Friday, 29 January 2016

Lost and found - a January project!

During the long and rather boring weeks after Christmas and the New Year Ella and I made a real effort to track down some former friends who we hadn't heard from for at least six months.

We had three successes and one failure.

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. After several unsuccessful attempts to telephone him we finally made contact on January 24th. He is fine but his recent promotion to Head of Science at a nearby school means that he has almost no free time in his personal timetable. At least now we are now up-to-date with each other's news!

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 for is moving their entire operation to Coventry and all the uncertainty and upset caused by this has made for a very unpleasant 2015. 

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. She too has had a very stressful 2015. Her Mother died in July and her Father has moved into a residential nursing home. He is mentally very alert but the combination of Parkinson's Disease and frailty has made it impossible for him to live on his own.

Peter From Upstairs was invited to our Christmas Open House but didn't reply or turn up. None of our friends have seen or heard from him in a while so we drove over (with the little ones in tow because they wanted an "adventure"!) to his last known address. The flat is obviously lived in but as there was nobody at home when we called so we don't know if he is still living there. We left him a note but so far we haven't heard anything back and we think he may have moved away?




Friday, 22 January 2016

Christmas Time at the Children's Home

I always thought how well the grown-ups at the Children’s Home organised Christmas and Boxing Day for the children. It must have been a big sacrifice for them to spend so much time away from their own families.

The first Christmas I had there was one of the first times I remember expecting things would be nice rather than expecting things would be nasty.

Ella and I didn’t have any family visitors that Christmas (or indeed at any Christmas). For Ella it had been decided (by the Courts and all concerned) that it would not be in her best interest for her family to visit her and of course as far as I knew at that stage I didn’t have any family anyway (Note 1). As long as I had Ella to be my friend I didn’t really care too much. I remember that most of the other kids went off for part of the afternoon (to see family members?) but I also got the impression that quite a few of these visits ended in tears. I think the staff must have expected us to have felt “left out” but in fact we both had quite bad period pains that day (bad timing I know) and we were quite content not to rush around!

I don’t know exactly how the financial side of the Christmas presents worked. I know local charities were very kind and there used to be presents provided by them arranged by gender and age and of course there was an allocation of “present money” from the Home.

I can remember the tree and the lights so well and even now the smell of a Christmas tree transports me back to the Home. We had 3 Christmas Days at the Home (school years 10, 11 and 12) and they were all happy times for both of us. Year 13 was more complicated because by then we had moved out of the Home. We had our Christmas lunch and tea together in Ella’s flat and somehow the Home managed to get us an invitation to a Boxing Day party up there. It was fun being with lots of younger people – but only in small doses. Walking back after this party was strange because we felt we were walking to our real home(s) and that the Children’s Home was something in our past. It was a very curious feeling.
Note 1 - At this point of my life my Birth Parents and I were not in contact - that didn't happen until a few years later. 

Friday, 15 January 2016

It's official, Ella and I are mind-readers

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

When we heard that the Ballot Co-ordinator has gone public with her concerns about the authenticity of some of the people who have registered to vote on the location of the 2016 conference we just knew that there was going to be trouble!

In her letter she mentioned that there were "nearly 20" people on the list that she has never met, never heard of before and who have never attended any previous Care Kids function. She now wants to satisfy herself that these people are genuine rather than fake "ballot stuffers".

Good for her!

She also says that she wants to speak directly with each member of this sub-group - she has sent out an email to each one of them asking for their phone number and a convenient time for her to call them.

Good for her!

When we read about this Ella and I predicted that some people would be very annoyed and sure enough they were. Within a matter of hours the Newcastle Organising Committee (N.O.C.) had sent out an email, the crucial line of which was -

"If we are unsuccessful again we will have to consider putting on a rival event for Care Leavers living in northern England and southern Scotland."

Two thoughts and a question have jumped into my mind:
  1. It creates a bad impression when one of the two participants in a bidding process announce in advance that they will not accept the result of the democratic process they helped design.
  2. Holding a rival event will not lessen the geographical problems associated with Newcastle. 
  3. What exactly is meant by the word "rival"?
I think weary resignation just about sums it up.

Sometimes we think that some former Care Kids take a curious delight in adopting a course of action that will do the maximum damage to the very cause that they are trying to promote.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Christmas Open House 2015

Christmas Open House 2015

Ella and I make no apologies for repeating here a brief excerpt from what we wrote 12 months ago - "

Since Alice and Nicola arrived to bless our lives Christmas has been more special than it used to be. In the pre-children era that, BTW, seems like a lifetime ago, Christmas meant meeting up with other parentless friends rather than any type of family celebration.

Of course for many of our best friends Christmas still seems quite bleak. When you haven't got much spare money or any birth family Christmas can feel rather pointless. It becomes quite easy to slip into the role of an outsider looking with ill-concealed envy at other people having fun. For some the safe familiarity of a small council flat can replace looking for human interaction and for others working extra shifts can seem preferable to a chicken leg eaten on your own."

Which is why Ella and I always make the effort to have an Open House for our friends.

The arrangements for 2015 differed slightly from those of previous years. For the Christmas Lunch (1:15PM) we arranged for pre-ordered food to be delivered from a Chinese Take-Away. This greatly reduced the amount of work that Eve and I had to do and gave us the opportunity to socialise with our guests rather than slave away in the kitchen. Tea (at 6:30PM) was less formal and relied on guests remembering to provide what they had already agreed to bring.

We also didn't need to bother with the mini-bus service we had provided in previous years. Better co-ordination between our different groups of friends meant that the only places we needed to pick-up from on Friday and deliver people back to on Saturday were 3 sites on the Church Stretton, Ludlow, Cleobury Mortimer loop. This was done by our husbands Chris and Mark in 2 cars. They are total saints to do this!

Providing over-night accommodation for those that wanted it didn't work quite as well as perhaps it could have and what went right and wrong will need to be thought through. I think if people book accommodation - especially free accommodation - then they need to stick to the host and hostesses "house rules" about drinking, smoking and excessive noise.

Almost all the usual suspects were there but we also had a few "first time for a while" or "first time ever" attendees which was lovely!

There were a few people missing - Zulu, currently overseas working at the Head Office of the UK subsidiary that employs him. Mad Lad also currently working away from home (in Staines) and Peter From Upstairs who hasn't been heard from for a while and has perhaps moved away from Children's Home Ville?