I was sucked out of deep thought as the grumbling of the car came to a halt. My trustworthy social worker Holly, a crazy lady who was always chuckling about something or other, looked at me cautiously: “Are you ready?” she said. This was a different side to her that I didn’t get to see often. She was normally a bold, witty character who said what she wanted, when she wanted. She always looked out for my best interests and took everything I said on board, so I trusted she knew what she was doing when she picked this family. I nodded shyly, unsure I was after all doing the right thing. I didn’t have to be here, there were other options: Residential? Distant family? Two things I was just as anxious about as this new home.
We climbed out of the car and made our way to my new home. The house looked tiny from outside, almost as if the front of it had fallen in; giving the impression it was smaller than it was. The dark, wooden, front door was all I had left shielding me from the unknown life I was about to experience. Hands trembling, I reached for the metallic buzzer. There was a short pause and then a clatter of footsteps. The door handle started to turn and my stomach erupted into a tornado of butterflies. It was time to meet my “new family”. I was welcomed in by a cheery, middle-aged woman called Grace. She had dark, bushy hair that bunched up messily on her broad shoulders. She was a plump lady with soft, kind eyes. She beamed at me and ushered us into her spacious living room.
I sat there quietly, an overpowering and controlling voice inside my clouded head screeched at me to sprint out of the house and abandon the whole thing. Holly introduced me as Sarah. Grace and Holly went over paperwork and chatted for a bit, while I zoned in and out of their conversation. “Sarah is a very, very, nice girl; you’ll learn to love her, honestly she’s great.” I laughed to myself. Did she really think that?
I looked around and took in my new home; it was more than spacious. I got a sense that everything oozed organically. Dark and light browns all combined, with a massive bookshelf and a long stretched out window revealing an acre of golden, fruit trees and freshly cut grass.
I felt relieved finally to be here, but still wary of meeting the rest of the family and settling in. It was time for Holly to leave; this made me emotional, I was so afraid of being left behind the anxiety of it all was eating me up. We had had so many arguments and misunderstandings over the years I’d known her but she was the only thing familiar I had left and that frightened me. We had come a long way together and I felt like she was abandoning me.
“Well I better be on my way.” Holly glanced at me and I gave her a small smile, masking the pleading face I was pulling in my head for her not to leave me. She stood up and brushed off her uncoordinated and random clothes which always left me hoping she’d have had an extravagant makeover the next time I saw her. She would always wear this shaggy and out of date purple jacket, with a fluffy collar that had seen better days, with random green polka-dot print tops, grey cotton cords, which in my personal opinion looked awful. She would tie the whole thing together with some strange looking pumps that always had a colourful flower attached to the sides, and of course she had five pairs of these shoes all in different colours. If anything, she made me chuckle upon seeing her, and her unchanged dress sense.
“Right have a good time Sarah; message me if there’s any problem, okay?” I nodded even though I didn’t have any credit left on my phone. We said our last goodbyes. I heard a click from a distance: Holly had left, and there was complete silence. Grace hurried back to the living room. “Would you like to see your room?” I raised my eyebrows when she said my room… “Yeah, that would be great” I murmured, uncertain of myself.
I followed Grace a bit like a lost puppy. I felt so completely and uncontrollably lost. My emotions were flying high all over the place, the reasons I had to come here and why I had nowhere else to stay were getting to me a lot. I could feel tears starting to form, my lips beginning to tremble. I sprinted upstairs to my room in a hurry to hide myself behind a closed door; something I was more than used to doing. A million tears spilled out of my worn and tired eyes. I felt the lowest I had ever felt in my whole life, not even when my dad died, or when I was taken off my mum had I felt this low. There was so much I didn’t have that I wanted that everything else was blurred and unimportant.
I craved the feeling of being loved, the warmth of family, and the care of a mother. I broke down onto the bed provided for me, something that didn’t even feel right calling mine. As usual no one came to my rescue, not even my so called new family, They didn’t even check on me to see If I was okay, or even still alive. I cried myself to sleep, finding comfort in the fact I was practically unconscious.
