Friday, May 17, 2019

TV DILEMMAS

For anyone reading this outside the UK; a TV host called Jeremy Kyle is (or should that be 'was') the UK's answer to Jerry Springer.

You know the sort of show, I expect TV has them the world over. Shows where real people perform their domestic disputes for audiences.

There's a reason I want to talk about this type of show on a blog about fostering, and the reason's this; teenagers in care seem to love the format.

Here in the UK the Jeremy Kyle Show went out about 9.30am, so to catch the first transmission youngsters had to be either on school holiday or off sick. 

BTW the reason I refer to Jeremy Kyle's programme in the past tense is because he's been taken off. A member of the public who went on the show died several days later, first reports say he took his life. It's alleged that during the show he'd failed a lie detector test related to his fidelity. The episode will never be aired.

Although we know few details at the time of writing, the press and large swathes of the British public are howling that they'd known all along that the show was a disgrace. Stories are emerging from people who previously worked behind the scenes on the show suggesting stuff such as that guests waiting in the wings were wound up to go on the offensive.

On a personal note, I'm pleased the show is finished, and feel sad and sorry for the family and friends of the deceased and for that matter each and every individual who was in any way damaged or diminished by the show. And that includes the one million viewers who frankly ought to have found their entertainment in something more noble. 

But I want to think about the part it played in the world of looked-after teenagers, because many of them found a connection.

Let me be clear that I never allowed younger children near it, only the young adults who came to us.

The two questions I ask myself over and over - and I don't yet have answers - are 1) Exactly why did they find it so irresistible and 2) Did it do them any harm watching?

Here's one foster child of mine; Tish. Tish is heavier than her age, she's 16 years old and 17 stone. Her family consists of one parent in prison for crimes against another family member and a second parent that can't fend for them-self.  Also present in her home was an elder sister who had been made pregnant by the parent now in prison.

When Tish arrived in our house she had a serious resistance to going to school (she said it was down to her being bullied because of her size) and spent her first few days with us at home all day while I and her Social Worker developed a plan to get her back to school.

She spent every morning watching Jeremy Kyle. In fact I began to think that a big reason for her resistance to school was that she had become fixated with the show.

Every morning was built around Jeremy Kyle. Tish would come downstairs 10 minutes before the show in her sleep outfit, hauling her duvet (there was  no-one else in the house), and settle on the sofa. I would offer her breakfast and schedule it to arrive as the show started. Then I would sit with her and we'd watch. Watching TV with foster children is a great bonding thing.

Tish would take control. She would pontificate on every aspect of every show and how she could spot the serious scallywags from the mere dodgepots. She would tell me what was wrong and what should be done. 

She was undeniably better informed about family chaos than me. I found many of her insights amazing, and her views on how to solve the problems sometimes quite sophisticated.

In the light of the reason why the show has been ditched not to mention its recurring misery I'm not prepared to even contemplate that it may have benefited Tish or any foster children in any way shape or form, because though young people in care need all the help they can get, and we Carers need all the help we can get to help them, some things are beyond the pale.

But the question remains; why was the Jeremy Kyle Show such compulsive viewing for them?

Some seemed to take comfort that many of the chaotic families on display were; "worse than my lot".

Others were drawn to being able to show their expertise in domestic conflicts. 

Maybe it made some feel they weren't so badly off as others.

One Social Worker advanced another theory; some teenagers find home comfort among the shouting and hostilities coming from the TV. For many of them such an atmosphere was reminiscent of their home life, and the fact is that almost every young person in care wants to go home again regardless of the chaos.

Did the Jeremy Kyle Show help or harm them? I definitely valued the way it opened up conversations about family life, so it was a good tool in that single respect. But I also definitely found it too disappointing for words.

I can say for sure I'm glad I won't have to wonder about it any more, now that it's been axed.

I can't speak for the millions who watched - it was the highest rated show on daytime TV, and it wasn't alone in focussing on people who are struggling; there are also 'shows' about topics such as people with bad debts, insurance fraudsters, a quasi-court for settling financial disputes.

You might have wondered about Tish and how we eventually got her going to school. It was a bit devious of me, but my SW thought it was for the best. 

I did what I usually do if a school-shy child spends a day at home; I make sure their day is a bit boring; "After all" I tell them "You've got a sore throat, we don't want you tiring yourself out on your phone, you need your energy to recover." 

In Tish's case I turned off the TV Cube, saying that we had a signal problem during the day...


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