After a long career as an English teacher, Vivien Shaw became a volunteer Independent Visitor with NYAS, providing lasting support to two foster boys and drawing on her experiences to write a book about children in the care system. Her YA novel, The Day That Changed My Life, aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by children in care and encourage empathy from their peers. Hear from Vivien this National Volunteers Week...

A middle aged lady wearing a yellow blouse holding her book, title 'The Day That Changed My Life'. There is a bookcase behind her with the NYAS logo.

Teacher-turned-author Vivien Shaw has dedicated her life to the younger generation. After working as an English teacher for over 40 years, Vivien wanted to continue to positively impact the lives of young people. This is when she became a volunteer Independent Visitor (IV) with NYAS.

Having taught in schools with children who came from challenging backgrounds, Vivien says she has “always had a soft spot for children who are in that position” and wanted to use the experiences she has had in teaching to further support those in the care system.

After applying to become an Independent Visitor with NYAS, Vivien was matched with two young boys in foster care. Her friendship with both boys as IV lasted seven years, and after they left the care system, Viven has remained a supportive figure in their lives.

“I was just what [name redacted] needed at that time, which was a nice, stable, cheerful person.”

Vivien saw both boys regularly, with meet ups often involving a sporty activity or a walk. Though Vivien’s most memorable experience was taking them to London. A day of sightseeing, marveling and walking was enjoyed by everyone, but it was a conversation on the train that Vivien felt had a lasting impact on her young person.

“We were sitting opposite a businessman, and he asked us what we were doing. I encouraged [name redacted] to respond, and they had a great conversation, and the man was showing him all the things he could do in London. I thought this was great as he needs to see that the world is full of good people.”

When both of her matches left care at 18, Vivien stayed in contact and has been a lifeline in particular for one young person.


As an English teacher, Vivien has always had a flair for writing. Having noticed that there were very few books that covered the topic of children being in care, she decided to try her hand at writing a book that did just that. Using the experiences she has gained from working with children for over four decades, Vivien wrote The Day That Changed My Life.

“All the children that have passed through my hands [as a teacher], thousands of children, they’ve all got their little stories that have stuck in my head.”

The Day That Changed My Life follows the story of a young boy, Harvey, who enters the care system following the breakdown of his family. The book highlights the number of people involved in Harvey’s care, and the level of decision making that is carried out without acknowledging the wishes and feelings of the young boy. Vivien’s experience with NYAS inspired her to include a NYAS advocate in the narrative who supports Harvey to have his wishes and feelings heard.

Vivien hopes her book will raise awareness of the difficult situations that children in care go through on a day-to-day basis and encourage young people to consider what their friends in care may be experiencing.

“For a child who isn’t in care but might know somebody in care, it might open their eyes to what that person is going through and perhaps why that child never invites them back to their house."

Spotlight is a new series which will share the stories, experiences and expertise of people from across the children’s social care sector. From campaigners and policy makers to those with lived experiences, it provides a platform for people to discuss the topics that mean the most to them and share more about their ongoing work.

To purchase The Day That Changed My Life, head to The Day That Changed My Life: Shaw, Vivien: 9781800164819: Books