Friday, 31 July 2015

The most important letter I ever wrote.

Ella here - I though I would share this letter. I wrote it to my Birth Father after all attempts at a reconciliation had failed. (POSSIBLE TRIGGERS)

Jan 2011

Dear Dad

When I was young I lived in a happy, normal family. I felt safe, secure and loved by both of you.

When I reached puberty it all changed. You used to make up or exaggerate things I had done wrong and soon being stripped naked and beaten by you became part of a horrible routine of humiliation and pain. This went on for years, on until the PE teacher at school noticed how much weight I had lost.

Do you remember what happened next? The Police, social workers, me being taken to a place of safety, the gentle probing into blotted out events, solicitors, the allegations that everybody believed but could not prove. Surely Dad, you must remember!

Now I am living with people that love me. People who make me feel special. People who want the best for me, who would never hurt me. All those things I don’t think you can ever give me.

Too much has happened in our shared past that cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Too many tears, too much anger and hatred. For my sake and for the sake of my new family I want you to leave me alone. No letters, no phone calls, no visits. No nothing.

They say forever is a very long time. Perhaps some years from now we might be able to meet again but this must be initiated by me.

Your daughter


But 4 years later I have a loving husband. And I have Nicola (2). And I have Eve. But he is on the run from people who want to kneecap him.

So I guess I won after all! :)

Friday, 24 July 2015

Support for care leavers

Although the quality and quantity of blogs continues to improve on-line forums are still disappearing at a rapid rate. Yet only a couple of years ago forums were a key component of the support available for young adults leaving care. 

For several years Ella and I were active members of Adoption and Fostering in the UK forum (now, sadly and controversially, closed down) founded and run by “Honey”. We posted 850 times to the different sub groups – that is about 5 times a week for over 3 years – but Ella thought, and I agreed, that once Alice and Nicola had been born it was time for a break. 

As Ella said at the time - “It was when I was changing Nicola. I suddenly thought I’m a young mum now. Not something else from long ago.”  

In August 2013 we let the other members of the forum know about our plans, “Ella and I will be leaving this group, at least for a few months. We both now think of ourselves as “young mums” now rather than as “Children’s Home Survivors” and much of what we post, or would like to post, isn’t really appropriate for the forum. We will always be incredibly grateful for the support that we have been offered by you lot over the last 3 years and we hope that our nearly 850 posts have done something to keep the forum an active and interesting place to visit!” 

The first few weeks away were a bit difficult especially when most of our older posts were deleted without any warning within days of our departure but we were strong willed and stayed away!  There would have been a time when we would have thrown a real strop at the way “Honey” (the forum owner) behaved but having Nicola and Alice has changed how we look at the world. As part of the big picture – our lives plus those of all our friends – what happens on one small forum really isn’t that big a deal. 

In July 2014 the entire forum was suddenly shut down. I wasn’t entirely surprised because I was never convinced that the mass deletion of posts that had proceeded a, pretty much non-existent re-launch, was a sensible strategy. “Honey’s” absolute failure to acknowledge her responsibility for the decline of the group was another bad sign. From emails I received after the forum closed down I certainly wasn’t alone in my views. Closure was down to the co-moderators doing too little to see the forum through the quiet spells that such all groups experience. If a new subscriber posts to a forum nothing is worse than not receiving a reply. It creates a very negative impression of the group and few new members would bother to post a second time if their first effort was ignored. 

Jam Tart was a subscriber to “Honey’s” forum. His own parents had been long-term foster parents so he didn’t have many illusions about the realities of being a foster child. His daughter also used to stay in touch with us by email but neither of them subscribed to our newsletter. One time he posted something about us to the forum board. 

“When I arrived home from school yesterday I got a shock when I opened the front door. There were two unknown babies sitting in the hall and lots of female laughter coming from the lounge. It was Eve and Ella plus the babies Nicola and Alice who had come to visit my student daughter (E+E having also seen other friends in and around Montgomery and the England/Wales border). I was a pity that they had to set off home before my wife returned from Wolverhampton.

The babies are lovely but they call every man they see "Dad, Dad, Dad" which is enough to start wild rumours in rural Wales!”

Jam Tart was very kind and reassuring when we decided to leave the forum and his prediction about the future of the forum was absolutely accurate. Not long afterwards he was banned by “Honey” for daring to criticise her! 

For the avoidance of doubt – as my Head Teacher is fond of saying – I still admire and respect “Honey” for all the work she did in the fields of adoption and fostering. But the way she shut down the group rather than just passing it on to one of the people who offered to take over was selfish and mean.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Contact through the eyes of a teenager.

