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3rd Edition, May 18th, 2020 Michael Clarke

Going outside

Michael Clarke, care leaver and activist, shares his vision.


In the second video excerpt of three Mike talks here during the peak of the virus in April and relates his experience of going outside. 

His position on relationships which he holds strongly and has repeated many times is that a relationship is a voyage of trust:

“If you break down the word; it’s relation and a ship, a ship sets out on a voyage of trust to some kind of destination.” 

What then are the obstacles to the voyage right now in the COVID-19 moment?  

Mike covers government misinformation and smile-less encounters, while as ever positing hope and offering things to think about you never thought you would.

Portable Studio 

These films are excerpts from a video conversation during lockdown with Michael Clarke who is a care leaver and activist living in London. It is part of a collaboration between Mike, social worker Tim Fisher and artist Trevor Appleson. It is a continuation of Trevor’s work, Portable Studio.

Portable Studio started life as an archive document of contemporary British youth culture, made in collaboration with a selection of the young people Appleson met and photographed on the streets of Birmingham for a commission at The Midlands Arts Center in 2015.

Inspired by the way identities are curated online, Portable Studio explores youth identity and experience in an attempt to preserve evidence of a socio-digital landscape that would otherwise pass without physical record

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3rd Edition, May 18th, 2020 Common Threads Collective

Mothers Apart

Introduction

The Common Threads Collective works collaboratively to encourage reflection and inform policies affecting mothers living apart from their children or at risk of separation. Based within WomenCentre in Kirklees, the collective grew from the Mothers Living Apart from their Children project and is made up of women who have been part of the service and Siobhan Beckwith (Learning and Development Trainer).

The Mothers Living Apart from their Children project began in 2008, pioneering a local response to the distinct and personal experiences of mothers coping with separation from their children, for whatever reason, whether temporary or permanent. In 2014 the group produced In Our Hearts, a beautiful and sensitive book that brings together the stories and wisdom of more than 50 women involved in the project.

For the past ten years we have co-created thoughtful and engaging workshops within social work teaching, adoption preparation and safeguarding training; we are always keen to develop new ways to find common threads and collaborate. The Common Threads Collective draws from Women Centred Working, building on mothers’ assets, lived experiences and skills, in order to be a part of, and actively shape, local and national dialogue about the issues affecting mothers apart. 

Lockdown is something most have never known, yet isolation isn’t new for many. Some of us know about staying home, being alone is familiar for good reasons and bad. This lockdown, like other isolations, leaves us with time on our hands, thinking and wondering of those not with us and those we don’t get to hear about.

Below is a collective snapshot of some of the lives of mothers apart from children during this global crisis, lives being lived differently and with many things in common…..

Final adoption hearings by Skype

Struggling alone with technology and a learning disability

Little space for emotion and justice

Reminded of times past

The isolation of detention on a psychiatric ward against our will

Managing feelings and emotions  

To convince others of our sanity and right to freedom  

Memories of not being allowed out by an abusive partner

Adult daughters alienated, not ready to see us

Grandchildren we never got to meet.

Adopters sent word that our child is ok

Still we wonder

Are they ok tomorrow and next week?

Will this year’s letter still come?

Going for walks and fresh air at night

When we don’t see people’s faces

Buying a child a laptop so she can write her life story

from the files she got just before lockdown.

Returning to the comfort of an abusive partner

Fear of being alone

Now is a bad time to leave  

Better the devil we know  

Looking at old photographs of our children

Are they wondering too?

In our hearts,

under the same sky

Tetris championships to keep us going

Cross stitch all day while watching TV

Unable to see the adult child with symptoms because of lockdown

Hesitating to phone a CPN when we struggling

What does ‘really needing’ support mean? What’s a good enough reason to reach out?  

What can they do anyway?

What’s essential?

Clapping for the NHS, key workers…

Who will survive?

Phoning chemists about prescription deliveries  

Receiving government food parcel if we are on the ‘vulnerable’ group

Posting comforting positive messages in Instagram

Sharing videos to make people laugh

Adult colouring books to distract

Cleaning –  there is only so much you can do

Speaking to a child with the foster carer on Skype

Shielding at home with a partner with a higher sex drive than us

On a psychiatric ward, away from all that we know

Allowing ourselves to be supported

Being alone, spacing out TV programmes to manage boredom

Being with others we know too well

Families weren’t designed for this

People weren’t designed for this.

