A student from Chipping Norton is proving that being in care and growing up with foster parents does not automatically disadvantage youngsters.
Aaron Miles was taken in to care and fostered as an 11-year-old boy but by the age of 20, he is studying for a degree in social and political studies and writing his own autobiography.
“Being in care is not the end of the world. For me it has opened more doors to me than may otherwise have been the case,” he says looking back at the time when he first came into the care of Oxfordshire County Council.
“The council placed me in to the care of foster parents and they have been absolutely incredible.
“They are called David and Davina and I refer to them as my mum and dad. They’ve fostered around 150 children over the last 40 years and it really shows. They’re experts. I was their son straightaway.
“Being fostered means you’ll have a stable family life compared to what may well have come before. I still live with my foster parents now.”
Born in Witney, Aaron has lived most of his life in Chipping Norton and attended the town’s secondary school, where he also credits his former headteacher Simon Duffy with a key part in his journey to adulthood.
“He had faith in me all the way through. I ended up with six GCSEs and that was what opened the door for me to get to where I am now studying at Ruskin College in Oxford for a degree in social and political studies.”
As a care leaver Aaron still has a social worker who acts as a person advisor but his strongest links with the county council and the care system come from choice rather than process.
“I’m a member of the Children in Care Council and I’ve been the chairman of the organisation for two years now,” he said.
“It’s a very important and strong organisation in Oxfordshire that gives you the chance to have your say or suggest positive changes for the future.”
In 2014, Aaron was elected to the national youth parliament and has twice debated in the chamber at the House of Commons.
He enjoys the cut and thrust of debate and would like to be involved in politics for many years to come.
For the meantime Aaron is writing his own autobiography recounting his days as a child in care right through to the present day.
“I’ve got very close ties to the county council,” he said.
“People will often think of the roads or libraries when they think of the council but children’s social care is so important and my story to date just shows how important it is.”
There are around 700 children in the care of the county council at any one time and several more care leavers with whom the council maintains strong links in just the same way that parents do with their children once they become young adults.
Lucy Butler, director for children’s services at the county council, said: “We’re extremely proud of Aaron.
“Our aim is to give all children a good start in life and that very much applies to children who have been in care.
“When a child comes in to care the council effectively becomes that child’s parent. It’s a responsibility that all of us – including our county councillors – take seriously.
“Aaron is a shining example of what children who have been in care can achieve.
“He’s got a great future ahead of him and we look forward to seeing him go from strength to strength.”