Jenny’s Shared Lives story

This is a story about Jenny, a person using our Shared Lives service.

Before we knew Jenny

Jenny spent, basically her whole life in foster care. When she was a baby, her family felt that this would be the best option, to give her the best life possible.

When Jenny was a teenager something awful happened to her, in her foster home. A relative of the family she was living with was accused of abusing Jenny. This became a legal case and Jenny was soon moved from her home, to protect her.

After such a stressful experience, Jenny needed somewhere new to live, where she could feel safe again.

When we first met Jenny

In 2012, Jenny was referred to Shared Lives. She was going through a really hard time in her life and needed someone who would understand her. Julie, Jenny’s development worker, found the perfect carer match in Sarah.  Sarah had worked in counselling in the past, so knew all about Jenny’s sensitive situation.

At this time in her life, Jenny was very shy and timid. She didn’t feel confident enough to talk to people much or make friends. She struggled with her speech too and didn’t like to open up to new people at all.

Jenny didn’t know how to behave around other people very well. She would eat food from other people’s plates and didn’t understand why this annoyed them. This wasn’t her fault – she just hadn’t been taught much about manners or mixed much with other people before.

When Julie met her, Jenny really didn’t like doing much at all. She preferred to stay indoors and didn’t have any hobbies. She seemed quite sad and didn’t look after herself very well either. She didn’t care much about washing and would need to be reminded to do this. Jenny needed some help to get better.

When Jenny moved into Shared Lives

When Jenny arrived in her new Shared Lives home, all she had was a bin bag of clothes; most of them were too old and too small for her to wear. She didn’t seem to care about this.

Jenny was very quiet and needed some guidance to become more confident – this is where Sarah stepped in.

Sarah gradually showed her ways of taking care of herself better and taught her about being independent. Before then, Jenny was used to having things done for her, but not having her own freedom. Rather than treating Jenny like a child, Sarah helped her to learn to do things for herself.

Sarah supported her to talk about how she felt and was a friend as well as a carer. She introduced her to different opportunities until Jenny decided what made her happy.

The Jenny we know today

Jenny is twenty three now. She has lived with Sarah for six years.

During that time, Jenny has made an amazing life for herself with her carer’s help. Her development worker, Julie, can hardly recognise that Jenny is the same person today.

First of all, Jenny now looks after her appearance and takes pride in herself. Such a basic thing has helped her ‘come on leaps and bounds’.

She has a volunteer role in a local café and has become a massive part of the local community. She’s super proud of the fact that she can remember everybody’s favourite orders (and she does tend to get it spot-on every time!) Jenny now has a lot of friends from the café who make her feel safe and secure in her new neighbourhood.

The confidence she has got from working has encouraged her to start a college course, too. This means she can learn as well as making even more friends. What’s even better, is her course let’s her work with animals. Jenny only realised her love of furry friends since moving into her Shared Lives home. She wakes up in the morning full of excitement and energy to get there. Sarah says she is more than happy to travel to and from college on her own. She usually bumps into her friends from the café on route and says hello. Jenny would have worried too much to do this in the past.

If you ask Jenny herself what her single biggest passion of all is, though, her answer will be Lady Gaga! Outside of her busy life in college and the café she still finds time to go to a youth club, where she can perform Gaga dance routines and meet (you guessed it) even more new friends! She is the life and soul of the club and encourages everybody to get involved with the drama and music activities. Jenny recently met a Lady Gaga tribute artist and was completely star struck. Since beginning her life with Shared Lives, Jenny has realised how much she adores the stage and hopes to perform one day like her idol.

Jenny’s development worker, Julie is so proud of how far she has come with the help of Sarah and Shared Lives. Without being given the freedom to learn new things and experience a more action-packed life, Jenny doesn’t think she would ever be as happy as she is today.

The bond that Jenny and Sarah have is so strong, even now that Jenny has found herself. It’s this open-mindedness and determination which really makes Shared Lives carers stand out from the crowd and the people they support sparkle like Gaga!

Learn more about Shared Lives here: http://www.makeyourself.org.uk.