Just before Eedy was eleven years old he was being ‘looked after’ by the state. His father didn’t have any contact and I was his only family link/visit. His sister lived with me, indeed, it was okay for him to live with me, only I’d said I couldn’t cope.
I was grieving my sister; he was grieving his mother.
His sister didn’t display aggression …and didn’t need 24-hour attention. The cracks were showing in my marriage, then-hubby and Eedy hated each other and both presented ‘challenging behaviour’ in different ways (!).
I turned to the social care system for help. I’d been an aunty for the last 10 years.
But not a mother.
I couldn’t cope. I needed to continue with my full time job as a residential care home manager in order to pay the mortgage. Actually, I’d not asked for my life to change, so I didn’t want to give my career up. I’d already moved from one employment to another in order to be closer to home and have less shift work, but Eedy’s behaviour made it untenable to work full time and be on the ball.
The social care system did provide some support. I was allocated one weekend a fortnight’s respite for Eedy. This was at a children’s respite service. All was good there. Eedy was safe and I had some space. Eventually though, it wasn’t enough.
All I could see for the rest of my life was our fortnightly break. The marriage was getting worse, more volatile, more irretrievable. I turned again to the children’s service. I was told that due to the ‘priority’ they would be able to offer me the use of an ‘intervention team’ who would look after Eedy from school, through to around 7pm. The thinking being that he would come home and go to bed (like that happened – ever!) I refused. All I could see was this continuing until the funding was withdrawn or until he showed the slightest improvement in his behaviour.
I was told there was no other option. I was pushed into taking Eedy to the respite centre and phoning social services saying he couldn’t come home on the Monday.
Where I was right then I really had no choice.
Eedy stayed at the respite service for 4 weeks (during this time described as a bed-blocker) as no other children could go for respite due to safety reasons because of his behaviour. I was able to visit, able to attend meetings, but as he was no longer living with me I no longer had any rights other than that of a ‘concerned relative’. I didn’t have parental responsibility. His mother had cited in her will that I should have guardianship – but this was not recognised in a court of law. Fast forward to Eedy’s going into ‘the system’, foster care, then back to respite care, then finally into residential care and I was told he could no longer come to stay (but for some reason he could visit) …because I had not been police checked. It kept being mentioned, we were told every person who was likely to turn up at our home when Eedy was there would also need a police check. We were never given the forms.
We didn’t have him overnight again until he was 20.