Saturday, 28 February 2015

And in the end it all comes down to money - or time!

Alice and Nicola (both aged 2) don't understand money. Lucky them!  Lying in bed earlier this week I was listening to the Chief Executive of a "well known" bank on Radio 4 who was attempting to justify his £11 million "annual remuneration" .

What came over really strongly was the way that he linked how much somebody was paid to how much they were "worth" to society in general and his company in particular. What he couldn't see was that it was highly paid bankers who had created many of the problems and that it was another group of highly paid bankers who were now being employed to sort out the corruption and incompetence of the first group.

In the past it was difficult for foster children - and almost impossible for kids like Ella and I from a Children's Home - to get to university. The major disruption created by timing out at 18 comes at such a critical time in the education race that getting the grades needed to go into higher education can feel like an un-climbable barrier!

But if you don't have a degree then almost all the well paid jobs remain out of reach and so according to "Mr Banker" it means that many foster kids are not worth much to society. Thanks for that!

On a much, much smaller scale I would like to have a little moan about the casual way some folks don't follow through with obligations that they have freely entered into. About once a week somebody at school will ask me to swap playground duties - "I will do yours next Monday if you can do mine today" - except about a third of the time when Monday comes round they seem to have some complicated reason why they cannot do their half of the swap!

Do they think the rest of us don't notice that it is the same names that come up again and again in the staff room for this "crime"?

Friday, 20 February 2015

Look how far we’ve come!

Sometimes I think that Ella and I have come such a long way since we left the Children's Home at 18 - in my case it was a 3 year battle against poverty to get a degree followed by marriage, parenthood and a job as a teacher. Some people might even call me an author now that "How I survived in and out of Care" has been published!

But some things - both happy and sad never seem to change.

The joy I feel when I go into the nursery each morning, the sound of Ella singing to herself as she cooks the breakfast, the gentle surprise shown by our husbands when the fridge hasn't mysteriously restocked itself with food or when I hear Nicola and Alice playing together in the lounge.

But sometimes, like happened this half-term week, I felt cross and sad when people who should have known better treated me like rubbish. I had been asked if I would go to a meeting in the next-door county to share my experiences of living in a Children's Home. It would have been about 90 miles there and back but the invitation didn't make any mention of paying my expenses. I phoned the organiser up but she was out of the office and her promised return call never happened.

So I phoned again the next day - exactly the same thing happened.

So I made one final attempt to get in touch, this time I was successful. I was then told that she had spent their entire allocated budget for speakers on somebody from OFSTED and that she was hoping that I would attend on a "voluntary basis". This was a seminar that people were paying to attend but also one where one speaker would get paid a fee plus expenses but the other speaker was to be taken for a total mug.

She really, really didn't couldn't understand why I was so cross!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Goodbye Marion - Rest in Peace

I got a nasty shock when I was reading through the latest copy of the Old Students' Newsletter. A girl who was the same course as me appeared in the obituary column!

Marion died in a horse riding accident in the summer of 2014. When she didn't return from her daily ride her family went looking for her, they quickly found her horse and then a few minutes later they found Marion's body. How dreadfully sad for them!

Marion and I were very different types of people. She drove a BMW (as a student) and lived her life in a social whirl. She had a wide circle of friends scattered around the country and most weekends she seemed to be going off to posh events. I had few friends (at least for the first two years) and even less money thanks to the Local Authority being so totally useless.

I don't remember working in the same group as her in the science practical sessions so I never really got to know her well. But I can remember feeling quite jealous of her life style. The only time I saw her shocked and disappointed was when the final degree results were published. She only got a Lower Second Class degree which, to my amusement, was a worse degree than I had managed to get.

The last time our paths crossed was the day before graduation day. She was in her car and I crossed the road on a zebra crossing on the university campus and so she had to stop to wait for me. I don't recall seeing anything else about her in the newsletter until this sad item.

Goodbye Marion - rest in peace.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Ella's turn for a change! Work Placements.

Eve decided that it was my turn to write something. So I will.

