Naturally, given my age, I do not remember much about living at home with my mum and dad or my early years in care. Of course, this lack of cognitive memory does not mean there is not an emotional one. Nothing makes me rock with anger more than when I hear someone describe an obviously traumatic experience in a child’s life and then make light of it with anodyne phrases like: ‘It’s ok, she was far too young to remember.”
Still, I have a few memories – flashes really. They are mine – not things that I was told later and incorporated into my own narrative. I can be certain because they are not those kinds of events.
The children’s home I work in now charges £2995 per child per week. It seems like a lot of money I guess. I am back working for the same children’s home where I started my career in children’s social care in 2004. At that time the cost of a placement was £2995 per week. They have not been able to put up their fees in 12 years. Allowing for inflation the equivilent amount today would be £4230.
Imagine if schools and hospitals had not been given budget increases for 12 years. There would rightly be an outrage. I guess most people don’t use children’s homes and those that do don’t vote.
In the old days (the mid-eighties) when I was in a kids home, they were often run by married couples who had a team of care staff underneath them. In the home I was in, these staff were called aunties and uncles. My main memory of them, probably unfairly, is they were a group of middle-aged women who used to sit around, watch TV and darn socks (yes really).
Obviously the word “family” is complicated and painful for all children in care because, irrespective of the circumstances, all of them are united by one simple truth – they are not living with theirs.
Images of “perfect” families abound in popular culture – films, books, even TV adverts, constantly bombard these kids (and, let’s face it, all of us) with idealised versions of what a family “should” be like. Sure, siblings may argue but they make up in the end, or come together when they need each other – blood is thicker than water and blah, cliche, blah.