Sixteen-year-old Rhys Anderson is a fantastic talker. Sitting on the sofa in his living room, he’s waxing lyrical about his friends, the fire pit he helped build over summer, how he knows bits of “pretty much every language there is” (“well, English, Welsh and Spanish”) and the memories of previous places he’s lived.
“Admit it,” he challenges me. “This place is completely different to what you thought you were going to see, isn’t it? People, mostly adults, still visualise care homes as places with loads of kids, beds stacked on top of each other – the type of thing you see in films.”
I have to concede that he’s right. When I think of children’s homes, my mind leaps to the likes of Oliver Twist, Annie and Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker. Sitting here with Rhys in the homely living room of Tan y Bryn children’s home in the northern Welsh countryside, on a cold morning just before Christmas, I’m learning that the reality is very different.
Tan y Bryn is a large detached house owned and run by Action for Children. Just four young people live here. There’s a large garden with a vegetable patch, a trampoline, a summer house and Rhys’s fire pit.