I had long conversations with Alan, several times in the weeks before he left us , after lockdown, to start his 3rd year of the 5 years that he plans to spend at University. I felt it was important having parented him in a therapeutic way for 7 years to reflect on what had gone well and what we could have done better. He has been so loyal to us and the respect that he has shown us – from the very start of his time living in our home as his family home has blossomed into genuine attachment and love.
He expressed really strong feelings in relation to the foster system and the words that were used by the professionals involved with the family. In speaking with him I could not help but feel sad that the scrutiny and bureaucracy of being a child in foster care had really upset him, perhaps even held him back in his repair. In particular he referred to the language that professionals had used .
Perhaps the most telling discussion was in relation to the IRO referring to Peter as his foster dad. Having experienced massive abuse and trauma at the hands of his own father he said he wished she had just called him Peter – because he hated the word dad and it did not describe the caring person that Peter is.
When Social workers had told him that he was going to be fostered they told him he would be “In care” . This had caused confusion and anxiety – he wished they had just said that he and his siblings were going to have another home and another family would look after him and keep them all safe. They then insisted on calling our home, where we live a placement. He told me that he had spoken with his brother and sisters very early in their time with us and they had tried together to work out what a placement was. He explained that the word placement always made home feel temporary. It made them all feel less secure.
He really didn’t like the term “ Looked After Child “ because all of his friends were also “ looked after “ by their Birth Parents and it made him realise that he hadn’t really been looked after before he came to live with us.
He hates it when I call his brother and sisters “siblings” . It is a word that he didn’t know when he came into our home and it feels very formal.
He desperately wanted a “normal” life and the scrutiny of “statutory visits – which we agreed a long time ago to call “ Visits to see how you are doing, “ was an evil that he would much rather have done without.
Alan came to us having been on the Child Protection Register for over 12 months. I suspect that during that time there would have been much criticism of the Local Authority Social Worker by his Birth Mother. We have tried very hard to build respect for the professionals who were working with the family and encourage the young people to trust them.
Sadly as a result of a professional , who I have to agree showed little if any empathy and a great deal of arrogance, all that good work was undermined within just a couple of visits. Alan now wants nothing to do with Social Workers and that seems to suit the said professional. Alan did state that he isn’t keen on the ‘Social’ worker label. The reason he gave for this was “He doesn’t believe any of them are very social.”
There are good and bad in every profession – but a great deal of irreparable damage can be done when any professional does not uphold the professionalism of their role.
Jayne Robbins (alias) – A Blogging Foster Carer.