Wednesday, November 11, 2015


It's 'Anti-Bullying Week' 16th - 20th November.

Usually these 'raising awareness' exercises pass me by I'm afraid; if you're a foster parent your awareness of the specific needs of your looked-after children is so acute you've less time for national campaigns than ordinary folk.

But bullying is different. It's huge, it's everywhere.

It's a global epidemic. It's bubonic. 

It's ruining zillions of lives, it can be fatal. How many more poor bullied teenagers will take their own lives because of it?

It damages the victim at the very heart of their soul. It's perhaps it's the greatest fear in childhood.

We, in fostering, have to pick up the pieces more often than the average parent, it seems to me.

Children in care are sitting targets. 

Our placements, the young people we try to help, are vulnerable on so many counts;

  • Foster children are often small, unathletic, not good at sports. They often have to wear spectacles.

  • They frequently find it difficult to make a best friend, join a social circle or a group.

  • And, crucially, they are different. Through no fault of their own, they are 'in care'. Among other children it singles them out. 

Bullies attack the weak, the loners, those who are different.

Dear God if you remember your Darwin it's Survival of the Fittest in action in the playground.

What are the Professionals doing?

The organisation behind the campaign is the Anti-Bullying Alliance and they've put together tips and hints for bullied children, their teachers, and their parents 'and carers'.

It's worth a look at their site; I doubt there's anything the seasoned foster parent doesn't know but it's good to have one's thinking sharpened from time to time.

Schools will do it as a topic, some will do it well, others will slot it in between the Tudors and fractions and move on.

Our schools are at a loss; they know it goes on, they know who the culprits are and who the victims are (sometimes it's one and the same), at least we have to hope so. But what can they do?

Maybe our community cops will step in at the bus stops, the train stations, the high streets, back allies and playing fields after school with everyone in their standout uniforms that mark them out as fair game. The pupil/community cop ratio is worse than 1000/1.

Then there's the internet stuff. Horrendous; you think maybe the victim could avoid it by switching off their gizmos and watching a Simpsons, but that would only isolate them further, make them feel defeated, lead to more trouble when 'friends' suss they are lying low.

The professionals will do their best. The charities, teachers, police, youth club staff. Daytime TV will have a stab at it. Internet firms will point to their' policies' and 'safeguarding' measures. 

But it will go on. 

In the end who makes the big difference?

The real work is done by you. Parents in the home, and it ain't easy. It roughs up your soul to learn a poor child who's already had more misery at home than anyone should have to cope with is getting roughed up physically or verbally. 

The victims come back to our homes in bits and we have to do the hands-on support and encouragement through the strangled tears.

And we do. 

That's all we can do, but we do it, and it achieves more than anything anybody else does or can do, make no bones.

If you're a foster parent reading this, it's a safe bet you've had to cope with horrendous bullying against your looked-after children. While your social worker will be able to give good advice and support, you're the point of contact for the child, it's always down to you.

If you're anything like me, our help and kindness never seems enough, the bullying never seems to go away.

But you keep going for the child.

What's the opposite of bullying?

It's what you do.


  1. Ella here - grown-up bully Care Kids too. We used to get all the rubbish work placements at school just because we lived in a Children's Home. We hardly ever got invitations to proper homes either or if we did the parents would follow us round like we were burglars. Even when we get into our 20s people forget how bad Christmas can be when you don't have a family to share things with. :(

  2. Hi Ella. You make an important point. I sometimes think the whole world bullies children in care one way or another. It sometimes seems every twist and turn of their lives brings them into contact with situations where they are different, viewed as a problem, misunderstood. They have every reason not to trust, not to love. It's a miracle looked after children get through everything; they have a special resource in their backbones which, if it can be put to good use is a massive force for good.