Common Threads Collective, WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees

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3rd Edition, May 18th, 2020 Robin Sen

Entitled to special protection and assistance?

A child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment, or in whose own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment, shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the State.  

Article 20, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Bold and italics added)

There can be little debate about the moral legitimacy of Article 20 of the UNCRC: where a state is legally entrusted with the care of children it should have enhanced duties towards them. Yet, on 24 April, Statutory Instrument 2020/445 (‘SI445’) made 100 changes removing a number of the ‘special protections’ the UK state had previously legally mandated for children in care in England, in the middle of a pandemic. Amongst the reductions in procedural safeguards are the removal of set timescales for most social worker visits to children in care, the removal of the timescale on six monthly care review meetings, the loosening of the requirement for Independent Visitors to visit children’s homes, the removal of timescales for Ofsted to undertake inspection visits to children’s homes which have been graded as inadequate and requiring improvement, and the softening of skills and qualification requirements for staff in children’s homes. 

The Department of Education (DfE) has offered the reassurance that where there are ‘safeguarding concerns’ timescales and some other procedural safeguards will still apply. This disregards that the safeguards which SI445 removes are mechanisms for identifying concerns about children’s welfare in the first place. A resultant aspect of these changes is therefore that, if the welfare of a child or young person in care is compromised as a result of them, we may never find out. Some of the safeguards removed by SI445 also provided important opportunities for resolving difficulties before they developed into more serious safeguarding concerns. That such safeguards are needed is long established, and was reaffirmed in a painstaking government commissioned review of safeguards for children living away from home in England and Wales, People Like Us (Utting, 1997). The review itself followed numerous documented cases of abuse and mistreatment of children living away from home, in a variety of settings. Now, some of those safeguards have been removed with the most hollow of consultations. The DfE specifically avoided consulting with the Children’s Commissioner for England about proposals for the changes. Her office has a statutory role to represent the views and needs of children, particularly ‘vulnerable’ children. The Commissioner has subsequently called for SI445 to be revoked. She is joined in this call by her two predecessors in that role. 

The Government has stated these measures will be temporary. However, there is no set date for them to end. Three times since 2017 UK governments have tried to reduce similar safeguards for children in care in pre-Covid times, and only once was this via a transparent process which allowed for Parliamentary scrutiny. On each occasion they failed. Under the cover of Covid, this government has succeeded, for now. It did so by forcing SI445 through without opportunity for the minimum 21 day Parliamentary scrutiny which constitutional convention states should be given to a Statutory Instrument. It claimed that to wait these three weeks would have put: ‘extraordinary pressure on local authorities, providers and services to try to meet statutory obligations’. They provided no evidence to support this claim.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic will place different, and perhaps greater, demands on children’s services. There are reports that there have been significant increases in incidences of domestic violence during the lockdown; there are also concerns that referrals to children’s services will substantially increase once the lockdown is lifted. Some service managers and social workers are worried that their services may be overwhelmed by the demand. These are entirely understandable concerns. Let’s also be clear that there is no evidence that children’s services are currently being overwhelmed: the Independent Children Homes Association (ICHA), which represents over half of all children’s homes in England, reported that staffing levels were at 95% and that homes were coping well; and Jenny Coles, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, reported that referrals to children’s services were substantially down.

What is more, if the predicted rise in demand does materialise, then there should be open discussion about why the rights of children in care should be the sacrificial lamb which is offered in order that children’s services can meet other obligations. It is not clear why any potential future demand cannot be met by increased resourcing which ensures that the rights to protection and support of all are safeguarded, alongside clear communication about any temporary adjustments which are needed to adhere to statutory obligations in the context of Covid. It is also notable how some of our legislators appear to dismiss hard-won safeguards, designed to ensure the state meets the key needs of children in care, so casually. On April 22, the day before SI445 was published, one MP described some of the procedural safeguards which SI445 removes, as ‘activities that are not useful or purposeful’. He offered the most cursory evidence in support of the claim. 

