Let's talk about the title of your book. I'll say quite provocative but when you turn the page, there is a story that deserves to be heard. There's no wrong answer to this question but curiosity. Why'd you name it that?
The title reflects two things. For a number of years, I thought that was my name. They were words that were often spoken by staff in regards to children in care. They would precede much of what they had to say to myself and others, and were reflective of the complete contempt that they had for us. There were no niceties involved in the way we were treated, and the use of expletives, alongside the casual violence, was used to drive their messages home. Secondly, it is just a means of articulating the feeling that came from many of the encounters that I describe. In many ways it minimizes the impacts through humor, but there comes a time and place where maybe that approach is pertinent on a personal level. I personally quite like the title. I think it is challenging in many ways, because it potentially offends, but also amuses. However, if the title offends and the contents don't, then maybe people need to be asking themselves why, because the title is the least of the issues when you delve into the content.
Your book deals with personal experiences with the childcare system. What compelled you to share your story?
The issue for me was one of addressing the sometime judgmental attitudes that pervade in society, in relation to care experienced children and adults. We are still, in my opinion, viewed as some sort of nefarious sub-culture, that society should somehow, for its own safety, be extremely cautious of. We are not. We are normal, educated, productive people. We are as much part of society as those brought up in traditional family settings, whatever that is, and we should not be expected to justify ourselves, or explain away our upbringings, in order to satisfy the curious or the intimidated. We did not fail society. Society failed us. Society should be begging for our forgiveness, not the other way around.
We often hear about stories of abuse, neglect and alike. Who's to blame? What are your thoughts on a solution?
The question of who is to blame is not a complex one, but is perhaps best answered in reverse. The people who are not to blame are the victims, and victim blaming is a sign of complicity in my opinion. Perpetrators are to blame, negligent authorities are to blame, lack of oversight and scrutiny is to blame, complicity through either deed or silence is to blame, lack of care is to blame, there are many things that are to blame, but it is never the victims. Society in the UK has always struggled valuing children in my opinion, and it has never valued a child in care. It still fails to value a child in care, in the same way it might value its own, the difference now is that it is much more aware of the corporate responsibility that it has, even if, as is the case in many private care homes, the driver is financial gain, rather than unconditional care of the child.
For those who didn't have a voice or felt no one would listen, what do you recommend for them to do to help themselves feel heard?
There is no generic answer to that one. It is really a case of what works for them as an individual. I made a formal complaint to the police in regards to historical abuses that were perpetrated against me, and they are currently under investigation. I also wrote the book as a permanent record, and potential learning tool for others. For others there is counselling, and there are even initiatives across Facebook and Twitter that are specifically aimed at care leavers. Amanda Knowles MBE runs an annual event called Your Life, Your Story (YLYS)which is specifically designed for bringing care leavers together in a supportive environment, where they can share their experiences, whilst also using the creative medium of writing to explore shared experiences. This is where my book was actually born, and it has been a very successful and rewarding event.
How long were you in the system?
Effectively I was in the system for roughly 16 years. I had been the victim of some substantial physical harm within the home environment as a baby, and committed to hospital for numerous surgeries, reconstructions and rehabilitation. From there I went directly into care, and my journey began in earnest.
For those who have experienced abuse, is there a support system in place to help them deal with their experience?
I think that as with all areas of support these days, there is a severe lack of funding and initiative, but it is better than it was. When I left the system there was absolutely nothing. You reached your 16th birthday, and they started to make plans for their abdication of responsibility. There then quickly came a time when they effectively gave you breakfast, dropped you off at a bedsit, and that was you finished with as far as they were concerned. There was no support structure, no help, no assimilation into a society that they had effectively excluded you from, you were just abandoned to either stand or fall, and they didn’t care which.
Your story is one to be told. What impression or takeaway would you like to leave upon readers?
If anything it is twofold. Firstly, when we look at the statistics for such things as homelessness, unemployment, prison admissions, mental health suffering, drug addictions and many other 'ailments of society', there is a high correlation between sufferers in those areas and previous experience within the childcare system. That tells me that we are getting something wrong in the childcare system, and society needs to take responsibility for that, and the solutions to it, rather than victim blaming as a means of abdicating responsibility for its own failings. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I want to ensure that society never switches off to the fact that this could be, and is going on under its noses right now. I have been to conferences and heard first hand from sufferers. People need to step away from the 'that was then, and this is now, mentality. It is happening today, it's just a little bit harder to hide, that’s all. Predators need to be a little bit smarter, but they are still active, and our children are still suffering.
Thank you for sharing your story.
My pleasure, and I hope you enjoy the book.
You can purchase this book on Amazon