Care Kid – Part II

“As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know”    -Carl Jung-

The first months I spent in care felt like being trapped in an episode of Tracy Beaker, except there was no pretending my mum was a famous Hollywood star who would eventually come back for me; she was gone. My siblings and I had been taken back to London and placed in a children’s home in Bermondsey in an area known as ‘The Blue’. Bermondsey was one of Peckham’s bordering districts and though it was only ten-minutes by car from our childhood home the community was very different to its multi-cultural neighbour. The area had been heavily bombed during World War II and numerous council estates had been erected in place of the factories that had lined the streets pre-war. Its residents were predominantly the white working class and the area had a bad and well earned reputation of being extremely intolerant and racist. The Blue was at the heart of Bermondsey’s community and had once been a popular traditional street market in its glory days before the traders were pushed out by gentrification and big supermarket chains. By the early nineties left in place of the hundreds of stalls that had once dotted the high-street was a main road lined with run down shops and cafes and right at the end of the road nestled behind a pub, park and a shabby laundrette was the children’s home.

Roseberry Street children’s home was a modern multi-purpose building with spacious rooms, heavy duty carpet throughout and a generous sized garden. We had been accommodated inside a separate unit within the home isolated from the other residents and it was like having our own little apartment; with two double bedrooms as well as a kitchen, bathroom and lounge area. The home was your typical communal living residential care home, well lived in and devoid of any real comfort or character and though the staff had attempted to make it homely with well-placed toys and posters on the walls, the regimented daily time table as well as the high turnover of staff and regular meetings with social workers made it feel more like a youth centre than a home. We were no longer just children, we were now considered ‘looked after children’ – supervised, examined and monitored twenty-four-seven.

Outside of our unit there were multiple rooms for the other children who lived there as well as offices, a computer room and a bedroom for the staff who stayed overnight. We would spend the majority of our day playing with the other residents in the garden or recreation room downstairs and the staff for the most part would allow us all to run wild until lock up when we were marched upstairs and instructed to get ready for bed.

Bedtimes were deeply unsettling as I was plagued by distressing and repetitive nightmares virtually every night and I hated going to bed. It was not a place of rest and I would cause trouble and hide away from the staff on most evenings in an attempt to delay the inevitable. My brothers who needed little in the way of encouragement would join me running around creating havoc whilst the staff done their best to control us. I was soon labelled the problem child, naughty and unmanageable and as you will imagine the staff grew to hate me, picking me up and taking me back to bed a thousand times kicking and screaming before tiredness would eventually overwhelm me and I’d fall into a troubled sleep.

My mum had died two weeks before the summer school holidays were due to end and it was decided by social services that it would be a good idea for us children to  return to school once the new term begun. My first day back was one of the worst days of my life, I had always been a confident child, self-assured and accepted but that day was the very first time I had ever really been aware of what it felt like to be different. Our family were well known in the community and it was no secret that my mum had been killed, it had been printed in the papers and was talk of our neighbourhood. Our loss was everyone’s gossip and it felt like there was no one left in the world who didn’t know that our mum was dead. I remember feeling self-conscious especially at the end of the school day when all eyes were on us as we boarded the white mini-bus that had been provided by social services for the children’s home to transport us to and from school.

jaimee2
Gloucester Grove Primary School

Though I had always been fairly bright and fond of school when I returned I struggled to concentrate in class and would spend my days worrying about things far beyond my control or understanding. My teacher at the time Mrs Miller, evidently unsure about how to manage my withdrawal allowed me to wander out of class unchallenged and I’d spend my days sitting with the receptionist in the school office instead. Her name was Val and she was a kind elderly lady who reminded me of my great grandmother. She would tease and make light of the fact that I was skiving class again and it amused me that she would always look at me over the rim of, rather than through her glasses and jokingly remark “ohh Jaimee-lee, not again” whenever I appeared in the office doorway. In those early days she became my refuge at school  and I found comfort in the fact she allowed me to be present without expecting anything in return unlike the many new adults in my life.

There were plenty of them, from social workers to the police liaison officers, to independent reviewing officers and the staff both at school and at the children’s home, to the children’s psychotherapist and the court appointed guardian, as well as our solicitor. We were introduced day after day to one hidden agenda led adult after the next, making their notes and recording our every interaction and I didn’t trust any of them, refusing to be blinded by any illusion that they cared or could tell the truth.

