TO celebrate the Year of Young People, every week in 2018 The National is giving a platform to young Scots. This week, 19-year-old Lauren from Shetland

CARE Experienced Week is an opportunity to show people who have been in care that we see them, that we’re on their side and that they deserve to be loved. I’m celebrating Care Experienced Week because I grew up in care and sometimes it didn’t feel like anyone was doing that for me.

I went into care at a young age because my family wasn’t able to look after me. I’ve stayed in every type of care. I’ve had to work hard to understand that and to come to terms with what that means for my future.

Being brought up in care in Shetland was really different compared to growing up in care on the mainland. Being in a small community means everyone knows who is in care and their family history. I think that’s what led to me being judged for being in care. People have asked me what I did and where I went wrong in life. They’ve asked me those questions because they already have assumptions of what being in care means.

I’ve also spent time defending care experienced people on social media. Across Scotland, communities protest against children’s homes being built in their area. People share articles online, where they talk about troubled children and worry about their house prices falling, or the area becoming less secure. I wish they cared about how hurtful those words can be. We’re just children desperately trying to be loved and have a childhood.

This weekend, care experienced people and our supporters are adding more to the ongoing conversation about love. It’s a powerful word, which can mean something different to everyone, and leads to everyone giving their own description of what it feels like. I’m taking a risk and putting myself in that conversation. I’m ready to start talking about love because at some point, I want to live in this world knowing what love means to me.

I spent time with a colleague recently and I heard him on the phone saying “Good night, love you” to his children. I asked him how often he tells them he loves them. “Every day”, he replied. I could hear that he meant it every time he said it too. This blew me away.

I don’t have memories of being told I was loved when I was a child. I also don’t have an understanding of what it must be like to be told I’m loved by an adult every day. I’m not unlovable. No-one is. I had this problem because I had paid staff and they weren’t allowed to say they loved me.

I didn’t experience love because it wasn’t part of the deal growing up in care. I didn’t have parents, I had staff. I had a living room but there was an office in the house too. I know now that love in that kind of setting is too risky, too real. If people loved me, properly loved me, they would never have been able to force me into a flat when I was 18. But that’s what happened. For the past few months, I’ve been lonely, isolated, full of self-doubt and frustrated. Those aren’t feelings related to love.

This Care Experienced Week is all about celebrating what care-experienced people have offered the world. We’re capable, we’ve got potential and we’re worthy of more. I want everyone in Scotland to be inspired by care-experienced people, just like I am. Let’s make care great, give young people like me their childhoods back and create a lifetime of love.