'Unfosterable' boy steams ahead
For the next 10 years Mathew Taylor was shunted between foster homes before ending up in a care home. During that time he had seven schools, seven homes, and was allowed to see his mother just six times a year. Now almost 20, the boy deemed "unfosterable" by his local authority has plans to become a social worker.
"I was so young I didn't really understand what was going on when they came into school one day and said we had to go," said Mathew.
"I was told that my mother just needed a bit of help."
During his years of moving between foster homes and schools, Mathew challenged the system in a bid for stability. When he reached Year 7 at one school he refused to move on and the authorities caved in. Proving everyone wrong became his ultimate goal. He said his bad behaviour was mostly due to inner turmoil, anguish and bitterness.
He said: "One of my placements was great, but I felt mostly that being fostered was just a way of paying the mortgage - you're treated like a case number."
However, the constant disruption and disappointments seemed to spur him on.
Despite missing 18 months' education at a crucial stage of secondary school, he passed four GCSEs in psychology, sociology, English literature and geography after leaving care at 16.
Mathew says that some things have improved but local authorities are still failing children in their care, with not enough emphasis on education, inadequate training for foster carers, and poor placement matching.
Welcoming The TES's Time to Care campaign, he said: "The same issues still come up year after year and that is so disheartening. The whole system needs to be a lot more child-focused.
"Schools are sometimes not aware of what's going on at home and they shouldn't be allowed to exclude looked-after children.
"Education is sometimes the only stability in a child's life, and local authorities need to recognise and understand their corporate parenting responsibilities."
Mathew is now a senior member of an influential support group for looked-after children, Voices from Care Cymru, and is planning to start an access course to begin a social work degree. He knows he has the skills and relevant experience to help vulnerable children.
"I can say I understand what they're going through, and I want to put something back in to the system to improve the way things are done," he said. "Perhaps I can make a bit of a difference."