Friday, 23 December 2016



My first week in the Home. A medical is what the young nurse says. No choice. I can remember the nurse weighing me. Just a point on a chart. My point so low. 
“You must eat more” the nurse said – like an echo of what she said to Eve. Eat more? Sometimes, in my former world, to eat at all was just a hope. 
A hope that perhaps this weekend I would have a breakfast, lunch and tea. “No lunch for you, you wicked girl and no tea for answering back.”  
Sit on the bed. Sit and smell my lunch. See my lunch thrown out the door. Luckily I have a store. A secret store of food. Not much, short rations. Eat more? No chance for Ella! 

Editor’s Note - When Ella arrived at the Children's Home she was in a very poor mental and physical state. It has proved impossible to ascertain why this particular home was chosen - perhaps it was just that there was a vacancy there and that it was located far enough away from Ella’s birth parents? Nor is it clear why Ella wasn't moved on to a foster family. It has been suggested that the close friendship that developed between Ella and Eve was seen as beneficial to both of them and that there was nothing to be gained by splitting them up?

Friday, 25 November 2016

My first meal in the Children’s Home

My first meal in the Children’s Home 

Sitting here all alone. They said this is my room. 

A bright and light and airy room. Just me and my black bag. Black despair and one bin bag alone in my new room.

Alone but still I’m scared. 

Scared of the noises from downstairs. Downstairs, they showed me the downstairs. They showed where I eat, work and play. 

I’ve got to eat with strangers now. Not like it was at home.

Strangers, young and old, looking, wondering, whispering. Whispering about the new girl, that worried, thin girl. 

Thin, that’s me. Meals made me thin, that and Mr Nut Job. 

The gong! A thin, tinny sound, not imperious, but still summoning me. 

You must not ignore the gong. The lady told me that. 

The lady, tall and thin. She had seen it all before. The fear, the marks, the haunted eyes. 

Get up Ella. Brush your hair, dry your eyes. Look hard and tough, not scared. 

Scared? You bet I am. Down the stairs. One flight, two flights. Nearly there. 

That’s the door at the foot of the stairs. Noise and smells are pouring out. 

I stand by that open door. Nothing changes, not even a glance. Am I invisible? 

Invisible? Forgotten? No spare places that I can see. Except for one. That girl alone. 

That girl alone, she sees me now. I know her. The girl next door. Don’t know her name, that girl. Does she know me? She waves and points.
Points at the empty chair beside her. Look casual Ella, I tell myself. “You must be Ella? My name’s Eve.”

Editor’s Note - Of all the poems that Ella has contributed to this anthology this remains my favourite. The raw emotion and the way that Ella has written the poem in the same way as she talks - with short well-crafted sentences - makes this poem the "essence of Ella".

Friday, 11 November 2016

The final placement

The final placement 

Failure was what I knew, all that I knew, all that I ever seem to manage. I’m good at failure. I’ve had lots of practice. I wrote the book on failure. 

They kept a book on girls like me. Tracking the spiral, going down. 

It all goes down, what I did wrong. The problems caused. The sanctions. 

Sanctions - that’s a nice harmless word. A word that tells you nothing. Nothing to show who’s at fault. No adult is ever at fault - just me. 

Point the finger of fault at Eve. She’s too quiet, too bright, needs too much. The question now is what to do. Who gets the shortest straw, gets Eve? 

An idea, the committee have an idea. What can that Godly couple do with her? That Godly couple. Older not wiser. The triumph of optimism over experience. 

Older, greyer they welcomed me in. A bad start, a Bible on the bed. It got worse. Grace at the start of the meal. Then silence, an awkward strained silence.

God’s Will broke the silence. A nice Sunday School lecture on sins and faults. 

My sins and faults no doubt. They pause for breath, my turn to speak. Deep breath. 

A deep breath, a faked yawn. “I’m very tired, can I go to bed now, please”. No fight. 

No fight left in me. Just another unfamiliar bedroom. No fighting until tomorrow!

