Friday, 29 November 2013

The December 2013 newsletter

It has been a real up and down month. Everybody is sad at the break-up between Didi and Magda. We love both of them dearly and it makes us feel sad to know that they are unhappy. Nobody was to blame for what happened - there wasn't any cheating going on - it was just that they wanted different things from the relationship and the competing demands couldn't be reconciled. Ella and I never take sides in these circumstances and I have spoken to them both and they are both being brave and sensible about what has happened.

OTOH Big Boss Lady is being short-sighted and rather insensitive. First Ella was going to have to leave. Then BBL said she could stay but only part time and on a "zero hours" contract. Unsurprisingly Ella said no. So BBL said she could stay full time but on a reduced salary. Still unsurprisingly Ella said no again. Ella then went out and got a job working in a law practice 3 days a week but on about 80% of what she was earning full-time when she was working for BBL. She starts there on December 9th. Nice one Ella!

OldKentRoad has been and gone again! She stayed with us for three weeks but wasn't able to find work around here. Didi has contacts all over the place and found her some work with the same chain of hotels she (Didi) works for. As we speak OldKentRoad is finishing her first week in her new job in Shrewsbury (Shropshire)! We all miss her extrovert presence around the house.

Nicola and Alice are fine. Not babies any more but little girls with minds of their own and zero sense of danger. I can see that we are all in for a lively time with them. It is sad that neither of them are going to have 4 "proper" grand parents. Ella's birth parents are not welcome here and the chasm between Ella and them is a wide as ever and there isn't any face-to-face contact between them and her any more. My BM is also a dead loss.

As for me (Eve). I decided against going down the PGCE route for a 2014 start. The university wasn't very encouraging and didn't seem very well organised when I went over for a visit. But the local FE college needs an A Level chemist from January 2014. They advertised twice with nil replies so when I phoned they were rather keen. I have got an interview on Monday 2nd December so think about me then please.

The guest bloggers are all in place and all produced material this month so that goes down as a good start. There are two more potential bloggers in the wings and I'm hoping that they will also want to join us. While I am on the subject of blogs I haven't had a single complaint about the new format from former readers of the emailed version. I had hoped that we had made the correct decision and my hopes came true. We are getting about 600 readers a month which is encouraging especially as the weekly trend is firmly upwards.

News from our friends
I think about you quite a lot and I do tend to worry if I don't hear from you for months at a time so do please keep the emails rolling in! Some of you know a good number of the other viewers but there are now some readers who only know a handful of the rest of us. I don't think this matters providing everybody is happy.

It is always rather sad when a friendship comes to an end or when something you have been a part of come to the end of its useful life. One of our grown-up friends is going through this at the moment and it has hit him rather hard. Ella and I are sending him a cyber hug.

StarsandStripes is one of our more distant members. She had a short stay in Phoenix, Arizona but has now moved to Scottsdale. She has a happy stable life and she feels that she is a good advert for the benefits of foster care.

Animal complained that she has a rather boring and uneventful life. We could do with a bit of that in our house at the moment!

PrestonPans is a member of the gradually increasing "working in a school" sub-group of our membership. Schools might not pay over-well but they do seem to offer a fair degree of stability which lots of us find rather appealing after all that has happened to us.

Nightjar is settling down well in Cleobury Mortimer. She isn't that far away from us so perhaps we could all meet up over Christmas?

WendysPal made us laugh with stories of the number of different "black economy" jobs she has had this year. Well into double figures with one of them only lasting 45 minutes before she walked out. This was cleaning for an Arab lady who "was quite clearly mad!"

Pinky always seems to email us from a library. Now I know why, she works there part time. I wasn't very bright not to have worked this out before was I?

MissPeanut is from Hull. Well she was because she moved when her birth parents became "even nastier" than usual. She is now just along the coast working at a tourist attraction + conference centre. The bosses are lovely but hopeless she says.

The small group of subscribers from South Wales are having a Christmas party. Didi is going to venture over the border to attend and perhaps she will write a report on how it all goes. As in previous years it is going to be Open House here over Christmas. If people can let me know when they are coming I can sort out the catering.

Love to you all.

Eve and Ella XXX

Monday, 25 November 2013

AC/DC - a guest blogger. Part 2

I managed to get Robbie to go round the charity shops with me yesterday. He kept looking at the DVDs and computer games rather than clothes. But he cannot wear the Settlers game can he, or eat it. We were lucky because we managed to find him a coat, two jumpers, two tea shirts and a pair of socks for £17.00. He even managed to look pleased so my training is working.

I have changed a lot of my jobs since the summer. I do one-part time job in a shop and quite lot of modelling and that earns us more than I used to get being a slave all week. I did one very cold modelling job this week. Basically standing by a JCB on a farm track in the wind. Just wearing wellies and safety glasses (the thing being advertised). As normal the photos go off to Germany and Poland to be used by firms there. Their models find nude modelling too cold!

I am going to have a look at motor bikes this week. But I don't think we can afford one until I have saved up some more money. I will not ask my foster parents for any more help either! :)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Kiwifruit - a guest blogger. Part 4

Sometimes I am still able to trot up and down the proverbial corridors of power. Thus it was that this weekend I found myself working with a focus group on “Helping the disadvantaged and disconnected”.

The group that is easiest (but not easy if you get my meaning) are those who want to be helped and who are also actively looking for help. Whatever our individual feelings about social media sites such as Facebook it is a statistical fact that many of our potential clients are likely to be (frequent) visitors. If you want to reach out to these people then an active and marketed Facebook presence is important. “Word of Mouth” is also an important factor – providing you can provide what the client needs then using those clients to attract newcomers is just common sense.