We have got a work experience youngster at the law practice. It reminded me of our days at the Children's Home. The kids like us always got the worst jobs. The smart kids from nice homes used to get all the decent placements, some of them even got paid.

I always wondered why the disadvantaged kids couldn't have the best placements. The rich kids had enough help already but no, people like Eve and I were always pushed to the back of the queue - unless we pushed back of course!

We usually got something dull like working in the school library. Or if you were really lucky you might be helping a science technician. But never any of the high status jobs of course. Every year it was the same. Rubbish placements, complaints from the kids, promises from the school or the social worker and then next year it all started over again.

I can remember having to write my CV for holiday jobs. It didn't matter what I wrote because once somebody saw where I lived they didn't want to know me. The only place that didn't seem to care was the FE college. There it was only "bums on seats" that mattered! It was easy to get on holiday courses along with loads of our friends. Some of the lecturers got a shock when they realised how many A grade GCSEs I had got and that people from the Home could read and write unaided. Can you remember me Mrs W, stuck up horror that you were!

Once Eve and I had left "care" at 18 we had council flats. That was a much better address to have if you wanted a job. Less stigma than being in a Children's Home. When Eve was away at university I managed to get some OK jobs plus some extra qualifications. Enough to make my way into something other than shelf-stacking.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A visit to Children's Home Ville

We don't visit our old haunts as often as we used to in our pre Nicola and Alice days. The era of spontaneity - as in driving over on a whim to see which of our friends we could find - has been consigned (reluctantly) to the past.

So todays trip was a particular pleasure. We started off at the Garden Centre (Carly and Tom H), got some petrol (Tom T), then a lunchtime snack (Belle S) followed by us looking for some shelf brackets (Peter From Upstairs). Finally we met up with Alice N and Red Rose in the bar where Red Rose works.

All these were pre-arranged. then we, with our fingers crossed, also called on Angie D but the shop was too busy for even a brief chat. It was the same with Fergie Sings The Blues, too many people have died in this long cold spell and Fergie was away on a "job".

All the news we gathered has been forwarded to Didi for inclusion in the next newsletter.

As always we stood together at the corner from where I can see my former flat in one direction and Ella's former flat in the other. It is our special place. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday when we left Care and were placed in these flats but it was a long-long time ago. Pre-university, pre-marriage and pre-parenthood!! If I close my eyes I can still almost see Ella waving to me from her front window as I plodded off towards school!



Not content with writing one book, now we have written a second one!

Baby Nicola’s Diary
The book is available through Amazon in the UK and the USA.

The original idea for “Baby Nicola’s Diary” came up at one of the regular meetings that Ella and I have with our Adult Mentor. He warned us that the first year of parenthood would flash past “in the blink of an eye” and that if we didn’t keep proper records we would soon forget some of this magical time.

The three of us agreed that the traditional baby book wasn’t what we wanted to create - after all Ella and I are not what most people would regard as traditional parents! We soon decided that the whole book should be written from the viewpoint of our babies rather than through the eyes of the grown-ups.

So Ella and I provided the raw material and the whimsical humour of our Adult Mentor then created the individual diary entries. Many of these make me laugh as much now as they did when I first read them.

“Just before we went home I saw a new animal I hadn't seen before close-up. It was called a rabbit and it was having a lie down in the road. It wasn't moving so perhaps it was having a little rest?”

This book would never have been completed without the whole-hearted support of our husbands. Nicola and Alice were so lucky to have such caring Daddies.

This book is dedicated to our two darling daughters. May all their years be as happy as their first!

How I survived in and out of care

The book is available through Amazon in the UK and the USA.

If you were fostered or if you spent time living in a Children’s Home you need to read this book. Many books have been written and many websites have been created that discuss fostering from the perspective of the foster parent. Virtually nothing, until now, has been written from the point of view of the child.

In the book Ella and I share a wide range of survival strategies that, quite literally, can make the difference between being happy or sad or between life and death.

If you are a prospective or current foster carer you also need to read the book. Your foster children are clients of an enormously expensive system yet virtually none of the “movers and shakers” seems to have any interest in their views or experiences.

You owe it to them and to yourself to have this knowledge because as you know – knowledge is power.