Editor’s Note - Eve remembers relatively little of her time in foster care. Some of her memories are very fragmented and others are so specific that they might allow places or individuals to be identified by a determined researcher. The story of Eve's final placement is somewhat different because she remembers the details so clearly and because no personal details need to be disclosed for the full story to be told.

Friday, 4 November 2016

The value of networking for foster kids

In the last month I have either been helped or have helped 3 long-term friends that I made during my work with children's home or fostered children. These three were the subject of an earlier blog entry so it is nice to report a bit more on these lovely people.

Jam Tart was a former subscriber to the Adoption and Fostering in the UK forum and that is where we first met him. 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 life experience meant he was one of the few people who could empathise with our situation. He works as Head of Science at a school on the England/Wales border but as part of his Continuing Professional Development he had been tasked with raising awareness of the particular needs of "looked after children". I was able to point him in direction of a several possible speakers and he ended up using two of my suggestions.

Kitty B is a close friend of Ella’s Mother-in-Law. She has been a foster parent for many years and, kind soul that she is, has offered Ella and I some excellent advice and support more than once. In 2013 she decided to stop fostering for a while because her final teen has been moved onwards and upwards and she decided that she needed a break from all the stress. The firm her husband works were planning to move to Coventry but in the end stayed in Worcestershire so all the uncertainty and upset caused by this cancelled proposal wasn't even needed. She needed a new job and thanks to Didi (via me) a suitable one was found in a local hotel. 

Reigning Monarch has a lot in common with Kitty B in that she too has been fostering for many years. She lives near Blackpool and has met up with some of our friends from there a couple of times. Her Mother died in July 2015 and her Father moved into a residential nursing home until the Grim Reaper came calling. She has made a very generous donation towards the next Care Kids Conference in their joint memories..


Friday, 28 October 2016

Just a girl I used to know - part 4 (lke a yo-yo)

There have been a few people who have been in and out of my life several times. They would become part of my circle of close friends - then something would happen and we would drift apart - but then months or even years later we would get back into contact and the whole cycle would start again.

Caroline was the vicar at a church I used to visit (fairly irregularly). When I first joined her congregation she made me feel welcome, partly because I was by far the youngest adult member of her "flock" and partly because, just as I was,  she was married with a pre-school child. Gradually though I noticed a certain "chill" developing between us - I was slowly but certainly marginalised in those aspects of church life that I most enjoyed. I tried hard to stay friendly and co-operative but it wasn't to be. I came to dread seeing her and so I stopped going to "her" church and all contact between us stopped. Then quite suddenly there was a community project and she and I attended the first meeting. She made a point of sitting next to me and she chattered away as if there had never been any tension between us. We ended up in the same sub-group and we worked quite well together as part of a team of 4. But then I noticed she had started allocating all the more important or interesting jobs to anybody but me and the sense of here we go again was spookily strong. This is "an on-going situation" as they say. 

Another Caroline was a lady in her 40s who had moved to a rented house a few doors away from where I live. Her husband had moved to the town when he took up a promoted post locally and she was feeling quite lonely. We used to meet up for coffee and a chat on a Saturday (her husband used to work Saturdays) but then she started making excuses that gradually got stranger and less believable. I took the hint and regular contact lapsed. Then her friend from another rented house moved away at short notice and Caroline made contact with me. This is "an on-going situation".

Friday, 14 October 2016

Remember that proposed magazine for Care Kids?

Do you remember that proposed magazine for Care Kids? I do, Ella does but I bet that most of you don't! Well the idea has been dropped, I imagine for good. In three months "almost nobody" signed up for 12 issues and issue 1 didn't, so I'm told, get past the proof copy stage.

It was back in May 2016 that I received a flyer seeking my support for the publication of this monthly electronic magazine targeted at care-leavers. Enthusiasm there was in plenty but not much relevant experience nor much financial or commercial realism that we could see.

Strangely this was going to a subscription based business model - £12.00 per year for 12 issues. This, of course, made the already slim chance of success even more emaciated. None of the many ideas for regular content were particularly original and it wasn't obvious who was going to write the 16 pages required each month. Any subscriber is going to expect around 200 pages of content (16 pages x 12 issues) for their money and creating that was never going to be either quick or easy.

