One of the big things foster children have to struggle with is that when they come to you they sometimes quickly see what they've been missing.
Not always, no sir. Often they are so beat up by everything they can't see straight. Anyway, it's not part of our job to make them compare their new home with the old.
It's a universal truth that children think that whatever life is like for them is how it is for everyone else, so they've got no reason to complain. I'm guessing lots of children go through their childhood with awful lowlevel things going on around them, are never helped and only come to the truth about their early years in later life - if ever.
For some foster children the contrast between their life in their real home and their foster home is so stark they get very confused about their feelings. Some of them want to resent their parents (or whoever the adults in their home were), but can't get past their deep-rooted love for them.
It's this deep rooted love for their parents that gets their heads spinning. They don't choose it.
We had one girl stay with us, it's impossible to spell out what a dreadful creature her 'mother' seemed to be. I say 'mother' like that, because although she was the girl's biological mother, she was not a mother in any other way.
Are you ready for this? I mean, don't read any further if you are at risk of running out of hope for the human race.
She'd had four daughters with her husband, at least that's what she'd told the husband according to the daughter who was placed with us. The whereabouts of the father were now unknown, the girl said that he'd been at home most days when she'd got back from school, and he'd interfered with her regularly, as he had done with all the daughters. He didn't work thanks to a carefully cultivated back injury.
The mum threw the dad out when she had enough of his sponging off her. She drew up schemes for different ways of sustaining her lifestyle.
I never met her, spoke to her once on the phone, voice like a chainsaw. The daughter wanted to show me pictures on her phone. The woman was clearly a former head-turner, and she'd kept her figure. She was tiny, with blue-black well cut hair, a bit too much make-up over her fake tan, turquoize around her brown/black eyes. The hardness showed in the eyes, but mostly in the lips which had got thin with years of anger. Her favourite colour outfit was black top, black leather mini-skirt.
After she threw the 'dad' out she started a sucession of boyfriends, the purpose of which was to get their money. According to the daughter her maxim was something like "Find 'em, screw 'em, and chuck 'em". The 'screw' bit was a reference to getting as much money out of them as possible.
She worked the benefit system, according to the daughter, with the comittment and skill that foster carers get used to hearing about; four child benefits and housing, plus the one I've come to recognise as the Holy Grail; sickness benefit, invalidity, doctor's certificates. In her case it was a non-asthma respiratory ailment which had nothing to do with 40 a day. A habit the whole household enjoyed.
Of course there are plenty of people who need these benefits, and people who moan about scroungers should also be proud to live in a country where we help those who need help.
But there are exceptions, and we come across them from time to time in fostering.
So anyway, this woman. It gets much much worse. She threw each of her daughters out of the house when they reached the age where they no longer brought in child benefit. Just told them to get out, on the exact birthday the 'payday' as she called it, ceased. But not before she'd got their compensation money off them.
"Compensation money"? You're wondering what that is.
Okay, here goes. At this point it's worth remembering that this information comes from the mouth of a damagaed teenage girl. Having said that, the girl's social worker appeared to confirm all.
All four of the girls had been awarded compensation money for being raped.
One by one, about every 12 months from what I could gather, each of four daughters went to the police and reported being raped. Each ended up with compensation payments in the region of £7,000.
The mother spent the girls compensation on cars, holidays for herself, cosmetic surgery and a particularly nasty pair of black leather sofas. How she wangled the money off the girls and blew it all on herself I don't know. She was one of those little women with a cruel tone in her voice and a personality to match.
Look, I don't know the exact truth in any of this story, but the girl told it very convincingly.
The girl used to phone her sisters (all in supported accomodation), and tell them how lovely her new home was, anyone would expect she was happy now and well shot of her mother.
Big "but" coming: every week, once a week, she got the train and went back for one last chance for mum to show her some love. The hope her mother would eventually melt and show interest, concern, love; that hope never diminished. Week after week after week she went, unwavering. Nor did the 'mother' waver in the cruel derision, nasty remarks, viscious criticisms and ridicule of her daugher.
Don't know where the daughter is now, she was with us nearly a year, I have her mobile phone number but resist the temptation.
Pretty sure what the 'mother' is up to; same old same old.
All the daughter wants, in order to get on with life, is something from this apparent monster. Mind, when you've been in fostering a bit, you know that the 'monster' was a victim herself somewhere along the way, which doesn't excuse her. Maybe her daughters know what happened to her to make her so vile.
Maybe that's part of the reason they still want to love her.
Maybe not. Maybe this enormous love which children feel for their real parents is too huge to need justification even in the case of awful mothers and fathers.
But from time to time in fostering you see what's happening in their minds. They wonder why their real parents can't be a bit more like their foster parents.
You know what I think happens then? I think they decide they're going to get themselves home and TEACH their real parents what they've learned.
It's not going to happen, but it's a noble dream, for them to have.
To learn all they can about comparitively stable family life and take it home to repair their parents.