“Because never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along―the same person that I am today.” – Orson Scott Card –

I don’t know how I came to that conclusion at nine years old, I’d be a liar to tell you. Perhaps due to pre-conceived beliefs that social services were bad and stole children from their families or maybe because my own parents had failed miserably in their duty to protect us from the likes of these bad people and as a result I refused to trust anyone else? Or possibly because the children’s psychotherapist who’d been assigned to us through the court to establish the extent of emotional damage we had suffered following my mothers death was forcefully manipulating me to express resentment for my father that I didn’t possess. Who knows? The only thing I am certain of is in my young mind I ascertained that these adults were not to be trusted.

The first weeks we were in the children’s home passed by in a blur and the only real memory I have apart from the heavy handed staff, who would smack and throw us around and the other children a couple of whom I would meet years later in another home, was that I wanted nothing more than to go home. The overwhelming need to escape was constant and one day I decided that I was going to run away and persuaded my little brothers to come with me. The day we ran away started off as normal, it was a Saturday and the house was busy. I asked the staff if I could use the computer room and typed a letter to say good bye. I remember genuinely believing in my heart that going back to life before social workers was as easy as sending a letter and walking away – how wrong was I? Once it was written, we slipped into the garden to make our escape. It was a huge garden the length of the building with high walls on either side and bushes along the back fence and though we were not the tallest of children, the walls were no match for us. We were estate kids and had been climbing trees and fences since we could talk and were up and over in no time.

Hearts pounding, anxious of being caught, we hit the ground running for the majority of the half and hour race home, following the route the mini-bus had driven on our school runs. The closer we got the more convinced I became that the life we’d lost was just ahead of us and it was an enormous shock to get back and find our front door locked and the windows boarded up. Usually during the summer holidays our door was wide open and our mums’ friends would be in the living room whilst us children ran in and out all day with our bikes, toys and endless snacks. If you wanted an ice lolly our house was the place to be and if you needed to find your mum, it was a safe bet that you would find her sitting in our living room gossiping away as adults do. Yet here we stood, in front of our boarded up house, in our unusually quiet and deserted estate not knowing quite what to do; we had run away with nowhere to go.

Knocking on the door of our neighbour, I asked if I could climb over her back fence to get into my house. She was shocked to see us and asked what we were doing there & I remember brazenly telling her that we had run away. She was stunned and anxiously told us that we needed to go back but I was adamant about checking the back door so she ushered us inside and allowed me to climb her back fence. Unluckily our back door was locked and it was one of those defining moments when I realised that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought I was. Social services had infiltrated every part of our lives, there was nowhere left untouched by their control, even our home. Our safe, magical, full of light, love and life home was dark, empty and locked to us; and I was completely heartbroken that I had been robbed of the chance to outgrow it. My brothers, baffled by my tears were quite happy since the shed had been left open and was packed with our bikes and lifting them over our neighbours garden we cycled back to the children’s home with our tails between our legs. The staff were angry to say the least and we were greeted with a very harsh telling off from the local police who had been running around the area trying to locate us. I was distressed to be back and remember locking myself in the room crying, defeated and angry at the world and everyone in it.

That immense devastation at the unfairness of life would soon become a theme for the next few months as losing our parents and our childhood home was just the beginning. At the end of September we found out that we would also lose one another as social services had determined that rather than place us with either the maternal or paternal sides of our family we would be split up and placed into long term foster care. Our family did little to detest the decision though they had spent several weeks locked in a nasty dispute with children’s services about the long term arrangements of our care, neither side wanting us to be placed with the other. Social services had invited both groups to several meetings and with increasing tensions between them, they had done little but prove themselves to be incapable of putting their differences and ill feeling aside for the benefit of our welfare.

My mums mum, though very involved in our care proceedings had hardly been a source of support or protection for her own children and even in the event that she would have offered to extend herself and her home to us, she simply did not possess the ability or skills to raise a handful of bereaved children. And unfortunately, the same could be said for both my mothers and fathers siblings, who were all equally unequipped and disinterested in inheriting the responsibility of us and were undoubtedly relieved to not have been landed with the burden of six kids.

Consequently myself and my siblings, with our fractured and unstable family networks were condemned to the foster care system and though social services assured our families that there were carers on hand who could take us all, in reality foster carers available to house a sibling group of six just didn’t exist. Instead we were split into pairs and swiftly moved on to our new homes. My elder sister who was ten and one of my brothers who was eight were sent to live with one family, whilst myself, still nine and another brother who was six were placed with a third and the twins who were three and the only joy left in our lives were naturally placed together.

jaimee
August 2000 – Laying flowers for our mum at the site of her death

The loss was colossal, like another death and I don’t think I have ever truly recovered. There is no sense of reason when you’re a child being separated from your siblings. You cannot understand that there is no one-place where you can stay together or that your placements have been ascertained on account of your often varying needs. There is no logic or justification that lessens the trauma of being separated, and even now nearly twenty years later I consider our separation an unforgiveable betrayal by those responsible for preserving and maintaining our relationships.