The business model I saw predicted an income of £3000 per year in the first year. Income not profit. Not nearly enough I hear you saying and you would be dead right! Who in their right mind if they have the skills to write 200 pages of content would do so at little more than the minimum wage. So having ruled out paid for content the only other option is a volunteer or volunteers and that would have been an organisational nightmare.

Theo, the #2 in the organisation, is as honest a person as you could ever hope to meet so there isn't any suggestion of a scam. The other names on the flyer were unknown to me but that isn't surprising given how fragmented the world of care-leavers is. Many people  have wondered if there are many semi-organised groups of care-leavers scattered around the country totally ignorant of the existence of other similar groups? Nobody I know believes that with all the thousands of care leavers in a place like London there isn't somebody with the drive to set up a self-help group. Yet of my circle of "inside the M25" friends none have ever seen proof that such a group exists. 

Friday, 30 September 2016

Supporting former foster kids - The Blackpool Pub Meet

We thought it might be useful to have another look at the Blackpool Pub Meetings as an example of the support structures both needed and wanted by former foster children (and former Children's Home survivors)

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.

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 5 years. November 2016 will be the 61st such gathering!

There wasn't some great master plan behind the Pub Meet. It just seemed to happen. Happily the attendance sheets for every meeting have survived intact and many of the names will be familiar to regular readers of this blog.

As an example the very first meeting had just 7 people present but three of them are still prominent in the former care kids scene five years later. These three 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.

The attendance sheets are quite sad in their own 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. 

Over the last month I (Didi that is) emailed a random selection of 20 of the people on the attendance sheets. It became an "interesting experiment".

6/20 - The email address was no longer recognised and an error message was the only thing I received back.

5/20 - The email appeared to get through but no reply was received.

4/20 - A short reply - a maximum of just 2 or 3 lines - was received. Usually the person was surprised to hear from a voice from their past. Three of the four were living outside the UK, mainly back in their country of birth.

3/20 - A lengthy update of what had been going on in their lives. All three seemed happy enough and offered to stay in touch.

2/20 - Were still in Blackpool, still in the hospitality sector and both said they would come to the next Pub Meet

By any fair measure the Pub Meet was a great success. Many long-term friendships were made and many problems solved via a listening ear.

Eve, Ella and I have made a lot of friends through the Blackpool Pub-meet. In no particular order there was -
  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 got married in 2016. 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. 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Words of wisdom - Didi's

“Perhaps it isn’t just a coincidence that Old Timer (in a letter) and my fostered friends from Blackpool (in a phone call) all used the word “rootless” to describe how they feel.

I find that I have strong links to my friends but no sense of belonging to any of the many places I have lived. For reason that some of you know it would not be sensible for me to visit where I was brought up. The few school friends from those days that I have kept in touch with use an email address that only they know and use. None of them know where I live now or what I’m doing with my life.

I check the address quite often but usually none of them have been in touch. And why should they want to have contact with somebody who will not reveal anything about what they are up to?

But being rootless isn’t just geographical. Many of the fostered adults I know have few photos of their childhood and the few photos they do have sometimes have no indication of who is on the photo or where it was taken. I have exactly three photos of my BF, but none of his brother (my uncle) or his parents (my paternal grandparents).
One thing I thought I might share is that not one of the former foster children feels that they have the slightest chance of ever owning a home. And I think this is so sad! The reason isn't hard to find. No "Bank of Mum and Dad" to help out with the deposit combined with the perpetual problem of foster kids timing out of care at a crucial time in their education. But the good news is that many/most of the people I ate/drank/partied with are in happy and long-term relationships and there isn't nearly as much loneliness as there was when they first timed out.
When you are a foster child happiness can be hard to find. The sense of having no roots and no family history to share with friends and co-workers and the, sometimes overwhelming, sense of loneliness can almost unendurable.
"It has been mentioned elsewhere that many foster children and children raised in Care Homes have very little enthusiasm or interest in family history. Too right even seeing the photo of my BF makes my skin crawl. The few photos I have are locked up in a box and I don't have the slightest idea where they are or why I keep them.”