England is out on a limb in introducing SI445. Jonathan Stanley could find no other country which has reduced protections for children in care in this period. Wales, procedurally and legally, has a very similar child care system to that in England. The Welsh Government has not removed a single procedural safeguard for children. Instead it has explicitly stated that local authorities should meet their statutory responsibilities and provided guidance as to how they might meet them within the ‘spirit of the law’ in situations where Covid makes it difficult to adhere to the letter of the law. Practitioners in Wales, with whom I have had contact, have explained how this flexibility has been achieved through clear, open and regular communication between practitioners, managers, service heads, regulators and members of Welsh Government. The most obvious explanation for why the DfE did not pursue the same course in England is that there are some around government who have long wanted roll back procedural safeguards within English children’s services and saw the Covid crisis as an opportunity to do so. It is, though, also worth pondering why there appears to be a level of trust between relevant stakeholders in Wales which is not replicated in England – a trust which seems to have supported Welsh local authorities to take the alternative course they have on this issue. Perhaps in England the political use of Ofsted inspections to impugn the local authority delivery of children’s services and justify their outsourcing (Jones, 2019),  or the public denigration of practice competence in children’s services to justify multi-million pound payments to private companies to develop the National Accreditation & Assessment System (see also Cardy, 2020), have not proved conducive to developing relationships of trust and space for reasoned professional discretion?

There is little evidence that the leadership of the DfE is reflecting on these possibilities. It has been dismissive of the many, reasoned, criticisms of SI445 and has marginalised the voice of care experienced people in the process. In response to the growing number of concerns which were being raised about SI445, several of them by prominent care experienced campaigners and organisations working closely with care experienced people, the DfE produced an official blog that was notable for its churlish tone and inaccuracy. The blog stated that it was ‘false’ to claim the changes in SI445 removed legal protections for children in care. It is clear that they do so. To publicise the blog the Chief Social Worker, Isabelle Trowler, Tweeted it stating ‘the DfE continues working with the sector, listening to all those who raise concerns.’ I know of no groups of care experienced people, or organisations working with them, who have been approached by the DfE in respect of their concerns. What does that omission say to care experienced people? That they are not worth listening to? That they are not a part of ‘the sector’?

This conduct is part of a pattern. A dynamic and popular Conference for Care Experienced People was organised by care experienced people in 2019. The energy and findings of that conference have not been harnessed by the DfE’s leadership. Instead, children’s social care policy decisions appear restricted to a small number of insiders, who have the same world view. The Residential Care Leadership Board (RCLB) was set up by the DfE in 2017 with an explicit remit of driving forward improvements in the residential child care sector. It is headed by Sir Alan Wood, a close working colleague of Isabelle Trowler’s from Hackney; both also sit as Founding Board members of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care, which itself was initiated via a £20m grant from the DfE. The operations and membership of the RCLB have been opaque – by 2019 Wood remained the sole member of the Board. More recently, Wood convened a group providing ‘expert advice’ to the government on the provision of unregulated accommodation for children in care. How membership of this group was determined has not been explained and, as in the case of SI445, the process has denied people with care experience a seat at the table. More broadly, the current leadership of the DfE show no inclination to engage with anyone within the children’s services sector who is likely to disagree significantly with them. That provides an inauspicious context for sound policy making in children’s services, and a dangerous one for our democratic processes.

If the DfE’s leadership and other sector leaders want to the right wrong in respect of SI445, it is still not too late. Any engagement needs to be based on a desire to genuinely consult; in turn genuine consultation needs to be based on an acceptance that people with care experience who are affected by, or who have insights into, the changes in SI445 should have the ability to influence them; and in turn that acceptance requires that a realistic outcome of any engagement on SI445 be its revocation. Sector leaders may be surprised to learn that such engagement could lead to new, previously unrecognised, solutions which safeguard the rights of all. In the absence of such engagement, the campaign to revoke SI445 builds. It is being led by Article 39, an organisation which has spearheaded several previous campaigns for the rights of children in care. At the time of writing those supporting the campaign include 45 organisations from the children’s services sector in England, and just under 400 individuals with experience of, and expertise in, practice with children in care. I would encourage anyone who works or lives in England, and who has not yet joined the campaign, to look at the list of current signatories and consider joining them

Robin Sen, Lecturer in Social Work, University of Sheffield

I am grateful to Ian Dickson for helpful comments on an earlier draft. 

