for lots of roles and secured a position to play at a semi-professional level for Bolton Wanderers next season.

Jack reflected: “I was looking through my school reports the other day and for my English GCSE, because I had the label of being in care and had a ‘troubled upbringing’ I was predicted a C at most, if it was an easy paper. I got a B in the higher tier paper. It was great looking back and having a giggle to myself and seeing how I’d got from there to there.

"I'm looking forward to the future now. A couple of years ago I was always in the present or the past. In five years, I want a nice house, I want to have a mortgage, a nice car, hopefully, looking forward to having wife and kids. I want to be a coach or a footballer. That’s the dream. I love coaching and showing people how to do things like people have shown me. I feel like through the experience I’ve had I’ve learned how to be a leader."

Jack is also now an ambassador for Action For Children.