THE EARLY DAYS
My earliest memories of childhood included me and my sister going on 'holidays' to complete strangers, living with families for periods of two to four weeks. It didn't seem strange at the time, yet as I grew up I began to wonder what was going on. The penny finally dropped when I returned to my mothers one say to find a strange woman sat in the frontroom (Jean, a social worker). She explained that she had come to take
my sister away...and within minutes she was packed and gone. I realised that she had been taken away permanently for the reason of my mother being unable to cope. At the time we were living on a council estate and my dad had left her a few years previously. We were difficult to control. I can remember me perched In a tree in the front garden, and my sister passing me stones so that I could throw them at passing pensioners. I can recall tying string to a neighbours doorknocker, hiding around a corner and pulling
it. Further still we spent one night in hospital after drinking some form of engine oil. Whilst kids get up to all sorts I can begin to understand why my mother struggled.
Maybe a few weeks had passed and I had got used to my sister not being around. I arrived home from school, watched He Man and Monkey Magic (two of my favourite programme's) ate my tea (Cheese potato pie) and relaxed. A knock at the door saw Jean (the social worker) appear in the front room, and I immediately knew that she had come for me. My mother, and I, were in tears, but Jean explained that I had to go as me and
my sister could not be split up. My last memory of that day was climbing into her car and looking out of the rear window, waving at my mother. The reality of the day had not quite sunk in...that is until I arrived at 'the home,' a bland, brown large building that to me looked like a prison (see top of page). I arrived with my bag of belongings and was shown to a little bedroom that I was told would be mine for the forseable future. I instinctively looked for my sister, and found her playing with some other kids...and
so began my time at the local children's home.
Following the infrequency of seeing my mother it was around this time that my father came onto the scene. He had just re married and moved into his new flat in a neighbouring village. He would pick us up for the weekend and both me and my sister would stay at our grand parents house. It had barely been a matter of months since our arrival at the children's home, yet I had learned that a lot of our fellow residents were
not able to visit family, simply because they had no one to visit or their families were uninterested in them. The children's home was situated in a typical town street, with a primary school on one side, houses on the other and lots of warehouses behind it. Despite the fact that it was one building, surprisingly enough it was actually split into two separate children's homes. The were even numbered XX and XX, yet each contained children that had no identifiable differences. To be quiet honest we never even had
much of a chance to interact as a fence separated us in the vast back gardens. This was to be remedied during my stay, whereby common sense prevailed and the two homes were joined. I had to get used to having set meals at set times, and perhaps most importantly for my survival I had to obey the rules that were in place.
Usually there would be two members of staff at any one time, and it did not take me or my sister long to work out the positive and negative aspects of each member of staff. However before describing staff members I feel that it is important to briefly discuss the hierarchy. From the top we had the manager of the establishment, whom we shall call Judy. She was supported by her assistant manager, Wendy. Within their office
there was also a financial administrator. Within the adjoining home there were a set of residential staff, male and female, who were expected to work day and night shifts. There were also two cleaners and one cook.
AN EXTENDED FAMILY
Monica: A fairly mature lady whom I saw in a bit of a grandmother role. She often comforted us, would take some of us to her house occasionally and regularly played a certain game, Newmarket, which was immensely popular for all of the kids. We played for....currants.
Lynn: A middle aged woman who was firm but fair. Not very often she lost her temper, but when she did we would know about it.
Chris: A fairly young woman who would often allow us to bend the rules a little. However she too was someone to be wary off if she was crossed or disobeyed to extremes.
Karen: She was perhaps the most prominent member of staff in my stay at the home. She later took on the role of being my keyworker, and on many occasions I was invited to her house for tea with her family. However I was also on the end of her wrath at times.
Rosemary: I think she came to the establishment with little experience. All of the children seemed to sense this, and on many occasions she could be seen crying in the office. On reflection I feel that she received the worst treatment of all female staff, yet she still hung in there.
Judy: She was the boss, yet often found herself covering for staff. A very down to earth person who had the ability to empathise with the children and work as part of the staff team rather than the boss.
Wendy: Similar qualities to Judy, yet I feel that she was an old hand when it came to dealing with children such as ourselves.
