Saturday, 12 December 2015

My first months as a foster child in St Albans - Part 2

A few days after I went into foster care I told my Social Worker how sad and disappointed I was that I wasn't living like a member of a family at all and that living in the foster home reminded me of a horrible Bed and Breakfast place that Mum and I had once stayed in over in Cromer.

I don't know exactly what my Foster Parents had been told about what they were expected to do to help me in exchange for the money they were being paid but what I do know was they didn't do much.

They knew that my Dad was dead and that Mum was in a mental hospital but perhaps they thought that it wasn't their job to deal with anything apart from my physical needs? I wonder if they thought that my school or my social worker dealt with everything to do with my worries or the sadness I sometimes felt after visiting Mum in hospital?

My bedroom was fine and I had enough to eat so nobody should think that my foster parents didn't do that part of their job because they did. What they didn't do was any of the things that "proper parents" would do if their child was feeling lonely or upset.

I'm sure they were not neglectful on purpose. I just don't think that they realised it was their job to be a substitute family for me. Looking back their way of doing the job they were paid to do did cause some strange situations!

My Foster Parents used to go to the cinema about once a month (usually the Odean but sometimes the Gaumont) but in all the time I lived with them they never once took me with them. The Gaumont was further away so they used to go there in the car. I can remember two or three times when I watched the same film as them at the same time but with me walking there and back and the two of them going in the car!

My Foster Dad wasn't a great fan of football but about six times a season he would drive over to Luton to watch a game. I used to go more often but only when I had enough spare money of my own to pay the fare and then the admission charge to the Oak Road End. Surely it must have felt strange to him that the two of us were going to exactly the same place but that he wasn't taking me or paying for me?

I never got to love or respect either of them and I think that was a shame because if they had made a bit more effort I think it would have been easier for all three of us to share a house for 2 years. I also think that the Social Workers might have tried a bit harder to find my a placement with people that wanted me rather than with people who just put up with me. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Role models for foster children in St Albans

TWO BAD ROLE MODELS - It probably sounds horribly ungrateful but I think that both my foster parents, but especially my Foster Dad, were not very good role models. He worked hard at his job and was clearly well thought of by his employer but that was it. He did almost nothing around the house to help my Foster Mum and he never showed any interest in what I was doing or what I was feeling.

Young people were only put into foster care when something had gone seriously wrong within their own family. Surely what was needed was some extra support? Not being made to feel that the only reason I was allowed to stay with them was because of the extra money it brought into the house!

He almost never started a conversation with me and most meals were spent in silence with him eating with one hand and holding the newspaper he was reading with the other. It never felt that I was part of his family or that I mattered even a tiny bit to him.

THREE GOOD ROLE MODELS - When I had to leave foster care I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't stay on at school but luckily in the 1970s it wasn't hard finding work at 16 and I found work at small engineering firm down one of the alleyways off the main shopping street in St Albans. The Boss there was the most professional person I have ever worked with. He had a lot of real "hard men" working for him but they were always in awe of the quality of his work so he never had any problems with them! All my life I have tried to be like the Boss by always trying my hardest to get jobs right, to get them done on time and to get them done at the agreed price.

One of the lecturers at the college where I studied for some City and Guilds qualification was always very kind and patient with me and always made a point of checking that I understood all the new skills he was teaching me. He was a pal of my boss at the engineers where I was working so perhaps they had discussed me when they were down the pub.

Mr T was an all-around good bloke and a very high quality engineer and he had a big impact on how my life developed. I think he would be embarrassed and shocked if he ever found out that I saw him as a bit of a father figure to make up for the Dad I didn't remember.
When I left foster care I lodged with Mrs H. She lived where the Maltings Development is now right in the centre of St Albans and only 3 minutes from my job. She was lovely and for the first time for what felt like ages I was happy to go home at night. Mrs H looked after me like a real Mother would and I started to realise that perhaps I did matter to somebody. Years later it was one of the very few times I cried as an adult when I went to her funeral. I helped carry her coffin from the hearse into the church and I was pleased and proud that I had been asked to do that.