At first we would still see each other at school and though it was difficult and upsetting to go home to different families, we would at least see one another from Monday through to Friday but a few weeks into our new placements that was all to change. My foster carer lived in Dulwich and it was decided that we would move schools to be closer to her home. It was heart-breaking to say good-bye to my friends, the majority of whom I had known since nursery and my last day of school remains one of the saddest days of my life.

My new school was in the heart of Dulwich Village an affluent area in South-East London and to say that it was a change is an understatement. The majority of the children in my new school were from white middle class backgrounds, a big contrast to the children of working class backgrounds I was used to; and I was conscious from the get go that I did not fit in. I had a foster-carer for starters, a completely alien term to most if not all of the children in my classroom who thought kids in children’s homes and foster care were purely fictions in the books of Charles Dickens and Jaqueline Wilson. They were posh, privileged and worlds apart from any of my former peers and I struggled to adjust.

I was so depressed that one day I cut off my hair, every last bit of it. I don’t know what came over me, in one moment I wanted my mum more than I ever had since the day she had died and in the next I had picked up scissors and through tears began to hack away at my hair until there was nothing left to cut away. I will never forget how my foster carer panicked, holding me in her arms with tears in her eyes when she saw the damage I had done. There was nothing but small patches of hair left and with no way to repair it, that evening I was taken to her daughters’ home where her boyfriend who was a barber shaved the remainder off.

I hated being in care and my foster placement was far different to those of my siblings whose carers were British and permissive, living lifestyles very similar to our parents, or at least my mothers whose culture was more dominant in our household. Our carer was Jamaican born, older than my mum had been and although she was nice and incredibly loving, she was set in her cultural ways; with customs radically different to the ones in which I’d been taught and raised. She was authoritative, stern and religious and we were expected to go to church every Sunday, complete house hold chores and used a living and dining room separate from her own. Obedience and submission were highly valued, and the freedoms and casual supervision that we had been used to growing up were no more. We were instructed to address our foster carer as “auntie” rather than by her name or “mum” like my siblings had taken to calling their foster carers and it was very much a foster rather than a family home and I struggled to adapt.

In contrast my siblings had settled in well at their new foster placements and in some respects had been more fortunate than my brother and I. I say this because their foster carers had been friends prior to their placements and as a result their close sibling bonds had been sustained. They would spend time at one another’s homes, enjoyed several holidays abroad together and were very much involved in each others lives. As for myself and my little brother, we had been isolated, always on the outside looking in and I have vivid memories of going to play in Dulwich Park, a popular park a short walk from our foster placement and coincidently bumping into our siblings there on several occasions enjoying joint picnics with their foster families and extended family friends. My brother and I were never invited though we lived less than ten minutes away and our foster carers made no effort to arrange contact between us. My siblings never came to our house and we never went to theirs, and as a matter of fact I remember distinctly being shunned by their new families and prevented from visiting our younger siblings in the playground of their infant school that was next door to ours.

Unfortunately this is not uncommon for children in care and it absolutely perplexed me then as it does now how adults in positions of trust and authority can be so far removed and insensitive to the devastation that separation amongst siblings can cause. It is not often that foster families are willing to interrupt their own lives and customs to make space for the customs or the families of the child/ren they welcome into their home. And as a foster child you are expected to mould yourself and adopt the practices and habits of the family you have been placed with. There is rarely room for compromise and foster carers are often resistant to change or rearrangement of their own lifestyles or schedules even if it is in the best interests of the child.

Likewise, social services are overstretched and understaffed and do little to support contact with families or siblings once they are satisfied that vulnerable children have been placed in safe and stable foster homes. Their excuses are many, from their limited resources and time, to the lack of emotional investment they make in the very children they work with. There is no consequence for the poor practice of separation, at least not for the professionals involved who don’t suffer the life-long damage or distress. In truth, though this is a statement that will most certainly sit uncomfortably with some,  our individual carers and social workers were by all intents instrumental in fracturing and alienating our close sibling relationships due to their own self-interest. It would become my biggest problem with foster care and social services, even as a child and it is fair to say that I believed instead of maintaining, prioritising and nurturing our sibling relationships; they destroyed and severed them.