Sleep was the only safe place I had left.
I woke up the next morning to find a wild looking, black, cat peering at me from the end of my bed…where had it come from? Thinking back I did remember Grace mentioning she had pets but how did it get here? I giggled quietly as it stretched out on top of me. Feeling somewhat better I mirrored its actions, completely forgetting what day it was and cosied myself into my blankets.
There was a knock at the bedroom door. “Come in.” I said. Someone peeked their head round the side of the door; it was Jack, Grace’s husband. I had met him last night: a nice, cheery man. He gave me the vibe that he was a people pleaser, always looking out for others. He was tall, with a scruffy beard and eyes that practically popped out of their sockets. His old, tired face looked at me in surprise: “Oh, I thought you would already be up? You better hurry, you’ll be late for school.” He said it in a calm tone, not at all worried I had less than 20 minutes to get ready. He shut the door and left me in a chaotic mess.
Running around in all directions I tried to retrieve my misplaced pieces of clothing. Realising I had left my uniform at my old home; in such a rush when I left; I forgot to take it with me. I had a flashback of the look on my mum’s face when Holly told her I couldn’t live with her anymore. For one millisecond it crumbled into a million pieces, and then all of a sudden she said “that’s fine” putting on a menacing frown. I sighed as reality came back to me and I heard Jack shouting for me to hurry up.
I gave up and chucked the first thing I saw on. Practically falling down the stairs I tried to hold on to any dignity I had left and went and got some breakfast. Grace offered to take me to school as I would need to get a bus pass for the future. This overwhelmed me, I felt forced to settle in here, forced to live here forever.
The car journey was just pleasant; honestly, the conversation was just reaching the mark of pleasant. Grace said the usual “How’d you sleep…the weather’s good today…argh traffics terrible.” I mostly stared out of the window, taking in the beautiful, morning sky and the seas of green fields. When we arrived at the school, I said a short goodbye and then abandoned the car.
As soon as it was out of sight I rushed into the school, tears streaming down my face. I got disapproving looks from the people in uniform, judging my choice in clothing. I passed a couple of classmates, who gave me concerned looks but no one asked what was wrong. I didn’t even knock on the guidance office door, just walked straight in and planted myself on a chair at the children’s support worker’s desk. I sat for a while, trying to get my words together. I hated talking about my feelings, it made me feel weak. They gave me worried glances, and told me not to bottle it up, something I did often. They asked what they could do to help and then I broke. I pleaded with them not to let me go back. I wanted to go home, to my real home. No matter how bad the situation had gotten with my mum, I was willing to deal with it. I couldn’t face staying with a house full of strangers any longer.
I felt so out of place and had no idea what to expect. Each day seemed to pass so slowly, which made me feel even worse as I was overthinking about my mum, my new family, the feeling of loss, and how scared I felt, plus I was getting upset every five minutes. I had never thought what foster care would be like, like actually thought about it in good detail. I wasn’t prepared for how surreal and strange it felt.
Like, have you ever been at a new friend’s house and you feel a bit awkward asking for juice and something to eat, like you almost feel a bit rude asking? That is literally the majority of your day in one sentence. You don’t know what your boundaries are or your limits. Don’t get me wrong the people I stayed with were lovely, very caring and sweet, but that sort of made me feel even worse about asking for stuff, or even talking in general, in case I said something wrong.
I will never forget the experience though; it has made a massive impact on my life and changed me for the better. It was all a blur but it was a big thing for me, to stay at my placement. I had known other people in care, but then all of a sudden it was me in that position and not them. It changed me for the better because it taught me to be more patient, I stayed there for a weekend, if I had stayed there a couple more nights I might have liked it, and I might be getting on better than I am right now.
It also taught me not to put all care kids into a category. When anyone I knew would talk about their experience I would stop them mid conversation or zone out. All I thought they were doing was attention seeking or being drama queens. Looking back, I fully regret being so judgemental because I hadn’t experienced what they had been through, and could not even have imagined what it felt like for them.