Unanswered Questions

So Many Questions, So Few Answers
(Image © Valerie Everett)

A year ago today, I was pottering around the garage when I heard the sad news that Gary Speed had died. Over the course of the afternoon and evening it became clear that the person who everyone saw enjoying banter on the previous day’s TV, the person who had arranged golf with his friends for the following week had in fact gone home and killed himself. In an unprecedented way, the death of a celebrity, of someone that I did not know, hit me very hard. Having suffered from depression myself in the past, I could comprehend how someone could go from outwardly bubbly and focussed to an inward resolve to kill oneself within a few hours. I struggled at that point more with the raft of unanswered questions. Questions that maybe he needed answers to, questions around why he had taken such a course and then the questions for his family and friends around whether they perhaps had always had the answers he was seeking. I shed tears and did much inward reflection as to whether he had achieved what he had aimed for and how others would cope

I wasn’t to know of course at that stage that just six months later one of my closest friends would also take a similar course. The questions once that happens are overwhelming. Constant analysis of how long she had been unhappy, whether she truly believed that this was the best way out and whether anything one of her friends could say would have made any difference. Wondering whether she had doubts or whether she indeed felt that this was the best course of action (and felt relief at that thought). Repeatedly going over the last conversations, meetings and emails to try and understand whether you could pick up any clues or could have acted any differently to create a different outcome. The real difficulty is aligning the fact that a close friend was in this position, a close friend who you thought you ‘got’ but who, as it turned out, was going through something in her head that you were never party to.

The knowledge that you can never find out the answers to any of these questions is extremely difficult to accept. We live in a world today where we can find out anything. You want to become an expert in any particular subject or event and research through the internet, books or courses will give you the answer. This is different. The answers are gone and will never be found. That mindset is tough to get to.

I guess over time it gets easier but six months on the slightest trigger, be it a song on the radio or at a concert, an event jointly attended in the past or just a news story like todays all bring back the same feeling. Not just the loss associated with losing someone close to you but the hopelessness of knowing that you will never know the answers that could possibly have changed a very sad course of events. 


Protecting Your Back Or Protecting The Children?

The decision by Rotherham Social Services to remove children from a couple who have been fostering for seven years throws several important issues into the mix. To what extent should someone’s alignment to a legitimate political party affect their ability to carry out their day to day business in a democratic country. More importantly, what does this decision say about those people who effectively are tasked with looking after children’s needs in Rotherham.
Foster Carers need certain qualities
 – Political Beliefs Aside
(Image © Stockton Council)

To take these points in turn, The couple in question were classed as ‘Emergency Foster Carers’. In english they are the people that are there when a child, or children, get taken away from their birth parents, often late at night, often in a traumatic ‘blue light’ situation. They are the people who open the doors to highly distressed, often extremely confused and disorientated children at a moment’s notice. They look after those children short term until they are either placed back with their families or moved onto a more medium term solution. These people play an absolutely critical part in the life of those children.

Emergency foster carers go through a pretty intrusive selection process. In that process their fundamental beliefs and values will have been investigated and challenged (as is the case for prospective adoptive parents). That would have happened to this couple seven years ago when the authorities were clearly satisfied that they would make suitable emergency carers. To get to a state now where just because they align themselves to a political party (which when I last looked was a perfectly legal one) they are judged to no longer to be capable of carrying out this sensitive, much needed role in society. Where it leads us in terms of freedom of beliefs and speech in modern society is a worrying thought.

Which brings me on to my main point. The role of Rotherham Social Services in all this is surely to look after the children.  At the critical point in a child’s life when they are taken away often in traumatic circumstances their role is to look after the children. These carers have been carrying out this task for seven years. At a rate of 2 children every 2 months, that’s around 80 kids that may have passed through their care. One would hope therefore that the social services acknowledge they are good at this role (if not, why continue with them for so long?) Experienced emergency foster carers are not just readily available and experience in this sort of area counts for a lot. 

How can an alignment to a political party affect that ability and experience? So what are we left with. A decision in the in the children’s best interests? The loss of two experienced foster carers to the system. Or a decision which addresses political correctness? I think the latter.

Possibly a good time to turn back to the mission statement on the wall and think about what Rotherham Social Services should focus on.