It is a sine qua non that any group, however well-meaning, that cannot get in touch with their specific target audience is wasting their time and is squandering both their own enthusiasm and time. Neither of these are an unlimited resource.  Setting up the infrastructure without  giving any thought  to marketing the provision seems to me to be height of folly: yet I see it happening again and again!
It is profoundly depressing to see energetic and well-meaning people battling away to keep their own personal fiefdom viable while blithely ignoring advice from people with years of experience.

Friday, 15 November 2013

AC/DC - a guest blogger. Part 1

I have never been asked to be a guest blogger before.

Robbie and I have had fun this last two weeks. Because of the modelling work I've been doing we have had some extra money. On Sunday we went for lunch with my foster parents. It was nice that I was able to treat them for a change. I think they were a bit worried about me spending all my money but it made me happy to do something for them.

We are never going to be rich enough to have a car. But we are thinking of buying a cheap motor bike so we could go and see our friends more easily. I don't think my foster Mum is very keen on this idea because bikes can be dangerous.

On Wednesday I did a life modelling class for the WI. One of the people there was a lady from just across the road. It seemed strange her seeing me with nothing on! I'm glad she didn't have her husband or son with her.

Kenna is fine. I was right she does have a boyfriend. He is called Carl and is very thin and very tall and works as a garage mechanic. Kenna is still enjoying doing her modelling with me and the work she does for the NFU.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Didi - a guest blogger. Part 4

Well I have had a dramatic couple of weeks and, amazingly, none of it has involved my job in the hotel!

Where before it was Didi and Magda it is now just Didi - yes I'm sorry to say that the two of us have split up. Magda has moved out of my flat and now is staying with friends on the other side of town. It was all done in a very civilised and semi-amicable way but I don't think what we once had can ever be resurrected. It's the old story being repeated for the nth time, where n is an exceptionally large number, where two people wanted different things from a relationship.

Magda was always more sensible and more laid back than me but, so it now seems, nothing could have been further from her mind than a civil partnership. When she realised that was the way my mind was starting to work she wanted out! As far as I know there wasn't any third party involved in the break up, certainly not one involving me that's for sure! We were together two years.

GraceT dropped into see me this week. If you wanted an example of a typical foster child I think she would be it. She was born into a dysfunctional family, she was neglected rather than abused, she had three different foster families and she remains fairly close to the last and longest lasting of the three. "Timing out" at 18 ruined her chances of going to university but she got some qualifications at a Further Education college. GraceT works in patient therapy in a hospital.

To counterbalance this sad news I had some good news from my foster parents. When they announced that he had been offered and had accepted a new job I was rather holding my breath that they would be moving even further away than Yorkshire. But no, the job is in north Somerset and within easy travelling distance of yours truly!

Somebody is absolutely bound to ask me about the OldKentRoad situation. Put it this way: for a while I have been fairly anti-religion and nothing in what happened to her has done anything to change my views. I wish I had been free to go up in the car to rescue her but Eve and Ella (and especially Zulu) did a great job by all accounts!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Old Timer - a guest blogger. Part 6

This last weekend I remembered my Dad's brother John and my Dad who both served in the army in the Far East.

My Uncle John was killed in a Japanese air raid just before the fall of Singapore. My Dad came back in a terrible physical and mental state and he died when I was 3. It is sad that I don't remember either of them other than as fading pictures in an photograph album. I think Uncle John was going to get married but then everything was postponed because he got called up. Then of course he didn't come back at all. I wonder if his young lady will be remembering him today? Probably not because so many dreadful things happened during the war years.

- 0 -

One thing I think I lost by being fostered was confidence. Looking back through my life I can think of several times when I allowed bad things to happen because I was scared to say anything. I was a funk. When I was being fostered I never got into trouble with them for either doing or not doing things. What I did didn't worry my foster parents providing the "boys in blue" didn't get involved. I reckon I started to think that I didn't matter very much.

Being stupid like that went on for years. I remember when we were sorting out the wedding reception. What we paid for wasn't what happened. The room in the hotel hadn't been decorated as they had promised and I should have made a fuss and got some money back. But I didn't because I found complaining so hard to do.

Even in my current job I have not been good at trying to get what I wanted. The job share I'm doing is alternate 2 and 3 days a week in a school as a technician. Just because this is what the other guy wanted to do. But this is changing from December.

I joined a fostering group almost by accident.
There I met some youngsters who were very kind to me and gave me some confidence back.
So I became a staff governor.
Then the Head Teacher noticed me far more and talked to me quite often. The Vice-Chair of Governors also goes to the same stamp club as me - I have known him for years.
So I felt brave enough to mention to them about my hours and that what was happening was supposed just to be a trial. They had forgotten this so from December it is my turn to choose the hours and the other guys turn to fit in.

The youngsters have also encouraged me to be a blogger for them. This has been helping me feel more grown-up (at 59!)

Old Timer - Monday 11th November 2013

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The November 2013 newsletter

This newsletter is going to be rather shorter than long-time readers will be used to. Ella and I wanted to get the blog launched around November 9/10 so everything has been rather rushed.

In the last ever email edition of the newsletter (nostalgic sigh) I mentioned that I had heard from OldKentRoad. Well she is safe and well and has been living with us for the last few weeks. What happened to her should be a lesson to us all. She was lonely and the overtures of friendship from two girls she vaguely knew from the local college seemed too good to pass by. For a while it all went well but gradually their agenda became clear. They were members of a religious "community" who financed their chosen lifestyle choices by "extracting" money from unsuspecting people like OldKentRoad. By isolating her from more main-stream people - basically by bad mouthing all her former friends non-stop for week after week - they were able to overcome her common sense and she handed over lots of money to them. Eventually, once her bank balance had got down to almost zero they, predictably, lost all interest in her and "allowed her to leave" the community.