Friday, 16 September 2016

Six months in Germany - AC/DC returns

<AC/DC's section> It feels strange for Robbie and I being back in England. We are living again in my old foster parents "granny annex". They seems pleased to see us back "safe and sound" after our big adventure.

I am very pleased that I went but I am also very pleased that it was only for six months! You can put up with most things if you know exactly when it is going to end. I think there were 3 main parts of our time in Germany.

The first few weeks were quite sad for us. Our German language wasn't very good and the flat where the catalogue publisher put us to live wasn't very nice. We didn't know enough German to complain to the owner and we didn't know what our rights were either. We did wonder if we had made a big mistake coming to Germany but then one evening the boss of the modelling contract came round with some papers for me to sign and she was shocked where we were living. Three days later we were moved somewhere much better that matched the lease I had signed.

The next 4 months were very busy. Sometimes 6 or 7 days a week. I made quite a lot of money but not as much as I had expected as there are all sorts of taxes. The last few weeks were spend counting the days until we flew home and the days went by very slowly.

Neither of us know what we are going to do next. There are always overseas contracts for models but I don't think I want to do the same sort of work again as I have just been doing. I will need to decide quite soon though! I don't really want to go back to boring shop work.

<The back-story, written by Ella>

I thought I would tell readers a little bit about this wonderful person! AC/DC is what I call a feisty girl. If you ever wanted a role model to show that being fostered can be a positive and life-changing experience then I think AC/DC would be hard to beat.

AC/DC came into our life during the final days of the on-line Adoption and Fostering forum. It was back in early 2013 when she posted about her money troubles and how her former foster family had come to the rescue. As the months went by we found out about her dysfunctional Mother and how AC/DC had ended up in Care.
By June 2013 Ella and I invited AC/DC to become part of our blogging group. This was partly because she wrote such interesting content and partly because I was worried that she would be left stranded if Honey suddenly shut the forum down.

She and Robbie are two of our closest friends
<What AC/DC wrote just before she left> 
I work as a model. Sometimes I'm a nude model for colleges but usually I appear in clothes catalogues for companies based in Germany and Poland. When I first met Eve and Ella I mainly worked in shops on minimum wages. I basically didn't have any spare money so when I saw a life model job at the Art Centre that paid lots more than shops paid I applied. I got that job and ever since then I have done more modelling and less shop work each year.

In 2015 I was earning enough as a model to give up working in a proper job. I did about 2 or 3 days a week for the last 6 months of the year until suddenly I was offered a 6 month contract in Germany. It was for lots of money and with a firm I had worked for before so I decided to take it. My boy friend Robbie is going to come to Germany with me so I will not be on my own in a strange country.

I am a bit scared about going there because I haven't done any German since I left school. I wasn't very good then and I bet I am even worse now. Robbie doesn't seem scared at all so that is good.

I live in what was the Granny Annex of my foster parents house. They have said that we can move back in when we return to England in September so that is kind of them. I passed my driving test last year, at my second time trying, so we will drive to Germany. That will be the first time I have driven on the right rather than the left side of the road.

I think my Foster Mum and Dad are a bit sad and worried about my going away but I'm getting grown up now and I need to be able to do this sort of thing.


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Foster kids - On feeling ignored

Three things matter quite a lot to most bloggers - the number of readers, the number of other blogs that include a link to your blog and the number of comments your individual blog entries receive. Nothing demotivates a blogger more than not getting any readers but bloggers who don't swap links and readers who don't bother to comment on what they have just read are creating secondary problems.

When I joined the wonderful "Weekly Adoption Shout Out" my number of visitors shot up and the site gave me access to a wide range of useful blogs. So was everything in the world of Eve and Ella wonderful? Not quite!

For the first few weeks I regularly commented on 3 or 4 of the blogs - I also put in a link from my blog to the other blog. Virtually nobody returned the compliment which made me feel quite sad.

