I see him, that little boy, stood by the Christmas tree; his mouth is sort of upward turning, a pretend smile that does not reach his eyes. He’s played nicely with his brothers, carried the little one around and patted the other one like a doting dog. He’s eaten chips and held muffled conversation with the grown up strangers, he’s done his very best. Now it’s time for goodbye. We stand in a circle around the boy by the tree, wondering how to play out this moment. I decide to go in for a hug, but with my first touch of his rigid frame I know I’ve made a mistake. I’m here now, so the hug goes on. It really is not what he wants. Almost frozen with fear his body clenches as I lightly squeeze, hoping my warmth can help him feel love. No, nothing. It’s over in a moment, a relieved blink of his eyes, but sadness for that boy lives on in me. That was the last time Stig and Tink saw their older brother.
Let’s just call him M. What happened to M? M was considered unadoptable, he had a firm attachment to birth mum and it was thought he would find attaching to other care givers too difficult. So M was to live with birth dad and as Tink or Stig don’t share this dad, direct contact for once a year was set in place. It only happened that once. By the time we got to the second meeting, M was back living with birth mum. Dad’s new partner had not been very keen on M and so he had to go. Social services decided that although it had been ruled that mum could not look after three children she might manage with one, especially the older one, now eight years old. Fast forward three more years, M is now eleven and being removed, by social services, from his mothers care, again. This time grandma takes him, although originally back in the day she had said she didn’t want him. That’s the latest news we had, two years ago. What must life be like for M?
Those of you who know me and my family will be fully aware that parenting and caring for our children has not suddenly become easier because they have been with us one, two or six years. If anything the challenges have grown, developed as social interaction and the school environment becomes increasingly demanding and sophisticated. Parenting is a tough job no matter how your family was created but for the parents of adopted children there is an additional need to unravel and repair damage created in a life you were not a part of. As their parents you love them, care for them, and nurture them and you also worry how they will get on in the world, carrying the weight of their beginnings through life. In the six years that my two boys have experienced the warmth and compassion of a loving family, who has been loving, caring for and nurturing M? Which person has shown real concern for the crippling weight his beginnings continue to place upon him?
There are many children, who enter the care system, removed from unfit homes; who can’t be adopted; these are the M’s of this world. The options available for these children are in many cases limited and unsatisfactory. M is one of these lost boys and girls, you see his hooded form on the streets, in parks, swigging, puffing, sneering, you hear him swear, and you smell his fury. I don’t mean to be pessimistic but on paper his future is bleak. In my opinion the care system let this one down.
It was therefore with great optimism I this week read about The Care Inquiry. A collection of eight charities have teamed together to examine the existing provisions for children living within the care system and aims to offer advice and recommendations for improvements. The inquiry was launched with an open letter to the Prime Minister stating “the emphasis must be on finding homes that meet a child’s needs and on avoiding unnecessary delays. The care system must work to improve the lives of all children who come into contact with it’.
One of the charities involved is TACT The Adolescent and Child Trust, which I have agreed to raise funds for by running the London Marathon in 2013. On their website Kevin Williams, chief executive of TACT makes the reason for their wanting to be involved in this inquiry clear “we believe that historic views of how fostering, adoption and other care services are organised have become increasingly unsuitable. Services should support the sometimes lifelong needs of children, many of whom have suffered abuse or neglect.”
I had already decided that TACT was a charity I would like to raise money for and yes I did really want a place in the London marathon as well. However having read about The Care Inquiry an additional cord has been struck in my heart a true enthusiasm for this cause has been sparked. I have often felt helpless about M, wishing that there was something we could do for him. Well here is my chance, if not for him for others like him. Running shoes ready, Virgin sponsorship page ready, brain buzzing with fundraising ideas ready. On your marks, get set, go.
To find out more about The Care Inquiry click HERE
To sponsor me click HERE.
Or maybe you’d like to buy a TACT Lavender Heart. Find out More HERE