Wednesday 29 September 2010

A Parent's Perspective of Our Shambolic Care System

Recently I received an email from a committed and responsible parent who through circumstances beyond their control and despite their best efforts had to put their teenage stepson in to care. They have kindly allowed me to publish the email here which I have edited only very slightly. Here is their story and their assessment of the care system:


I've just found your Blog and I wanted to express my congratulations on firstly writing about your experiences and secondly for winning the award earlier in the year. My 17 year old step son M was placed in care when he was 13. He was a regular cannabis user and extremely violent to other family members when not having access to it. We always had problems with him and faced numerous challenges in keeping him out of trouble at school and at home. It was hard, my God was it hard but we did our best for him. It would have been so easy to take the soft option like many other parents and give in to him, but we took our responsibilities seriously. We took the grief, we took the smashed bedrooms and the thumps and we attended the parenting classes because we wanted to be good parents. We kept him busy: scouts, football clubs, rugby, boxing, you name it we did it. He never missed school and was about to start the run-up to his GCSE's.

Despite our best efforts and commitment to M the situation deteriorated and his violent behaviour was affecting his siblings. We were faced with Social Services recommending that he be removed and we thought it would do some good. Perhaps it would mean he could address his drug problem and get some anger management counseling. How naive we were.

We dropped him off at a care placement which consisted of three other teenagers on a Wednesday evening and he looked so scared .We hugged him and arranged to drop over on the Saturday to bring over some of his belongings. When we returned on that Saturday he was unrecognisable. He had been "adopted" by a 15 year old youth in the placement who had clearly advised him that he could do anything he wanted as there was nothing the staff could do to stop them. They were literally out of their heads on the exhilaration of being "in control".

Within a month he was using all sorts of drugs and solvents and was missing from the care home at least three or four times a week and ALL his belongings had been sold for drugs. Thirteen years of parenting had in effect disappeared in three days. For the next twelve months M never attended school along with the other resident in the home because the care home didn’t have the power to force him. We even attended a meeting where M was told that it wasn't so bad missing school at fourteen as it was his GCSE years that were really important (as if he'd magically start attending again next year). At every subsequent meeting we went to (which M was also present), when we raised concerns about his skipping school and suggested consequences, we (and he) were told that "we can't stop his weekly allowance" or "we can't stop him leaving for late night parties" - it was music to his ears.........madness ....sheer bloody madness.

After months and months of pestering and meetings with Social Services we finally managed to find a placement well away from home where he was away from the influence of these other youths. By and large it worked. He started school again, sure he had blips but he was happy and we could see him improving physically and mentally. However, things were far from perfect in that everything was done for him and he had to take no responsibility for his actions or suffer any consequences. He would abscond and then ring the home in the early hours for lifts home. If he wanted something then he knew that he'd get it and if he didn’t he'd trash the house. He was getting older but not growing up. He was a ten year old in a sixteen year old's body.

When he reached 16, Social Services decided that the expensive placement was no longer justified so he was shifted back to his home town despite our protestations on account of the friends he had made here in his first care placement.

As I write this M is a crack addict with a conviction for burglary and living at his grandfather's home - even though he's not wanted there. He steals his savings and has even sold his Granddad’s TV and yet Social Services say they can't do anything unless Granddad is physically going to remove him. The last time M was arrested it took 4 policemen and leg shackles !!

M is the product of a care system which instils NO discipline, where everything they want they get, and where they are treated with kid-gloves by the police and by the courts. This cannot be the right way to raise children in care, to use the term "care" is an insult to those people who actually do care.

Please please keep up the good work. We must keep highlighting what is going on in such care placements.Sorry, I've ranted on long enough but it's such a relief to actually be able to talk to someone about this issue.


oldgirlatuni said...

I don't know whether to be more upset about this or angry.

Terribly upset for all those concerned. And furiously angry for the system that allowed this to happen.

My good thoughts to all concerned.

The bike shed said...

Just astonishing - or perhaps, very sadly, not.
Atrocious, that's a better word.

jaljen said...

We just throw resources and multi-agency support at these young people. I say support - that's what those involved call it - but it seems more like just nodding sympathetically and kowtowing to the little blighters than anything useful or worthwhile. The email is sadly representative of the way it all works.

Anonymous said...

many thanks to the parent who was brave and honest enough to share their experiences. It reinforces my commitment to stick with our foste son however challenging he is. Secure accommodation, which is his alternative, is not going to help him at all. Social Services are a joke, unfortunately a toxic joke for the kids caught up in the system and the rest of us who have to live with the adults theu become.

TonyF said...

Bloody hell.

It is all summed up in that one letter. Why cannot the idiots 'in charge' see the damage they are doing?

Bob of Bonsall said...

Dear God, what have we done to the troubled youngster of our country?

Truely is it said "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

Anonymous said...

If this lad spends the rest of his life in and out of prison, that's probably the best his family can hope for. But as he is now addicted to crack, his life expectancy is not good.

It occurs to me that the prohibitions on confinement and discipline are, in themselves, a form of state imposed neglect. Dressed up as "respect" of course.