The good news is when she got in touch with us we were able to help her. Two car loads of us went up to Coventry. We visited the community and manage to get nearly all her money back - it is amazing what a mention of the police can achieve in combination with several very large and very angry lads! We think that overall she is now only about £350.00 down. Plus I suppose she has lost the rented flat she had and her part-time job. But she is safe, well and happy and that is the main thing!

Ella's job will finish at Christmas and that feels like the end of an era in some ways. I think if the Big Boss Lady could have hung on just a while longer the current upturn in the economy might have meant that shedding staff wasn't needed. I guess we will never know. I'm making preliminary moves towards starting a PGCE in September 2014, so watch this space.

Nicola and Alice are well. I don't think of them as babies anymore of course. They are little girls now and will break some hearts one day. They are both walking well and are a pleasure, most of the time, to have around. Childcare provision is so expensive that Ella stopping work (and so being able to look after both of them full time) hardly makes any difference to the finances of the six of us. And that is just stupid!

There is a puzzle that I hope you can help with. The number of people on our contact list isn't the same as the number of names we have just published as transferring to our blog. There must be people who used to receive the emailed version whose name doesn't appear. Please check and get back to me.

Didi wrote this very recently and I think it is worth repeating - "Yesterday I was with Eve and Ella and we three girls had a interesting/worrying/surprising morning out and about while Chris and Mark looked after the babies. Curiously we three girls went to watch a football game in the park. But not any old football game and not any old park. For years the current and former residents of the Children's Home have been meeting up for a game of football in the local park and we thought we would check out "the action". It was quite intimidating walking across to the group of about twenty (14 to 18 year olds) who were radiating alienation and aggression. There was a slight thawing of the tension when we explained who we were but the lads (perhaps 12 of the 20) didn't want to talk and basically ignored us throughout.

The girls were a mixture of Children's Home and fostered kids. Real hard cases (except for a couple) and on average much more confrontational than Eve, Ella and I had ever been at their age. Totally non-engaged with main stream society. They didn't appear to value education or employment and had nil interest in any support mechanisms outside their close friends. We didn't even bother suggesting that they subscribe to the monthly newsletter that Eve and Ella write - to be brutal I don't think any of us wanted them as part of our group.

We didn't stay long because we didn't feel welcome or even particularly safe so after about 30 minutes we wondered off. We went to the local café and after a few minutes two of the girls (16? years old) from the park came in. They were both in foster care. On their own they were quite civilised - but it was so sad talking to them. Friendless, ambitionless and almost moneyless they hang around with low life (their own words) because they have "nowhere else to go"! I'm shocked at how any child in what is supposed to be a civilised society can be reduced to the sadness that these two were feeling.."
If you want to have a good cry watch this foster care documentary! By the time foster child, Lydia Joyner, was 18 years old, she had lived in 35 different homes, had 18 social workers, and had her name changed 4 times. In this emotional episode of Epiphany, Lydia, now an adult, opens up about her traumatic experience navigating the foster care system.

It is hard to know what to say about  except to say that activity levels continue to decline and that the re-launch didn't seem to achieved much. It is a shame because the two people in charge (Honey and Pixxie) were very friendly and supportive towards Ella and I for the whole time (3 years) we posted to their group.
Hello and welcome to some new members:
OldTimer - a foster child from many years ago and a guest blogger here.
BirdWatcher - a former foster child currently living in Wem in Shropshire.
CallMeSam - a Children's Home survivor who lives in Barry in south Wales.
Pakman and DonkeyKong - who are the two fostered girls mentioned in Didi's message!

Love to everybody

Eve and Ella XXX


Roll of honour - November 2013

This is a list of all the members who transferred from the email version of the support group to the blog based version. As new members (hopefully!) join us they will be added to this list with an updated version published every six months.

- 0 -

38DD - she is working in a hotel in Blackpool and we speak every few weeks. She co-ordinates all our northern members. We last saw her this summer at the Birmingham Mega Meeting

Abigail - timed out of foster care, very nastily. She emails monthly and is still working in Montgomery as an assistant manager in a shop.
Airhead – lives in supported lodgings in Church Stretton. She is a 6th form student.

AliceN - she still lives and works in Children's Home Ville. She maintains the photo archive and stays in regular touch with us.
Angel – lives in Children's Home Ville and is a part-time care worker. She came to the Christmas event in 2012.

AngieD - subscriber number 4. She still lives in Children's Home Ville and came to the Christmas event in 2012. She describes herself as a minimum wage slave in the retail sector. For somebody we have known so long we don’t seem to see her very often.
BelleS - lives in Children's Home Ville and is currently unemployed. We beeped our car horn and waved like total nutters at her just last month.

Big Al - living in Children's Home Ville. We have seen him face-2-face a few times this year and he has lost nearly all the 30 lbs he was told to lose. Well done!
Boy Who Will Not Be Named - he has just moved from Watford to Merseyside.

BTOverdrive - joined via a school reunion - now in South Africa working as a nanny. Emailed us in June and again in early August.
Carly – lives in Children's Home Ville and works in a garden centre.

Carmen – We used to drink in her pub – strictly against the rules! She then went back to Ullapool but got back in touch this year.
CeriP - we were at school with her, in the same tutor group. We see her at school reunions.

Cert In A Skirt - we speak about once a month.
Charlotte - works for a Blackpool catering company and flats shares with 38DD. Long-term foster parents live locally. 

Crystal - a mature student living in London
Commune1+2 - they are now both living in Church Stretton and are doing assorted part time jobs.

DawnP – After a spell living in France she returned to Blackpool earlier this year.

Didi - now down in Gloucester and we speak at least weekly. Her Dad died in November 2012 while in prison.

DiFromLeeds – phoned us to say that she has moved to Preston. She is working for an employment agency in the town centre.

DWM - now in Stirling (was in Mull). Doing grounds maintenance. Last contact was in October.

Dublin - working in Scotland for a tour firm. We hear from him a few times a year.

