Friday, June 21, 2013

I wonder how much money McDonalds and the other fast food joints make out of Contact? 

When my children were young I often noticed early on Sunday mornings, lone men with a toddler in tow. In playgrounds, arriving at the swimming pool, or just mooching around in the newsagents. I remember seeing a football match on TV and a young man who'd brought an infant aged about 2 and was holding him aloft while cheering a goal.
I even remember a while back being in the pub on a Saturday evening and a young man rushed in with a toddler inside his mac and begged to be served a swift pint. He was refused thankfully.

Those situations are usually the result of access arrangements, where a separated parent gets time with the child, usually at weekends. Someone with a bit of nous could make a tidy business provided premises and appropriate activities for these poor dads to share time with their little ones.

Contact is similar in one way, both are an artificial meeting between a broken family.

Contact is different in most ways, not least because looked after children can't go to the pub, or a football match. Swimming is possible, but what if a supervisor has to tag along? Even the playground doesn't work in many cases. 

So, if Contact isn't scheduled for a Contact Centre, the foster carer gets drawn into regular brain-storming sessions with the child's Social Worker:

A museum? They'd hate the idea.
A film? They wouldn't be engaging with each other.
Paintballing? Do me a favour.
Tenpin bowling? She tried it once, spent all her pocket money on the fruit machine.

Eventually there's a short silence followed by;

Looks like McDonalds again then...

On the plus side, almost every child alive enjoys the McDonalds experience, and the distraction of food eases the situation. Parking is usually a doddle. 

The world of business knows the value of the business lunch, the pleasantness of eating and chatting helping to get agreement.

But. The food is not what our looked after children are meant to eat. And the cost, no matter how cheap the hamburger joints knock it out, is another tab for the taxpayer to pick up.

And. Even if you yourself manage to avoid ordering one for yourself, it's hard to resist snaffling a few of those annoyingly tasty fries which the children always seem to leave.

The Secret Foster Carer


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