ADHD, my Foster Carers & my life in the Armed Forces.

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

Jordan Swain is an Armed Forces soldier serving his ninth year in the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster. When Jordan was ten years old, he was placed in care; he had unacceptable behaviour. Jordan had ADHD as yet undiagnosed.

Jordan is now 24 years of age. At sixteen, he and four of his best mates were hanging around parks, getting into trouble and eventually, got caught stealing. As a result, the Police and his foster parents gave him a choice; get a criminal record or attend the Wigan Youth Zone, Army Foundation Course, which was based in Harrogate. This was the defining moment; Jordan was sixteen and in foster care; he knew he had to take ownership of his behaviour. The Armed Forces were the future for him and his ADHD…

It was my 10th birthday, and I went into care.

‘I went into care on my 10th birthday because my behaviour was unacceptable. Sadly, my Mum put me up for adoption because she could not cope with me. When I first went into foster care, I moved around schools; eventually, I was placed with my foster carers, Sharron and Chris King. I was lucky, I knew the King’s family, and it felt like I was moving in with friends.’

‘Sharron and Chris King have fostered multiple children in my area. I knew most of them because we played together, so moving into foster care with the Kings was easy.’

‘I was in care because of my behaviour. However, it was not until I got older that I was diagnosed with ADHD. Once diagnosed, I decided I would not take medication to manage my ADHD; I would control it myself.’

‘When I was 16 years of age, four of my friends and I were hanging about in the park, and eventually, we got into trouble with the Police. We were becoming a handful, and the Police caught us stealing. The Police gave us a choice: we either got a criminal record or went to the Wigan Youth Zone and attended the Army Foundation course they ran. The Army Foundation course lasted 3 days; it was in Harrogate and gave me my first taste of independent living.

However, as usual, I went along with the crowd. When the course ended, the lads said it was shit, and I agreed. However, what I said, and what I did, were not the same. I signed up.’ 

I had a choice, a criminal record or the Armed Forces.

‘My biggest influence was my foster dad Chris; Chris told me straight; I had to buck my ideas up. I had a choice; it was either a life with a criminal record or a life where I could make something of myself. Why didn’t I think about the Army?’

‘When I tell my foster parents how much they have influenced me, they say it wasn’t us. But it was true, for I would not have gone to the Youth Zone in Wigan without their influence. As a result of their influence, I found the options and choices I needed.’

‘The defining moment for me was simple; I was always skint. I never had money other than what I earned doing the small jobs at home for Sharron and Chris. They made me earn my money. I was 16 years old. However, it was not enough for me to go out and do things as I wanted.’

‘Also, when I did go out, it became the same old thing; as usual, I began to get bored. Am I doing this for the rest of my life?’ I thought to myself, ‘is this it?”

‘It seemed to me that everything in my life, especially now, with a criminal record, would be set in stone. Social services decided my life; I needed to sort myself out. I was 16 years old and in foster care; I couldn’t stay with Sharron and Chris forever; I knew I had to adapt to doing things differently and sort myself out.’

image of a young boy standing alone looking serious

ADHD makes my behaviour spiral through boredom.

‘Living with ADHD means I get bored easily. I always must find something to do, or my behaviour spirals. Also, when I am bored, I jabber on, and my behaviour can often become immature. I needed to focus on a career that made me take control of my behaviour and gave me the structure and discipline I needed to manage my ADHD. So, with my foster parents, Chris, and Sharron’s support, I enlisted with the Armed Forces and arranged a date for my first Army careers interview.’

‘At the interview, the Officers asked me what regiment I wanted to join. They also asked about my fitness; had I done any running to prepare for my fitness test? I knew nothing about a regiment or a fitness test. I was unprepared, and they knew it. At the end of the interview, they told me straight; there was no way they would accept me into the Army.’

‘The Officers were straight with me. They said, how can we accept someone who has no idea about what they are joining? They suggested I go away and prepare and then return when I knew what I was talking about. I thought you just turned up in a suit, and the Army would take anybody; lesson learned.’

