Saturday, 10 October 2015

Family history and the foster child

I went into foster care when I was 14 and my foster parents had no particular interest in my family history. They knew that my Father was dead and that my Mother was in a local mental hospital and that was about as far as their knowledge went. They never encouraged me to talk about my family but if I did happen to mention something they at least seemed to be interested so it wasn't too much of a problem for me. In the early days I used to go to visit my Mother in the hospital most weeks and when I got back to my foster home my foster parents always asked me, "How was your Mother this week?" So they were not cruel or unthinking towards me: just rather casual.

It was the same, just in reverse, with my foster parent's own family history. I don't remember anything being said about their lives before I had arrived on the scene. There were a few photos around but the earliest one was one of their wedding and was a picture of just the two of them signing a book with the vicar standing behind them. I don't remember seeing any photos with the rest of the guests so I don't know what type of wedding they had. At the age I was I wasn't old enough or sensible enough to appear interested in things like that so I don't think that I ever asked questions about their family.

It wasn't until I moved out of foster care at 16 and into lodgings that I met somebody who was interested in my background. Mrs H was a good talker and a good listener as well and over the years that I lived in her house we gradually found out more and more about each other. It made a big difference to think that somebody wanted to know about me and that I mattered to someone. This feeling of not mattering and not belonging to part of a bigger group is one of the things that has been a problem for me for almost as long as I can remember.

After I married Jane and we had moved to Wolverhampton I gradually met her quite large family. Some of them, mainly the older ones, were quite nosey about my background and it was quite difficult knowing how much to say about private things like my Mother's illness. Jane's family had all sorts of family feuds involving some members falling out with other members about really minor things. I used to think that they didn't appreciate how lucky they were to have family alive and living close by!

From what I have found out since I started writing this blog a lot more time and trouble is now given to the family history of the young person going into foster care. I'm very glad about that.

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