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.

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