Bring back Shirl the Girl!

Look away now if you’re not up for a political rant. I’ve temporarily hijacked my own adoption blog to vent.

A week ago I harboured a hope that a post-election coalition may be a positive. The UK might just have a chance to become a more liberal (with a small ‘l’)  and progressive force, advocating for the most vulnerable in our society.  I convinced myself that the strong performances from the female leaders in the televised election debates offered hope of a new (ish) politics of integrity and decency.  I allowed myself to imagine a different House of Commons, a chamber more suited to twenty first century politics than the present antiquated, adversarial one, so beloved by the old boys network. Goodness me, I had even envisioned the end of hereditary peerages.

Last Friday morning the more sobering truth was revealed.

Sadly our ‘first past the post’ system once again deprived our nation of true representation.  But it needn’t have been this way.
We had a chance to change the voting system  in May 2011. At the time even the Labour leader was advocating a change. Ed Miliband said at the time: “The change to the alternative vote deserves our support because it is fairer and because it encourages a better politics.
The British people know that the state of our politics is badly broken. Many see Westminster as remote and out of touch.
Politicians should never feel safe or insulated from those they represent. That’s what I want to change.
Let’s be honest: AV is no panacea. It isn’t perfect, but it would help to restore the balance of power in favour of voters…… So on May 5th, ask yourselves one simple question: are you happy with the state of British politics? If the answer is no, then seize this opportunity for change.”

We blew it. Only 41% of the population voted on this issue, and nearly 68% did not want change. And now people are demanding change? Do they really think this tory government are going to listen?


This is going to be a rant.

My 15 year old niece, who is in foster care,  ran away from school on Wednesday and was missing for 36 hours. She’s a vulnerable damaged child who wrongly believes she’s streetsmart. She has unprotected sex. She takes legal highs. She’s previously ended up in A and E.  Repeated lectures from well meaning  police officers about the dangers of the street go over her head. She’s run before – many times – but has always been found a few hours later. She’s never been missing overnight before.

She was caught stealing. She cannot deal with consequences.  So she ran. And there began – or to be accurate continued – a series of failings by the services. A teacher who saw her trying to hitch a lift but didn’t challenge her. A school who didn’t report her missing till hours later. A foster carer who didn’t tell the police the last name of a  boy to whom she may have run. A school head who was chasing up a possibility of where she may be but never phoned my sister back. Social services who had recently ignored my sister’s warnings that her daughter was in contact with her birth mother. A foster carer who didn’t appear to be monitoring her internet use. Etc. Etc.

My sister & I spent hours driving around looking for her, searching social media sites, calling the services with updates of what we’d found.

It took 36 hours for the police to find her. She ran. When they caught her she was handcuffed for fuck’s sake. She was returned to foster care. The ‘boy’ was arrested.

The next day she ran again. She was found after a couple of hours. She will keep running. She just hasn’t got the ability to deal with challenges.

She’s been let down by people and systems all her life. Not taken early enough from a birth family who inflicted abuse. In foster care for years and moved about. No therapy for 3 years when she was finally placed with my sister as the 2 local authorities could not agree on funding. Services’ lame interventions in response to my sister’s pleas for help with her daughter.  Last year the result was a breakdown of the adoption. Not a ‘disruption’. Let’s be clear: a breakdown.

We live in a society which has chosen to label abused children as ‘problems’. In which children may be placed with adopters, and left for a hapy-ever-after ending. Adopters who are then left struggling,  and patronised with glib pronouncements : ‘she’s lucky to have you’, ‘you’re doing your best’, ‘have you tried taking her for a walk?’

I’m left wondering how best to use my anger. I have been a social worker for a long time now. Not in children’s services thankfully,  but the same system failings are apparent in adult services. I fight for the rights of the people I work with. I am labelled because of it. Im too old to care about that, and I’ve always thought I can do more good trying to effect change from within. Now I’m not so sure.