Friday, 27 November 2015

War breaks out in the fostering world!

2016 Mega Meet Conference "Care Kids at 18+ - joining the wider world"

The two month canvassing and pre-voting period has begun and already people are getting upset, angry and hurt emails are being sent and the allegations are starting to fly!

If the Newcastle group can attract the most votes then the 2016 conference will take place there - and it is as simple as that. Ella and I cannot understand why such venom should be directed towards us from the members of the Newcastle Organising Committee (N.O.C.) for publically supporting the alternative South Wales "bid" - are we not entitled to have an opinion?

If two groups want to run the conference then I am pleased but I want whoever wins the nomination to do the whole job not just the easier parts of it. Everybody agrees that obtaining sponsorship is important and Ella and I worked hard to get £5,000 worth for the 2015 Conference in Birmingham. I don't think it is reasonable to say that we are "wilfully sabotaging" the Newcastle bid by stating that we will not accept the roles of "Sponsorship Co-Ordinators" for N.O.C.!

Some people seem to think that large numbers of people will automatically and unthinkingly vote the way that Ella and I say that we will be voting. I don't know why they think this is true. Yes, Ella and I will vote the same way and Didi would vote with us as we three would almost certainly be travelling together and that is it. 3 votes out of about 100 so hardly "a block vote"!

Both proposals have their strengths and weaknesses. And geography is the biggest weakness of the Newcastle bid. If you plot the locations of the entire electorate on a map nearly 70% of people are closer to S Wales than they are to Newcastle. And I would be surprised if the final vote differs very much from that. Basically I predict that the S Wales, London, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Birmingham sub-groups will all vote almost unanimously for the South Wales bid and the Blackpool and Lancashire group will be split fairly equally between the 2 venues. This already makes about 65%+ of all voters supporting South Wales and not likely to be persuadable no matter how good the Newcastle campaign is.

Ella and I were asked - "Do you ever think that there will be a Care Kids Conference in Newcastle?" - "Yes, but only after the more suitable venues have been exhausted! London, Blackpool, Leeds or Manchester all strike us as being "better" venues than Newcastle."

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Epic Fails and Epic Successes with Care Kids

Paul E was the editor of the 8 page email-based newsletter "Red Griffin" which was a magazine that was circulated to about 70 members of the current and former fostered and Children's Home kids in the Barry, Cadoxton, Penarth and Cardiff area of South Wales. Initially it received at least informal support from the "powers that be" but this support was withdrawn when it was decided that the magazine was both anarchic and subversive. So from issue #4 onwards it was produced entirely by the young people themselves. The circulation expanded from about 25 at issue #4 to around 70 at issue #16 which we believe was the last edition to be distributed. For sure #16 was the only issue that Ella and I ever saw and the editorial certainly read like a goodbye message.

For most of this time Paul E was the only editor with just occasional help from Tina. And this was the whole problem. It seems that Paul E had explained in issues #14 and #15 that he needed help if the magazine was to continue and when nobody volunteered that was it - gone! People that have never been involved in the production of a newsletter cannot begin to appreciate the work involved. Basically the newsletter is on your mind at least part of almost every day and while it is lovely that people appreciate what you have written offers of help are what you really need!

But despite this disappointment Paul E didn't lose his enthusiasm and he kept running the "Barry Boxing Day Bash". It hasn't always been held in Barry, although it usually has been and it hasn't always been held on Boxing Day, although again it usually has been. Didi has attended at least twice and she hopes to go again this year (2015) presumably with MagdaElla and I have never been to BBDB for exactly the same reason that Paul E has never attended our Christmas Open House - the two events are too close together. The BBDB has always been both successful and well-organised and those who attend always seem to enjoy it.

Didi has a very high opinion of Paul E, calling him the "Eve and Ella of South Wales"! So it is surprising that we have so little contact with him. We have met him only twice, once at his house (we got lost and so we arrived 15 minutes late) and once at a motorway service station (the traffic was heavy and we arrived late, again).

There have been other short-lived attempts to start (the easy bit) and then keep writing (the hard bit) newsletters for Care Kids. We know of "Between The Piers" that ran for about six months and eight issues in the Blackpool/Preston area and "Care Activists" that circulated in the Newcastle area. Both ran out of energy and enthusiasm.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Blackpool Pub-Meet for Care Kids

Blackpool depends heavily on tourism and conferences to support the local economy. This means that Blackpool has large numbers of hotels and guest houses all competing for employees. Many former foster children seem to end up in this sector - probably because many of the larger employers offer a room as part of the employment package. This gives the young person a base and the opportunity to work and job hunt at the same time.

Staff turnover is very rapid. Didi can remember so many youngsters who arrived in Blackpool who didn't make it past the first month. Overseas students were the worst for this. They would arrive with inadequate spoken English and make zero effort to improve and you would see them wondering around on their own during their time off duty looking unhappy or puzzled or both.

The regular social gatherings that took place were a lifeline to many young people living away from home for the first time. It wasn't just the meetings it was also the gradual putting together of a social network of familiar names and faces that was important. Some gatherings seem to specialise in overseas workers, some seem to attract the sporting element (mainly lads) and the Blackpool Pub-Meet has been a regular feature of the Care-Kids scene in Blackpool for the last 4 years. November 2015 will be the 50th such gathering!