Emma - Works in a school (LSA). 

EmmaR - In Halifax (Nova Scotia) working for a tour company. October 2013 message was the last contact.

Eve and Ella - founders. Newish parents and talk to each other daily!!

Fergie Sings The Blues, lives in Children's Home Ville, working for an undertaker.

Frankie - a failed adoptee. Rare emails, usually at Christmas or New Year. Handwritten note in May was the last contact.

GoodieTwoShoes - recently graduated, we spoke via Facebook in October.

GraceT - Foster child and former drama student and now employed in patient therapy in a hospital. She drops in to sees Didi once in a while who forwards messages both ways.

HannahB - Works for Social Services. 

HelenaP - Works in the local stables.

HelenW - Has an adopted sister and lives 1 mile from us and shops in the same supermarket. We last saw her about 2 hours ago.

IrishRoss - He has rejoined his long-term girlfriend (Lisa?) according to his latest call.

Itscharr - A young blogger. Seems to have slipped through the net since I cannot recall hearing from her for ages. I will chase her up!

JanineM – Is working in a supermarket in Slough but is hoping to move to Swindon according to her latest message.

JoinedUpWriting - fostered in Port Elizabeth in South Africa, now a nanny. Only reliable contact is via BTOverdrive's regular emails

KittyB - joined via Mark's mum. Long-term foster parent, stays in touch via her.

LittleTim - joined via Eve and Ella. Still in Children's Home Ville. Barman in a pub we visit sometimes. We saw him last month.

LuluBigTits - still working with her Dad in Birmingham. Long, long letters most months

MadLad - still in Children's Home Ville – the star turn at a famous party and he also came to the Christmas 2012 event.

MadMax - Never says where he is or what he is doing in his rare emails

Magda - lives with Didi and we exchange emails every 2/3 weeks

MarkW - Still in Essex according to his twice yearly postcard.

Matt - a particularly sensible grown-up from the Manchester area. Irregular email contact.

MissPeanut - still in Hull. Having Birth Parent issues like others of us. She wrote to us quite recently.

N's Family - Nicola's last foster parents. Annual letter but they are a very special case.

Natasha – She is working with old people with dementia in Hertfordshire. It was lovely to get back in touch after so long!

Nightjar - a fairly newish Mum. We saw her very recently following her escape from the Jesus Army. She is now living in the Cleobury Mortimer area.

Nightsky - another grown up and the publisher of our book. We email weekly and have met up a few times.

Northpier2 - We know she recently got engaged but none of the exciting details.

Oldfashioned - fostered kids and all sorts more. Writes (by hand) quarterly.

Old Timer – a former foster child from many years ago and a guest blogger here.
OliverR – still working in Scotland and is seeing Carmen regularly.

PaulE - living in Barry with his foster sister. A foster child with a degree and so he is mega rare. Emailed us a while ago.

Perkie - a newish young Mum. We text both ways about monthly

Peter From Upstairs, lives in Children's Home Ville, works in a hardware shop. We saw him at Christmas 2012 and again in the middle of October.

Pinky - from Acton in West London. She emails us from the local library every few months

PixieandDixie - still engaged and now living and working in Malta. We were in contact quite recently.

QueenoftheWorld - still in Children's Home Ville – came to see us at Christmas.

Red Rose, lives in Children's Home Ville, works in bar/restaurant. Swapped a double time shift to come to us over Christmas.

ReigningMonach – a short message, a long message then silence but then got back in touch. A foster parent.

Seb - An office worker in an FE college. He spoke to Ella the Sunday before she and I went back to work.

SimpleNotSimon - joined via Commune1+2 and all contact is via them

Smartypants - still in Children's Home Ville - last contact in the summer.

TeachersPet - no longer teaching in our old school. She has a promoted post about 10 miles north.

TigerTim – Doing office cleaning in Cardiff. Last contact was in the summer.

TigerNotTim - still in Children's Home Ville – came to the Christmas Bash 2012.

Tom H, lives in Children's Home Ville, works in a garden centre. He was at the Christmas 2012 event.

Tom T, lives in Children's Home Ville, works in a petrol station. He was at the Christmas 2012 event.

Twinkle, lives in Children'’ Home Ville, currently unemployed. . She was at the Christmas 2012 event.

WendysPal - Joined via the late Wendy N (RIP) - in and out of the "black economy" in London.

Wobbly - works with 38DD in a hotel. So many funny stories about foster care! She phoned from the recent Blackpool meeting.

YaleLock - Connected somehow to Commune1 (half sibling?) We had a Christmas card from her this year. She is well but between partners.

Zulu - seen at the Christmas Bash 2012 and again when he helped Ella with her disgusting Birth Father.

Would you like to be a guest blogger?

Would you like to be a guest blogger?

If you were adopted or fostered or spend time in a Children's Home Ella and I would like to publish your story. All you need to do is to email us the address below and we can take it from there.

Most of our readers will be able to relate to any highs or lows you have experienced so there is no need for you to fell shy about anything you want to say.

Old Timer - a guest blogger. Part 5

I expect that the youngsters on this group want to know how I got on. But a Gentleman doesn't discuss that sort of thing does he?

Actually I had a lovely time. For the first time since Jane died I managed to feel happy. Jane wouldn't have wanted me to mope around like a naughty child but that is quite close to what I've been done these last couple of years. I went over to Wales on Saturday and came back yesterday. Rosemary has a 5 guest room Bed and Breakfast which she keeps immaculate. You have to do that to keep the Tourist Board rating. We did all the things that tourists do except I gave having a paddle a miss as it was rather cold.

Rosemary should have gone to university. She is clever and can do things like general knowledge crosswords really quickly. But like so many foster children she didn't have the money or the support to follow her dreams and so she ended up working in catering and hospitality. She did quite a lot of moving around but still thinks of Hertfordshire as her home. She has kept in touch with three friends from her school days at the Girls High School in St Albans. All four of them are either divorced or widowed which seems sad.

