I awoke this morning wondering what the day would hold for us Owen ( name changed ) arrived last night and we were surprised to see that he was wearing a “tag”. He seems to be really respectful, polite and appreciative. It being school holiday I asked what he would like to do today. He said he would like to call his girlfriend, but didn’t have a mobile any more. This seemed to be a reasonable request.
When he came off the phone he announced that he had arranged to meet with her – as he hadn’t been able to see her for ages. Once again, this seemed reasonable. I was a little hesitant, but we had not been given any background so felt that this would be ok.
Then it transpired that the girlfriend lived about 20 miles from us. Respect and trust are really important to me and essential in building relationships with young people. I agreed to take him , but explained to Owen that I would need to drop him off – then come back for him in 2 hours – as I would have a coffee – do some shopping and then pick him up in exactly the same place as I dropped him as this was what I had always agreed with my girls – and it worked well. Owen agreed.
Following our guidance and training I had asked Owen to sit in the back of the car ( which was a Renault Megane – a two door cabriolet ) . I opened the door diagonally opposite me. He objected, saying he had never heard of this “rule” before. I explained that my agency liked me to do this and it had been covered in training sessions – perhaps his previous foster carer had worked for another agency. I then suggested it was probably something to do with car insurance so was not negotiable if he wanted to go out in the car.
I was quite looking forward to the drive and then the down time with a coffee and a magazine – sadly, it seems, Owen did not appreciate that I wanted a relaxing afternoon! We soon set off on the 40 mile round trip.
As we approached the street name that he had given me, he asked me to pull over at a petrol station – as he would just get out there. Fortunately I was suspicious and drove past . He objected telling me that he wanted to buy some sweets. I challenged this as I knew that he had no money and I was planning to give him a daily allowance when we got to our destination (luckily ) . He shouted in an intimidating manner “ Stop the Car!” I calmly stated that when we got to the address that he had given I would stop the car.
What ensued could be described as a battle of wits to keep him safe. He proceeded to unbuckle his seat belt and push forward the seat in an effort to leave the car as I slowed at a roundabout. I did not stop. So he began to unwind the electronic window and made as though he would climb out. I used assertive language and told him I needed him to put the seat belt back on or I would head back to the motorway.
He asked if I would still drop him at the address. I said I would follow the agreement to drop him and collect him in the same place. As I slowed to pull into the agreed street Owen jumped out of the car – leapt over a wall and ran at speed away from the street that he we were in. Clearly he was not planning to return here. I tried to follow him – but he clearly had local knowledge of the area and was gone in an instant.
When I rang the Emergency Duty Team they informed me that he had absconded before, which was why they had asked our agency for an out of area placement – then came an explanation of why he had come to us . Our ThSocial Worker and agency had not been informed of the details.
They explained that it was highly unlikely that he would return for the 2nd night of his placement with us – but we said that we would we be available if they found him – but we felt we were too inexperienced to deal with the complexities of this young person on a longer term basis. When we spoke to our Supervising Social Worker they apologised that we had been put in this position. We put it down to experience – quite an initiation into our life as foster carers!
Later this afternoon we had a phone call to arrange a visit for a young man called John who will visit, while I am at school on Monday , with a view to him having a Section 20 short term placement with us – as his relationship with his family had broken down.
Jayne Robbins (alias) – A Blogging Foster Carer.