John: This guy meant business and was feared perhaps more than all members of staff, although on reflection I would now describe him as firm but fair. Some of the punishments he used to dish out were ingenious. My least favourite when we used to mess about at night was each child spaced throughout the corridor leading to the office, and each of us given a bible. We would all be told to start copying it, and after a certain
period of time John would stop us, screw up the work we had done and send us back to bed. There were other punishments he came up with, but given the modern day take of child abuse in children's homes I must stress that at no point throughout my experiences was I, or anyone else, subject to any form of child abuse or neglect.
Mick: A youngish guy who seemed to enjoy engaging with the kids, playing games and teaching us bits and pieces about life. My most vivid memory of this guy was of visiting the dentist with him to have a tooth out, being put to sleep by the dentist and waking up in Mick's arms. Whilst he had this sensitive, caring side there was also a side that we would not cross. He was not in the same league of John but used to send
us to bed early on numerous occasions.
Phil: My fondest memories of playing games in the home were of Phil introducing us all to 'torchlight tig.' This would involve is all going into the back gardens and hiding (when it was dark) and whoever was 'it' would have the torch and try to spot us. If we were caught we were out of the game. We used to spend many a summer evening playing this game, and it certainly tired us all out!! Eventually the kids took it to
the extreme, climbing the fences and hiding in a school which was situated next door to the children's home, and the game was subsequently banned.
Norman: A great guy for playing games with - I recall him being a part time staff member who was pretty laid back and fair.
PART TIME STAFF
Maureen & Val: These were the cleaners with whom I had a fair amount of contact with. Both were highly approachable and offered their sympathies and support whenever they could.
Josie: She was the cook. Josie was a cheerful person who always seemed to be busy in the kitchen, I can recall always seeing pans bubbling and hearing Josie singing. However, some of the food she cooked was, in my opinion, inedible. I give particular mention to the cauliflower cheese and Macaroni cheese she used to cook. I did not like it, yet it always seemed to appear before me. I would not eat it under any circumstances, and often
found myself going to bed without any supper, or it appearing before me (reheated) for my supper. As a result of this when someone had forgotten to lock the pantry, I often found myself raiding it for digestive biscuits and chocolate, often getting caught in the process.
So what about the residents...the children who lived side by side for years (XX & XX XXXXXXX Road) and then collectively when the local authority had the sense to join the homes together. At this point I would state that most of them seemed to be a common fixture, with only a handful moving on whilst I was there. What the reader must understand is that if you were in a children's home there are three avenues you could go down. The
first, and this was the dream of most of us, would be to secure placements with foster carers. The second, and perhaps most unlikely, is that you return to your biological parents or other blood relatives. The final, and in my experience most common avenue, is that you remain in the children's home, perhaps being moved on to another home that specialises in looking after children until they could officially leave care. In my area this home was known as XXXXX, and eventually it became a home for my sister. This
type of care yielded little prospects for those who were resident there...on many occasions I 'heard' of kids who had left there to commit crime, or wandered the streets without any accommodation or employment.
So back to the story....it did not take me long to settle at the home and make new friends. I was still at the same primary school and the stigma of not living with my parents had not kicked in at school. I gradually became used to the strict regime they operated, including set mealtimes, set bedtimes and rules that were enforced by the threat of punishment. We even had set bath nights, and favourite members of staff who would tuck us
in at night!! There were in place set dormitories for the boys and girls, and I even remember the first person I shared a room with..Ian, or as we used to call him 'rubber lips.' Of course we used to crawl to the ends of our beds and chat until we fell asleep, sometimes getting caught out by the staff, but after a while he disappeared, and from what I remember he acquired a foster placement. He was to be replaced with someone whom I considered to be my best friend whilst I was in care, Jason.