Twitter: @robin_23_99

References

Jones, R. (2019) In whose interest?: The privatisation of child protection and social work. Bristol: Policy Press.

Utting, W.B. (1997) People like us: The report of the review of the safeguards for children living away from home. London: The Stationery Office.

Categories
3rd Edition, May 18th, 2020 Toks Francis

“…And the people stayed home”

“We (all) have gifts. It is a good reminder that whatever your gift is, however small it is, keep using it. This is a really good time for that.”

― Kitty O’Meara, ‘Poet Laureate’ of the Corona pandemic

Just as I was wrapping up my final Social Work placement, COVID-19 struck. This diary is my ‘therapy’, my attempt at understanding our present world. 

Barely a short month ago, life was good… 

My placement was progressing well; my PE and I, perfectionists both, had the rest of my learning planned to the very last minute. We had everything sorted. So, we thought.

Hiccup #1 was a call on March 17 when PE advised me not to show up for work the next day; my placement was suspended! What?! Suspended? What for? What had I done wrong? What, who, how…? The questions could not come out fast enough. This did not make sense. All I wanted was to get this placement over and done with, focus on my dissertation and, hopefully, make early submission. Now this!?

It was nothing I had done, PE continued. The agency had simply decided to get as many employees as possible working remotely, in line with government guidelines in the wake of a rising pandemic and there was no room to accommodate students working remotely. Really? Why not? I thought in my head but dared not voice. If regular staff whom we had been working alongside could, why “discriminate” against students?… Anyways, that was it; placement was suspended. Period. 

Barely a short month ago, life was good…

It crept up upon us and then hit us with a colossal bang – COVID-19, corona virus, CV-19, whatever you choose to call it. This demon from the pit of hell was on a rampage and has not relented since then. Lives, livelihood, families, even the monarchy(!) Nothing that it could possibly lay its evil claws on was exempt. It is on a ‘killing spree’ and nothing seems able to stop it. Its primary mission is to take as many lives as possible; however, in doing that, CV-19 was also taking families – their joy, their hope, their sources of livelihood and income, everything that people naturally held most dear vaporized overnight. As of today (April 20, 2020), CV-19 had infected just under 108,000 people in the UK with 16,509 reported deaths. And the worst is yet to come. 

Barely a short month ago, life was predictable…

Governments were run by (supposedly) the most powerful intellectuals and nations thrived on economies dictated by the world (stock) markets. The ‘high and mighty’ i.e. the stupendously rich, in collaboration with their white-collared bourgeoisie counterpart, were the keyworkers. They knew it all, they made all things happen. This was in contrast to the blue-collared workers, i.e. the humble, low-skilled, manual-labourers, the proletariat whose main claim to economic significance and/or viability was that they served the dictates of the powerful. They knew nothing, they made nothing worthwhile happen. They “merely” provided services that were needed but did not impact too much on world economies; they are “wage-earners whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power” (PayrollHeaven.com, 2020). So, we thought, until a month ago…

Barely a short month ago, life became different…

COVID-19 promptly put an end to all our grandiose fantasies and idiosyncrasies; redefining once and for all, the real “keyworker”. Where are the powers-that-be now? Where are the so-called “professionals”? When push came to shove, what professional can we absolutely not do without? Who actually drives the economy and keeps it (and us!) going? Who is wearing the “white-collar” now?… Suddenly wearing a uniform has become the fashion statement and a Hi-Viz the indisputable acknowledgement of your crucial role. No longer are their individual skills/abilities referred to collectively as unskilled; no longer is their labour seen as common and/or cheap. No longer are they ‘forsaken’… 

So, who are these keyworkers? Who are the essential workers who keep the country (and economy!) running while the rest of us sit tight at home? You guessed right – the cleaners, sweepers, refuse collectors, farm workers, truck/bus drivers, grocery store clerks, factory workers, firefighters, post-persons/delivery workers, construction laborers…pretty much all the professions society had hitherto looked down on and turned their noses up at. The jobs no parent would normally want their children to aspire to. 

