So there I was in the house with the Social Worker, organising transport to take the five children to Hospital. I knew it would take time for the arrangements to be made, so that gave me an opportunity to speak to them. I sat down on the sofa, holding the baby. The two year old climbed up next to me. I knew I was sitting in filth but this was my chance to gain the children’s trust. I needed to allow them to see I was comfortable in their presence. The four and six year old stood looking unsure as I started to explain to them what was going to happen next. I sensed the ten year old staring at me from the other side of the room and instinctively knew I had to let her approach me. I told them that they had to go to Hospital for treatment, they were now safe and I was not there to harm them.
The children seemed to relax and that is when I asked “Where is your Mummy or Daddy “ The ten year old as quick as lightening went to the defensive and said “ I did try to keep us safe but the food ran out and the baby went quiet. She will be so angry I told. She has not been gone long, she is just ill.” I turned to the Duty Officer and asked him if he could hold the baby. He sat down on the sofa and opened his arms. I passed the baby over and stood up. Carefully I told her that she had been very brave and protected her brother and sisters well. I was surprised when she rushed over, threw her arms around me and sobbed.
Through the tears she explained that she did not want to be separated from her siblings and that if they went in care they would never see each other again. The words she used were that of an adult and I knew then she had been threatened with care before. I explained that we would try to keep them together but I could not make promises. My brain was going into overdrive “Where the fuck are we going to get a placement for five so close to Christmas”.
I asked the children if there were any clothes or toys they wanted to take with them. The ten year old accompanied me to the bedroom and told me that they did not have anything really. I stepped into the room and tried desperately not to show how I felt. The room’s windows were smashed, the beds were in bits on the floor and there was soiled bedding and clothes everywhere. I told her that we would find clothes for them and that there was nothing really worth taking as the little they had had been destroyed by the rain coming in.
We returned to the lounge. I now realised why the mattresses were on the floor. This was the only room in the house where the windows were intact. It was the only room with that offered any protection from the elements, but it was still freezing cold.
Our transport arrived. I approached the Duty Officer who was still sitting with the baby, I offered to take him but he stood up quickly and said “No, is it OK if I carry him to the car ?”. We all walked out, there were neighbours rubbernecking. We placed the children in the car.
I quickly told the Local Officers what I needed them to do next and this seemed to galvanise them into action. The Duty Officer turned, looked at the baby and simply said “Keep me updated “.
The journey to Hospital seemed to happen in slow motion. In the daylight the children’s skin irritations, from the lice, seemed more apparent and I could no longer blame the house for the smell. When we arrived at the Hospital the Staff took over. The children were photographed and I assured them that all was being done to find their Mummy and that I would see them soon.
The meeting that took place next was interesting. It started with the normal blame game that Agencies do, when they are scared and know that set procedures have not been followed. It took two hours to establish the information I needed to assist in the job of looking for Mum, despite it having been in the room all along.
I returned to the children. Miraculously we had found a placement for all of them to stay together. The children were exhausted and not fit for interview, so we transported them straight there. As we approached the house I could see the Social Worker standing by their car. She smiled weakly towards us. As we pulled into the driveway, the children became nervous.
The house was a large residential property. The Foster Carers were lovely people who put the children at ease straight away. There was a large Christmas tree in the lounge and upon seeing it the two year old got very excited, taking my hand to show me the fairy lights. I told the children I would see them again tomorrow and assured them that everyone was working hard to find their Mummy.
I left the house wondering where they would be for Christmas and returned to the scene .
To be continued ….