I still have vivid memories of the first time Jason entered the home...a small brown haired boy (about eleven years old, I was about ten) who wore thick rimmed spectacles and had a bit of a squint. As he arrived he sat at the dinner table next to me. He was quite obviously scared and had not touched the food on his plate. In my best BA Barracus voice I picked up some food and uttered 'Hey sucker, take a bite.' His past is somewhat a grey
area, we all knew we were there because of a broken family yet to this day I do not know the circumstances as to why he ended up at the home. For the two or so years we spent together we became the best of friends, in fact I would say we became inseparable, experiencing many highs and lows, and getting into a fair amount of trouble along the way!! I can even remember getting my first real punch of him. This occurred following a fall out. I walked to school on one side of the road and he, and another resident
we called nosey parker, walked on the other. After much taunting Jason walked calmly across the road and punched me in the face, before continuing on his way. Later that day we had made up, yet a shift in power had quite obviously occurred.
I think that 'nosey parker' was about 14 years old and seemed to be biding his time until he could leave the home at sixteen. However it transpired that he didn't quite get his wish in that he managed to get a foster placement...never to be seen by me again. So what about the other residents? There was an older male whom I knew as Stubbsy, he must have been about fifteen or sixteen, yet I cannot remember when his care order expired and
even how long he stayed at the home. I can remember him getting arrested, and being returned to the home after a spell in the local YOI . Indeed it was he who invented my nickname, the professor, due to the glasses I wore. It seemed that Stubbsy had come to terms with the fact that he would not be returning to his family, and had planned a life around offending, yet his attitude towards the rest of the children was a positive one in that he would encourage us to avoid offending and tell us to stick with school
and do well. Another lad who sticks firmly in my mind was Kevin, a ginger haired diabetic who was often the butt of our jokes. He used to have two little lumps either side of his belly button where he injected his insulin, and spiked ginger hair. I recall Stubbsy often taking the Mick, uttering the words 'Bladsey show off' in his zippee voice (Rainbow) whilst emphatically spiking his hair. In fact one day I recall Kevin had experienced his first relationship and had written a song, that went something like...
'cos ive got a beautiful girlfriend, and her name is Amanda...and I'll never ever leave her...not even for a million..."
He used to sing this whilst playing a few chords on a guitar..and we all used to take the Mick out of him. This was compounded by the fact that she dumped him after hearing his song...saying that he was too weird for her!!
Another lad, who we will know as Chetwood, provided yet another amusing story. This guy was again older than myself, perhaps fifteen, and was being taught to fend for himself. Part of this involved the setting up of an enclosure for him in the dining room...a sort of mini flat consisting of a chair, television, table. It was his living quarters so to speak, yet for me the thing that stuck in my memory was the chair. Over a period of a
month I can always remember looking at his armchair and discovering a great dirty greasemark where his head would have rested!!! He left shortly afterwards and I dread to think whether the skills he learned in our establishment actually benefited him!!! On the male side I can only recall few others...the skillen brothers and one Mr Huddlestone. This guy would sit in the garden and pick insects legs and wings, eat insects and generally do anything vulgar that was asked of him. These guys lived next door (XX) and
by the time we joined as one Huddlestone had gone!!
There were of course females resident in the home, my sister being but one. My sister seemed to pal up with a girl roughly the same age, Sharon. These two were thick as thieves, yet this was a girl with whom I would experience my first relationship encounter with!!! The other resident girls tended to be a lot older, around the ages of fourteen and fifteen. My main memory was of three particular girls who hung around together, Suzanne,
Tracey and Sam. They seemed to take on a mothering role, and comforted us when they were not getting into trouble themselves!! They were joined some time later by Stephanie, whom I took an immediate liking too. She was attractive, headstrong and had plenty of time for me. On one particular evening I was awoken by the closing of the security door in the boys dorm, and an opening of my door. Steph and Tracey burst in and kissed us goodnight...this was a raid on our dorm and than ran around the corridor until I
heard the staff come running up the stairs. I remember pretending to be asleep when the staff walked in, but they knew and proceeded to strip our beds, and telling us to make them. This was of course another favourite punishment for them to dish out!!