Anonymous said...

I can't agree that 'M' is solely the product of the care system as his behaviour prior to being placed in care seems to indicate serious problems, serious enough for his family to consider placing him in care in the first place.

Clearly this course of action only made matters worse but I can't blame them for doing this, unless we walk in someone elses shoes it is too easy to judge. They were protecting their other children and had faith that the care system could actually help. Winston regularly highlights how flawed this system is.

This isn't black and white and there are no easy answers. Children can be very damaged from events in childhood and this can easily last all through their adult lives and be incredibly painful. People in intense pain often seek out drugs as self-medication.

I believe children in care do need to be treated with as much compassion and love as possible but some of the situations Winston describes are PC gone insane. Children and teenagers do need firm boundaries, with kindness and understanding - these help them feel secure and loved and all parenting courses teach this basic principle.

My heart goes out to this family and I hope in time they can all heal from these traumatic events.

Jean said...

What an awful thing. I'm so sorry for the family. They did what they thought would best help their son and instead it promptly encouraged him to destroy himself.

Unknown said...

I can't help but think that at some point the 'care' system providers are going to get sued, bigtime, for failing to care. I hate the 'no win no fee' business, but sometimes it's the only thing that local authorities can use to drive real and meaningful change.

Dave the Dog said...

Winston, your blog and this e-mail really should be required reading for all in the Social Care System and right on up to the top level of Central Government.
Of course it would all be dismissed as fiction as has happened too often in the past.
Hats off to you Sir and my deepest respect!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the letter and I love your blog Winston!

I'm pretty cycnical about all this. I think it is part of a much deeper and more evil plan.

Many of the problems could be solved with just some basic common sense. There is no common sense and one has to wonder why. I believe the progressive elites want to deliberately raise a generation of people who have no moral compass and personal responsibility. They will have people who do not like rules or consequences and they will become anarchists and will propogate a revolution. The elites want this population who will bust democracy. You have to destroy what is in place before a group can bring in their own people and make the changes they want. The group that is best organized will be the ones to take over.

The more people who are dependent on the government the more the opportunity there is to have the system fall. Anarchy will follow, the progressives and labor unions will come in to "save the day" and bring order to the chaos. They will then take-over. It is hard to prove because the progressives cloak everything behind "caring and compassion". They abolish rules and consequences out of "love and care for the children."

International labor unions are scarey. Unions are right now trying to get their members engaged in civil disobedience and strikes. International unions can plan and support each other worldwide.

Personally, I believe it is all part of a large political plan for a power grab and take over.

What else could it be? There is no common sense in their thinking on how to deal with these social issues.


Anonymous said...

I know of a loving, committed foster family which took on the difficult task of fostering a teenage girl from a troubled background.

She stayed with them for two years, from the ages of thirteen to fifteen; whilst clearly maladjusted from her background, she wasn't a bad person and the foster family provided her with stability, responsibility (a household rota on the wall, in which "A" did no more or less work than any other member of the family) and sympathy.

Things weren't easy (when are they ever with ANY teenager?), but "A" seemed to be growing into a decent person, and towards the end of the two-year period the family seriously considered adopting her as a full member of the family.

Then "A" - poor, impressionable "A" - fell in with a crowd of friends from a local care home. A crowd which told her that she was a fool to submit to rules and discipline when she could have lawless fun back in care.

Things came to a head when "A" asked to attend a slumber-party at the house of a notorious "bad girl"; her foster parents refused. A week later, "A" went to the police station and made allegations that her foster family had treated her cruelly. She was questioned twice by police - the second time, she refused to answer the questions altogether - but the machine swung into instant action and she was instantly removed from their care. (The family had to be investigated as well, even though it was clear to all involved that this was a simple ruse for "A" to get her 'freedom'.)

Result: an impulsive lie results in the destruction of a two-year relationship, the loss of the only stability the girl had ever known and the smearing of an innocent foster family. (This is the only power children in care possess - can we blame them for using it, seeing as it is handed to them unquestioningly?) I don't know whether "A" got her wish to attend the care home, but I do know of a family that has chosen never to foster another child.

The system is mad. How can we fix it?

Anonymous said...

It's partially a response to the old days where "institutionalisation" represented rigid patterns of discipline and allowed petty tyrants free reign. Overbearing discipline meant that children fled and petty tyrants committed all sorts of abuses. The pendulum has swung far too far the other way, with the distressing costs written about above.
The belief in allowing kids to do as they want probably also reflects a "we dont want runaway kids" attitude. The problem with this is that we coddle them for the years until they are 18 and then suddenly they are expected to cope for themselves (OK Winston clearly is dealing with young adults as well), but eventually they become the unfortunates who are the daily "customers" of inspector Gadget and PC Bloggs.

Anonymous said...

Do the parenting classes that the family were sent on mirror the way children are treated in care homes?

I am guessing that they don't.


Rouselle Rousseau said...