Rosemary's Mum died many years ago from anorexia nervosa (before I knew Rosemary) and her Dad worked on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and then in the North Sea. He wasn't able to look after her which is why she got fostered. She hasn't heard from him for over 25 years but knows where he lives and that he remarried. It is hard to hide with so much information on Facebook and other silliness like that. It is strange that my mother and her mother both had eating disorders!

Old Timer - a guest blogger. Part 3

I am glad I found this group. The youngsters here have made me realise how much time I’ve wasted thinking and wishing rather saying and doing.

At school there has been a vacancy for staff governor for ages. Well that is me now and my first meeting is next week. I’ve also been sorting out lots of my stamp collection so that I can give a display at the local club (with others of course) in December. I’m looking forward to doing that.

I’ve had a man round to tidy up the garden to keep the neighbours happy. Jane used to do the gardening and when she died I didn’t seem to have the energy to bother with it much. She would be cross at how bad it had got.

Jane died in 2009, well this week I finally got round to giving most of her clothes to a charity shop. I’m pleased that somebody else will get some use of out them as she had quite a sense of style, unlike me. I don’t go to the cemetery where she was buried for ages but I went last Sunday to check everything was tidy. It was.

But the most important thing is that I am going over to Wales to see Rosemary at half term. She was fostered like me and was my first proper girl friend many, many years ago in St Albans. She runs a Bed and Breakfast but isn’t too busy at this time of year. Although we have spoken on the phone this will be the first time we have met for about 40 years.

Old Timer - a guest blogger. Part 4

I always have thought that Jane and I died the wrong way round. It would have been much better if I had died first. Jane would have had her family to support her and was she much better a running the house than I have ever been. But you cannot change things like that can you?

So many groups for widows and widowers are 95%+ widows and I reckon that we men need more practical help than the ladies do.

I had my first school governors meeting last night. I didn't know that money controls almost everything the school does. Education and the students don't matter nearly as much as a balanced budget. But it was nice to feel that now I'm not just a nameless employee. The Vice-Chair goes to the same stamp club as me so it was a shock when I recognised him.

After a long hunt I found a letter that my school sent me over 40 years ago pretending to be sorry that I wasn't going into the sixth form. I wasn't allowed to go because the sixth form had a different uniform and I didn't have the money to buy it. No uniform meant you couldn't go. My foster parents wouldn't pay, the Council said it wasn't their responsibility and the school said "no exceptions can be made". I hope things have improved since then!

I'm getting impatient waiting for half term and my visit to Wales to see Rosemary.

Didi - a guest blogger. Part 3

The extended Blackpool course was excellent but astonishingly hard work so I will have to have a bit of a rest when I go back to work tomorrow. I took the opportunity to visit lots of old friends (many fostered or adopted) so the days and the evenings were very, very full!

One thing I thought I might share is that not one of the former foster children feels that they have the slightest chance of ever owning a home. And I think this is so sad! The reason isn't hard to find. Basically no "Bank of Mum and Dad" to help out with the deposit combined with the perpetual problem of foster kids timing out of care at a crucial time in their education. But the good news is that many/most of the people I ate/drank/partied with are in happy and long-term relationships and there isn't nearly as much loneliness as you might expect.

Ella is being made redundant in January. The Big Boss Lady is trying to save money and so is going to try to manage without a PA. Ella is going to look after Alice and Nicola so the vast sums that were previously were needed for childcare will not be needed so the financial impact isn't too serious. I spoke to her this week and she is being as sensible as always about what has happened. Eve's job seems secure-ish.

Curiously I seem to have emerged undamaged from the trauma at the hotel. I seemed to have backed the correct side but also, to quote the report, "remained professional and client-centred throughout". And this is due to Magda and my foster parents who listened patiently to my rants about the former manager!!

Didi (06.10.13)

The new hotel manager started work this week and thanks to her proverbial new broom the changes have been coming thick and fast. She communicates with the staff so even if we don't agree with all she is doing at least we know why she is doing it. Just for starters I have been paid the wrong salary for 9 months. Once my probationary period as Assistant Manager was over I should have received a salary boost - well I didn't but now all the back pay should be included in my October salary. Lovely!

On the other hand my foster parents didn't qualify for the discount when staying at the hotel that would have applied had they been my biological parents. The new manager wouldn't say what rate would apply if I had been fostered! My foster parents were visiting old friends who live at Weston-Super-Mud as the locals call it.

I have had a lovely exchange of emails with the subscriber "Old Timer" who belongs to this group. A grown-up foster child is something that hasn't formed part of my support network until now but has proved useful to both of us. He seems to feel many of the emotions that we "youngsters" also feel but being older has far more "coping strategies" than we have. You can tell he is a Londoner as he knows quite a lot about where I was raised in the bad old days before I was rescued.

Memo to self - I must stop using social worker speak "support network" and "coping strategies" make me sound deranged!

Eve and Ella and their families are fine.

Didi (18.10.13)

This is the first Monday I have off in ages. The disaster that was supposed to be a storm didn't happen around here. It never got more than breezy and the rain never got heavy so it looks as if the Weather People got it wrong again!

Yesterday I was with Eve and Ella and we three girls had a interesting/worrying/surprising morning out and about while Chris and Mark looked after the babies. Curiously we three girls went to watch a football game in the park. But not any old football game and not any old park. For years the current and former residents of the Children's Home have been meeting up for a game of football in the local park and we thought we would check out "the action". It was quite intimidating walking across to the group of about twenty (14 to 18 year olds) who were radiating alienation and aggression. There was a slight thawing of the tension when we explained who we were but the lads (perhaps 12 of the 20) didn't want to talk and basically ignored us throughout.