THE MONTHS BECOME YEARS
One of the advantages of living in a children's home has to be Christmas. There are many families who cannot afford to lavish their children with gifts and trips out, yet for the local authority this was not a problem. Every year our Christmas would begin with a trip to the theatre to watch a pantomime, which we all loved. I remember my first Christmas well....we were asked by the staff to make our Christmas list of
things that we wanted, and amongst many items I listed was an Everton Football kit. I was an avid Everton fan and mad on football, I had completed pannini sticker albums, scrap books and was a member of the official fan club. My walls were plastered with posters and autographs of the likes of Kevin Sheedy, Derek Mountfield, Gary Stevens, Trevor Steven and Neville Southall (to name but a few). My best friend, Jason, was an avid Liverpool supporter and he too had listed a Liverpool kit. Christmas eve was the only
night of the year that we all wanted to go to bed before our set times, and the excitement was fever pitch. On reflection I feel that this was the only period of the year when none of us asked the question as to why we didn't have a family, and/or why we couldn't spend time with our own families. On this first particular Christmas I remember getting to sleep late and being woken up early by the staff. We all ran downstairs and were greeted by numerous bin liners stuffed with presents.
Within five minutes I had my Everton kit on....and Jason too was wearing his Liverpool kit. We stood opposed and I do remember that photographs were taken....I only wish that I had that photograph to include in this website. For those moments all of the resident children were extremely happy and very excited...yet the fun did not stop there. Many other organisations got themselves involved with the children's home, most
notably the British Lions club and the local RAF base. At the time it was something I more or less took for granted. The lions provided us with presents and food, and the local RAF sent a group of its lads over to mix with the children. One year we were all taken to the local RAF base and I remember us all sat in a circle in a tent with the RAF guys, of which one was dressed as Santa Clause. We would take it in turns to sit on his knee and receive our presents, and if I remember rightly this was followed by a
party. Looking back I feel that the involvement of the RAF was a great gesture, and those involved enjoyed the mix just as much as the kids!!! This local base must have come onto the scene about a year after I arrived, and whilst I am unaware as to how they linked up with my children's home, I have some great memories of contact with them.
There were of course great days out at the base, particularly on open days, when were literally treated like royalty. Myself and Jason formed a special bond with two of the guys, whom I knew as Stan and Tarmac. They were great individuals, and spent many an hour with us. This included taking us out on day trips, playing football with us, and even reading us bed time stories!! A particular favourite story came from a
book I received from my grandparents which included a story entitled 'Ishun Bros...The insulin.' Whilst neither of us understood the title (I still don't) it was about a little boy named inculin, and we of course applied the character to Bladsey (one of the residents I mentioned earlier). The RAF guys must have thought we were mad, yet all me and Jason could do was laugh.
The new year gave way to new hopes. Im sure that it wasn't until the second year that I finally began thinking about mine and Joanne's chances of being fostered. The fact that my dad was living across the road from the home in a three bedroom house with his second wife and young daughter should have had a negative impact upon us. We rarely visited the house (despite the fact it was only yards away) yet I did not for
one minute think that there was a possibility that our own father could accommodate us. As the year progressed I noticed for the first time that a process was ongoing...prospective foster parents would visit the home and take their chosen children away for a few hours. They would again visit and take the children again, and then overnight, and then permanently. I remember the Skillen brothers gaining a foster placement in late July, and that exact process occurring. I felt that me and my sister had little chance
of gaining a foster family as we were two, yet seeing the skillen brothers gave me new hope.
In my final year at the home I left primary school (reluctantly) and prepared for my step up to 'big school.' My primary school years were happy ones, and on my last school year I recall being the captain of my house (The Romans), winning numerous medals at my school sports day and the overall award for best house team. In fact I remember that I had one rival whom I knew would beat me in the long distance race, and so
I said to him that if we ran together and drew that race then we would both get a medal...and he agreed. As the race progressed we ran side by side, yet I kicked on wanting the glory for myself. Shaun (the guy) saw this move and just destroyed me....I was gutted. I suppose I wasn't that nervous about starting secondary school as I already knew a lot of people who were already there...those whom I lived with.
:From what I can remember I was barely four months into my first year at school when my keyworker at the time, Karen, told me that she had some news for me and my sister.....we had possibly been found some foster parents......
My Sister seemed to be very excited about the prospect of moving in with our new foster parents. We has, as I recall, had a number of days out with them and had stayed overnight at their house. Brian and Ellen were a middle aged couple who lived in the nearby city. They lived in a three bedroomed terraced house, he was a postman, the back garden overlooked a stream and they had a strange, old cat called Florence. These
were the first memories I had of them!! Brian must have been over six feet tall, slim with white hair, and must have been in his fifties. Ellen by contrast was small with brown bobbed hair and easily in her forties. They seemed as nervous as we were the first time we met, yet after these interim contacts it was decided that they would be suitable foster parents for us, and so on one winters day we packed up our belongings and said goodbye to the children's home for what should have been a settled end to our childhood.....and
they say pigs can fly!!