Not getting any feedback on a blog post can be very demoralising. Like many bloggers Ella and I put our heart and soul into what we write and we spend a lot of time thinking about what we are going to publish so the deafening sound of reader indifference can be quite hard to live with. I am not suggesting that every reader should feel obliged to comment on every individual post in every blog they read. But when a blogger is attracting 200 to 300 readers per blog entry without motivating a single person to comment then surely there is a problem?

I know that the traditional blog software doesn't encourage spontaneous answers like you would receive on social media and that blog comments aren’t designed for instantaneous feedback. As well as the delay due to moderation and the barriers imposed due to combat spam, blogs are no longer the right kind of breeding ground for that type of comments any more. Commenting on blogs takes up time and it sometimes feels to me that foster carers are particularly time-poor and that I will have to be satisfied with having readers rather than creating a community of people sharing a common interest. Some say the older the reader, the less likely they will want to express their feelings or expose their problems as comments on a blog. 

I wonder if anybody will comment this week?

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Heaven, hell and death

Far too many foster children have experienced the death of somebody near to them and I can think of several of my friends who ended up in care because of parental death. If they are like many of us they must wonder sometimes if they will see their parents again or if death is really the end of everything.
Now I am a parent myself the idea of losing a parent isn't as frightening as the thought of losing my own child. Indeed one of the very few sentimental things I have ever heard my "hard as nails" Birth Mother say was her theory on what happens to babies who die.
She has no doubts that they go to Heaven - even if they have not been baptised - and there they are looked after by young mothers who have died until the babies own Mummy and Daddy also come up to heaven. I was so shocked when she came out with this that at first I thought it was a "wind up" but she really does believe it and in a strange sort of way it is reassuring that she does, sometimes, depart from her logical approach to life!
Over the years I have attended church services representing many different denominations and it feels that there are as many alternative views on the death of a baby as there are theologians. For years and years the famous statement by Erickson was the closest to my own view:
"If a child dies before he or she is capable of making genuine moral decisions, there is only innocence, and the child will experience the same type of future existence with the Lord as will those who have reached the age of moral responsibility and had their sins forgiven as a result of accepting the offer of salvation based upon Christ's atoning death."
In 2012 I had my first experience of a baby dying. Cert in a Skirt's baby Rosie died aged 12 weeks. I had known for a while that Rosie had been diagnosed with a minor heart defect but as more and more tests were carried out it became clear to us all that the situation was very serious. The only good thing about this horror story was that they were both with Rosie when she died. She died very peacefully, her heart just stopped beating.  
Ella and I both know “Cert in a Skirt” quite well – she and Ella worked together for 18 months when I was away at university – and while we don't see her that often she is very much one of our circle of  friends. Two of our blog readers (Goodie Two Shoes and Pinkie) went to the funeral to represent all of Cert’s foster care and Children’s Home friends scattered around the UK.  
As I said at the time - "Fly with the angels, darling Rosie."
I do struggle with organised religion but I would like to think that Rosie is being looked after and loved in a way that Ella and I were not when we were children.

Friday, 19 August 2016


We have just returned from a three night break over on the Welsh coast. We being Ella and I plus husbands and children together with Didi and Magda. We stayed in the B&B owned by our long-term adult friend and subscriber Old Timer and his wife Rosemary. As a bonus our friend Sally and her boy friend drove over just for one day to join in the fun. Rather strangely we know Sally via 2 quite different routes. She lives just down the road from Didi and Magda but she also shares the same adult mentor as Ella and I - it is a small world isn't it?

The B&B has six rooms and so we filled up the entire top floor which worked out well. The rooms and the breakfasts were excellent and were certainly worth the 5 star rating we gave on Trip Advisor. Nicola and Alice behaved nicely throughout although having six adults to look after them probably helped. I wish I could say the same about some of the children we saw while we were eating out!

The weather wasn't brilliant. Not cold but not sunny either and we had odd bits of rain most days. Of course the little ones enjoyed playing on the beach and paddling in the sea and we did all the usual beach games with them. About half of every day was spent on the beach.