My second interview went better; I wanted this now…

‘Six weeks later, I was back; however, I had prepared myself this time. I answered the questions correctly because I knew what to expect. Also, I wanted this now. So, at 16 years of age, I joined the 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster Regiment, in phase one, where I went on to get my Level 1 in Maths and English. Also, it was the first time I had earned money. I remember my first pay; I had £900.00 in my bank account and no idea what to spend it on!’

‘So, I bought myself some brand-new jeans and trainers. When I was 17, I was in the Army, travelling to France, surfboarding, and kayaking. My attitude and outlook on life changed; however, I still had to control my ADHD. Sometimes my immaturity came back out, and I often hated the Army because it was a hard graft. Also, I had to do things I did not want to do.’

‘But, having been in foster care, I know I have not had a straightforward life. I came into Army life knowing it was not a standard job. Also, I know I am lucky. What standard job gets you stationed in Cyprus for two years, which is where we’re heading next?’ 

Living with ADHD means I must stay focused.

‘My focus is to prepare for my latest tour in Cyprus. I must stay focused; luckily, my foster mum, Sharron, ingrained this. Sharron had me doing jobs around the house once I turned sixteen because she knew I needed discipline and structure. She also knew the Army was not a soft touch. More importantly, Sharron knew the Armed Forces would give me the educational training I lacked.’

‘I am now twenty-four and initially signed up at 18 for four years, yet here I am in year nine and recently promoted to Lance Corporal. Many of these recruits are handy kids, they want to fight, and this is where boxing comes in handy. I started boxing when I first joined, and I am now on the boxing team; I love it.’ Often, I help the younger lads because sometimes their behaviour is childish; I tell them they will have a good career and future if they stay focused.

Sometimes my ADHD gets the better of me…

‘Sometimes, I allow my behaviour to get the better of me, and my commanding officers tell me to get back in line. When they speak, I listen because I respect them. They are men who have fought in wars, they have lived in danger, and they respect me. They are my peers, and I respect them.’ 

‘I have gone from an immature youth who always fought to a man who knows when to reign it in. I am more in control of my life because of their influence. However, every couple of months, I may get out of line; and when I do, my Commander will say, ‘Jordan, you need to be more mature in this line of work.’ Also, when he tells me to stop being a dickhead, I listen; because he is a man I respect. He is a man who has lived through some tough times, and his words are powerful.’

On Parade with my medals, I think, where’s my ADHD now?

‘I feel confident about my future; however, my immaturity comes back now and then. When this happens, my Commander tells me to reign it in and get a grip. I have never taken medication for my ADHD; I control my behaviour. I told myself I did not need tablets for my ADHD, and I didn’t. When I am on Parade, wearing my medals awarded from being on patrol in tours, I think to myself, where’s my ADHD now? I have achieved so much because of the guidance and discipline I receive from my peers; I know I need this support.’

‘When I joined up at 16, I left my mates behind. They continued hanging around, getting into trouble, and eventually went out around the local pubs. When I came home on leave, I would stay with my foster carers, Sharron and Chris, and go out with my mates. But it was not the same.’

‘I was happy going out to pubs; I had money in my pocket, and, as usual, I got bored. My mates began to ask me more about Army life, and I said I knew when we went to Wigan Youth Zone, I would sign up. I didn’t say anything because I just went along with the banter; I wanted to fit in.’ 

Jordan Swain, 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster

Banter is important, and I understand now where to draw the line.

‘My best mates later joined the Armed Forces. I was the first; now, we are in the same regiment. Sometimes, I get down and start thinking about going home. But I won’t; the Army is a brotherhood, and I would not leave the lads. We are in it for the long-term together, and the Army is where lifelong relationships and friendships are made; we depend on each other and go through thick and thin together.’

‘The Army gives us a sense of belonging. Also, I know I would be kicked out of many other jobs, and the discipline in the Army makes me focused and stay sensible. Banter is important; however, I learned the hard way where to draw the line.’

‘For many squaddies, banter is banter, and we all do it. However, some do not get it, especially new squaddies. And for someone with ADHD, I know I can go too far, and my behaviour can come across as bullying. I know banter is often somewhere we hide behind our darkest places and offload with each other.’

