Thursday, 27 August 2015

Children in Care and their memory gaps

It was while she was pregnant that Ella started to get concerned about a small, highly specific, memory loss. In the end she went to the doctor with a list of questions.  

Is it normal to have gaps in your memory? The time from being taken away from Mr Nut Job to meeting Eve in the Home is very bitty in my head. Eve calls it a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing!
  1. I can remember being called out of a lesson. Being taken to the Head Teacher’s office then a long trip in the back of a car.
  2. I can remember a 100% gross examination and holding on to a lady's hand. Having hysterics! Lots of questions, some that I didn't understand.
  3. I can remember going to a strange house with lots of goldfish in a tank. Not wanting any food just a drink.
  4. I can remember just sitting on a bed in borrowed pyjamas (blue stripped). Not being able to find the toilet so I used the one downstairs.
  5. I can remember the top level of a multi-story car park with a glass lift. There was a lady with twins carrying green plastic bags to the car.
  6. I can remember arriving at the Home and seeing a squirrel in the garden. I didn't know what a Home was - nobody explained it to me.
  7. I can remember meeting Eve. She shared things with me and helped me fit in. She told me what boys to avoid!
  8. All the rest is missing except tiny little bits. Perhaps it is best I don't remember it all? But is doesn't seem to make much sense does it? Too much missing!
The doctor wasn’t much help so Ella just had to come live with the gaps!
Ella's memory gaps are genuine - she cannot recall things that certainly did happen. But I'm not convinced that all my memory gaps are as real as assorted social workers would have me believe. I have seen the minutes of various meetings - about failed placements and the like - where I was listed as being present but where I have zero recall of the contents ever being discussed in my presence. As ever I am more than a little suspicious of things social workers say, especially if blame is being shared out!










The doctor wasn’t much help so Ella just had to come live with the gaps.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Shaking hands with your daughter - gross!

In late 2010 I (Eve) made my first serious effort to re-establish contact with my Birth Father. It was never going to be easy and I don’t know, looking back, if was a sensible thing to have attempted.  After all the earlier meeting with my Birth Mother on her own hadn't gone particularly well!

Even after many years apart would you try to shake hands on meeting your own daughter – no I thought not. My Dad tried to though. My Mum had reminded me of me in some ways and Dad was clearly under her control. How he made the shed loads of money he clearly had made was a complete mystery and I could only think that he must be very different in the real world.

Throughout their married life when faced with a problem they just seem to have thrown money at it. Problems don’t seem to have an emotional component as far as they are concerned and when talking to me they really struggled to see the situation from my perspective. The sort of things they seemed to want to do was to “normalise the situation” (their exact words) is to include me in their Will and contribute to the cost of my house move. Nice practical things, no emotional component to confuse the issue.

Then I saw the two of them together. Mum has always claimed to all involved that she has been suffering from depression since she was a teenager and this was “the explanation, rather than the excuse” (her words again) for what happened in the past. I was not certain what Mum told me was entirely truthful. I was not even sure if she really knew or remembered the whole truth any more. Every now and again she would slip back into political mode (she was briefly a high-achiever in local politics) and she left me wondering if everything inside her head was entirely normal. I suspected not.

I ended up being quite happy to meet with them both from time to time and even to accept their money. They would need to accept that was unlikely that they will never be a major influence on me in the way that others were and I suspected (in 2010/2011) that this was going to be a problem moving forward.
And of course I was right! My Mother has never bonded with Alice (coming up 3) and she still seems to be in denial about historical facts. I tend to write to her rather than phone so there is always a record of what has been agreed - and if you think that is rather strange you would be right! 

Friday, 14 August 2015

20 blog reviews - is your blog included?

Premier League Blogs

I love this blog. I have wracked my brain to find a single caveat that I could use to create the impression of editorial balance but I have failed miserably.  

Every entry has got me thinking and many of them have made me re-assess where I stand on a whole range of issues. The number of blogs that have had this impact on me is exactly three – and this is one of them! 

Score 10/10

I love this blog so much. It is stuffed with good ideas and sheer common sense in a writing style that makes you feel that you are just chatting with a long-term friend in the pub or in the JCR. 

There are so many little gems to be found in this blog that I am in awe of the author. Yes, it really is that good!

Score 10/10

I’m in my 20s so I suppose it is almost inevitable that I am going to feel more empathy towards a blogger who has been round the block a few times than I would towards a 16 or 17 year old. 

Lengthy and thoughtful posts that will have an impact on Ella and I are something to treasure and I hope this blog will be around for years! 

Score 10/10 
I love therapeutic blogs. But of course I’m biased because I wrote a therapeutic blog/newsletter for several years. This guy is a writer, don’t have any doubt about this. I read his entire blog in a single session and that is almost unprecedented for me. 
OK so I’m a nosey girl but I would have liked to have known a bit more about what went wrong when he was at university. In my experience writing a “warts and all” blog is more helpful to the author than writing a sanitised version. 
Score 10/10 

Championship Blogs
I have to admit that I have met the author of this blog but only twice and only for a total of 1 hour. The blog started in July 2013 and there have been 75 entries since then so it scores highly on reliability. This is a niche blog, a blog that all of us hope that we would never need to read, but I think it is worth supporting nevertheless as it deals with coping with bereavement. 
The author is a post-graduate and in the nicest possible way you can tell she is because of the maturity of her writing. 
Score 9/10.