We also visited assorted castles and had a fantastically expensive trip on one of the many tourist railways that operate in the area. We thought the railway would be crowded but once we saw the prices we realised why it wasn't! To make up for this on the day our two extra visitors came over we had a longish trip on a pleasure boat. This was super value for money and we saw dolphins right next to the boat.

Is it just me or has eating out got quite a lot more expensive recently? We ate out each evening in three different places and each time we felt that the prices were rather high for the rather small portions served up to us. At least eating early meant we avoided the worst of the queues that developed later on.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Why respite care is such a bad idea - revisted!

I posted this blog entry back in April 2016 and it stirred up a firestorm of comments. Ignoring for a moment the comments posted by my friends - they were as you would expect friendly and supportive - there were very much two violently opposed "camps".

Some foster carers explained at considerably length why their birth family "needed" and were "entitled" to time on their own. Others criticised me for being ungrateful, without really explaining what I was supposed to be grateful for!

Against them was ranged the former foster kids who had experienced respite care first hand. They agreed with my opinions as did some of the foster parents who contacted me.

"When I was in foster care I was never taken on the annual family holiday. It hurt then, it hurts now and it will hurt for ever and ever. Instead I was dumped - I use that word because that is what it felt like - with people I hardly knew for two weeks respite care.

If you a teenager who is even fairly articulate you know exactly what "respite" means! It means temporary relief from something distressing or trying. So having me living in your home is such a burden that you have to be given a respite from me.

Many foster children suffer from low self esteem and nothing about the concept of respite care will do anything to improve that. In fact I can be almost 100% certain that two weeks respite care destroys most of the positive things achieved in the previous 50 weeks.

My foster family wanted to go to Disney World in Florida. For a whole range of reasons it was decided that I wasn't going to be included in the trip and my foster-parents had the "interesting" task of convincing me that two weeks in Malvern with strangers would be as much fun as two weeks in Florida with people I knew. I don't think they ever knew how sad that conversation made me. I was superb at hiding my emotions because I thought that if I made a fuss I would be sent away. And so I bottled up the sadness because somehow I thought if I did God might eventually find me a forever family. I wasn't stupid - I knew respite for me just meant another set of house rules I didn't know and having nobody I knew to play with.

I can never visit the Worcestershire town of Great Malvern without remembering one particular spell of respite care. Not because it was bad, it was as good as I ever had, but because it proves that even at its best respite care just isn't good enough.

I was lucky because the weather was warm and sunny almost every day. This was a blessing because most mornings my Respite Foster Mother (RFM) would take me for a walk. A long walk around this only moderately interesting town or up into the nearby hills. We would take a sandwich lunch and we would talk about all sorts of strange things like church history or wild flowers. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that I wasn't supposed to talk about me - so I didn't. My RFM tried hard but I wanted to be in Florida or at least with my friends but didn't feel secure enough to share that with anybody. 

Eventually the 2 weeks came to an end and I went back to my foster family. Just as I knew would happen they had returned home with loads of happy shared memories and photos. Of course the pictures were admired and some were put on show - and I left feeling excluded and marginalised and third rate."

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

How I survived in and out of care - a review

The book is available through Amazon in the UK and the USA.

If you were fostered or if you spent time living in a Children’s Home you need to read this book. Many books have been written and many websites have been created that discuss fostering from the perspective of the foster parent. Virtually nothing, until now, has been written from the point of view of the child.
In the book Ella and I share a wide range of survival strategies that, quite literally, can make the difference between being happy or sad or between life and death.
If you are a prospective or current foster carer you also need to read the book. Your foster children are clients of an enormously expensive system yet virtually none of the “movers and shakers” seems to have any interest in their views or experiences.
You owe it to them and to yourself to have this knowledge because as you know – knowledge is power.

Not enough is known about how it feels to be fostered.

So a book that starts like this:

"I wrote this book to repay a debt. Not a financial debt, although money does come into the story, but an emotional debt to two groups of people. Those who helped me survive 18 years of living in foster care or in a Children's Home and those who subsequently helped me to recover from those difficult times."

