Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Book - How I survived in and out of Care

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, 18 March 2016

War continues in the former care kid world!

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

The votes are in and have been counted and the formal announcement has been made that the 2016 Conference will take place in, drum roll, Penarth in South Wales.

Out of 116 verified voters (see later as verification was a bit of a saga) the number of votes cast for each option was:

South Wales 71 (61.2%) - Newcastle 28 (24.1%) - Blank or spoilt 7 (6.0%) - Not returned 10 (8.6%)

I think a small amount of analysis might be useful. Newcastle got rather fewer votes than I had predicted in the week before the count took place, this despite conducting a much more active campaign. I wonder if some of the things members of the Newcastle Organising Committee (N.O.C.) wrote were perhaps seen as too aggressive and this turned some possible supporters into non-voters?

Geography was always going to be  the biggest weakness of the Newcastle bid. All other things being equal most people will tend to vote for the nearer location and some analysis seemed to show that about 70% of the likely voters were closer to S Wales than Newcastle. Even allowing for those people where the travel time didn't differ by much I calculate that over half of the voters were not likely to be persuadable to travel up to Newcastle no matter how good their campaign had been.  

To repeat something Ella and I said at the start of the process - "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! Blackpool, Leeds or Manchester all strike us as being "better" northern venues than Newcastle."

The Ballot Co-ordinator had some concerns about the authenticity of "about 20" of the people who had registered to vote.  She decided to speak directly with each member of this sub-group and she was able to confirm that just 13 were genuine. It isn't for me to say who created these fake people but clearly I have my suspicions.

Before the result was even announced the Newcastle Organising Committee (N.O.C.) sent out an email saying -

"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."

So far there is no sign of this rival event going ahead but we shall see!


Friday, 11 March 2016

New neighbours - new friends

After a whole series of short-term tenants the house next door to ours was finally sold just after Christmas and at the end of January the new owners moved in. The new owners are a married couple, both newly retired and both former science teachers.

All six of us were invited around to their house the first weekend after they moved in. I have never seen so many books in a house before, every room downstairs except for the kitchen had at least one bookcase and the lounge had three. The study has two computers - one each - and a top-of-the-range colour laser printer that made the men in my life drool with envy.

Within a few minutes of arriving I would have been able to predict that they had children of their own. They were so good with Nicola and Alice, even taking them on an exploration of the house, that it was obvious that they had children and grand-children of their own. I was right because it turns out that they have two grown-up children, both are married and both couples have little ones just like us.

Even their politics are broadly the same as ours, that is New Labour, so they score very highly on our ideal neighbour scale.

Our other new friend is a good example of a weird co-incidence. Didi and Magda have moved into their new rented house not far from us. It is within easy walking distance and twice when I was walking there I saw a girl that I thought I recognised from my past. I just couldn't put a name to the face which isn't like me at all.

It wasn't as if she wasn't distinctive. She is tall (6 feet at least), as slim as a credit card and with a complexion that most of us would die for! It felt like ages before I remembered where I had seen her before. She is/was a client of the same adult mentor and ghost writer who has supported Ella and I over the last few years. I had only ever seen her in Kidderminster when I was just leaving a meeting with the mentor and she was just arriving - no wonder my memory let me down.

Anyway we have now met up with her and her boyfriend, they too are both teachers (clearly teachers attract other teachers) who work in local schools. She is parentless, but through a horrid traffic accident rather than by the Eve and Ella route. We have lots in common with the two of them and I hope that they will become long-term friends.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Who is the grown-up now?

Ella here

My Birth Mother, Mrs Nut Job, is still in Spain, still moaning, still wanting to come home and still wanting to live with me. Once a week a letter arrives. They never change, always full of things she wants people to do for her. Never any offer to something for somebody else. It just goes on and on until I could scream.

She is just like a little child. A spoilt little child, the sort that people at the nursery want to avoid. Mrs Nut Job had every opportunity. She had a nice house, a husband who owned a successful business, no need to work. Then she threw it all away. She had the chance to stop the abuse I suffered, she bottled it loads of times. She could have spoken up when the school got the police involved. She lied instead. Every beeping time she could have taken my side she didn't.

She hasn't learned her lesson. No skills, shed loads of expensive habits, no sense of cause and effect. She just wants to rewrite history and to sponge off me, basically for ever.

Well she isn't going to.

Pretty much everything I have ever achieved has been zero to do with her. I don't owe her anything, she doesn't deserve anything from me. Why should I inflict her on other people that I do care about?

If she wants a divorce then she can sort it out. If she wants to move back to England then she can sort it out. If she wants a job or a home then she can beep beep well sort it out for herself. It isn't my problem or my responsibility. If she choose to live with and lie for my BF, him with the drink problem, a violence problem and a brain problem then that is her choice.

Just don't keep running to me.