I felt broken and alone, grieving the loss of my siblings and family though they were still alive. I was afflicted with shame and feelings of betrayal whenever I allowed myself to feel happiness or affection for my carer though she was a good person. It was almost a guilty pleasure to receive love, and though there were moments where I would immerse myself in nurture completely, open and childlike in my need for affection, generally, I would be completely detached and often destructive as a means to avoid attachment and the many risks related to trusting any adult in authority. I knew how it felt to be let down, to be lied to and mistreated, hopeful and disappointed, ridiculed and punished, controlled and powerless, unseen, unheard and unwanted, and I wouldn’t allow myself to be at the receiving end of anything that could break my fragile existence. Above all, no one was going to take the place of my mum..

To be continued..

Care Kid – Part I

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Care Kid – Part I

Jaimee

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.

-Carl Jung-

An honest account of my experience of the UK care system:

I remember the first time I had ever been outside of social services. I was around seven years old and my mum shoved me into her car before driving to the local social service offices which were located in an old Victorian school building at the end of our road. She was crying hysterically and demanded that I went inside to tell them what my dad had done. I sat there wild eyed and still, too terrified to move. The year previously, the mum of a girl in my class at school had got mixed up with some yardies from the estate and was caught at the airport bringing drugs back into the UK. My classmate and her siblings were subsequently removed from their mothers care and since we were only children and didn’t really understand the gravity of their mums actions we naively demonised social services for taking away our friends. Why my mum had driven to social services I just couldn’t understand, these were the very people who everyone despised, who split up families and I was petrified that if I got out of the car I would be taken away. I had never seen my mum acting so irrational before and although in pain I sat fearful and silent whilst my mum hit the steering wheel repeatedly before eventually turning the car around and heading back home. It is only in hindsight that I have come to understand that this particular event was one of my mum’s many cries for help, and the sheer panic in her eyes on that day plagues my memories.

We lived on one of the notorious ‘five Peckham estates’ in South-East London made up of the Sumner; the Willowbrook; the Camden; Gloucester Grove and the North Peckham. Our home was a three-bedroom council maisonette on a part of the estate called Shurland Gardens, opposite what had once been a canal but was filled in and transformed into a nature reserve walkway many years before. Our side of Peckham was a deprived social housing community with never ending intertwined high rises, even higher unemployment rates, ever increasing rates of crime and very little prospects for those who resided there. From the outside looking in, it would have been the last place on earth anyone would want to live, let alone raise children, however for those who lived there it was a welcoming and friendly neighbourhood where everyone knew their neighbours and helped one another out.

My parents who were not yet thirty had six children; three boys and three girls. My dad was from a big family himself, one of ten children. He was a clever man, in fact at school, his teachers recognising that he was gifted and so far ahead of his peers sent him to have his IQ tested. The results were the talk of the family, his IQ surpassed one-hundred-and-forty which was the bench mark for those considered to be geniuses. Sadly or stupidly depending on your perspective, as intelligent as he was, after falling in with the wrong crowd he left school at fourteen with no qualifications and a one way ticket to prison. As you’d expect, the years that followed were no walk in the park, my dad got mixed up in everything he shouldn’t have and built himself quite the reputation both on the streets and within the local nick. But that was all to change when my mum fell pregnant with my elder sister and told him he would need to grow up and get a real job if they were going to make a go of things. He quickly found work and the positions were plenty; a scaffolder, electrician, painter and decorator etc.. he was not fussy, and as the mouths to feed multiplied, he found himself in one undesirable position after the next, jobs well beneath his capability and a complete waste of his exceptional intelligence.

My mum, who I don’t remember very much though I was nine when she died (a result of repressed traumatic memories from my childhood I believe) was the eldest of three siblings. She was a beautiful woman with a million freckles, one for every good deed she had ever done. She was a born giver, or perhaps it was simply a characteristic she had acquired by looking after her siblings growing up? Either way, she didn’t just love to help, she lived to help and there was no one who was unworthy of her support. She extended herself to all and I remember that we could not go out anywhere without her stopping along the way to chat for ten minutes to someone she had bumped into; her heart was truly golden and she had many friends. Having said that, what many would agree was her biggest attribute was also her biggest flaw, she was a compulsive care giver and like many people who thrive off of helping others she was not very good at helping herself. I would love to be able to write that she liked to read or listen to music, draw, bake, sing or any number of things but the truth is I don’t know. I have asked people who knew her many times about my mum and their response is always the same “she loved her children, you were her life”. I do not disagree, if I remember anything at all, I remember my mothers love.

