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I was fostered a long, long time ago

(14 Posts)
OldTimer1955 Sat 05-Apr-14 14:48:37

I have been a very long term visitor to another fostering site but I never felt happy about posting there and I never was brave enough to do it. I'm a "soon going to be 60 man" and a former foster child and a widower. I was fostered starting in the 1960s. Some say it was a different world but some things never seem to change. All the people involved are long since dead although the town itself hasn't changed much. It makes me quite cross that so many experts don't really know how it was back then so the same mistakes keep on being made.

gracegrape Sat 05-Apr-14 15:00:53

I don't have any experience myself but didn't want to leave your post unanswered as it sounded so sad. I take it that you had a bad experience with the foster care system. Would it be helpful to you to share anything? What mistakes do you feel keep being made? I hope you've had a happy life as an adult.

Hopefully somebody wiser will be along soon.

suzylee73 Sat 05-Apr-14 16:25:49

Hello OldTimer, glad you felt you could post here. I have been a foster carer for 10 years and would be really interested in your experiences of foster care.
We rarely hear the stories from care leavers in this forum and I would love to learn from them.

OldTimer1955 Sat 05-Apr-14 16:38:10

My Father had served in India and Burma during WW2 and when he came back to England he was in poor health. Physically he had suffered a lot fighting the Japs and mentally he never seemed to recover from the dreadful things he saw when he was out there. I don't remember him at all as I was only 3 when he died. There is a photograph of him holding me as a baby and you would swear he was mid 50s rather than mid 30s.My Mother coped well for a while. But in the end her assorted eating disorders meant she went into one of the many large mental hospitals near St Albans. So I went into the fostering system.

I was a foster child from 14 to 16 when I left after my O levels. I passed 5 but wasn't allowed to go into the school sixth form and anyway I couldn't afford it.My foster parents never hit or abused me. They never starved me or stole from me. The house was warm and I had a room of my own. But they never showed any love for me or any interest in me. That was just the way it was back then.

middleeasternpromise Sat 05-Apr-14 16:54:29

Hi, you sound like you have had to deal with a lot of losses in your life. what is it you would like to see change/be known to help foster children? You are correct that the regulation of foster care then is very different to now - but even with law changes the nature of fostering is such that it takes place in private homes and the main safe guard is that children are regularly seen by a known and trusted independent person. I do wonder if that always happens.

TheHamster Sat 05-Apr-14 17:08:57

I was a foster child too (from 8 until I phased out) but that was in the 80s, so it would be interesting to see how much has changed (for the positive) over the years.

suzylee73 Sat 05-Apr-14 20:02:33

That's a sad story. It's sad how life can damage one person so powerfully it causes a ripple effect that can ruin a family.
I'd like to think that foster care is far more nurturing now, I see my foster kids as though they were my own kids and I am their mum. It's my job to make them feel loved and safe and to give them a voice when they need it.
People are sometimes suspicious of us carers, as if once we have the kids behind closed doors we change into monsters or something. We are the good guys, you can trust me on that.

OldTimer1955 Sat 05-Apr-14 21:12:37

I only saw my foster parents a few times after I moved out. My O level results were sent on a postcard to their address (no going into school to collect results in the 1970s) so I went down to collect them. Grades went from 1 to 9 with 1 to 6 counting as a pass. I got 1s in Maths, Physics and Chemistry - a grade 2 in art and a grade 3 in English. I was pleased with 5 passes and later on I used the results to get onto FE college evening classes. Lots of people did evening classes and I made some more friends there. We used to go as a group to watch the professional football in Luton or in Watford, travelling there on the train.

When I left foster care I was told that lodgings had been found for me with a Mrs H. She lived where the Maltings Development is now right is the centre of St Albans and only 3 minutes from my job. Mrs H was quite old, but she was lovely. She looked after me like a Mother would and I was very happy there. I stayed there until after I got engaged to Jane my late wife. You didn't usually live together until after you were married in those days but Mrs H didn't say anything when Jane sometimes stayed overnight.