Is gold.

The author is Eve Higgins. She was abandoned as a baby and went through a series of foster placements before ending up in a Children's Home as being impossible to place. 

If you don't know, the word "place" means be put into a foster home. 

The book contains a number of carefully observed home truths. For example, the author notes that;

"The average quality of foster care declines as the age of the child increases"

You could probably write a book about that observation alone, it gives you an idea of how sharply some foster children see what's happening around them.

The book isn't structured like a conventional book, it's built along the lines of how the world must seem to children whose lives are fractured. That's the genius.

You get to read the conscious musings of a young lady who has been somewhere we foster carers need to know about, as well as a sense of her swirling emotions and the clutching at relationships to make up for the massive absences of good parenting and a solid home. Clutching at relationships with other young people who have also endured.

These young people come and go, people called Angel, Queen of the World, Twinkle, Goodie Two Shoes, Miss Peanut and Tiger Tim. The author uses the psuedonyms partly to protect people who, she says, don't want anyone from their past to be able to track them down.

I think the names she has for them speak volumes of lost childhoods.

A big gist of Eve's book is tied up in the fact that all the attempts to bind her into a foster family didn't work, and she was moved to a Home. To read her words is a great chance to up your game as a foster carer. 

She had plenty of good fostering experiences, but always felt different. I think, it seems to me, she wanted to build a piece of her own family rather than be given a strange one on a plate, one which had already formed before she arrived. She wanted to create a piece of family for herself.

In the Children's Home she clicked with the girl in the next door room, Ella.

There's stuff every foster carer should know, just for background. Do you know where a foster child might hide contraband in their room? I do now.

But the book offers much much more than tips and hints. It's a precious insight into how coming into care is for the child, and how we carers have to be at the top of our game, with all our love and strength and powers of understanding and intuition, kindness and humanity. 

Having read the book the new thing I have to bring to my future fostering is that the child wants and needs to build her corner of family. She needs and deserves to be the creator, the constructor, the developer of relationships that she finds rewarding because they help the other person. She, or he, wants to be useful, like we all do.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Going into battle on your own

If you were fostered or brought up in a Children's Home you will one day realise that you will be fighting most battles on your own. No help from a birth family and, usually, no help from an allocated social worker either. Just you against the system. It is a really important survival skill to recognise that if you don't fight for yourself then nobody else is going to bother fighting for you.

Leaving school is a really important landmark for most young people. Looking back perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised that neither of us came through this phase of our lives with happy memories. But I did get the grades to go off to university so my time wasn't wasted: it is more that the social part of being a normal 6th former was not something that I ever experienced and that seems a pity. Neither of the stories here are strongly unjust but they are good examples of where pushy parents would probably have managed to arrange a better outcome than we managed!

Ella's bit

Up to Christmas of year 13 we were both at school. But then things went wrong. League tables mattered more than me to the Head. With nobody to stick up for me it took about three weeks to go from having no problem to a “cause for concern” pupil to goodbye Ella. With no parents to offer advice and support and a social worker on maternity leave I was doomed.

As ever it was money that was the problem. Eve will tell you that I can be a stubborn person. I wanted spending money and I was going to have spending money. So there. It was easy to get cash in hand jobs and after only a few weeks I was hooked. So my school work suffered. That is why I got booted out.

The first day that Eve went off to school on her own without calling to collect me first was horrible and weird. I sat waiting around with nothing to do (I was still only in part time work at that stage) feeling pretty cross with myself and the world.

Eve's bit

It felt very strange and lonely going to school without Ella especially at break time and at lunchtime. I worked extra hard at school and was exhausted by the time the exams came. I didn't see much of Ella in the week but we always waved at each other as I walked past her flat on the way to school. We always managed to meet at the weekend and sent showers of emails either way.

The end of the summer term was a mess. There was supposed to a Prom for the leavers but I didn't have the money for the fancy clothes the other kids had and so when they said same sex couples couldn't attend Ella and I boycotted the whole thing.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Eve and Ella praised as "influential figures"!