Barely a short month ago, life was hunky-dory…

People went about their businesses without any apparent concern. We felt safe, untouchable. After all we are the 1st World, the 5th most powerful nation in the world. Yes, we were it! Sure, we had started hearing rumblings from across the pond, people dying from his yet-unexplained “viral infection,” but it could not touch us in the same way. We had our act together and taken as much precaution as necessary. We were invincible; CV-19 could neither find us nor touch us…Really?

Barely a short month ago, life was redefined …

All who could were advised to work from home. One after another, offices closed. Buildings closed. Sole businesses closed. Restaurants closed. Schools closed. GP-surgeries closed. Multi-agency businesses closed. Places of worship closed. Grocery stores and (even) hospitals half-closed! Overnight the world became a ghost town. Being anti-social became the new social – you saw your neighbour walking towards you on one of two allowed personal “essential travels” and you immediately crossed the street to the other side to avoid undue contact. Your latest fashion accessories became your face mask and gloves, your shield from any cross-contamination. The thicker and bigger, the trendier. Keeping your (2m) distance became civil and considerate – you could no longer help your elderly neighbour with their groceries (not in the same way we had always known). Forget visits! You spoke to (even) your folks from a distance. In a nutshell, our lives were redefined.

Barely a short month ago, life got good (again!) briefly…

A brief detour back to the past… I was still reeling from my placement suspension news when I got another call from my PE, desired this time – the gods were working in my favour, the powers that be had reconsidered and decided that I ‘qualified’ for home-working (thank you Jesus!) So, I needed to attend the agency to get myself set up. Wow! I was on my way before PE dropped the phone – how good is God?! So, my personal story got good and interesting once again. I immediately determined to pack every available day/hour into completing my placement before things got worse and/or I suffered another ‘hiccup.’ 75 days gone, I needed 25 more; actually only 15 – because once portfolio was submitted at Day 90, the rest of the journey was mere ‘cooling off’ period.    

Things got worse generally… But not for me/placement, we got better. Unbelievable how much you can pack into two weeks, before my university decided to terminate all placements anyway and decide our progression by however much we had accomplished up until then. Phew! The sun shone bright – 86 days completed, no concerns, all bases covered, all PCFs/SoPs/KSSs ticked off, I was good to go with a PASS recommendation. Sweet music.…

Barely a short month ago…

Back to the present. Devastating and unwelcome as CV-19 has been, perhaps it is not all doom and gloom and there are positives to glean from this destructive pandemic. We might have forgotten the true essence of life and was (living) too long in life’s fast lane; we needed to slow things down somewhat. Unfortunately, it took CV-19 for us to achieve this. It took CV-19 for parents to learn to start parenting their kids again and for families to get to know one another. The stillness of CV-19 helped us to rediscover lost passion and hear the unspoken words of our hearts; it assisted us in re-learning (new) ways of being, new ways of appreciating one another. CV-19 unleashed our creative juices, causing some of us to revive latent skills. CV-19 helped us to, once again, become our brothers’/neighbours’ keepers and forget self for the moment. CV-19 helped us to find life once again, and (re)learn gratitude. So, for this moment, we are re-living life and growing to appreciate the simple essences of life. We are finally living the life we were made to live. And dare I say: “thank you” COVID-19…?

Has there been inconceivable damage, irreparable losses? Yes! Do our hearts ache when we think of families and friends that we (including this writer) have lost to CV-19? Totally! Do the songs die in our throats as we remember? You bet! Do we wish this demonic plague away, never to surface on our earth again? Oh, Yes, absolutely! Rest assured; this too shall pass. And when all is done, it will be a new beginning.  

Life is hard, no doubt. I am relearning this daily as I progress my learning. We find ourselves in situations we are totally not prepared for and we just have to learn to “go with the flow.” The implications of this are far-reaching and something that will probably take me the rest of my career to make sense of. For now, I am humbled to have been part of this experience-of-a-lifetime. Social work has not passed this way before. I will always remember and be grateful that I ‘passed this way’ as part of my learning. 

Life is hard. But this, too, shall pass.  