...must be noted services can't remove m from his grandfather's house without grandfather's permission to take the case forward to the police...nothing to do with whether or not the grandfather can physically remove m... If grandfather feels unable to invoke criminal proceedings then social services can help but they need his consent to do so. If he doesn't have capacituous consent then they can act on his behalf...

...just highlighting the need to understand policy and legislation before the "aren't social services useless/rubbish/ineffectual/Nazis" party gets started...

RichieRIch said...

The post by Tang0 is revealing.

The state puts greater and greater emphasis on sending struggling parents to parenting classes. I would imagine these classes take the "Supernanny" approach i.e. have consistently good consequences for good behaviour, consistently bad consequences for bad behaviour and spend quality time with your kids.

But whilst on the one hand, the state encourages parents to take the Supernanny approach in their homes, it encourages (insists on?) the opposite approach ("let the kids run wild") in its own children's home.

Go figure?!

Matthew Hopkins said...

Utterly heart breaking. Every hand-wringing psuedo-intellectual who professizes about "rights" with no concept of responsibilities should hang their head in shame at the damage they have done.

I cannot imagine the strength needed to keep going for the sake of the other children involved.

Anonymous said...

My stepson followed an identical path - but escaped to his alkie mum and at 15 we couldn't stop him as his wishes were paramount - instead of care. Picked up a sentence of 15 years for stabbing another youth in a cannabis/schizo/haze. Now on parole not a happy lad. He fully exercised his human rights - and that's where it got him.

Neil80 said...

I have one issue with the following passage:

"As I write this M is a crack addict with a conviction for burglary and living at his grandfather's home - even though he's not wanted there. He steals his savings and has even sold his Granddad’s TV and yet Social Services say they can't do anything unless Granddad is physically going to remove him."

Having worked alongside Social Workers dealing specifically with Safeguarding Adult issues this situation would, on the face of it, by most social workers be deemed a fairly robust case of needing investigating according to Adult Protection procedures

The key points are

a.) the prescence of a vulnerable adult

b.) the person not being wanted there

c.)allegations of financial abuse

d.)Risk of violence

Either it is a case of there being details we do not know, or a case of extremely, extremely bad practice.

We simply do not know this on the facts available.

Even if this is a case of bad practice. I think its worth pointing out that in my experience when it comes to Safeguarding Adults cases Social Workers take them extremely seriously. Recording is of the highest standard and senior staff are often involved. The same goes whether its a case of neglect in a care home or a report from a PCSO of an elderly gent found worse for wear from drink.

loki said...

There is an interesting documentary on Iplayer about the care system (as seen by all sides). I have attached the link. Well worth watching.

Anonymous said...

Describes my dealings with so called 'care' homes down to a T. The staff individually can not be blamed (as long as they don't agree with it!!) as they have been put in a frankly insane situation with the only option to object is to leave - and then real life need for money slows that path down.

Anonymous said...

This is institutional neglect.
If I treated my son in this way I am sure I would have a 'social worker' telling me I am failing him.
The lunatics are truly in charge of the asylum God help us all.

Anonymous said...

The decision to save money was correct, and he should have never been put on this track -- relocating kids is popular as it moves the problem out of sight (and budget...), but it never ever works, in the end they have two scenes to hang out instead of the one, for twice the mischief... bliss (not).

As for the 'violent cannabis user' BS -- this piece of PC dog-whilstle drivel sounds like his parents are classic psychotic asshats who have spent years terrorising their child because he doesn't meet their expectations to a point where he hates them enough not to care anymore about himself. So, payback isn't popular and so, the 'parents' call the SS to park the malfunctoning child in the local kiddie gulag.

Now those 'nice' people are writing you a pathetic letter wanting sympathy for their epic fuck-up and you duly feel sorry for the snakes (after all, they did all the right things, no idea why the kid hates them enough to seriously attack and steal from them, oh no... poor dears, evil nasssty child).

The stuff about the discipline is rubbish as well -- you know very well that most of this kids went through hell at home and no amount of harshness will reach the parts of their little souls not already harassed into growing extra thick skin by their parents over years of abuse.

As to the kids ignoring you and your colleagues -- they just left idiot parent MkI, the last thing they need is people making a living out of wanting to 'improve' their lives and become pestersome parent MkII who will 'help them'.

WinstonSmith33 said...

@ Anonymous above,

You really should try working in care for a while and then you may learn that the reality of the kids there doesnt fit with your cliched analysis. Whilst some kids in care are violent and agressive as a result of abusive parents there are many kids (I have worked with them) who are violent because they come from homes with no discipline at all where they became the abuser in their teenage years. There are also many kids from abusive backgrounds who are well behaved overall and display no aggression. You are either a child who has written the above or a very irresponsible adult whom I hope doesnt have any children of your own. Your antipathy to rules, consequences and authority is shared by many people in care and supported housing perhaps you should consider a career in that sector.

Gareth said...

my 2 pence. First 1/2 sounded like me. My dad is a terrible narcissist and wouldnt believe me when i tried as hard as i could to get accross what was wrong in the family. So i tried to kill myself and became a stoner and a loser.

Im not anymore but could easily still be. My 2 pence.