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Experiences Shared

Matthias

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Matthias spent his entire childhood and adolescence in the care system. 

He suffered abuse and brutality and witnessed other children suffering the same, but none of the professionals he reported this to took any action to protect them.

Matthias was born in the late 1960s. He has dual heritage, with a white mother and a black father. 

His maternal grandfather did not approve of the relationship and forced his daughter to put her son up for adoption, although she did not want to.

When he was five years old, Matthias was fostered with the Smith family. He has obtained his care records and now knows that the foster father had been in prison, and that the couple had already had a child removed from their care before Matthias was placed with them. 

He was treated extremely badly by both foster parents. Mr Smith physically and sexually abused him and Mrs Smith gave him beatings that he describes as ‘over the top’. 

When Matthias was seven, he was taken from the Smiths and sent to a children’s home where he was placed in the adolescent unit. He was the youngest in there, and the only black child. 

He was subjected to physical, racial, emotional and sexual abuse over the following six years, and says he had distressing and now discredited therapies forced on him. 

He adds that other children received equally horrific treatment, being beaten and raped. Staff psychologically abused the children, wielding power over them as they decided which ones would be targeted for abuse. 

As he grew older, Matthias wanted to understand and express his black heritage, but this was suppressed by the staff.

Matthias describes how he was constantly on the alert, and developed techniques to distract staff in the hope he would not be chosen. 

Along with many other children, Matthias frequently ran away but they were always taken back by the police. Some of the children told the police about the rapes and sexual abuse that was happening to them, but no action was taken. 

After Matthias left the children’s home, he became involved in crime and spent time in young offenders’ units and prison. When he was in his mid teens he told a probation officer about the abuse he had suffered throughout his time in the care system.

The children’s home was investigated by the police, and solicitors for the local authority offered Matthias compensation of just over £1,000 as a full and final settlement. He accepted this. Mr Smith died before he could be put on trial.

Matthias has PTSD and suffers with flashbacks and mental health and emotional difficulties. He finds it hard to form relationships. 

Matthias says that now he has access to his files, he wants to find out the truth about his childhood. He questions why the Smiths were allowed to foster him or any other children. He says the abuse has left him with a ‘gaping wound’ and there has been ‘no accountability … no one said sorry’.

He would like to see some tangible actions to protect other children in future, not just promises. He says ‘I hope nobody says they will put plans and procedures in place to make sure this never happens again’.

Matthias says that children in the care system should have access to independent staff who will advocate for them.   

He feels strongly that young care leavers need support to help them cope with daily life when they leave the system. He would like to see recognition from the Government about the lifelong traumatic effects of abuse on victims and survivors, and for them to provide support and resources. 

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