Sunday, March 24, 2013

I see they've shifted Chris Huhne to what's called a "soft" prison.

Must be nicer for him somehow.

Smaller queues for the ping pong table. Own bed instead of a bunk. Able to make himself a cup of Gold Blend as and when. 

Actually, it's not really a creature comfort thing. It's a people thing.

In an open prison he's going to be with white collar convicts. Men who've done VAT fraud and the like.

Men who can hold a conversation about the EU, and can talk fluently about the best lease deal on a BMW.

One of the hardest things to do is to stay interested when you're having to engage with people who are several rungs away from you on the social skills ladder. It's a problem foster carers often find themselves dealing with.

I'm not talking about young people with learning difficulties or any identifiable cognitive disorders. I'm talking about the poor children who have heard nothing but negative nonsense from the time they were in the womb.

For example, we once had a teenager placed with us who was in the house all day. Followed me around wherever I went. When I sat down at the kitchen table for my cup of Gold Blend and to do the dreaded paperwork; there was my shadow, plonked next to me, ready for a two hour "conversation".

What about? Regular topics included:

"Social Workers. They're useless."

"Benefits office. Don't know what they're doing."

"Social services. They're all horrible."

Everybody, every human organisation = useless. This is a rock solid absolute truth with all members of a particular section of society, who I suspect are amply represented in normal prisons.

There were "anecdotes" illustrating an Alice In Wonderland take on the world. And a soul-destroying habit of saying something, anything, of no interest and for no reason. I've listed a few examples at the bottom, but unless you're in need of a sense of despair, skip them.

My point is that there are many skills and qualities you need in fostering, and most of them are covered in training, and nurtured by a supportive social worker. But there are also aspects of the job you have to sort out all by yourself, such as spending large amounts of time with people who have very negative opinions and a distorted view of the whole world - and are in need of improvements these traits.

Any psychotherapist will tell us about the need and value to the child of these interactions. And they should know, because they have to listen to them all day long too. Except when it's their break time, and they can enjoy a cup of Gold Blend in the like-minded company of other psychotherapists yakking about how useless the ref was last night or how the boneheads at the garage cocked up their MOT.

I guess all I'm saying is; lucky old Chris Huhne. He's been put with people similar to him, and we all crave a bit of that.

There are aspects of his situation that wouldn't feel like a punishment to a foster carer, more like a holiday.

The Secret Foster Carer

Those "conversations" - some examples. Please bear in mind that for me, staying part of conversations like these is an important part of fostering. It calls for patience, tolerance and a particular social skill; one where you are perpetually and discreetly encouraging the other participant to think a little better and to engage a little better.

Child: "My mum right, she got stopped and didn't have no licence, right, and no tax or insurance or nothing. She never took the test. And the car didn't have no MOT neither."

Me: "Gosh. What happened to her?"

Child: "Nothing. She got off didn't she."

Me: "Really?"

Child: "Bent copper weren't it."

Me: "I wonder if your mum exaggerated some of that a little bit, just to make the story fun?"

Child: "No. I was in the car."


"Do you know how you can tell a baby's got wind? It goes blue."

"Where did you learn that?"

"My boyfriend's dad said. And he's had seven."

"I think if a baby turns blue it can mean something more urgent than wind. I'd call for help"


"Why did he have seven children?"

"Dunno. S'pose he likes children".


Watching TV, an ad comes on for Samsung. 

Child: "My sister right, she wanted one of them."

Me: "Really"

Child: "She never got one though."

Me: "Really"

Child: "She was well gutted."

Me: "We often get disappointments in life."

Child: "Yeah. She got over it like. In the end."


"I hate apples, I ate one when I had braces and it broke one of my teeth."

"Really? Oranges?"

"Hate them."


"Hate them an' all."


"Aren't they like peaches?"


"Pears are like apples."


"So I wouldn't like them."


"I don't like peaches."


"So I wouldn't like nectarines."


"They're like oranges." 

"So you wouldn't like them?"


"It's a good idea to try things first to see if you like them."

"Uuurrgh. I don't want to eat nothing I don't think I'll like""



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