Within a few months both myself and my sister had settled well. I was attending XXX XXXXXX secondary school and my sister was still finishing her primary education. We quickly made our own sets of friends and life took on a strange form of normality. Of course I struggled wit what to call my foster parents. My sister seemed to have no problem in calling them mum and dad, yet I just couldn't bring myself to say it. One
of my friends lived on the same street, and I can remember telling her that I lived at number 10, and she didn't believe me. She had obviously seen a middle aged couple had lived there with no sign of children, and then us. I cannot to this day remember how I explained it away, but at no point during my time there did I admit that I was fostered. My friendships developed with three people in particular, Tom, Sharon and Bonnie. These were friendships that would remain close throughout my time. My fondest memories
were of attending the city's football club's training facilities every Saturday for games of football for youngsters, a meal and then onto watching the professional team play at 3.00pm. The first year sailed by, yet the only setback I suffered was the closure of my secondary school due to their not being enough attendees. Most of us transferred to another mainstream school, and I guess that's where my troubles began.
For me a change in school was second nature, this of course being my third secondary school within a twelve month period. Now I admit I wasn't a great student at my first school, and yes I did tent to mess about a little. However that was nothing compared to my behaviour at this second school. If truth be known I settled down well. I had a good group of friends, a girlfriend (Kirsty) and was playing football regularly
for a club in the city. Socially life was good, I was always busy and if the truth be told I treated my foster parents place as a hotel. When I was at home I found myself to be at constant war with my sister, recalling that I even hit her on a number of occasions. She was spending more time with Brian and Ellen, and only had a few friends. The highlight of the year was a holiday to Butlin's, which I thoroughly enjoyed!! I found my time with them to be relatively stable and happy, yet my primary concern' was in
staying with my friends. Yet even now I remember my attention span at school getting shorter, I wanted to spend time messing around and laughing, and whilst I cannot be sure I think I was even suspended at some point. This however came to a head possibly sixteen months after my arrival!!!
I remember this day well. On coming back from school I can remember seeing a strange woman sat in the kitchen. My face dropped and it was as if I instantly knew what was going on. She explained to me that Brian and Ellen had been experiencing problems with mine and Joanne's behaviour, and as a consequence one of us had to move. I was extremely quick to point out that it should be Joanne, afterall I was settled at school
and had done nothing wrong..it was all her fault. I can even remember climbing into the loft and hiding as naturally I didn't want to go. I think that my distress at this time forced me into grabbing at any possibility of me staying, even at the expense of my own sister. However looking back it was clear to see that the decision had already been made...afterall I was the one experiencing problems at school, I was the one who treated the place like it was a hotel, and Joanne was at that time settling into school
well and treating the place with the respect it deserved. Of course my immediate reaction was that I would be returned to the home, that I would lose my friends and that my whole life was over. Within an hour of the social services turning up I was packed and gone, I didn't even have time to say goodbye to my friends and to this day I have never seen any of them again.
I dint know at the time, but this proved to be a major tuning point in my life. Had I stayed there I can only surmise that I would have left school with no qualifications and my attitude towards all would have been poor. I wasn't returned to the children's home though...instead I was transferred to another set of foster parents, ones whom I had stayed at during my periods of 'holidays' as a youngster. As with all major
emotional rollercoasters I remember the day I arrived at their house as if it was yesterday. Of course I do remember Norma and George from the earlier periods I had spent with them. I spent all of that day sobbing my heart out, still thinking that it was the end of my life. As much as they tried to console me I just couldn't help but think that I had lost everything. However one thing I know about children is that they are fickle, and they adapt to new situations quickly, and indeed the latter was something I
had to do.