I suppose it is easy to enjoy a blog when you agree, strongly, with the view point of the blogger. But there is more to it than that. When a writer has style, when they can present a reasoned argument and when they know the basics of spelling, punctuation and grammar it easy to get engaged with what is on offer. 

The blog owner is somewhat older than most – and it shows. 

Score 9/10 

I am not particularly interested in sport – although my husband is – but I was very impressed by both the quality and quantity of material the blogger has created. 

There are so many shocking poor sporting blogs around that I would love this one to be a success just to show what is possible! 

Score 8/10 

Sometimes I find myself enjoying a blog without being able to put into words why the blog works for me. I suppose it is some combination of the content being of interest and the blogger appearing to be a reliable and sensible member of the human race. 

I like this blog and I intend to keep reading it because I’m finding material in almost every posting that will be of value to me. 

Score 8/10 

I enjoy blogs that cover the broad area of creative writing. I want this blog to succeed and to succeed it needs an active readership. I hope that this positive review will encourage the blogger to keep writing. 

Score 8/10


League 1,2 and 3 Blogs 

There is something mildly pretentious about many political blogs that does little to encourage me to become a regular subscriber. When the author writes like a stereotypical Telegraph reader then my enthusiasm drops still further. 

But that said this is rather better than many such blogs. The brief articles are well constructed and put a cogent case forward. Time will tell if the author will be around for a sustained period. Blog entries of this quality take lots of time to write and if circumstances change the blog can often be the first thing to go.

Score 7/10 

They say that it is a good idea to leave the reader wanting more but perhaps this blogger has taken this principle a bit too far. I really enjoyed what I read about finding the inspiration to write – I just would have liked to have read more.

This strikes me as a blog that might stand the test of time so if you see yourself as a author I suggest you add this blog to your reading list.

Score 7/10 

There are far too many university related blogs around and most that are started in the long summer before starting the course don’t make it to the first Christmas. 

But this blog is well above the standard fare offered by most similar blogs. A well written and thoughtful analysis about the academic treadmill suggests to me that this is a blogger who is well worth supporting. 

Score 6/10 

I am usually quite pessimistic about the survival chances of a blog that starts during that curious time between finishing school and starting at university. Once the excitement of “Week One” kicks in and the academic component of university life starts little time is left for blogging. 

That said I would like to see this blog succeed partly because the author writes rather better prose than many new bloggers and partly because I have often wondered what it would be like to study a foreign language at university.

Score 6/10


Minor League Blogs 

This blog is something of an enigma. I’m not clear what the blog is trying to achieve other than perhaps being a meeting place for like-minded writers. Something about it grates, perhaps it feels rather more pushy and commercial than most blogs? 

But if you are a creative writer this might just be what you have been looking for. 

Score 5/10 

I seem to have discovered this blog shortly after it was launched. The first blog entry seemed sensible and quite well-written so I suggest that people support this new blogger by reading and commenting on what is on offer.

That said it is easy to write high quality material once. The best bloggers and blogs tend to have been around for years rather than days so time will tell if this one is going to join the elite group.

Score 4/10 

I have two friends who have recently gone into nursing so I was rather predisposed to be interested in what this blogger was proposing to cover. It is still quite early days for this blog but if the enthusiasm can be maintained then I can see it filling a gap in the market.  

There is something about the current layout that doesn’t quite work. The overall impression looks somewhat messy but the factual content looks sound. 

Score 4/10 

Career related blogs have a ready-made audience and if they are well written and the blogger retains their enthusiasm the blog can run and run.  

The jury is still out on this particular blog simply because only time will tell if the work-load associated with becoming a doctor will allow the blog to keep on appearing. 

Score 4/10 

I don’t like religious blogs and I’m not particularly interested in either food or fashion so a blog that includes these three components has its work cut out to get a good score.

However the blog does have a certain sense of style and it might be that the blogger will attract enough readers to encourage them to continue with this writing project.

Score 3/10 

One man’s meat is another man’s poison. The blog looks good, well above average, but the content is a bit thin and is mainly in areas that don’t appeal to me. So it isn’t a blog that is likely to make it onto my “must read” list. 

Blogging is a fiercely competitive business with loads of me-too blogs around that are almost indistinguishable for hundreds of others. Somehow I don’t think this blog is going to be able to carve out an audience. 

Score 3/10 

Sometimes I get a feeling in my gut about a blogger and their blog. I just “know” that they are not going to be for the long haul partly because of their posting frequency and partly because of what they write and how they write it. 

This quasi-motivational blog fills me with horror but it might be just what another reader is looking for - although somehow I doubt it! 

