Remembering the Forgotten Children
An outsiders view into the world we choose not to see...
Starting my new job has been a hell of a wake up call.
Recently, after some health issues, I finally gave up my job in the NHS. After the usual rigmarole of looking at my skills, being interviewed three times for the same role, and THEN not getting the role due to a more qualified candidate, I had nearly resigned myself to staying and toughing out the NHS for a while longer.
My partner sent me a job which sparked my interest as Vocational and Lifeskills Learning Mentor. The Job spec seemed ideal, with a lot of my life skills, and experience as a Scout Leader very transferable into this role. I had always toyed with the idea of trying to put my Scouting skills into paid employment, and here was my chance.
A teams interview later, and I was handing my notice in, saying good by to rota management and heading off to work in a Therapeutic Provision School, working in the centre of Doncaster, England. I was wanted! It feels great! My Scouting skills i can FINALLY get paid for!
Monday morning came round, and I nervously packed a lunch, got in the car, and headed down the motorway. All the way I played motivational songs, to pick me up and put a smile on my face. I was nervous. What if it's not what I entailed? What if the kids hate me? What if the staff, all seasoned professionals, HATE me?
It seems every new person in education has these worries on their first day, so said my mother, a teaching veteran of 31 years, who still has the recurring nightmare of teaching a class with no clothes.
Parking up in the centre of Doncaster in what seems to be rolling demolition site, I waited for my boss to pick me up and take me to see the pupils, sites and staff. As a therapeutic service, we don't reside in a school, but are dotted around the town.
It is worth mentioning at this point, that our service works with the children who are not suitable for mainstream school, for a variety of reasons, either home life, behavioural or other reasons.
I wouldn't like to say I am a privilleged person. I went to a local comprehensive, (Catholic) and we had our share of miscreants (oh dear I am a snob!) and troublemakers. But being one of those who was not very popular, I was content to stay away from this side of the school, and generally float down the middle. I had changed schools in my first year of Secondary due to bullying, and I didn't want to start over again so...
Growing up, my friends and I went to Scouts, and we were lucky enough that our area had two sections. We always thought of the other section as the troop where the Doctors and Vets kids went.. our side was more... hands on. It was a suprise then that when I returned as a leader to this section that the demographic has switched 180 degrees.
As a scout leader, I have always been inclusive. I treat everyone with respect and fairly. Trouble was dealt with quickly and we attempted to instill a sense of purpose and respect in our younger members.
So duly armed and prepared (so I thought) I headed into the schools base.
This first few weeks has been an eye opener for me. You always see or hear "oh so and so's kids are in care..." or "that kids just naughty"
Never again. Our service works with those that we often exclude, ignore, or pretend doesn't exist, mainly because the thought of dealing with them, or what they are going through is so painful to realise that we would rather turn our backs on them. I was one of those people. I would see them coming and mentally cross the road, or prepare myself for a torrent of bad behaviour or abuse.
But all that had changed. I am in the thick of it now, and my eyes have never been as wide open as they have been. I look at parents who say their kids are naughty and think: You don't know naughty.
Try working with 10 year olds, who's parents have completely disengaged with them, who know more swear words than the oldest sailor, who bolt off into the blue at the slightest provocation. Who just want to be acknowleged.
Work with teenagers, who come into the service too tired to do anything but sleep on a monday morning, due to a drink, drugs and late night weekend.
Children who witness violence and abuse on a daily basis, who don't know what they will encounter. Literal bags of nerves, constantly on the alert, ready to duck or cower at a moments notice.
Children, who have no choice but to grow up too young, providing the main point of care for their siblings, protecting and caring for them when others can't - or won't.
I am so proud of them. They come in, with a smile most mornings. They set to with activities with enthusiasm and laughter. They recognise that what we provide is a safe space for them to be children, to develop and grow. They confide in us, laugh and joke with us (Swear at us) and remind us that no matter how hard life is, you can still enjoy it.
These are the forgotten. Those that society seem to forget about, until five minutes of new coverage sparks a national outrage. We should all be ashamed that we allow these children to be forgotten.
For me, I pledge, never to forget again.