Generally my parents were both decent well liked people, slightly rough around the edges and not without fault, however their dedication to persevere and give us children a well rounded upbringing was unmatched. They would have made a good team in different circumstances and it is fair to say that for the most part our house was a happy if somewhat dysfunctional home. Sure we had been exposed to arguments, violence, harsh discipline and the occasional visit from the local police if my dad had been up to no good but in equal measures we had experienced love, affection and countless happy memories. My parents had done their best and despite their volatile relationship and shortcomings, they were good parents and cared deeply for us children.

Despite this, if truth be told my parents had no business having six of us children, especially within the short time span of seven years. Their own childhood traumas were yet to be resolved and diving straight into parenthood (on such an extreme scale at that) was somewhat blind and unwise. My mother in particular was witness to horrific domestic violence between her own parents as a child and as a result was burdened with a lot of responsibility for her younger siblings. My nan, who had found comfort in alcohol after suffering  prolonged abuse and extreme violence at the hands of my grandfather relied heavily and inappropriately on the support of my mum. As you might expect, this parentification was incredibly damaging to my mums development and in theory is most likely the cause of her extreme (and often destructive) selflessness. As for my dad, who was one of the middle children of a few too many; he had also experienced a troubled childhood although his early years had been a lot less chaotic than my mothers since he lived in a two parent home with what appeared to be reasonably competent and hard working parents. In reality, his parents though present were largely absent due their long working hours and were terribly emotionally and psychologically unavailable to their children. This meant that the parenting responsibilities of the youngest children were taken over by the oldest, some of whom were quite a few years older than my dad. In effect, my grandparents deficiencies in parenting had a huge impact on my dads developmental needs and quite certainly led to the onset of his psychological difficulties.

In light of the above, I do totally understand why the answer to my parents dysfunctional childhoods and hunger for love was to create their own perfect little secure and happy family, however, in truth they were ill equipped for the journey and as the pressure and demands of life and six children grew, they became overworked and as a result, completely overwhelmed.

On that particular day (prior to my mums manic drive to social services) I had been playing outside in the igloo’s, which was a stone tunnelled play area in the middle of the estate with my siblings and some of the other children from the neighbourhood when Sophie (this was not her name but for the purpose of the blog, we will call her Sophie) came running towards the igloo’s yelling that our dad had said we needed to go home for dinner. Sophie was one of our neighbours, she was an overweight girl who always wore ill fitting clothes, she had dishwater blonde hair, a filthy mouth (quite literally, she swore like a sailor) and a real mean streak. Her mean-spirited nature caused her to frequently fall out with the other children, usually because she called us racist or unkind names whenever she didn’t get her own way.

On hearing that dinner was ready the boys sprinted off ahead of us, and as my sister and I went to follow behind, Sophie pulled me aside and whispered that she had lied, my dad did not really call us in for dinner after all. She asked me if I wanted to come with her as her mums friends dog was having puppies and she was on her way to check them out. Of course I wanted to see the puppies so I called out to my sister who had started to skip in the direction of home that I would catch up and off we went. The flat was on the other side of the estate only a couple of minutes away and when we arrived Sophie impatiently thumped on the door. When the door swung open we were greeted by a unkempt man straight out of Oliver Twist with overgrown greasy hair and a long, thin unshaven face. The dog, who was equally as dishevelled as it’s owner was trying to squirm out from between his legs until the man kicked it swearing loudly. The man looked to me like the drug addicts we had been warned to stay away from and I thought to myself that if my dad knew where I was I would be in big, big trouble. I watched for a moment whilst Sophie bent down to pet the dog who had nervously retreated into the corner and announced that I needed to go home. Sophie, for once in what was possibly her entire existence and clearly frightened by the mans ill treatment of his dog did not detest and quickly turning on our heels we ran back towards our side of the estate.

Sophie lived a few doors down from our house with her nan, her brother and her teenage sister who had recently given birth to a little girl fathered by a young black guy who lived in one of the flats above ours. I remember that the baby was talk of the estate for a little while, as she was mixed race and Sophie’s family were known and vocal racists. That’s the thing about living on an estate, your business very rarely remained your own.