The exact origins of the meeting have been rather lost in the "mists of time" although rather surprisingly the attendance sheets for every meeting have survived intact. The first meeting had just 7 people present of whom only 3 went on to became regular members - these were Didi, Charlotte and 38DD. Two other girls lasted for a few months before their circumstances changed and they, separately, left the area and the last two, both lads, only attended three meetings between them.

For the first couple of years the attendance varied between 7 and 17. There was a small group who almost always would turn up, a rather larger "sometimes attend" group and a whole mass of people who would only come once or twice before they would disappear never to be seen or heard from again.

We have made a lot of friends through the Blackpool Pub-meet. In no particular order there is -
  1. Charlotte - Her long-term foster parents live just down the coast and she sees them for Sunday lunch about once a month. She works for a catering company and shares a flat with 38DD.
  2. Dawn P who was adopted after being orphaned. She had a horrid falling out with them in 2009 and her only regular contact with them is a letter at Christmas.
  3. Di from Leeds - she now lives in Preston but decided to keep the same user name. She has been a monthly email correspondent with Ella and I for several years and we speak on the phone every few months.
  4. 38DD is a combination of a saint and a star. Within a week of moving to Blackpool she had three jobs and when most people would have grumbled like mad about living in a caravan until the worker she was replacing worked out his notice she just got on with it. Eventually she found a flat to share with Charlotte and they have shared amicably ever since. 38DD always phones us at the same time, 10:30AM on a Sunday, so if the phone rings then we always know who is calling us.
  5. Northpier1 is something of a “man of mystery”. Didi first met him when she was on a course at the Blackpool and the Fylde College. He seems to have spells of looking affluent with a decent car and smart clothes and spells of riding a bike to work looking distinctly the worse for wear. He claims to have spent two years (15 to 17) in a Children’s Home and there is nothing to suggest that this isn’t true. When Didi and 38DD visited him, unexpectedly, at his bed-sit there were zero family photos on show and this is fairly typical of a young person from the background he claimed to have had.
  6. Northpier2 and Didi met not long after Didi arrived at the seaside. Like Didi she had been fostered so they had lots of things in common. At that stage Northpier2 was working just along the prom from Didi and they used to meet up most days. In June 2011 she moved to a job well south of the south pier rather than north of the north pier so Didi didn't bump into her nearly so often. She then disappeared for a while before unexpectedly emailing Didi from a cyber cafe in Berlin to say she was coming home. 
  7. Spiders Web comes along to a few meetings - it seems to depend on where she is in the relationship cycle with whoever is her current boyfriend!
  8. Wobbly is a long-time friend and work colleague of 38DD. She has a background in finance – via her foster Dad. 
The attendance sheets are quite sad in a way. All those names and contact details of people that came into our lives for a short time and then left - who knows where? I expect that they are spread all over the world by now. 







Thursday, 5 November 2015

How to make friends and influence people - or not!

As regular as clockwork somebody somewhere will write a lengthy grumble about the way that the Former Care Kids community is organised. The moaners and groaners suggest that if only they were put in charge everything would suddenly be wonderful and that it is the hard-core that is blocking all progress. We get bored writing the same things again and again so the next time it happens please direct the guilty party to this blog entry where our position is explained.
You cannot get elected or appointed to be part of the hard-core of activists. You can only become hard-core when the large majority of the other members of the group regard you as such. This tends to require some combination of regional events successfully organised and/or attended plus the length of time people have known about you.

EVENTS ORGANISED - Ella and I would guess that for every event casually proposed about 5% actually happen. People that just attend these events probably never think about all the work involved in organising anything but the most informal and small-scale gathering. Any successful organiser absolutely deserves to be labelled hard-core and that, pretty much, seems to be what has happened.

TIME SERVED - One of the reasons that people will not regard you are hard-core until you have been around for at least a couple of years is the often told story of Mike S. For about three months Mike was one of the most prominent members of the Care Kids Community. He contributed articles to our newsletter, he organised a couple of informal pub-based meetings in Cardiff and in Penarth and he proposed, and also started organising, a proper conference to be held in the Welsh capital. He even attended one of the first "Boxing Day Bashes" and for many he was well on his way to being thought of as one of the hard-core. But then he discovered the wonderful world of a stable relationship with a long-term girlfriend and his involvement with the former "care kids" community gradually faded away. Ella and I haven't heard from him since before Alice and Nicola were born - so 3+ years - although Paul E still sometimes sees him at Barry Island.

HARD CORE DOESN'T EQUAL INNER CIRCLE - Quite often people moan that the hard-core are "just the same as Eve and Ella's inner circle of close friends". This is rubbish! People like Didi and AC/DC are close friends but nobody I know suggests that they are hard-core activists. Paul E is 100% certainly hard-core but we have met him exactly twice so he obviously isn't part of our inner friendship circle. The facts do not back up the allegations.

SO WHO ARE THE HARD CORE? - Five of us are generally accepted as being "Hard-core" activists:-
  • 38DD - Organiser of at least 6 Blackpool or Preston gatherings and has attended many other meetings around the country.
  • Lulu Big Tits - Organiser of Birmingham Mega Meet and the Birmingham Conference.
  • Paul E - Runs the Barry Boxing Day Bash and authored the Red Griffin Newsletter.
  • Eve and Ella - Organise the Christmas Open House and are long term bloggers and newsletter editors.