Friday, August 20, 2021


There's been a swathe of friendly arguments in our house about Gary Lineker. For those who don't know he was once a brilliant footballer who's re-invented himself as a brilliant broadcaster/entertainer/pundit/social conscience. Well, that's my view. Others in the house think he's re-invented himself as a big-eared millionaire woke.

I annoy the enemy by musing, when faced with a moral choice such as tea or coffee; "What would Gary Lineker do?"

Also in our house we are faced with a proper moral dilemma at the moment.

We have a lad in care with us, I'm calling him Ged, who's not been with us a couple of months and is due to leave fostering soon.

A child of one's own is a child one has tried to guide into adulthood through the years. You hope that you know them and know their needs and how best they might fly the nest. When a young person arrives into your care almost complete and rounded off…there's little you can do to help prepare them, compared to what you want to do.

It's a great big world out there; sometimes cruel and brutal, sometimes sweet as a nut. 

But here's the thing; with one's own children the cord is never cut. They are your children 'til you're no more and amen to that, because they know it and take comfort that they always have you and maybe even your spare bed to fall back on.

My dear old dad, now departed, was never happier than when (with me by now in my forties) he was able to make me a snack of his trade mark cream cracker sandwiches with cheese and Branston or being able to give me a lift somewhere. I loved it too.

You're never alone with a parent or two still breathing.

Children nowadays no longer pack their bags and head off into the blue yonder at 18, if they ever did. What with the cost of buying a home, the state of employment, National Debt at eye watering size - the spin is that the country's swanning it, but doest it feel like it? Then there's the dire zero contracts. 

A huge number of UK children haven't left home.

It's grand that they have that option, despite the occasional frustrations for all concerned.

Ged doesn't have any such safety net.

His dad's a self-confessed no goodster and his mother's with a man who insists her children stay away.

His brothers and sisters, all younger, are scattered through fostering.

My God, you'd think he'd be petrified of that many-headed serpent we call the future.

Seemingly not a bit of it. 

Ged has been tossed in the wind so much of his life it's next to nothing to him to face being tossed around all by himself. He's exhilarated by the prospect of not having to be home by 11.00pm.

He doesn't seem worried that he might end up without a home to be home to by 11.00pm.

So, naturally, I do his worrying for him - with plenty of assists by Blue Sky. Their worrying takes the form of practical support and guidance in what his entitlements and fallbacks will be when he reaches his 18th birthday.

There have been changes in the status of young people in Care when they reach 18. In a nutshell - as I understand it - children in Care are no longer fostered, but can stay on with their foster family until they are 21 under a sort of supported lodgings scheme. I quote;

"These arrangements are known as Staying Put in England, When I’m Ready in Wales and Continuing Care in Scotland. In addition to this, Northern Ireland has its own arrangement for caring for a young person aged 18+ called Going the Extra Mile."

I guess that in many a household where there's a teenager heading for their 18th birthday there are some heavy discussions. In our case with Ged, we've been tooled up by Blue Sky as to the many ways it could work if Ged wanted to stay on.

The thing is he doesn't. He wants to spread his wings. And to be fair, he's hardly going to have time to bond with us and feel like he has a family to fall back on; his placement with us was tailored to preparing him for the world and he knows it and is keen.

How will he manage? Ah, well this is where it gets doubly interesting

Ged believes, and social services say it might be true, that he will come into a bit of money when he's 18. Or maybe when he's 21. He's keeping this information close to his chest and I don't ask about it, it's his business.

The story he's hinted at to various Social Workers and other confidants during his years in care is that someone, probably his untrustworthy father, has put aside some probably ill-gotten gains as a sort of dodgy trust fund for him. Possibly to say sorry for being a rubbish dad.

Do I believe it? I haven't enough to go on. Our Social Worker says that Ged is street-smart enough to know between a concrete promise and hot air, so the chances are it's better than a maybe. The sum is believed to be a solid five-figure amount.

Even if it's true, will it be enough for life out there? What with rent, bills, the inevitable motor bike, not to mention the raves

So, here's where we're heading with him. He's a fine guy. We're intending to tell him that if things go badly there's lots of help available, including this;

He's got my mobile number and he knows not only where we live, but where HE lives if he needs us.

With us.

I didn't have to ask myself; "What would Gary Lineker do?" (Although I reckon he'd do what we're planning to do).

And I won't be asking that question out loud on the matter of Ged, too jokey.

Mind, I may have asked myself; "What would the professional, caring foster mum do?"


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