So what of my biological parents. When we moved to XXXXXXXX city I did not see my father once. I am unsure as to whether the social services put some form of control over contact in order for the foster placement to be given a chance. This was also the case with my mother, and whilst I did not forget that they existed, I felt that for the time being is was important to be part of a family. Even a move to another set
of foster parents did not alter this view, and whilst again I failed see my father for the years I was there was one occasion when I was allowed to see my mother, which I will describe later on.
A NEW BEGINNING
I spent approximately three years with this current foster family, and I can categorically say that this time transformed my life, and provided me with the opportunity to get to where I am now. Having already mentioned the fact that the Smith's (as I shall call them) had looked after me and Joanne when we were younger, the social services were dug out of a hole when they offered to take me on full time. This family had
two of their own children who had grown up and left home, one of which lived in America and the other in Germany. They also had a third son, whom they had adopted, and he was at university at that time. So for them to take on another needy teenager, only shortly after they had sent their third child on his way to independence, must have taken a great deal of heart and motivation from the pair of them. Of course throughout my time with them I failed to think about all they had sacrificed, and in truth I took them
for granted. I didn't actually fully understand what they had done for me until I picked up my GCSE results, subsequently thanking both of my foster parents and telling them that it was due to their guidance and care that I had achieved such results.
So who were the Smith's? Both were in their 50s when they took me on...they must surely have thought they had seen the back of looking after children...until I arrived. George (dad) was a working man and held a post in the forestry commission, whilst Norma (mum) was a hard working mum who held the household together. They were a fairly traditional, religious family whom I would say believed strongly in upholding
morality and the values they possessed. One of the hardest aspects of this new life for me was in going to the local Methodist church every Sunday. I had, at that time little reason to believe in any god, not so much as I felt hard done by, but because there had been relatively little to cheer me in my life so far. I remember sitting at the church on Sundays and even attending Sunday school. Of course I constantly asked not to go, but no responsible parent would leave such a child on their own and they were quite
right to take me along with them. At the time I didn't listen to anything that was said, yet in a strange way the church had a profound effect on me...it opened my eyes not simply to religion, but to the ideas of morality, respect and understanding. Dare I say that on Christmas eve and morning I became that accustomed to going to church that I actually continued to go without resentment for the remaining Christmas' that I was there.
Little over a year after I arrived I felt that I had settled well. I had formed a group of good friends, regularly went out to play football/go out into town etc... Indeed at fifteen I even began consuming alcohol. This used to take place on Friday and/or Saturday evenings, and even though I had a strict curfew I managed to get away with it!! Whether we were meeting up in the local park to drink Diamond White of pernod,
or going to friends houses and drinking lager, I managed to have a pretty normal set of teenage years. Now I know that mum and dad are pretty astute people, and that furthermore they had seen three teenagers come and go, so in reality they must have known what I was up to, and upon reading this they may wish to comment on such claims!!!
As a teenager I think that I was a pretty repulsive, demanding creature, and that's saying it nicely. They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and the loss of my previous foster parents brought me to these wonderful people. However I do recall one occasion which nearly cost me my place in their household, and even now I am at pains to recall such an event. My actions involved the keeping of a diary, and my recording
feelings of hatred to all those around me, particularly my foster parents. There are some passages which described 'killing them,' and fortunately for me this was discovered by mum. I say fortunately because had this continued then I feel that I may have had some form of breakdown. I had an inbuilt anger that the only way I could control it was to write it down and direct my hatred to those close to me. I remember returning home from school one day to discover my mum in a somewhat somber mood, which I put down
to nothing in particular. However after tea, when dad was home, I went upstairs to do my homework and was suddenly confronted by both foster parents. Mum had found the diary and was deeply upset with what she had read, and I was dumfounded and didn't know what to say. At this point, and surely over the next few weeks, the two of them must have agonised about whether or not they would be able to accommodate me for the forseable future.
As it transpired they agreed that I could stay, and to this day I am eternally grateful for that second chance. Even now I fail to see why I conducted such actions, and furthermore why I was not assessed for any form of therapeutic intervention. As a Probation Officer now I feel that I would be greatly disturbed if someone, particularly a child, displayed such actions and would certainly seek some form of structured
support and assessment. Of course my foster parents helped me to resolve such an issue by showing faith in me and giving me another chance, and I think that this gesture alone renewed my faith in humanity. Looking back I realise that this anger must have swelled due to past events, and maybe I didn't know how to deal with it at that time.
