Thursday, 17 September 2015

Random thoughts on a "Care Kids" newsletter

Back in October 2009 Ella and I started an email newsletter that went out to 16 people. Almost all the subscribers were friends of ours from the Children's Home where we had lived from the start of year 10 at school until we "timed out" at 18.

Right from the start we sent it out by blind copy. This meant that nobody was able to see who else was receiving the newsletter and, more important, all contact details were kept confidential. Several of the readers had nasty people in their past who they never wanted to meet again so this seemed like a sensible precaution to take. All subscribers also decided to adopted a system of "user names" which they always used when contributing to the newsletter - this seemed to give everybody involved an extra sense of security.

The years went by and the number of subscribers gradually crept up to three figures. Most of these new readers found out about us by personal recommendation and were often already known to a reasonable number of the existing readers who would then vouch for them.

But by 2011 the system was beginning to creak mainly because Ella and I took something of a calculated risk by allowing people to be put on the mailing list purely on the basis of a single recommendation from a current member. With hindsight what happened was almost inevitable - we picked up a few trolls and a few religious fanatics.

In early 2014 Ella and I accepted that we couldn't continue acting as the editors of the newsletter but making the joint decision to step down wasn't easy. We shed lots of tears but in our hearts we knew what had to happen before things started to go wrong - which certainly would have happened if we had spread ourselves any thinner!

The roles of the editor
  1. Attracting new readers to replace those who resigned or who were expelled or who just drifted away. This was never easy because people who haven't been in a children's home or in foster care generally have little or no interest in people who were forced down this route. Even the specialist groups that exist to support foster carers usually have nothing on offer for former foster children and many groups are still reluctant to publicise our existence! When Didi and 38DD took over running the newsletter from Ella and I they worked really hard on this problem. Virtually all the new readers they have signed up are younger than Ella and I and this means that we sometimes feel that there is a gulf opening starting to open between the long term subscribers and these newcomers.
  2. Dealing with spies in the camp - Just occasionally there would be something about the initial email from a possible new subscriber that would set alarm bells ringing in my head. Most times it wouldn't be anything that I could put into words, more of a 6th sense that the writer perhaps wasn't all they claimed to be. Asking for more details would normally put my mind at rest but sometimes I was forced to decline an application without knowing for certain if that had been the correct thing to do.
  3. Accidentally giving too much away. It is surprisingly easy for people to give away too much personal information without realising it and it is part of the editor's role to make certain that this doesn't happen. Didi did a detailed case study on this and we were shocked when we realised that a determined "detective" could have worked out within a few streets exactly where Ella and I lived. It would have taken years rather than months and it would have required somebody to have access to all the old issues of the newsletter but it was certainly possible! 

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