It must be me.
For as long as I can remember I have thought that it must be me. It must be MY fault. It must be what I do. I have caused the trouble.
Now more often than not I think “I don’t care. They don’t care. Let’s get it over with as fast as possible”. So then I do something unforgivable and the black bags start lining up in the hallway. My social worker, or more than likely a complete stranger, turns up and I’m off on tour again.
I call it off on tour in my head to avoid admitting that I’ve been thrown out of yet another foster placement. For a while it holds back the fear and the pain. Where am I going? What will it be like? Will I have to share a room? Will I have a lock on my door? Will there be space for any of my stuff? Will it be far away? What about school? What about my stuff that’s in the washing machine here?
Even after years of doing this, the questions are all pretty much the same. And I always have a lot of questions ‘cos nobody ever tells me anything first. Pack up. Bags in the hall. Car outside. Stuff loaded in the boot. Me in the car and off we go. Sometimes they don’t even stand at the door to wave me off. But why would they? – except to be sure I’ve actually gone.
Some things have changed though. The social services don’t have foster homes now. They have foster placements. They don’t have foster parents either. They have foster carers and in some places they have ‘professional foster carers’. I suppose it’s in case they get done under trades descriptions or whatever. Call it a ‘home’ and call them ‘parents’ and kids might think that’s what they’re getting and then sue later when they find it was all a con.
In one place where I was one of the older ones, kids had been got on to a committee, so that the social could show how they consulted ‘young people’ in their care. Another con he told me, ‘cos to consult there has to be some respect for those being consulted. Anyway, he told me one of the things he found out was that they don’t talk about fostering breakdowns now, because it suggests failure. Instead there are ‘placement disruptions’.
I’ve lost count of how many disruptions I’ve had. I must have cost thousands and upset a lot of people. I know a lot of them have hurt me – and not just my feelings.
If only people really thought first, right at the beginning. I know that they say they have planning meetings. They also say they have introductory visits and discuss all the details with the young person before a placement takes place. Well it might happen on paper. It might happen in somebody’s head. But it surely has never happened to me.
The bags in the hall, the car at the gate, the front door shut and off ‘on tour’ again to who knows where; that’s all I’ve ever had.
The first time
I’m not really sure if I do remember the first time, or whether my Gran told me about it. I remember she did tell me my mother was a drunk and a druggie, but by then I’d already found that out. She cried while she was telling me and she was looking at some photos in one of those album things. She was talking about my mother. She kept saying she was her golden girl, her beautiful child.
She stroked the photos and kept saying, ” Where did it all go so wrong? What did I do wrong? It must have been my fault.”
I looked at the pictures. If Gran had not kept on saying it, I would never have recognised the healthy, happy girl as the woman I knew as ‘Mum’. The girl in the photos was shining. My Mum was all dull. Dull eyes, dull hair, dull greyish skin, mostly black teeth. Instead of the nice clothes in the photos, she usually had an assortment of scruffy, smelly things that didn’t fit her properly, probably because they had really belonged to somebody else first.
I wonder where that photo album and lots of other things from Gran’s bungalow went to.
Anyway, the first time I was put into foster care was when my Mum got so out of it with drink or drugs or both, she set fire to the flat. When the fire brigade got in, they found me in a bad way in a filthy cot and I was rushed to the hospital. I remember a lot of bright white – lights, walls, sheets, I suppose. I remember warm and cuddly. I think the nurses liked looking after me. Sad for me that I couldn’t stay there. At least I did, until they had found out who my Mum was and looked for her family.
But Mum had tried to get as far from her own mother as she could and nobody knew that I had posh relations who would all have looked after me. So I was moved to my first foster carer, until the social worker was persuaded that my Mum had got straightened out and gave me back to her. As soon as she could, she got us both on the move, not least because she owed money all over. So it was off to a new place.
Do I really remember that first fire and the filthy cot and the fireman’s big face and the shiny helmet? My Gran might have got to know the story from somewhere, but she couldn’t know these details.
Anyway the same sorts of things happened over and over again. Mum out of it. Sometimes neighbours reporting me crying. Once or twice her being arrested for stealing. But always somebody looking at me in horror and lifting me up and then I’d be with strangers, until somebody decided I should go back to Mum.
Gran said I wet the bed a lot, was late learning to talk, or walk. I never seemed to have had any toys, so I would lie, or sit, often just making a strange noise. I didn’t seem to like to be picked up and I pulled away if anybody tried to give me a cuddle.
But one of the best bits I remember was when Mum finally took me back to Gran’s home with her. This was when I started to get looked after properly and loved by my Gran.
Gran was quite angry that no-one had ever tried to get information about her family out of my mother. Gran would have taken both of us back like a shot that first time if only she had known. If only she had, I might not have gone to foster carers in the first place, or again and again. She might have settled me and my Mum down and I might not have been dragged off every time my Mum couldn’t fight off the drink and the drugs and did a runner. But as I got older I could at least get myself back to Gran’s, until that all ended.
One night she fell when we were not there and was lying on the bathroom floor for ages before anyone found out. Then it was her turn to be hauled off to the hospital. When she came out, I did manage to spend quite a bit of time with her before anybody realised there was not a ‘responsible adult’ in the bungalow with us. So big mistake number two. Me off to yet more foster carers and Gran with a procession of ‘home carers’. Is it some kind of bad joke calling all these folks carers?
Then one day the social worker came to tell me that Gran had died. Because I was in a placement so far away nobody had thought of fetching me to see her before it was too late. And now it was all over. Dead and cremated. I had no idea where my Mum was and nobody mentioned where all Gran’s things had gone. Some of them she had promised to me and some things like the photo album I know she wanted me to keep forever.
I had so many questions, but nobody had the time to listen to me.
So I sat and thought about everything. It was my fault. Gran was too old to look after me and Mum. We had killed her. It was our fault.
It was my fault that they found out Gran had no-one old enough to look after her properly.
The foster carer could not cope with the sobs she heard every night from my room, although she never tried to comfort me. Dangerous to go into a child’s bedroom unaccompanied. In the end she asked for me to be moved on. After a few more goes I decided to make sure I got in first.
So I developed a range of disruptive behaviours. Throwing the best china out of the window, cutting up their nicest clothes, swearing at their visitors, poo-ing and smearing it on the walls.
It’s been my fault that so much has happened, so now I will make sure it really is my fault and I’ll cause another ‘disruption.’ I wonder how long it will take someone to really try to find out why?