I am the foster kid, but that doesn’t excuse bad behaviour…

‘Also, I am known as the foster kid, which singles me out. However, I do not use this as an excuse for my behaviour and consciously try to control it, and I would never purposefully hurt anyone.’ 

‘I am open about my childhood. I have said many times that my Mum put me up for adoption. However, it is not personal. My experience of being in foster care helps me understand many things, and talking about it helps.’

‘I know many foster children join the Armed Forces because they have a sense of belonging; they feel the Forces are a family. My foster Mum, Sharron, endorsed my military life, and now proudly have a picture of me, at 18 years of age, in my Number 2’s at my passing out Parade in their home.’

‘When I completed my phase two training, I knew I could not go back to living with Sharron and Chris. They were fostering 16-year-old girls. Even though they always said their door was open to me, it would not be appropriate. Also, I had continued contact with my birth family; my Mum and my family came to my passing out Parade.’ 

On leave, I spend time with my family.

‘Now, when I go home on leave, I stay with my Mum and spend time with my brother and sisters. I went on a six-month tour of Iraq, and my Mum downsized to a two-bedroomed house for both of us. Initially, my Mum did not want me to join up. It worries her when I go on tour, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. She says I am a bit of a Jack the lad. She also calls me a ‘lazy sod’ for reading or watching the television. I tell her I am on leave; she says I have the Life of Riley. But I know she misses me a lot and was very against the Armed Forces at first.’

‘I have seen my dad a few times since I was sixteen, and we stayed connected, off and on. It’s hard to see each other as he lives down South. However, after my passing out Parade, we had a huge party back in Wigan. My dad was there, with my Aunties and Uncles, cousins, brother and two sisters.’

‘Since then, my dad and I have been fishing together. Also, my brother lives over the road from Mum and me, and I have met my nieces and nephews. It is good to be back with them, and I am breaking barriers within myself. I am not a child anymore; I am a man who feels confident about his future.’

Living with ADHD is not easy…

‘When the Army promoted me to Lance Corporal, I did not feel it was something I had aimed for. My commanding officer had seen something in me and promoted me because it was a stepping-stone for my future. Also, he said I would earn more money, so I took the course and was promoted. Looking back, I never went into the Army with a view to promotion. However, I have started to look to the future and think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.’

‘I enjoy supporting the younger lads when they come into the Army. I like to think I am helping them, especially those in foster care or troubled childhoods. Living with ADHD is not easy, but the discipline within the Armed Forces gives me the structure and boundaries I need.’

The Armed Forces is a brotherhood; we belong together.

‘I was a kid, placed in care on his 10th birthday because of my behaviours. Although I was later diagnosed with ADHD, I was lucky to have fantastic foster carers. Sharron and Chris saw beyond the labels and gave me the invaluable support I needed. Also, how we start life is not how it ends. Sometimes we must get out of our comfort zone and find challenges to get on the right path. Mine was found, thanks to my foster parents. Because of them, I found the Armed Forces and brotherhood of friends who belong together.’

‘I would like to become a Teaching Assistant. I want to work with kids who, like myself, have behavioural problems. More importantly, like me, they need positive peer mentors to guide them. I know what life is like for them, and when the time comes, I will do this. However, I will crack on getting ready for a 2-year tour in Cyprus and try my best not to get arrested in Aya Napa!’

Verve Recruitment CIC – Supporting young people and our Armed Forces Veterans.

Verve Recruitment CIC recruits foster carers for the Not for Profit sector. More older children are in care than any other; they are also in the hardest age range to find foster carers. Foster carers, like Carrol and Chris King, are the difference these young people need. If you have thought about fostering, or are from an Armed Forces background and recognise the qualities in you that these young people need, get in touch, and let’s chat.

Thank you to my friend, Major Chris Chudleigh, for connecting me to Jordan, and to Jordan, you are amazing. Thank you for sharing your journey and showing us that you were a child in care, but this didn’t define you. Nor did ADHD. Stay safe, and don’t get arrested in Aya Napa! Good luck, Jordan; you are inspirational.

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