Lost In Care

14 years working in residential children's homes. 5 years training foster carers and care staff. Trainee child therapist. 14 years in care as a child. Diary, anecdotes and rants about the good, bad and mediocre. Anonymised but all true.

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 3)

The fruits of my labors…


In the kids home I work in there is a fake chalk board hanging on the wall with a recipe for happiness printed on it.  You may have seen the kind of thing, “1 cup of kindness, a pinch of understanding…” etc.   Suffice to say – I hate it.

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They need to trust, not like you…

It is very common to hear relationships between staff and young people in care discussed in terms of whether the young person “likes” a particular adult or not.  Comments such as, “James doesn’t like Sue [staff]” are often heard in staff meetings and handovers.  Or even worse, “Billy and Sue [still staff] don’t get on”.  As if it is a relationship of equals and there is nothing more to think about here than a straightforward personality clash.

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Some things I remember…

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.

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The cost/value of good experiences…

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.

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Lying to children…

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).

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They’re my family…

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.

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Knowing what happened…

Obviously, as a professional, I have had to write stuff about the children I look after.  In fact,  I have done so everyday of my working life for the past 12 years.   This can be anything from what they have had to eat, daily observations and phone calls with parents to reports for LAC reviews and so on.

Now, of course, everything I write is meant to be “objective” and “non-judgemental” and so on.  But, of course, that isn’t really what happens – short of straightforward statements of fact such as: “he watched a film on TV” everything is coloured by how I experience the child or young person, and what I think is happening for him or her (in some reports I will be discussing their internal emotional world as much as their outward behaviour).  This will be influenced by my experience, knowledge, training, world view and personal insight.  It is certainly, to a large degree, subjective.

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Can parenting be taught?

So…David Cameron plans to introduce  parenting classes (actually he is reintroducing the idea – there was little uptake before).  He thinks they should be “the norm” and that we all need help.  Well…I agree with him.  I thought I would make that clear because I am about to make a series of caveats and if you aren’t paying attention you might get the impression I don’t agree with him at all.

Firstly, choose your particular cup of tea: neuroscience?  clinical psychology?  psychoanalysis?  common sense?  trite statements of self-evident fact?  Well, all of these will tell you that ages 0-3-years-old, and how a child is looked after during that time, are the most important by far when it come to influencing how a human being will relate to the world around them and the people in it.  Essentially, what happens to you during those years will go a long way to deciding whether you give a fuck about other people and whether you believe they give a fuck about you.

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Where have I been?

I guess the question above can have both an emotional and literal meaning.  All I can say is I stopped blogging for a while because life became difficult…well…even more difficult.  Suffice to say I no longer work at the children’s home my previous blogs related to.  I work at a much more “bulk standard” one.  It is not very good.  I will write about it soon enough.

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Beware the relative that seem’s “OK”…

Fairly often, when a child is in care, there will be an adult in the birth family who the professionals involved in the case deem to be “OK”.

It could an older sibling, aunt, grandparent or (more often than is sane) the father. It is very rarely the mother.  This relative will present as reasonably articulate, concerned for the child in question and, often, onside with social workers and other professionals.

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Helping children to intergrate their ‘good and bad’ sides…

Sentimentality is the curse of many people who work in children’s social care especially, but not exclusively, for workers who are relatively inexperienced.  I would caricature this as a “poor thing” or “he’s a good kid really”  attitude.

Perhaps a certain amount of naivety is required when you start out – awareness of the reality of what you will be dealing with would stop most from taking the job on I guess.  And it probably helps balance out the more jaded attitudes of experienced staff.

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