Thursday, September 10, 2020

SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT

She came to us at very little notice...it was either our house or she'd have to sleep in a police cell, would you believe, aged seven.

I have never found the police to be anything other than fantastic when they are involved in helping children. All the same our spare bed was better than a night in a police station, with who knows yelling what in the next 'suite'.

My phone had rung at about 11.30pm, it was the emergency officer at the local authority. I didn't know the young social worker but she seemed to know me, she said;

"It might only be for one night Mrs ******, we'll do the placement process in the morning. Do you want me to call Blue Sky and let them know?" 

Blue Sky are 24/7, but whichever Blue Sky person is on duty might as well slumber on, all was well. I sent them a text message.

The main thing is to get the child a roof over their head, a full tummy and a warm bed. We can do the paperwork when offices open.

The police car was outside our house not ten minutes later. The officer's had got the go-ahead from the local authority and brought the little girl up our path. Two officers, one male one female, both being so soft and gentle it made the heart glow.

They handed her over, she was feigning being asleep or semi-conscious, so I took her straight upstairs and got her into bed. Her name was Rachael. She had nothing apart from her T shirt and leggings. Bare feet, cold hands. The officers had put a few bits of clothing in a carrier bag. She didn't want anything to eat. I tucked her in and said some kind words.

I dashed downstairs to catch the officers and see what they could tell me about what had happened, but they'd told my husband everything they knew so they left and the two of us had a cup of tea and he filled me in.

There'd been a 'five fencer' and the police were called. A 'five fencer' is a domestic that can be heard five houses away. 

The police turned up to find a rolling conflict between several adults. Two or three of them scarpered when the blue lights arrived. This was on an estate not far from us which has a reputation, probably well earned, for upheaval. 

The first police unit called for backup as they were outnumbered and in the meantime started de-escalation. They told my husband they suspected from the off that all of the adults were affected by alcohol and probably by substance abuse. The officers spent the time until their colleagues arrived smiling and agreeing with every outrageous accusation that was put to them, calming things down.

The adults were asked if anyone else was in the house. One of them said something about a niece but that she was 'someone else's problem'. One of the officers carried out a house check, looking in every room and calling out. Nothing. 

Two adults were handcuffed and put in a car, their arrest being on the basis that blood had been spilled and that those whose blood had been spilled were more likely to be the victims, so an ambulance was called for them. 

You could see what the officers were doing; they had to move things on. They couldn't spend all night piecing together events in search of the truth, not with a bunch of angry inebriates. So; two to the cells, two to A+E, a third adult who apparently was not the worse for wear, went with the 'victims' in the ambulance to support them.

At that point the original two officers were left with an open house, lights blazing, TV blaring. They went in to make the house safe, and one of them did a final sweep of the house. 

Upstairs, under a pile of rank old clothes and a soiled single duvet, she found a cowering trembling little girl, Rachael.

Imagine. Imagine what Rachael had gone through that night. Actually probably not much different from most nights of her life. 

She stayed for two nights, didn't go to school, just in recovery. I gave her every ounce of love and empathy I could but I don't think anything got through. It takes a lot longer. Social services tracked down her mother's sister who they said was on the straight and narrow and would look after Rachel until things sorted themselves out, whether they did or not I don't get to know.

You never forget any of the children who come to you for foster care, no matter how short the time they're with you. You remember everything about them, with hope and optimism. 

These little ships that pass in the night.




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