Saturday, April 06, 2013

Who are the families of the children we foster? What are they like? 

Many seem to belong to the "precarious proletariat".

I looked this up, sat at my kitchen table in my dressing gown  at 5.05am on a Saturday morning, with my second cup of tea, the first cup supped while doing kitchen jobs; sweeping the floor, emptying the bin. If you know where my other slipper is, only bare feet on wet patio with a slimy bag; I wonder if the Duchess of Cambridge knows what it's like?

"Precarious Proletariat" is, as of this week, the recognised seventh class of people in the UK, out of seven.

If your politics are rightish, they're workshy scroungers with dubious moral compass.

If you're a lefty, they're the victims of a global conspiracy to crush the labour market.

I like to think that we foster carers rise above the theorising, because we have a real job to do. And each child that comes to us is a unique refugee from some crisis family or other. 

We rarely need to look beyond the one consistent fact; that the child wasn't getting a good enough experience at home. Not enough love, care, kindness, help, support. Maybe not enough food, blankets, warmth, medicine.

The one that always knocks me over is their lack of education. I don't mean Education with a capital E, as in schooling. I mean the personal things you need to get by in life like washing your hands, tending a cut, cleaning your teeth.

Then there's the wider world and the things you need to know about it. 

It's often the case that fostered children are not so much blissfully ignorant of how the world works, they're full of unbelievable misinformation.

Couple of real examples, both from mature teenagers;

"My friend, right, she used to put coffee in her bum, stops you going to the toilet."

"If you eat ice cream when you're pregnant your baby will be born blue."

They are often fully armed with similar nonsense about what Social Services do, who foster carers are, what their rights are, what the police are like, why teachers are against them. 

They have sometimes, it seems, been given a deliberate set of views that encourage them to fear and resent the world.

And they inform you of these "facts" with such conviction that you have to count to ten then go something like "I see...I'm not sure that's quite right."

The question is; why have they been given this nonsensical view of the world? Is it that, for some parents, being a member of the precarious proletariat means you have to spin up a fantastic parallel world for yourself to explain life's travails?

Or do some parents toss out these gob-sized randoms of bent wisdom to entertain themselves? Or to get their children to admire their vast command of the dark side of the universe?

Whatever, I guess part of my childhood was spent among the precarious proletariat, although things may have been different in the sixties. I don't remember being told any codswallop.

I don't remember being taught to fear or resent the world.

And, for the record, I think some of the precarious proletariat make solid foster carers. 

The Secret Foster Carer.

PS. Like yourself, I will never be able to work out the coffee enema remark. What I mean is, I still can't decide what's the most extraordinary bit about it. For the record, I replied "She doesn't still do that does she?" and got the reply "No. Obviously".

And in case you're wondering, the ice cream thing came up because the child's mother smoked 80 a day during a pregnancy, and batted away any concerns by conjuring up loads of make-believe dangers during pregnancy so she could disclaim "If you believe all them stories you couldn't do nothing for nine months."


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