Ella and I thought we would write something a bit different about contact. Contact through the eyes of a teenager. 

Our friend Didi was the daughter of a drug-dealing rapist (now deceased) and a drug-dealing rape facilitator currently serving a long prison sentence. She went into foster care in her teens and stayed with the same family until she timed out at 18. She is in frequent and happy contact with them. But for her own safety she cannot have any face-to-face dealings with friends and other family members from her former life. Not now and probably not ever. She uses an email address that is not used for any other purpose to stay in touch with a few people, like her former class tutor from school, but she is very careful to never give any hint as to where she lives or works. She doesn’t seek nor would she accept contact with her BM.

Many young people who end up in the care system in their teens have been victims of neglect and /or abuse. In these days of social media it is easy enough for victims to track families down even if they have moved away but many of our friends show zero signs of wanting to do so! And why would they?   

But the need to have roots and a sense of belonging can sometimes become almost overwhelming and we have known people in their 20s who went to lots of time and trouble to track down their birth family. It seldom ends well. And we have a theory about this. 

Family abuse is most common from the BF (or the BMs boyfriend). Men don’t change their surnames when relationships break down and reform so it is easier to find male abusers even years later. An abusive man isn’t going to share his nasty secret with a second partner so the last thing he wants is his abused son or daughter coming back into his life.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

A two year campaign ends in victory!

Nicola was a friend of ours who died in hospital when Ella and I were in our late teens and like us she had been through the foster care and Children's Home system. Almost exactly two years a group of Nicola's friends decided that she deserved a "proper" gravestone rather than the temporary marker that had been placed by the cemetery staff after an earlier one had been damaged.

So for two years we have been collecting money to pay for customised stone to celebrate Nicola's short life. Yesterday (July 11th 2015) the project reached a happy conclusion when a group of people who loved and cared for Nicola gathered together to unveil what their money had paid for.

The chosen design is a black stone with gold lettering and with a picture of Nicola at the top. It particularly mentions that she was a former foster child because Nicola would have wanted that.

I was lovely that so many people bothered to attend. We managed to track some of her friends from the supermarket where she worked after "timing out" from foster care but the largest group were the Children's home survivors.

Lots of them wanted to share a special memory they had of Nicola and hearing all these people speak was a special part of the event. Ella and I decided to sing a part of Allegri's Miserere mei, Deus because Nicola and the two of us had practiced that piece so often when we were all in the school choir. This is a tricky piece not least because you have to be able to reach top C which by no means all singers can manage!

Nicola (Ella's) and Alice(mine) will soon be 3. I don't know how much they understand about death. We have told them that Nicola was a special friend of ours and that she is dead and can never come back. They know that not seeing Nicola anymore makes us feel sad and that when we are sad sometimes we cry. They certainly know that a cemetery is somewhere people go to remember and think about somebody who has died.

They wanted to be involved in what the grown-ups were doing so at the end the two of them sung their special song. I think Nicola and Alice singing "The wheels on the bus go round and round" was a lovely way to end a day that was both happy and sad!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Adult role models are in short supply

Those of you who are parents - how often do you offer emotional, financial or practical support to your children?

Those of you with regular contact with your birth-parents - how often do you receive emotional, financial or practical support from them?

If you are a former foster child - and even more so if you are a Children's Home survivor - life long adult role models ready, willing and able to offer help will be pretty much non existent.

When Ella and I sat down to think about what to write about for this week's blog entry we looked through our list of subscribers. By far the largest group are those who have little or no adults support in their lives. This means no "Bank of Mum and Dad", no weekly phone calls, no Grand Parents coming to visit. A lucky few maintained a close relationship with their former foster parents which is a great deal better than nothing but which doesn't approach the unconditional and never-ending love and concern that many birth parents offer their children. And then there were the handful who have been back in touch with birth parents. As Ella and I can promise you this seldom seems to end happily.

There are 4 so-called "grown-ups" living in our house. Between us we can muster - 2  birth parents who have vanished, 1 who finds any contact with her grand daughter to be "unendurable", 1 who considers a golf match more important than a pre-arranged trip to see his only child, 2 who now live overseas and two superstars.

Yet despite all this Ella and I have been lucky enough, via blind chance rather than skill on our part, also to have found a couple of 50+ year olds who have come to rescue more than once. I have said it before but a wide-ranging circle of friends is just so important.