Aged 13 and carrying the emotional scars of a traumatic childhood, Amy Mook was sent to live with a foster family in York, who have dedicated their lives to looking after some of the region’s most vulnerable children.
Now four years later, the teenager, who hopes to study law at university, is urging people to think about fostering after her carers inspired her to “realise what love is” and turn her life around.
Amy’s foster mother Karen Wortley 51, has looked after around 70 children over 11 years, from babies to young adults.
She said: “We had always wanted a large family but sadly that didn’t work out, so we thought we’d adopt. But we tried fostering first and enjoyed it so much that we’ve never stopped.
“I’ve given a home to babies, teenagers and emergency placements from a few hours to seven years, and regularly give short breaks for a disabled child, alongside caring for three teenagers, including Amy.
“It’s the difference you can make to the children’s lives and the benefits you get when you see them change and blossom into a different person. No day is ever the same and no child is ever the same. I would recommend it to anyone. It’s definitely life-changing.”
Amy has been living with the family since she was 13 and has blossomed into a confident and ambitious young woman.
She has had articles published in the Big Issue and recently won a national poetry competition with a piece she had written about her experience of living in care and how her foster mother helped her to overcome her demons. “I did cry when I read it,” said Mrs Wortley.
Amy, 17, who is currently in the middle of her A-levels at York College, now plans to go to university and hopes to inspire others to consider fostering.
She said: “Since living with Karen I realised what love is and you can be loved and things can work out.
“People who foster are making a huge difference. It’s a chance to make someone’s life better, who through no fault of their own have been disadvantaged.
“I wouldn’t be doing anything I’m doing if it wasn’t for Karen.
“I have a lot of beliefs I want to stand up for. I have been to the Houses of Parliament and spoken there to show the world we are not a stereotype, that we can achieve our dreams.”
And while Amy is a shining example of how fostering can transform the lives of young people, Mrs Wortley said there are times when it can be challenging, particularly when learning about the ordeals some of the children have been through.
She said: “It’s totally different to what you expect. It really opens your eyes to real life and problems. Nothing shocks me anymore. Everyone that comes has a different story. You think ‘this child has gone through this and I have got to help them’.”
But one of the hardest parts of being a foster carer is letting go, said Mrs Wortley. “But if they are going back to their family, you know you are doing your job well.”