I suppose we should both be flattered at being labelled as "influential". Particularly when the comment was made by somebody who has a lifetime of academic and practical experience in the twin areas of fostering teenagers and in the senior management of Children's Homes.

If only it were true!

The sad fact is that for years we have battled against the indifference and ignorance of paid professionals without converting more than a small number to our point of view. By most we are seen as an annoyance - unworthy to be included in the deliberations of the great and the good.

The end result is that life changing decisions are made by people who have no first hand experience of the Local Authority provision they have been tasked with overseeing. Inputs into the limited debate that does take place are carefully orchestrated and younger users of the service are usually excluded from the process.

Can you imagine a major retail outlet that has no interest in the views of the customers? Even Governments are called to account every five years by the people they aim to serve - that is the electorate. But when is comes to improving the life-chances of young people who come into the Care system for the first time as teenagers those most directly involved are marginalised at best or, more often, regarded as having nothing useful to contribute.

If you really want to depress yourself  read the document "Children in Care" - especially appendix 2.

In the section "Our Evidence Base" - there is no mention of asking former foster children or young people who actually lived in a Children's Home for their vews. Grrrrrrr!

By-the-way we sometimes wonder if readers of our blog are afraid to openly support our views. The number of readers we get is - by normal blogging standards - huge but the number of public comments people post about what we write is almost pathetically small.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Ella and I learn a new word - diatribe

A diatribe is a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism.
For reasons that are a long way from obvious three members of the Newcastle Organising Committee (N.O.C.) - the group behind the unsuccessful bid to hold the 2016 Care Kids Conference in their city - have decided to send out a long, bitter, aggressive and abusive email to everybody who was involved with the recent Cardiff conference.

So, to nobodies surprise, we got a copy of the diatribe and equally unsurprisingly Ella and I came in for shed loads of venom. The word on the street is that some people on the circulation list have been left seriously upset by what was written about them and others have been left more than a little annoyed.

I suppose bemusement plus a degree of weary amusement is what Ella and I are feeling. Many of the points raised by N.O.C. just don't deserve a lengthy reply or at least not from Ella and I. What I will do is to say a few words about things where we have detailed first hand knowledge. 
  1. None of the authors of the diatribe were present at the conference so it isn't clear where they got their information from. Most of the "facts" they list are just not true and most of the "opinions" they quote are not typical of the feed-back forms that the conference participants filled in.
  2. Every penny of the sponsorship money has been accounted for. Virtually all of it went on paying for speakers or subsidising the hotel costs. Less than 1% was paid out to the organisers to refund their expenses and far from "leaving with their purses bulging with un-spent sponsorship money" the organisers were left slightly out of pocket.
  3. Apparently the "inner circle" had all the best hotels rooms while the delegates had to put up with "second best". All the rooms I saw were basically identical and were allocated in order by the hotel receptionist as people arrived. I didn't hear a single comment about the quality of the rooms during my time at the conference.
  4. Yes the external speakers were rather disappointing. But the amount that would be charged by some of the high profile speakers I have heard mentioned would have been totally out of the price range the organisers could afford.
  5. I have zero clue how anybody could have felt the arrangements for the evening meal were "hopeless". The delegates were given a list of more than a dozen places to eat within a 15 minute walk. None were expensive and many were quite cheap. Some delegates went off to eat in friendship groups: as was their right. But the organisers, plus Didi, Ella and I waited round at reception so that none of the delegates who attended on their own felt forced to eat solo. Two groups of 5  were created and as far as I know everybody who wanted to be social had the opportunity to be exactly that.
  6. Nobody has yet expressed any interest in running the 2017 Conference. And who could blame anybody for thinking that it is a totally thankless task! Any suggestion of a stitch-up by the hard core to meet next year in Blackpool is just silly. If the N.O.C. want to put in a bid for Newcastle then they should go ahead. I still think that geography is the biggest weakness of the Newcastle bid and if you plot the locations of the current electorate on a map then the facts speak for themselves. Manchester or Leeds perhaps but surely not Newcastle!