Friday, April 26, 2013

SUICIDE WATCH. That's the prison name for it. 

I find myself today on Suicide Watch, maybe you too if you saw on the news about the two families whose sons had both committed suicide aged 17. They lived nearby each other  but weren't friends or anything. They just had the one thing in common. They'd both been pulled up separately by the police, who classed them as adults.
One of the lads had been caught drink driving. The other had 50p worth of cannabis on him.
Because the police treated them as adult offenders, they didn't inform the parents. So the parents didn't know their child needed help.
One of the boys shot himself. The other went down the High Street and bought some cord, to hang himself in the woods. He left a note for his parents, saying sorry for being a disappointment. His mum was standing on the steps of the High Court sobbing that he was actually their pride and joy.
Both families were at the High Court to hear the ruling changed so that from today, children are children until they are 18. As far as the police are concerned.
I'm tempted to get sidetracked by the whole question of when does a child become an adult.
But it's more useful to remember that we're all on a kind of suicide watch, not just as foster parents, or even just as parents. We're all on suicide watch, for everyone around us. And for ourselves.
I don't wish to intrude on the private grief of those families by going into what the boys must have felt in the days and hours before they took their lives. 
Despair and loneliness, in different measure, affects so many people, from the weather-beaten lady behind the till where you buy your milk, to members of the Royal family.
And there are many ways of ending a life besides killing yourself. 
One can choose to bloat, smoke, drink or inject yourself, or all four.
Or be a bitter pain, a drain, a cause of misery to others.
All because the world hasn't dealt them the cards they're hoping for.
"Not my fault I'm a mess/addict/alcoholic/repeat offender."
The thing is, although we're all in the same boat if we're not careful, if you check the boat's long passenger list you can expect to see the names of plenty of looked-after children.
If there's any person who has a right to feel despair and loneliness it's a fostered child.
Which is why I'm on suicide watch today, as are you, if you're looking after a child today.
Maybe not looking out for a rope or a gun, thank God. But for signs that they wonder if it's worth bothering.
And myself? How do I answer the question "Is it worth bothering?".
When you hear them humming a tune to themselves, and you can stand down from suicide watch for a while, having helped them in every way you could.
Really worth bothering, staying alive, staying on top, when you can do that.
Thank you, fostering.
And I do hope the families of those two boys can somehow, someday, find some peace.

The Secret Foster Carer


  1. Can I just say, your blog is so compelling and powerful. Thank you for writing it, even though you must be so busy.

  2. I agree. I have been searching for a blog on fostering and this gives a real insight. Please keep sharing your experiences.