Wednesday, May 07, 2014


I saw a film once where one of the characters said something that has stayed with me all my life. I must have been young, it really hit me. I can't remember anything else about the film, but I can still picture the character who was holding someone in their arms and trying to comfort them. The person being cuddled was very upset about something. The line was;

"Remember honey, none of us can ever go home"

However young I was I think I got a whiff of what the line meant. I think it meant that as we grow up we tend to build a chocolate box picture of "home". We imagine it as being even more loving, joyful, warm and safe than it actually was. So we can never go back, because it was never really there. 
We have a foster child with us who is getting ready to go home, which is massive, and the whole thing about "home" is in my mind a lot.

I learned a sound lesson a while back.

A couple of years ago we had a teenage child staying with us, her family were in real chaos. Her father was in prison for crimes against his family, her mother had learning difficulties and was physically disabled, and had never cooked a meal in her life. The girl's  sister had just been prosecuted for theft and had become pregnant. There were all sorts of angry people drifting in and out of the house, which was a tip, not to mention the menagerie of animals running loose, none of which were house-trained. Everyone was at everyone's throats all the time. 

We offered the teenager the best we could: a calm peaceful home, with adults who were fair and consistent, three good meals a day, a clean bed, privacy and a kind ear whenever she wanted to talk; talk and cry.

And you know what? All she wanted to do was get back to what seemed to us was the hell hole which was her home.

I remember one Friday night she packed a bag and announced she was going to the station and going home. We had to gently remind her the deal was she could go home every other weekend as long as she stuck to her half of the deal which was to attend school and do the work. God that sounds harsh, but her Social Worker was a really good guy who was working hard to help her. The teenager's parting words as she went back upstairs to unpack are also etched in my mind forever, she said;

"Great! I'm stuck here with strangers while everybody else is at home playing happy families"

In her heart her home was a happy family.

I took her home for good when the time came. I saw her sink into the knackered sofa in front of the six foot TV which had Jeremy Kyle on with sub-titles. She moved a large tub of Sudocrem on the coffee table to make room for an ashtray. A one-eyed cat jumped onto her lap. And they both started purring.

She was home.

I remember another line from a film which has stuck in my mind, from Ghandi. It was during a meeting between Ghandi and the ruling British generals where he was asking them to leave India. One of the generals says;

"But if we leave, Mr Ghandi, there will be chaos"

And Ghandi replies;

"Perhaps. But it will be our chaos"

Which says it all really. A big part of fostering is respecting people's rights to make their own lives as chaotic as they need to, as long as it doesn't mean making other people's lives more chaotic than they want.


  1. Really interesting viewpoint. Its hard not to judge the homes that foster children come from, but quite often no matter what it was like, they want to go back and talk about it like it was good, they are very loyal. I like the comment on chaos - one to keep in mind. It reminds me of being a teenager and telling my mum it was 'my mess!'

  2. You're right, it's impossible not to make a judgement. Or at least soak up all the information that might help us manage the child.

  3. What a brilliant article which has really made me think.