“The mother of the four children has been charged with neglect. It is believed she left them unsupervised to go shopping. The children were all under five.”
We were on our way home from the cinema, and were listening to the radio. I was anticipating the football scores but had tuned in a fraction early, and instead of Sports Report, we got The News at 5 o’clock. There had been terrible house fire in which some children had died.
“What does ‘neglect’ mean?”
We’d learnt never to waste a car journey. I did my best to explain what ‘neglect’ meant.
I wasn’t sure where the conversation was going, but in these circumstances we’d learnt to always let the child lead. We have always tried to answer any questions as fully and frankly as possible. We’ve also learnt that we have to go at the child’s pace and go at the child’s timetable.
“Did my birth parents neglect me?”
“Yes. I think they did.”
“So my parents neglected me, and the Social Workers came and they took me away, and they brought me to you?”
There then followed what I can only call a ‘pregnant pause’.
“If the Social Workers hadn’t have come to get me, what would have happened?”
“I don’t know.”
“When I’m older can we ask the Social Workers what happened to me?”
“Yes, we can. When you’re older we can ask the Social Workers to find out more. If you want, we can try to find your birth parents.”
“That would be weird. What would I say? It’s been years.”
“When I was younger, before I lived with you, the front door was green.”
“I wonder what’s for tea?”
The conversation about the past and discussion about the future ended as abruptly as it had begun. I have no idea if there’s a ‘good way’ of processing your journey into Care. I’m not really sure if the way we handle it is the best way.
I do know that we have absolutely no warning as to when these conversations will crop up, and how long they’ll last.
I do know, that I’m glad we’re around for when they happen.