Oliwia proves that children in care can succeed and be ambitious

Oliwia Bieniak says people are wrong to assume that those who have been in care as children cannot make a success of their lives – and the 21 year old’s inspirational journey to becoming an Anthropology and Philosophy student with the ultimate aim of becoming an academic shows that she means what she says.

When Oliwia came in to care at the age of 16 nobody could have guessed – least of all herself – that five years later she’d be studying at Oxford Brookes University with a determination to become a graduate and map out a future that she hopes will involve going on to do a Masters and then take on a Doctorate.

She’s just finished her first year of study at Brookes and with the academic year at an end has recently celebrated her 21st birthday – enjoying punting on the river in Oxford in the warm summer sunshine.

She’s also now Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council’s Children in Care Council whose aim is to listen to the views of young people and feed them back to social care professionals at the council so that care becomes an ever more positive experience. It also organises a Spring Ball for children in care.

Born in Minsk Mazowieck near Warsaw in Poland, Oliwia moved to England at the age of nine in 2006. She lived in Headington but had to come in to care aged 16.

Best intererest at heart

“When I came in to care I didn’t understand the county council and the social workers and I had lots of disagreements with them. Gradually I came to realise that they did have my best interests at heart. Now I am on the Children in Care Council and work closely with them and I know that they are really cool, lovely people,” said Oliwia.

“When I look back I can say that overall my time in care was positive. I was placed with a very supportive foster parent who challenged me and got me out of my comfort zone. I qualified to do A-levels and that’s how I am now able to study at Oxford Brookes.

“Studying has been good fun. I have really enjoyed it. One of the big myths about is that people who have been in care as children go on to end up being criminals. I’ve never ever been involved in crime and I won’t be. Another myth is that care leavers can’t achieve decent things – but they can. I’ve known tonnes of people who have been in care through my work on the children in care council who are doing well.

“My main message is that people should try to make their dreams come true even when there are obstacles in the way and people don’t believe them. It is possible. Even when you’ve been in care.”

To learn more about the Children in Care Council read here

A good start in life

Lucy Butler, Director for Children’s Services at Oxfordshire County Council said: “We’re proud of Oliwia. Our aim is to give all children a good start in life and that certainly applies to children who have been in care. When a child comes in to care the council effectively becomes a parent. We take that responsibility very seriously. Oliwia is a shining example of what children who have been in care can achieve. She’s got a bright future ahead of her and I’d like to thank her for her continuing contribution to the lives of children in care in Oxfordshire.”