Arriving back to our block Sophie and I decided to play pretend mums and babies. The game was a favourite amongst the little girls who lived in our estate and we would alternate between playing make believe mums and make believe teachers on a daily basis. When I look back our choice of past time was quite telling of our working class environments. The only influential women in our lives at the time were either our mums or the teachers at school and we would spend hours mimicking them. I remember thinking for a long time that my future in the world would be limited to filling either one of those roles, since the only other option was to become a Spice Girl and unfortunately I could not sing to save my life.

Anyhow, I loved playing mums, I was a mini mum at home anyway and enjoyed helping my own mum with my youngest siblings as much as possible. My little sister who had been born when I was six was my very own real life baby (as well as her twin brother) and she was permanently stuck to my hip. I learnt to change their bums and feed them before I was seven and my mum who was extremely unwell at the time after suffering severe blood loss during their birth was happy to let me be so involved.

Sophie had prepped a sleeping area with an old sheet in the corner of her garden and there I lay pretending to be napping whilst mummy was cleaning the house, which was actually Sophie picking up the stray leaves from the garden and throwing them on the other side of the gate. Usually there would be a few of us playing, but that day for whatever reason it was just the two of us, and I vividly remember feeling pleased that Sophie, who was a couple of years older than me had singled me out to join her.

We had not been playing for long when suddenly I heard my dad’s voice booming through the estate shouting my name. I froze instantly knowing just by the tone of his voice that I was knee-deep in trouble. Standing up I beckoned to my dad over the short walls that enclosed our individual front gardens and he came striding towards us. My brain was doing somersaults trying to come up with an adequate excuse to prevent the beating that I knew was coming but my dad was on the war path. I found out years later that he had been waiting for me to return for over an hour and had also argued with my mum because he didn’t want us to play with Sophie.

In all fairness both of my parents had reasonable points. My dads logic was that Sophie was a bully with a vicious racist tongue and drug addict parents who every once in a while would come and wreak havoc on the estate. My parents had actually chased Sophie’s parents away more than once after catching them sitting outside the block getting their fix in full view of everyone including us kids. It was my dads opinion that Sophie wasn’t a very nice child and he didn’t want us mixing with her. My mum, well her argument was simple.  Nice or mean, the fact remained that Sophie was still a child. The shortcomings of her parents were not Sophie’s fault nor responsibility and it did no harm to let us play with her. My mums heart was much like my own, emphatic to the extent that sometimes it is at the expense of ones own wellbeing. In any case, like I said, though they both had fair points their presentation as always was off, and instead of resolving their disagreement maturely, they argued.

My dad was unpredictable and frightening when angered and unfortunately since I had caused the argument between him and my mum, I ended up being the one to bare the brunt of his rage that day. Marching into Sophie’s garden he didn’t even give me a chance to talk before he grabbed me roughly and began to drag me back towards our house. I wasn’t a very big child, and could barely keep upright so to stop myself from falling over I grasped onto the metal rails that ran down the length of our block separating the walkway from the estate itself and held on tight. My dad angered further by my resistance tightened his grip and pulled me off of the rails before he half dragged and half slapped me all the way home.

After what seemed like a terrifyingly long time but would have only been less than two minutes, my dad pulled me through the front door and my mum took one look at me and screamed. The skin on my back was badly grazed and had actually been altogether scraped off in some places where I had been dragged along the pavement. I was crying uncontrollably, and my mum started screaming wildly at my dad before bundling me in the car and driving to social services.

It wasn’t until around a year later that social services would pop up again following my mother’s death and my dad’s immediate incarceration. I was nine years old and two social workers had travelled down from London to the place of my mums murder to escort us six children to a children’s home where we ended up living for the following couple of months.

One of those social workers was a man, a good man, with kind eyes and a big smile. He had a lot of time for us kids and his humanity and understanding in our time of need I will never forget. Our paths actually ended up crossing again years later, as a matter of fact if you have read my ‘Awkward Intro’ post and are familiar with the training I used to deliver to social work professionals, well it was during one of those workshops that we ended up meeting again. I know, I know, what are the chances of that?! I didn’t realise it was him until after the session had ended when he approached me with tears in his eyes and asked if I remembered him. I said I did though I genuinely couldn’t place where I knew his face from (it gets like that after years in the system and contact with hundreds of different professionals). As soon as he told me his name, I was instantly transported back in time. How strange that though he no longer worked for the same local authority, he had randomly decided to book himself on my course without knowing that it was I, the same Jaimee from more than a decade ago who he had briefly supported along with my siblings through the most traumatic period of our lives? It is truly amazing how life works eh?

To be continued….