Toks Francis, Social work student, Brunel University April 20, 2020

Reference

Proletariat. PayrollHeaven.com. Available at: https://payrollheaven.com/define/proletariat/#cite-term

Categories
3rd Edition, May 18th, 2020 Yourgirlpower1

Face time is working

I haven’t been on Twitter since the lockdown. Twitter is my angry place, it’s my place for thrashing out injustices, joining with other, mainly thinking people, to try to move the Social Care System forward. That’s why I made my account, and it’s been brilliant. I’m a mum of a nearly 14 year old girl who is in a specialist CSE home in the country. My daughter was groomed online, which then led to an awful string of events, including exclusion from her high school as she was bullied so badly for acting out the abuse.

I realise I am in a good position regarding “contact” (ergh that word seems to have much more sterile connotations now) or “family time” as we prefer to call it, as our circumstances for my daughter going into care  were seen as something that was completely needed at the time, and I was pro the placement, as my daughter was at so much risk. My daughter went from an urban, wifi addicted girl to a child with no access to the internet overnight, and has really benefitted from this. She did over a year with no access to a “device” other than the library computers.

She has done amazingly well, and to earn her possession of her own phone she had to undertake CSE awareness and education sessions, where she was expected to really engage, not simply nod her head, so this had taken time.

We were fortunate that pre-Covid my daughter had two more sessions left, then she could be the proud owner of a phone, yes a smart phone. The managers had bought a batch of phones for the girls, which they knew about, so the motivation was there.

I can feel some of you balk as you read this….they bought Smart phones? For CSE abused girls? Yes, I have found the staff and management at the unit where my daughter is, are experts, specialists in fact and the fee they get from the LA reflects this. They not only have done specialist CSE courses, but know about teenage girls and what they want.

So my daughters last LAC Review was very exciting with the imminent phone, I was sad though to have to point out to the nervous social worker that the home staff were the most educated and experienced people I’d ever met re CSE and they knew exactly what they were doing. Their job was supporting girls to engage safely. “You are paying for this service!” I had to say. The social worker took a breath.

The WhatsApp messages came…”Hello Mum I’ve got a phone!” It was exciting. It was set up with parental controls of course and my daughter had to sign an agreement. The manager does spot checks on my daughter’s conversations. The good thing is D tells me everything, about who she wants to contact. I have learned the more I say “No” to something the more she will want to do it, and so I have now got more of a parenting role back by listening to her curiosity about people but explaining that this person isn’t necessarily a good friend to have. I recognise her curiosity and need for connection with old “friends” and I try to get her to see how much she has moved on. But, like for any young person in care, her history calls her, old connections, and the urge to connect with people from her past is really important to her.

Having the phone connection with my daughter, on her own phone and on her terms has brought a dimension into her and my life that has brought real peace, and has been a way to connect and satisfy my daughter more than I ever thought.

So, this is how I have used our phone time.

Pictures of the cats.

Videos of the cats and dad lying on floor playing with the cats.

Stills of cats for my daughter to draw.

Silly videos of me washing a rug in the garden with a hose pipe in an Irish accent.

Foodie videos of me enjoying healthy food.

Music clips, some of my special songs, some just music I think she will like.

Linked with Granny disabled and 80, and Grandad in the background fascinated by the technology.

Lots of 3 way calls between dad and I don’t like this…We are separated, but she so wants to see us together. Our Contact visits were separate and she loved the meetings where we were all together again, “Group Hug” she’d say, and reluctantly I’d do it, but with sadness that she will probably never be living with us all again as a child.

Check ins..Lots of check ins. What are you doing? Where’s Dad? What are the cats up to ? Where is her brother? Then she may take a chance and call her 16 yr old brother who keeps it quiet that they actually do have conversations. I get photos of her Sunday roast, pizza that she’s made, dramatic makeovers with those pouts. I get sent pics of the dogs that staff bring on their shifts, and views from her window, and her room. We have had heart to hearts..long chats …really giving her the time she wants…although as her circle of contacts have grown these have decreased, and that has been good. No news is good news, she is happy using her 2 hr a day phone time chatting to old friends.

I show her the garden. Show her the park next door and neighbours clapping, for NHS.

Links to online clothes, I show her my new dress. Baby pictures of my daughter, photos of family holidays, photos of happy times. Old photos got from my parents of me as a child and pictures of her great grandparents including telling her of history about them.

