Care Experienced Champion, Parliamentary board member, Youth Work specialist, Author, Consultant, Foster & Adoption panelist and Trainer.
We are honoured to be able to celebrate and share with you the wonderful empress that is Keeley Stephenson, as Amour Destiné’s November Destiny Creator to watch! We had the pleasure to find out about the new platform that she created and launched during care leavers week, Care Leavers Legacy. Keeley aims to strengthen the lives of care experienced people. By using her lived experience of being in care and defy the odds in many ways, to empower other care leavers to do the same through the Care Leavers Legacy platform.
Keeley inspires us on so many levels. As you read on you will understand why and I’m certain you too will be inspired. As she reminds us through her openness, honesty and determination of the importance of having an authentic support network. Keeley is a living example to never to be defined by your beginning. Whilst offering hope to so many. We need more Keeley’s in this world!
Destiny Creator Interview
1. Who is Keeley, what do you stand for and how has this contributed towards the work that you do?
Keeley: I am a conqueror that has fought many battles; others have only witnessed through movies and I havemanaged to channel every aspect of negativity into something that is positive. I would like to think that I echo my values loudly and would say that my biblical beliefs have permitted me to stand for freedom, love, and peace. This has contributed to the work I do immensely because my values are able to reflect through my practice.
2. What inspired you to start sharing your story and help empower other care leavers in the process?
Keeley: I realised that many people that are in the care system are ashamed of their stories and of being in care because it may act as a reflection of how bad they were treated by their families, but it isn’t. In fact, it shows just how much of a survivor you are and demonstrates your strength to others who haven’t endured any form of parental loss.
I also went through a stage where I was greatly ashamed of my story, so much to the point where I used to make up stories about where my parents were and how I was just staying with loads of aunties until my parents were home again. But it wasn’t until I unpicked my story, thought about it on a larger scale and realised that this could actually impact people and help to change lives.
3. Has your mental health been affected, as a result of being care experienced, if so how has it impacted on your life?
Keeley: Being a care experienced young person is not easy, it often triggers a lot of memories you experienced through childhood. Because of this I sometimes have really low moods and feel a bit depressed but continuously look to God and the future really helps me to keep going.
4. What has support been like from friends/family/social services during those challenges?
Keeley: I’m quite ashamed to say this and am still working on it. But when I tend to go through hardships, I never reach out to anyone as I feel as though I’m a burden, and although this may not be true. I usually just wait patiently and allow the trials to pass. However, if I sense something that is unusual, I definitely have a support network that I feel I could talk to.
5. What motivated you to author a book which has been commissioned by the government to educate & inform foster carers from the child’s perspective.
Keeley: I was motivated through the struggles that I faced in foster care, I experienced many foster carers that only fostered for the money and because of this didn’t have the skills necessary to meet the needs of a child. After my 10th foster home and seeing the different contrasts between my previous ones to my current one, I realised that it was time to make a change to the foster care recruitment process and thought that a handbook would be the perfect way to put this message across.
6. Were there any barriers that you felt during your journey, that prevented you from speaking about those challenges?
Keeley: Yes, definitely loads. I gathered that a lot of people love to talk about the truth until the truth starts to hurt and because of this I was silenced when it began to shine a negative light on some of the services that I wanted to see transformed. But I will not stop until I see the right services transformed for the lives of our young people.
7. How have you overcome these challenges, and aligned your motivation to create your own destiny?
Keeley: I guess I have overcome these challenges by being persistent. I realised if the door doesn’t open the first time you kick it down then you shouldn’t stop kicking it until the door comes down. At first you may feel discouraged when things don’t appear to be happening the way you want them to but when you keep trying and are able to see the results you had hoped for, that alone will give you the motivation you need to keep going.
8. Do you think there are any positive outcomes from your experience?
Keeley: Yes loads, the fact that I am alive every day is a testament to God and the experiences that I have endured. Through my determination I have had the great privilege to contribute to a care leavers report, carried out by the Department of Education, Shape and develop new curriculums around training foster carers, engage parliamentary minsters and conduct meetings with the parliamentary under-secretary of state about how we can transform the care system so its safe to say that positive transformations have taken place and are hopefully still in the pipeline.
9. If you could write to your past self, with any advice to your future self what key things would you want yourself to know, with what you have experienced and grown through?
Keeley: Firstly, I would say that it is ok to not be ok and that it is important to love, value and care for yourself in every aspect and area of your life. I would also say to not be so hard on yourself as you can only try your best and to most importantly give yourself time to grow, think, feel, develop, learn and understand. But most importantly LOVE yourself and be patient with your growth.
10. What can we see Keeley doing next?
Keeley: I am literally just taking everyday as it comes, with the faith that new opportunities to grow and develop ideas come my way.
To find out more about Keeley Stephenson charity you can visit the Care Leaver Legacy website or connect with her on social media @_ksoxo @cllegacy