In Care : Sharon : 4 : A Good Education?

This is the fourth episode in Sharon’s story. She and Caitlin were in care together, and they have just met again. Sharon is telling Caitlin what happened to her after there were split up. You can read the earlier episodes here – Episode 1 2 3

So, when we had eaten, I started again, “Course, it didn’t last long did it? Too crowded. Too many hurt people. Nobody knowing how to fix it. Jimmy amazed that he had been kept in the dark, wondering how much more he didn’t know about his lovely Rosie. He tortured himself about who my father was and if my Mum had had lots of other men.

“Sometimes he tried to be nice to me so that he could try to trick me into telling him. But I had no idea. I had spent twelve years thinking my Grandad was my Dad. I don’t remember my mother going out, except with a few women friends from where she worked. Then Nan or Grandad would be warning her about being back by eleven o’clock and to watch what she was doing, all accompanied by what I now know were meaningful nods.

“What they meant was, ‘Don’t let another man get into your knickers. Don’t fall and disgrace us all again.’ Only they would have said something much more genteel, and probably more hurtful, but I was usually there, keen to see big sister Rose dressed up. So the nods had to do instead. They made her live like a nun for years. I shouldn’t be surprised that she had all the love for me drained out of her and thought I had spoiled her life.

“Then of course there was the change of school for me, just about the middle of the second year at Comprehensive. Only the one near the desirable riverside flat was an endowed girls school, with an expensive uniform and snobby talkers. By the time I got there they all had their best friends sorted and I was Sharon no-mates.

“Although I was well up with the work I had no idea about self-presentation and soon got a reputation as the class slouch. So I thought, if I’m not good enough for you, why waste my time? I started to skimp on home work and then started bunking off. I kept a set of clothes in my school bag and after registration I’d change in the loos and be off up town.

“I wasn’t Sharon no-mates there, I can tell you. We had brilliant times, hanging out, wandering around, begging a drink here and a fag there. Frightening or charming café owners and burger van men into giving us things to eat. Some days it was cold and miserable, but usually somebody’s mother was out, or just out of it on drink or gear, and we’d spend the day watching their TV, working our way through whatever was going – food, drink, sometimes money. But I always steered clear of the drugs, honest, Caitlin.

“I couldn’t take them to the riverside apartment because there was security and they would certainly have grassed me up.

“But of course, it had to end anyway. It was not the sort of school where they were glad you were not there and the teachers were too frightened to call your parents in. No, this lot cared, – so they said, – and really wanted to know why I had been absent so much and was falling behind when I had been so promising.

“Unfortunately, they never dreamed that I had spent twelve years thinking my mother was my sister, that my real mother blamed me for her ruined life and that my step dad was torn apart by jealousy, not believing that my mother had as good as been in a nunnery since I was born. Nor did they seem to know how cruel girls can be to other girls. They seemed to think we all lived happily in this lovely bubble. So any attempts to sort out ‘concerns’ were sure to fail.

“Rose and Jimmy decided to drop me off and collect me from school, to pay my dinner money by cheque and to stop my pocket money. They thought that would force me to stay in school. Sad really ‘cos it forced me to lie all the more and to steal to get things, even little things like bus fares, because all my life I had heard the mantra, ‘Never get into a car with a strange man’. So there I am, a teenage runaway on public transport!

“Of course, in the end, the school got fed up, because I was going to ruin their league table results and they really thought that they had done their best to help me. Someone who could really listen might just have done the trick, but too late now. Then I got picked up a few times by the Police and since frankly neither Mum nor Jimmy wanted me in their lives it didn’t take much for me to fetch up at The Haven, with a few stops at foster homes on the way.

“You know, Caitlin, the Social don’t half waste a lot of money deciding what’s in the best interests of children crap, when really they need somebody like me who knows where it’s at and can persuade kids it’s OK to talk, and take them seriously when they do. It could save thousands if they actually found out what the problem is, rather then mending something that ain’t wrong.

“You know, if you have somebody like me, who feels let down and not wanted by the three most important people in their lives, moving them on to a string of ‘professional carers’ or ‘care homes’, that do anything but really care, is not the smart answer, if you think about it. Just think about it, Cait.”

For once Caitlin had no questions, nor even any words. She could only reach out and hold me.

You can find the next and final episode in Sharon’s story on this page.

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