So the connection with the family home has been made, her roots, “her cats,” and it has brought more comfort than frustration, but it still feels sad, and bittersweet.

If she didn’t have home visits set up I don’t think I could bear to send her so much of home, it wouldn’t feel right, quite tantalising with her being away from the place she longs to be.

The longing to be here hasn’t gone away, but she feels satisfied to have that connection and that I am keeping her connected and that this isn’t frowned upon but encouraged by the home. The fact that I WANT to keep her connected gives her hope too.

Minimal contact, none or an open relationship with birth parents. I have tried to show her that being back online can be creative and exciting, remember she was CSE abused online, her relationship with the online world, has been unsafe. She has to now show that SHE is in control, something she try’s very hard to do in real life. But sexual predators are very very manipulative and cunning and incite all sorts of emotions in a child.

Hopefully her CSE sessions have brought her new awareness and understanding.

So I want her online world to be fun, exciting even, creative and help her to connect with people that will be good for her. 

At times it has felt like I have her in the room, with her bossing me around, being silly, she has always farted down the phone..

…and with me having to terminate calls as she obsesses about me coming to get her, go back to court, asking me which social work manager I have spoken to that week and exactly what was said word for word.

Yes, it’s been like I am parenting her more. I send her links of clothes I would buy her as she seems to wear and wear the things I’ve bought her in the past, and doesn’t like to spend her own money saving for her future, which is a sad indication of how she feels.

The online world moves fast and this afternoon she told me she was connected with more primary school friends on WhatsApp, which thrilled her. It’s also a brave thing on her part, as she will have to put into her own words her ‘journey’ but she has peers now to chat to apart from her mum and dad. Oh we did manage to get 80 year old and disabled Granny on a three way video call, I was amazed my mother could answer the call ..it was a moment and something I’m sure we will repeat. My daughter has also interestingly, wanted to add her social worker to our video calls. She didn’t answer. My daughter had asked for a picture of her office, to which she refused, and she also would like video calls with the managers, why not? She is curious about what they look like, who is making the decisions about her life?

The voice clip, facility on WhatsApp is brilliant.

You don’t have to type, just talk.

It’s very personal.

I use that a lot, mainly when I reallly want to lift my daughter, and give her lots of encouragement.

“My life is so shit” I have heard a lot lately, but it’s been a comfort to be able to tell her that actually everyone’s is pretty much that way atm and it’s not only her life but everyone’s is on hold atm. That seems to allow for some calm, it’s Coronavirus keeping us apart and her stuck, not the social workers, or no suitable foster carer having come forward.

I tried to help her to see that she is actually in a pretty good place, atm although to a 14yr old Londoner, the stone walls, views of fields of sheep from her window, country lanes, feel far from idyllic, but the phone has really helped.

There have been times where she has appreciated where she is, she reflects on how she has changed and tells about beautiful and interesting places she has been to. It feels quite old fashioned, and has a purity about it that brings me comfort, totally different to her life here. Sometimes I don’t know if I am tantalising her with images of home. But she did have regular home visits set up, and had had 2 official ones (her first was on her own, her longing got the better of her.) She will at some time resume those visits, and as we know….we do not know when anything will return to even nearly normal so in the meantime, the connection of home serves more good than any harm, in my view. It’s somewhere I’m fortunate to say we won’t go back from. My daughter is nearly 14 and a phone would be usually a huge part of a YP life at that age.

So she is one of four teenage girls in lockdown, being home schooled in the country kitchen via video links. They go on LOTS of country walks and evening bingo with prizes seemed to have been a real hit. I’m very grateful to the staff, for their dedication, and imagination, and for the skill and foresight they have in getting my daughter back online, it’s part of my daughter reintegration to some kind of “normal” life. But the time spent and images I am sent also evoke emotions of longing to be with her. It’s been nearly 7 weeks now. One thing I was touched about is that there have been times when my daughter just wants to snuggle her clothie and look at me, just to be with me, no words. It’s like being with her in those moments, on the sofa having a cuddle, and I can almost smell her as I imagine smoothing her hair.

Sometimes there is no need for words…

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