I did some City and Guild qualifications at the college in St Albans and ended up as a technician at a school helping in what they call Design Technology now. I met my wife there, she worked in the canteen. We got married in 1978 and moved to the western side of Wolverhampton to be closer to her family. We were not able to have children but we were happy enough. We both worked until she was diagnosed with heart disease in 2007. She died in 2009.

suzylee73 Sat 05-Apr-14 21:31:32

Mrs H sounds like a lovely women, I'm so glad you found a mother figure in the end.
I like to think that you had happy times with Mrs H and Jane than you had hardship.

OldTimer1955 Sun 06-Apr-14 11:43:55

I have spend ages looking for other fostered adults but either they don't exist or don't want to admit it because I hardly ever find one to talk to. I swapped letters and then emails with one former foster child for ages (over 30 years) but he died in 2011. It is nice to reread all the things we wrote sometimes.

I counted up all the letters and emails Mike sent me and it came to nearly 900. I met Mike at a school reunion, he happened to hear me mention that I had been fostered and we got talking because he had been fostered like me. He had lived with a foster family near the Ancient Briton pub but as he was in the year above me I didn't know him before that day. He was a good pal to me and I hope I was a good pal to him. He never married but he certainly had lots of lady friends in the different places he worked. When I first knew him he was working in Watford, then it was Taunton, then Hull and finally Chester.

When he realised he was really ill he got somebody to photocopy all the letters I had ever sent him. He then sent them to me as a surprise birthday present. So then I did the same thing for him and I think he managed to read most of what I sent him before he died from liver problems. This was a shock because he had been given 1 to 2 years by the doctors but only lasted 9 weeks. I have just reread all the letters I sent him and although some of them are fairly boring lots still make me laugh and a very few make me quite sad even after so many years. He helped me sort out Jane's funeral and that was typical of the man he was. I think he deserved better than he got from his life. Hardly anybody made the effort to go his funeral, I think it was less than ten of us there.

OldTimer1955 Tue 15-Apr-14 15:11:33

I reckon that I only went into foster care because of the 1939-1945 war even though I born about a decade later. My Dad's brother John and my Dad both served in the far east. Uncle John was killed just before the fall of Singapore and of course my Dad came back in a terrible physical and mental state. Parents today probably can hardly imagine what it is like to send their children off to war. I wondered sometimes would Uncle John have got married if he had come back safe? Perhaps he could have looked after me rather than the foster child system?

I never felt very sad about those foster child years. Even in the 1970s men didn't show much emotion and mostly I just got on with daily life. I used to visit my Mother in the hospital but she quickly got worse and quite soon hardly recognised me. I feel a bit guilty now but the weekly visits soon became monthly and once she didn't know who I was and didn't recognise photos of her own husband there didn't seem much point. It wasn't dementia she had it was something else with a long 3 part name that ended in syndrome. She would have been OK I expect if Dad had still been around so the war got in the way again.

I've had a problem all my adult life with showing emotion or even feeling emotions. When my wife died I was sorry of course but I was also pleased for her because she had had a bad last two years. She died at home which was good. She went off to bed a bit earlier than usual and just never woke up when the morning came. The doctor thought she died about 11PM so I was beside her when she passed on.

gertiegusset Tue 15-Apr-14 15:15:01

Did you never have contact with the rest of your family.
Aunts and Uncles and cousins?

OldTimer1955 Tue 15-Apr-14 17:54:47

Dad's parents lived near Hull in Yorkshire. They had two boys, my Dad and my Uncle John. John died in the War and when my Dad died we (Mum and I) had almost no contact with them. Just a card on my birthday with a 10/- postal order and another at Christmas with a 12/6d postal order. Even the cards stopped when I was 18. They died a long time ago. My Mother's parents lived in Rhodesia (as it was then) with Mum's sister who never married. I write to her a couple of time a year.

motherinferior Tue 15-Apr-14 18:00:45

OldTimer, have you talked to any of the people at organisations like The Fostering Network, or BAAF? They might be very interested and indeed helpful...

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