I sat on the living room rug staring at a baby fast asleep in a car seat, despite his sister and brothers running wildly around their new home. His tongue protruded from his mouth, as his teeth had not yet developed as his mother had neglected him. Four children entered my family that night for the next year and changed everything.
These were not the first foster children we’d had in our home but it was safe to say we were not prepared for four children under five years old, as we scrambled to buy bottles, clothes, and other necessities last minute. Earlier that day the children were removed from their single mother who appeared on Sky TV bragging about feeding her children only McDonald’s. Not that this was the reality since the children were so starving they’d bite through bananas with the skin on and eat till they felt sick, for fear that every meal they received would be their last. However, the children were not removed from their mother for their TV appearance, but because the neglect became too extreme to ignore when the baby nearly died of dehydration.
Social services insisted that my parents, who both work full-time jobs and shifts, should drive these children backwards and forwards to a care center down the road from where the mother lived so she could visit them a few times every week, as well as take them backwards and forwards to school there. Never mind the fact she neglected them, lived off benefits, and had nothing else to do with her time. She was also still receiving child benefit for the four children, which evidently began funding her new sense of style when she started arriving for her visits in Snap-backs and Ed Hardy, whilst we all bundled out of the car from an hour of screaming and crying.
The children came with multiple issues that social services neglected to tell us about, including scabies. For those of you who do not know what scabies are, they’re tiny mites that burrow in your skin, feed off your flesh and lay eggs. They’re also highly contagious and can be passed on through skin to skin contact, clothes, towels and bedsheets. In these children’s cases they were so bad they had ingrained lines of feces running through their hands and crusted skin. You can imagine how impressed I was that I was scrubbing myself like a mad man in the shower with scabies lotion and walking round the house like Casper the ghost covered in preventative cream. Especially since I thought that was an extinct sailor’s disease from 400BC! Of course it was a lot worse for the children who must have had the skin condition for a long time, which would be so itchy they’d be in tears.
After ridding the girl of head lice, which had been so bad her head was covered in scabs, she’d asked me to curl her hair so she could have “princess hair” like me and my sister. So before a visit to see her mum I curled her hair and put some lip balm on her lips for her big reveal. The whole car ride to the care center she looked in the mirror saying how she looked like a princess and was complimented multiple times by her brothers who told her how beautiful she looked. This received a complaint to social services from the mother. Apparently by using hair curlers I had damaged her daughters hair and this went against her parenting. So a social worker asked my parents to tell me off and expressed how furious her mother was and told us never to curl her hair again.
Dispatches sent an undercover reported into a child protection unit and spoke to the staff who admitted themselves they did not feel they were not providing a good service or being trained properly. The staff were overstretched and having breakdowns. Private agencies are at an advantage as they have more funding and resources compared to local authority fostering services. However, children that are not being fostered in local authorities are being passed to these private agencies because they pay foster carers a higher fee, so people are less likely to turn down the children. My family got offered a few of these children, including one that raped dogs and tried to jump off the top of a multistory car-park. Last year 62,808 children were in foster care placements in the UK and only 3,853 were adopted.
These children were children, they were innocent and had problems to no fault of their own. Obviously there are bad parents out there, and that is why we have the fostering system in place, and for other reasons of course. I know that the social services are under stress, as are many professions. However my grudge is how unsupportive they were. My family were treated with less respect than a woman who starved, drugged, beat and did God knows what else to her children. A woman who lived off their taxes and made no effort to change her ways. When my family hit an all time low, depressed, overwhelmed and too proud to throw the towel in, I spoke up. I told the social worker that my parents were burnt out, my family was falling apart, and they were depressed. I was in tears pleading with the social worker. I had already been given questionnaires to give an overview of my experience and I repeatedly filled them in telling them how bad things had got and they were ignored. It was unrealistic of them to let my parents care for four demanding children. My sister and I needed to help them out a lot, although they tried not to ask. Social services were also aware of this, knowing I was studying for my A-level exams and I expressed that I was concerned about my grades because my house was round the clock chaos. I was deeply disappointed with the fostering agency we worked with. I feel their visits were completely pointless, and a waste of time, as was their paperwork. Despite the agency we worked with actually having the resources to help us out like providing travel and moving the care center closer, they held back. The blatant health issues which were not disclosed to us were immoral. Fostering agencies are dumping children in homes and ending their care there because they feel they’ve passed on the problem. Adoption rates would be a lot higher if social workers were allowed to focus on working with the new family the children are being cared for in, rather than focusing on licking the wounds of abusive parents.