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James (name changed) went off to school Tuesday and I was planning on a day in the garden as the weather forecast was for hot sunny weather. So on with the shorts and the factor 50 and into the garden and……the phone rang. Actually the following 2 hour phone call was very enjoyable as it was from Tony (name changed) who had been a placement when I was married, about 15 years ago. He had come as part of a sibling group of 4 and was only supposed to be short term (aren’t they all). To be honest the 4 kids were hard work.

The back story was that the four children’s parents had separated and Mum had started seeing another guy who didn’t like the kids being around. So he persuaded her to put the kids into care. We were told that the kids were with us for the weekend and then would be going back home. The weekend was long, very long and we already had another, regular, short term placement with us, David (name changed).

The sibling group had no concept of personal space or respect for others property. The eldest was 15 and the youngest was 8, and the eldest were, by far, the biggest handful. On the Sunday the eldest announced, at the dinner table, that she was bisexual. Cue quizzical expressions from the other children who didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

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On the Monday morning we breathed a huge sigh of relief as the kids were loaded into the Social Workers car and driven off. Two hours later we received a call from a very stressed Social Worker stating that Mum was refusing to take the children back! Anyway, to cut a long story short, we ended up with the kids for about 4 years.

Tony told me how life was difficult for him after he left care. He was supposed to be returning to Mum but had found a very home dynamic with Mum, her boyfriend and they children they had whilst the 4 were with us. After a couple of weeks he decided to actively look for somewhere of his own. He had a part time job and one of his colleagues was looking for a lodger. Tony moved in and felt better for doing it.

However his new flatmate introduced Tony to cannabis and this went downhill from there. Tony tried stronger drugs and his whole life went from bad to worse. He ended up homeless, as his Mum wouldn’t help him, and only got a roof over his head when his grandparents on his father’s side found out what was going on.

His grandfather was ex services and really instilled some discipline into Tony in a way that some people would find ‘difficult’ today. The truth was that his grandfather changed Tony’s life around and made him into a different young man. He now had a full time job, a place of his own and a girlfriend. More importantly he had self-respect and a positive outlook on life.

He apologised to me for being a ‘pain’ and thanked me for everything that we had done to help him while he was in placement with us. We finished the call with a promise to meet up for lunch one day.

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