The girls were a mixture of Children's Home and fostered kids. Real hard cases (except for a couple) and on average much more confrontational than Eve, Ella and I had ever been at their age. Totally non-engaged with main stream society. They didn't appear to value education or employment and had nil interest in any support mechanisms outside their close friends. We didn't even bother suggesting that they subscribe to the monthly newsletter that Eve and Ella write - to be brutal I don't think any of us wanted them as part of our group.

We didn't stay long because we didn't feel welcome or even particularly safe so after about 30 minutes we wondered off. We went to the local café and after a few minutes two of the girls (16? years old) from the park came in. They were both in foster care. On their own they were quite civilised - but it was so sad talking to them. Friendless, ambitionless and almost moneyless they hang around with low life (their own words) because they have "nowhere else to go"! I'm shocked at how any child in what is supposed to be a civilised society can be reduced to the sadness that these two were feeling..

Didi (28.11.13)

Kiwifruit - a guest blogger. Part 3

One of the extreme frustrations of unpicking the experiences of former foster children is hearing the same negative experiences repeated ad infinitum. Across the years and across much of the English speaking world the same sense of institutional indifference, the same finance driven systems, the same casual disregard for promises made to the young person are described again and again and again.

George Santayana was a philosopher and writer. Famously he said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is sometimes presented as, “Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.”

Surely by now those put in authority over us should have realised two things. Firstly that all former foster children need emotional and financial support for far longer than the current system allows and secondly that the continuing underachievement of former foster children betrays both them and society at large.

It must be absolutely infuriating for victims of injustice, indifference or institutional incompetence to hear people attempt to diminish what has happened to them on the basis of “things have improved now”. What make it even worse is that this regrettably tactic is one that I have seen used by experienced professionals and by long term foster carers time and time again.

Within this group we have all heard from young people who have had entirely positive experiences within the foster care system. Didi comes to mind as does AC/DC. I don’t think that it is just co-incidence that those with positive experiences are also those more comfortable about sharing their thoughts with readers.

But Eve – so forthright in many parts of her life – has revealed very little about her life in the fostering system. However it is blindingly obvious that she had an incredibly difficult time with multiple placements followed by exile to a Childrens’ Home. It is the same story with many of Eve and Ella’s friends. I know the two of them have tried hard to get their friends to post here with only the most marginal of success.

Perhaps their friends fear the, implicitly sceptical, response that seems to be the default position of so many in the sector?
October 2013

Old Timer - a guest blogger. Part 2

I reckon that I only went into foster care because of the 1939-1945 war even though I born about a decade later. My Dad's brother John and my Dad both served in the far east. Uncle John was killed just before the fall of Singapore and of course my Dad came back in a terrible physical and mental state. Parents today probably can hardly imagine what it is like to send their children off to war. I wondered sometimes would Uncle John have got married if he had come back safe? Perhaps he could have looked after me rather than the foster child system?

I never felt very sad about those foster child years. Even in the 1970s men didn't show much emotion and mostly I just got on with daily life. I used to visit my Mother in the hospital but she quickly got worse and quite soon hardly recognised me. I feel a bit guilty now but the weekly visits soon became monthly and once she didn't know who I was and didn't recognise photos of her own husband there didn't seem much point. It wasn't dementia she had it was something else with a long 3 part name that ended in syndrome. She would have been OK I expect if Dad had still been around so the war got in the way again.

I've had a problem all my adult life with showing emotion or even feeling emotions. When my wife died I was sorry of course but I was also pleased for her because she had had a bad last two years. She died at home which was good. She went off to bed a bit earlier than usual and just never woke up when the morning came. The doctor thought she died about 11PM so I was beside her when she passed on. 

I ended up working in a school by accident. The lecturer who taught me for most of my C&G courses also worked at a school and when there was a job going there he encouraged me to apply and then helped me prepare for the interview. Mr T was an all-around good bloke and had a big impact on how I became a man. He would be shocked if he ever found out that I saw him as a bit of a father figure to make up for the dad I never had!

Jane who became my wife worked at the school. I noticed her very soon after I started working there but it took me a while to ask her out. Looking back it is strange how things worked out. Jane came to St Albans to be with her boyfriend who had been transferred from Wolverhampton. He found somebody else but she didn’t want to tell her parents that she had been dumped so she stayed on in St Albans living in lodgings on Alma Cut. Then I ended up working in the same place as her just because I got fostered. 

One thing that I have found in school is that many younger teachers have no respect for the older ones. The youngsters talk about their bosses in front of technicians like me as if we are invisible so we get to hear their rudeness. I don’t bother saying anything to them but inside my head I remember what they say and it makes me feel quite cross. I expect they are rude about me behind my back because to some of them being old is the same as being useless. They seem to forget that they will be old one day.

On Friday I was doing some work in a tutor room and I heard the SENCO talking about all the children in the school who were fostered or adopted or living with relatives not parents. It was all quite upsetting for somebody like me to hear how little things have changed since I was at school.

But I have done two good things this week. I have rejoined the local stamp group. I left not long after my wife Jane died because I didn’t feel up to going to meetings but I turned up on Thursday and quite a few of my former friends are still around and still collecting so I had a good time.

I have also found my first proper girlfriend on the Internet. One of the ICT teachers helped me with some tips and because she had an unusual surname I was able to find her. She has her unmarried surname on her profile. She lives on the Welsh coast and we have swapped a few memories and I would like to drive over to see her at half term, if she is willing of course.

Didi - a guest blogger. Part 2

We have had some real drama in the hotel this week. The Manager has been suspended to allow an investigation into his Gross Misconduct to be looked into. He had an enormous row with the Bar Manager (#3 in the hierarchy) and ended up hitting him. He then pushed past the Head Receptionist (#4 in the hierarchy) so violently that he knocked her over so that she cut her head on the corner of a table. It was very dramatic – luckily I was in bed at the time and missed all the excitement.