Score 1/10




Just a girl I used to know - part 1 (we just drifted apart)

Like most people members of Ella's and my friendship group come and go. Some just gradually drift away without any fuss and it would only be when something made us think about them that we would realise that we had fallen out of contact. Most of the time we would then make an effort to get back in touch but this was seldom successful. Neither Ella or I were the type to chase frantically after former friends. It takes two to sustain a friendship and to keep on contacting somebody who clearly isn't interested rather feels like stalking!

Wendy W was a good example of a friend who drifted away. Ella and Wendy (raised from aged 15 by an older sibling) became quite close friends during the time I was away at university. They had several other friends in common and for about six months the two of them used to work in the same pub/restaurant at weekends.  They knew each other well enough to share lots of "girlie secrets" - things that they certainly wouldn't want to become widely known! But Ella was as ambitious as Wendy W was laid back and content to "go with the flow". So while Ella invested time and effort in finishing her A Levels (she had passed all her AS exams at the same time as me) Wendy W was content to be a party animal. Eventually Ella moved up the employment ladder and the overlap between her new circle of friends (mainly worked based) and Wendy W's circle of friends shrunk to almost nothing. And so the friendship ended: no drama, no falling out, more that the circumstances that created the friendship in the first place had changed and that there was nothing left to sustain it. Wendy is on Facebook so we know that she still lives in "Children's Home Ville" but neither Ella nor I has seen her in years. She is "just a girl I used to know." 

Another former friend that caused the two of us a lot of worry and sleepless nights was Nightjar. She went silent for so long that we unsubscribed this young mum from our newsletter. Previously she had been quite active in the group and she had recruited several new members. Nightjar used to live in the same small block of flats that Ella lived in when Ella and I left the Children’s Home.  We used to regard Nightjar as part of our “inner circle” of friends for the first couple of years we spent out in the big wide world but after 12 months of wondering where she and the baby were we had almost given up trying to get in touch. As we said at the time, “…. we will always think of her as a friend even if we never see her again.” We did eventually track her down and we lent her some money from the “Bank of Eve and Ella” to help her get back on her feet. We think she is still living in South Shropshire but we are not in contact. So she is just another girl I used to know.  

The third and final example is Janine M who was, to be charitable, somewhat strange. When we first met her she had just timed out from foster care. Her foster Dad had business contacts in Bristol and he pulled a few strings to get her an interview with an employment agency. For reasons only known to her Janine decided that Birmingham to Bristol was too far to drive in a day so she turned up unannounced at our house at about 9:30PM looking for somewhere to sleep. She slept on the airbed in the lounge and by 8AM she had breakfasted and departed for her 9:30AM interview. The next we heard was that she has started and then lost two jobs (one within a week of starting!) in Bristol and that she had then moved to Slough to work on a market stall owner by a friend. Not long afterward she wrote a chatty, friendly email that finished with a request to be unsubscribed from the newsletter! That was the last we ever heard from her.
Ella and I quite often wonder what happened to these, and to all the many other, "girls we used to know".



Friday, 7 August 2015

The problem that never seems to go away

It is quite hard when you feel that you have been seriously disadvantaged through no fault of your own only to discover that society at large really isn’t that bothered. 

Over the last few years I have met or exchanged emails with loads of current or former foster parents. Virtually all of them seem to do a superb job – sometimes under very difficult circumstances! But one strange thing I have noticed is that some members of even this highly motivated group don’t seem particularly “tuned in” to what I call the “supporting former foster children” problem.  

“NZ Brainbox” was an exception and Ella and I have treasured her friendship and wise counsel over several years.  NZ Brainbox moved in academic circles all her working life and she also acted as a foster parent in New Zealand for many years. She was one of the very few adults we have met who has given serious thought to what happens to foster children when they time out. 

“If there was a single factor, rather than my slightly chaotic personal life, which finally caused me to stop fostering older teens it was the sadness when they left me (and my DH as he then was). It didn't seem to matter if we parted on good, bad or middling terms it was always sad. Eventually the sadness just wore my emotional reserves away until I had no more to give and for my own health and well-being I had to stop.

Elsewhere in this forum I have seen mentions of the crucial need for a support network. This includes both the young person but also the fostering adults. The (former) foster children who did well were the ones who had sorted out job + money + friendships (platonic or lovers) before they left us ... not, not, not after!

I used to help them set up bank accounts and with some I used to put money, out of the family budget, into the account every month for the first year of 2. At least I knew they had some money for food and shelter.” 

She also said - “I don't regret having been a foster parent, nobody should ever think that I do. But I do still worry and wonder about the few young people who left us and never got back in touch. Working it out during the latest trip to NZ I think that there might be a few as three about who I know absolutely nothing. The most worrying being boy/girl siblings who promised to keep in touch but didn't. For some others the news is only second hand or very, very, limited but that is a great deal better than nothing.” 

In our recent book (how posh that sounds!) she commented - “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. First that all former foster children need emotional and financial support for far longer than the current system allows and second 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 Children’s 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 to the forum 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?