Of course we all have stories of our schooldays and what we got up to with our friends, but form me this account is about the effect of the care system on myself and my family. Whilst I prospered at the Smith's, I heard that things for my sister had taken a turn for the worse. She had been removed from the original set of foster parents and returned to a children's home in my home town. I cant ever remember seeing my
sister when living with the Smith's, but I did receive the odd letter. Even there she was unsettled and on one occasions ran away, leaving the local media to publish a photograph of her with the word 'Missing' highlighted. From what I gathered this was not a positive move for my sister, and I never ascertained the reason as to why her placement broke down with her previous foster parents. If that news had not taken me back I received more from a girl who recognised me in the town I was then living in (she
recognised me form photos that my sister had of me)...I had an older brother. His name was Carl and he was two years my senior, and had been taken into care from a very early age. He was not someone I met until I was eighteen years of age.
So my schooling was completed. Upon starting XXXXXX school I was someone who didn't seem to want to learn, an individual with a short attention span who wanted to mess about. However by the end I had completely transformed my attitude and desire to succeed, and I left with nine GCSE exams graded A to C. Of course upon collecting them I knew who I had to thank for this transformation, and did so!! This of course allowed
me to attend the local college and pursue my dream of becoming a Journalist, yet my dealings with the social services was far from over......
THE END OF FOSTERCARE
At the age of seventeen I would say that my attitude was far from improving. Yes I treated my foster parents with the respect they deserved, but when your that age there is no escaping the rudeness and obnoxious behaviour most of us convey. I also felt that it was time for me to move into my own place so that 'I could do what I wanted, when I wanted.' Now to this day I am not sure how long the Smith's had agreed to look
after me, but after making umpteen number of threats to leave they finally decided to call my bluff....and before I knew it the social services had found me in what I can only describe as a step up from bed and breakfast. It was a house owned and lived in by Margaret, yet she let two of her rooms out. I can only surmise she had some sort of deal going with the social services, and I found myself on my own.
Now for someone to have just turned seventeen the prospect of living on ones own would initially appear to be a dream. Yes I could do what I wanted, I could go out for as long as I wanted and I could even have back whom ever I wanted. Margaret even did my washing for me and cooked my tea. The fact that she was part of what I could only describe as a religious cult only impeded on my life a little, particularly as one
of her disciples (who was probably a nice guy) took an interest in gently recruiting me to the sect. On many an evening I can recall locking myself in my room when she had told me that they had a meeting set...and listening to religious speeches and strange games. Despite all that was going on around me I regularly visited my foster parents, and after securing my leaving care grant I managed to acquire a CB 125T Honda Superdream Motorcycle, I found a new level of freedom.
At this point I began riding over to my hometown, resuming contact with my mother and sister, and later on my brother. After completing college successfully I returned to my hometown and took up residence with my mother. My care order was completed on my 18th birthday, yet the social services assisted me in moving back home. My mother was extremely keen on having me back home, and after unpacking and settling in it began
to dawn on me that my life had come a complete circle at the tender age of eighteen.
Whilst it would be neat and tidy to conclude the story there I must mention one more association with the social services. I had heard through my sister that they were organising a trip to Ireland for four children who had been in fostercare and children's homes. By some miracle (and I don't know how I did it) I managed to be one of those four, and so on one warm night in July two members of staff (Bill and Sam) and
four children aged around fifteen to seventeen (Me, Charlotte, Vicky and Darren) left the children's home in a mini bus and set of for Ireland. The idea behind the holiday was that we would go to a farm on the outskirts of Belfast and assist in its renovation for the many school children who would visit in. It would be videoed and played to the big wigs at the social services, and if successful would be implemented on a much larger scale. I felt that the idea was an excellent one, and that furthermore the trip
itself had a significant impact as to how I would develop as a person. Above all it taught me to appreciate the concepts of responsibility, hard work, respect for others and being fortunate. We all received a copy of the video and I still have mine to this day, yet the memories of that working holiday will never be removed. This trip however signified the end of my contact with the social services, ending a catalogue of experiences which helped shape the person I am today.