AaBbCc has been back in touch. He said that seeing his post made him sound childish so he phoned up his former foster parents and they had a lovely long chat. He and his girlfriend are going to see his former foster parents this month.

I phoned Wobbly to extract some news from her. She is one of the group of former foster children we know who live in the Blackpool area. Wobbly has stayed in touch her last set of foster parents but as far as she knows most of the other foster children who overlapped with her are not in touch with the foster parents. And Wobbly isn’t in contact with any of these other foster children either.

She says, “Thinking about it is seems fairly gross to share a house with another foster child for several years and then have nothing more to do with them ever again!!”

Didi (05.09.13)

I don't expect the guests have worked out that the hotel is rather like a drum of gunpowder at the moment. It just needs one spark and boom! The Manager is still suspended and the HR people from Head Office are trying to work out what went wrong, whose fault it was, who is going to have to take the blame and what is going to happen to them. As always happens some people take sides based on facts, some take sides out of friendship or loyalty and a few decide who is going to "win" before making any decision as to which side they will support. So where do I stand in all this? Surprisingly rather better than I first thought I might. The Head of HR is unquestionably a lesbian (trust me I can tell!) and she is 100% OK about Magda sharing my flat. So there isn't any ammunition to be fired against me on that basis. The Relief Manager sung my praises to the investigators and this has helped counteract the suspended Manager bad-mouthing most of the rest of his team. I think whatever happens the suspended manager cannot come back here but since I am far too young and inexperienced to even consider the top job there is no promotion opportunity whatever happens.

My Foster Parents have been a great support to me during the last couple of weeks. I have been on the phone to them twice a day most days and I always feel better after talking to them.

I have also being bullying the "Blackpool sisterhood" to talk about their time as fostered children. I must be losing my scariness factor because I haven't heard much juicy gossip from any of them. I will have to sharpen my pointed stick before I go up there in October!

A couple of weeks ago AaBbCc wrote "I used to go back sometimes for meals but for some reason finding youngsters I didn’t know in my house and in my bedroom used to upset me. I felt like I had been replaced like parts of a car after an MOT test. So I stopped going round so often and then stopped totally. I never told them how I felt which was stupid. But I made lots of stupid decisions from 18 to 21, like joining and leaving the Navy. I live on a boat, have a decent job and have sorted my life out so I feel quite pleased." He has asked me to make clearer that he didn't blame his foster parents for doing "1 in and 1 out". It is just that being the 1 going out can seem like rejection.

Finally for this weeks exciting episode there is Eve's Mother. There is a disconnect (an HR word I heard this week, several times) between what she says, what she means and what she does. Eve is quite close to telling her to sod off - although sod wasn't exactly the word she whispered down the phone (one of the babies was in earshot methinks).

Didi (10.09.13)

Perhaps it isn’t just a coincidence that Old Timer (in a letter) and my fostered friends from Blackpool (in a phone call) all used the word “rootless” to describe how they feel.

I find that I have strong links to my friends but no sense of belonging to any of the many places I have lived. For reason that some of you know it would not be sensible for me to visit where I was brought up. The few school friends from those days that I have kept in touch with use an email address that only they know and use. None of them know where I live now or what I’m doing with my life.

But being rootless isn’t just geographical. Many of the fostered adults I know have few photos of their childhood and the few photos they do have sometimes have no indication of who is on the photo or where it was taken. I have exactly three photos of my BF, but none of his brother (my uncle) or his parents (my paternal grandparents).

Life at the hotel is not going smoothly. Nobody ever comes out well of these sorts of gross-misconduct employment issues. For example I found that I was supposed to have an annual appraisal but the (former) Hotel Manager didn’t do it. I was also supposed to have some Professional Development Opportunities every year and these didn’t happen either. He never forwarded my requests to go on courses to Head Office and he would tell me that they had said no when the truth was that they had never even been asked.

The good news is that I will be able to go on a course very soon and of all the places in the world it might have been it is going to be at Blackpool and the Fylde College. Brilliant!

Didi (17.09.13)

Kiwifruit - a guest blogger. Part 2

This next section is complicated by the fact that the behaviour identified as being intensely annoying to the young people not only involves something that I have done myself, many times, but also something that I have seen done by other regular posters to other groups.

If a young person describes a stressful, or worse still an actively unpleasant situation, from their past life do you ever find yourself saying some variation on, “Of course that wouldn’t happen like that now” or “Standards of training have greatly improved since that happened to you”.

The fact is that it did happen and any targeted support we offer now needs to address the problem and the situation as it was at the time. Lightly dismissing it on the grounds that it wouldn’t happen now effectively dismisses the young person’s trauma as irrelevant to their here and now.

What seems like years ago Eve and Ella attended a conference with me. I vividly remember them describing how the support they received post-18 was compromised by what they saw as the anti-lesbian viewpoint of one of the social workers assigned to help them. I blush with embarrassment when I remember reassuring them that it would not happen that way in, for the sake of argument, 2010!

It is painfully easy for practitioners to assume that all the checks and balances that should have existed actually existed. This seems to be in contrast to our own lives where we know, sometimes from bitter experience, how easily and quickly finance constraints can cancel out any number of previous promises. Telling somebody that in the past a Council acted in breach of their statutory duty might be a valid first step. Where is becomes highly unhelpful is when that first step is where our support for the young person ends.

One thing that struck me during the interview process was the extreme ordinariness of my former foster children. I don’t mean this in any disparaging way of course. What I mean is that unless you knew in advance that many of them had suffered abuse or neglect I don’t believe that most lay-people would pick up on it.

What isn’t clear to me is the extent to which the young person can hide any historical damage throughout their short, medium or long term social relationships. Was I seeing few, if any, signs of damage because they had been overcome or was I not seeing the signs because the interviewee had become expert at hiding them?

