Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CONTACT: A Better Way

It's hard work being a child. Most adults think children have got it easy, funny how grown-ups have such a pink-tinted memory of what they went through themselves.

I heard about a child who came home from school crying, ran upstairs to their bedroom, and lay on the bed sobbing. Mum asked what was up. The child said they'd been told by a teacher  that these were the happiest days of their life.

Then along comes Social Media: another way to screw up. Or is it? I wonder whether fostering is missing a trick.

I watch my looked after children, with all their jaw-dropping problems, unbelievable courage, totally unique life stories; each and every one of them completely hooked on their phones.

They walk around holding it, checking the screen every few seconds. They tap away at the tiny keyboard all day, probably half the night too. They don't give themselves a single free moment. I try to get them to come to the table without the phone; but sometimes you have to be flexible to avoid a scene. They sit watching Harry Potter and send/receive 100 texts before we even see the Half Blood Prince.They take it into the loo with them, they sit in the car tapping away. They never, ever speak into it. They conduct 99% of their life by written word.

Not GR8 written words tho.

Our children are evolving into people who communicate totally differently from all previous humans. There's nothing we can do about it.

I had a teenage girl stay who was almost mute by choice. "What would you like for breakfast?" "Arrdunno" "Would you like a ride to school?" "Fyerlike". Never off her phone messaging service.

One day I texted her during morning break."How did you do in the test?"

"Not bad. Some of the questions were ok, but I struggled a bit with the last section."

"Was that the stuff you missed when your placement went wrong"

"Basically yeah. They say I can re-sit if I want, but it's one of the courses I want to drop anyway."

I think today's children communicate better by text and messaging and the rest of the social media than they do face-to-face. 

Especially foster children. 

Nothing new about this, I'm told that relationship councillors often get partners to sit back to back to talk so they can't see each others faces. My partner and I find it easier to resolve a difference on the phone.

I wonder what the response would be if we proposed Contact should be electronic? Why not? If they communicate better with their significant others by written word, whether it's a series of texts or a closed messaging service, once a week, the transcript provided to social services is it's meant to be a supervised session.

The things that trigger anger and other negative emotions in a child are visual and audio signals, especially the faces and voices of people they associate with bad times. 

Texting would work really well for a lot of Contacts., not all, obviously. And there'd need to be appropriate safeguards. 

The Secret Foster Carer


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