From foster child, to author, to social worker
IMAGINE being told all your life you're worthless; being sent from house-to-house, hoping the next will be your forever home; feeling like you have no identity.
That is the reality author Daryl Brougham faced as he was buffeted through 79 New Zealand foster homes in 18 years.
When he was a child, Daryl was told by his social worker he would amount to nothing more than a criminal.
This traumatic experience proved to be a transformative moment, helping him realise his aspirations to become a social worker himself.
"When I was 10 I was forced to eat a spider from street kids and I was pretty much shoved down on the ground, it was a horrible experience," Daryl said.
"I tried to express to my caregiver what happened, but I was told if I said anything that I would get the beating of my life. So I broke down the placement down.
"I'll never forget when the social worker came to pick me up I deliberately waited until we were so far away from the house and I was about tell them what happened.
"The social worker turned around, looked at me and said, 'the way you're going, you're going to end up in jail'.
"I said to myself at 10 years old, when I get older I'm going to become a much better social worker than you ever were.
"That grew into I'll write a book, which grew into I'll get my masters and it's exactly what I did."
Daryl authored the book Through the Eyes of a Foster Child, documenting the sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse he experienced in the foster care system.
He also conducts talks for industry professionals around the world, most recently visiting Gladstone and Rockhampton courtesy of Anglicare to talk about the importance of a 'child focused' approach to foster care.
Daryl was thrust into the system at three months old, abandoned by his mother.
"I suffered from eczema burn and my parents couldn't cope, they were both mental health patients," he said.
"The New Zealand Government left me with them for three months until I was almost dead and my mother placed me by the rubbish bin out of frustration at three months old."
Although Daryl broke the cycle and avoided incarceration, foster children have a high risk of offending, with a recent survey reporting 60% of adults in prison have a foster care background.
"With offending it's not so much offending in itself, It's offending in the sense you want to show some rebellious behaviour against the government, against who looks after you," Daryl said.
"Because often, when you're moved as many times as we are, you lose your identity, you lose belongingness, and you lose trust from others.
"People see behaviour as problematic. I always say it's not problematic, behaviour is communication.
"Often offending can be a form of communication saying, 'I'm not happy where I am, I don't know what else to do, get me out of here'."
According to Daryl, one of the most significant problems foster children face is being moved from home-to-home.
"There is one international problem with foster care and it's called multiple placements," Daryl explained.
"It's quite common for a child of five to 10 years old to have gone through 30 foster homes quite easily.
"When you think of those 30 homes, you've got to think what has each place taken away from that child.
"It's taking away identity, trust, belongingness, some form of property whether it be a photograph or a phone or something of memory.
"We're talking broken promises, you're going to live here for the rest of your life and the next minute you've been moved again.
"You wonder why a lot of foster children act out later, it's communication.
"They're stressing, they're screaming for help."
In Daryl's eyes, the foster care system needs a shake-up, starting with education.
"If we as a society don't understand the impacts of the decisions we make in our sectors in regards to foster children how on earth are we ever going to move forward?" he said.
"A lot more education needs to go into identifying the signposts of children's behaviour, of identifying abuse.
"Look at Tiahleigh Palmer... imagine how many signposts she was showing and people didn't pick it up"
"People didn't pick it up because they didn't know the signposts.
"There's a million Tiahleigh Palmer's out there."