What I did notice that none of people I spoke to had entered the professions such as the law, medicine or teaching and that the percentage who had continued their education post-18 was insignificant. Three of them had some tertiary education but in every case this had been undertaken on a part time basis when they were in their 20s. To me this strongly suggests the almost total failure of the measures intended at the time to improve the life-chances of care leavers now in their 20s, 30s and 40s by facilitating their entry into Higher Education. Hopefully this dire situation has now improved with the introduction of targeted money – the pupil premium – into all UK schools.

As an aside. It has been mentioned elsewhere that many foster children and children raised in Care Homes have very little enthusiasm or interest in family history. I can confirm this. Sharing photos of the times we shared when we were both much younger was never greeted with the stream of reminiscences that I had hoped to hear.
August 2012

Old Timer - a guest blogger. Part 1

I'm nearly 60, male, a former foster child and a widower. I have been a very long term (years) visitor to another similar forum but never felt happy about posting there and I never did. There was sometimes too much negativity and cynicism for my taste. 
I was fostered during the 1960s and 1970s. It was a different world then but some things never change. All the people involved are long since dead although the middle of St Albans hasn't changed that much. I lived near the Abbey Station (the Watford line station) not far from the cathedral. I was a foster child from 14 to 16 when I left after my O levels. I passed 5 but wasn't allowed to go into the school sixth form and anyway I couldn't afford it. In those days it wasn't hard finding work at 16 and I worked for a small engineering firm down one of the alleyways off the main shopping street. I didn't expect any support once I left the foster home and I didn't get any. They did it for the money as Mrs X was a bit disabled. I do wonder about what if this or what if that sometimes but not often because it was just the way things were. Some kids like me went to the National Children's Home in Harpenden, the next station north, but fostering was supposed to be better than going there.
My Father had served in India and Burma during WW2 and when he came back to England he was in poor health. Physically he had suffered a lot fighting the Japs and mentally he never seemed to recover from the dreadful things he saw when he was out there. I don't remember him at all as I was only 3 when he died. There is a photograph of him holding me as a baby and you would swear he was mid 50s rather than mid 30s.

My Mother coped well for a while. But in the end her assorted eating disorders meant she went into one of the many large mental hospitals near St Albans. So I went into the fostering system.
There was a another family who fostered next door to where I ended up. Rosemary was their foster child and she was my first teen crush. She then moved to a more permanent place up on King Harry Lane and I only saw her again by accident. The last time by the Old Clock Tower in about 1973/4. I wonder what happened to her, she would be about 60 now?
My foster parents never hit or abused me. They never starved me or stole from me. The house was warm and I had a room of my own. But they never showed any love for me or any interest in me. As I said earlier that was just the way it was back then.

When I left foster care I was told that lodgings had been found for me with a Mrs H. She lived where the Maltings Development is now right is the centre of town and only 3 minutes from my job. Mrs H was quite old, but she was lovely. She looked after me like a Mother would and I was very happy there. I stayed there until after I got engaged to Jane my late wife. You didn't usually live together until after you were married in those days but Mrs H didn't say anything when Jane sometimes stayed overnight.

I only saw my foster parents a few times after I moved out. My O level results were sent on a postcard to their address (no going into school to collect results in the 1970s) so I went down to collect them. Grades went from 1 to 9 with 1 to 6 counting as a pass. I got 1s in Maths, Physics and Chemistry - a grade 2 in art and a grade 3 in English. I was pleased with 5 passes and later on I used the results to get onto FE college evening classes. Lots of people did evening classes and I made some more friends there. We used to go as a group to watch the professional football in Luton or in Watford, travelling there on the train.

It is strange that so few books have been written about the 1970s. It was an exciting time to live through and in some ways much better than now. No computers in schools and just a few in the college. Nobody used mobile phones and there was no internet or email. Social Workers were always moaning about case loads and always tried to look trendy. They never did much for me!
I did some City and Guild qualifications at the college in St Albans and ended up as a technician at a school helping in what they call Design Technology now. I met my wife there, she worked in the canteen. We got married in 1978 and moved to the western side of Wolverhampton to be closer to her family. We were not able to have children but we were happy enough. We both worked until she was diagnosed with heart disease in 2007. She died in 2009. I now work alternate 2 and 3 days a week still in a school as a technician doing a job share. Because I don't have family of my own and because we didn't have any children of our own I'm rather alone so working with the young people is nice. I don't look forward to the school holidays but I bet the youngsters do.

I have spend ages looking for other fostered adults but either they don't exist or don't want to admit it because I hardly ever find one to talk to. I swapped letters and then emails with one former foster child for ages (over 30 years) but he died in 2011. It is nice to reread all the things we wrote sometimes. 
I counted up all the letters and emails Mike sent me and it came to nearly 900. I met Mike at a school reunion, he happened to hear me mention that I had been fostered and we got talking because he had been fostered like me. He had lived with a foster family near the Ancient Briton pub but as he was in the year above me I didn't know him before that day. He was a good pal to me and I hope I was a good pal to him. He never married but he certainly had lots of lady friends in the different places he worked. When I first knew him he was working in Watford, then it was Taunton, then Hull and finally Chester.
When he realised he was really ill he got somebody to photocopy all the letters I had ever sent him. He then sent them to me as a surprise birthday present. So then I did the same thing for him and I think he managed to read most of what I sent him before he died from liver problems. This was a shock because he had been given 1 to 2 years by the doctors but only lasted 9 weeks. I have just reread all the letters I sent him and although some of them are fairly boring lots still make me laugh and a very few make me quite sad even after so many years. He helped me sort out Jane's funeral and that was typical of the man he was. I think he deserved better than he got from his life. Hardly anybody made the effort to go his funeral, I think it was less than ten of us there.