I nod my head with my eyes still downcast and my body hunched over. I am aware of my mother sitting beside me, wringing her hands, and hearing her breathing becoming erratic. This meeting, why it was taking place, and what it stood for had just caused my mother's mental health to worsen tenfold.
"Your continued low-level behaviour, lack of engagement, attendance issues and now the outburst yesterday … well … it's just too much for us to deal with anymore".
That conversation played a big part in my own exploitation. Being excluded from mainstream education, being excluded from the social field of school and that security and routine that went with it led to me living the next few years in a way no child should.
My name is Kendra Houseman, and I am the Co-Founder of Out of the Shadows, a consultancy and training organistion. We aim to educate, challenge and change the way the exploitation of children, young people and vulnerable adults is discussed, viewed, and understood in the UK.
Being invited to work alongside Anne Longfield and the other professionals that will lead change for young people across the UK is something I am extremely proud of.
By asking questions such as: "What leads to vulnerability and crisis and why services aren't as effective as young people and families need them to be"? and "How does the system need to reform - nationally and locally to prevent crisis and help young people to succeed?", I hope the Commission on Young lives will get people talking and bring about change that will be long-standing and life-changing for children and young people. My role within this will be to bring the voice of the child and the survivor to the discussion that will take place, and make sure that policy change takes place and children's life chances improve. I am looking forward to working to ensure that all children are safeguarded before they are criminalised, and that a child is always recognised as a victim when exploitation of any kind takes place.