One of the important things in my book about relationships is Trust.
It can be difficult to trust strangers coming into your home for whatever reason, and some of the ‘baggage’ they come with makes it harder, especially when they are kids in Care.
Trust has to be earned, but it’s a two-way street, it also has to be given.
My partner at the time and I had a little speech which was delivered practically before they took their coats off.
Basically, we took things at face value until/unless they proved otherwise, and expected them to be honest and respectful towards us, our family and our home.
Boys or girls, it didn’t matter, we would be the same towards them, and had a key phrase if they wanted a ‘one on one’ to discuss a problem, issue or concern. We would also have regular family pow-wows where anything and everything was discussed (usually at the dinner table), everyone putting forward their point of view or opinion.
This worked for everyone in the household and in order to ‘practice what we preached’, we made it clear from day one that their room was their domain and the only time I would enter, unless invited, would be to hoover the bits of floor I could see or put clean laundry on the bed. It would be up to them to keep their room tidy, but if they didn’t, that was their choice as I wouldn’t be going in to clean up after them. If it got too bad, then they would be supplied with a duster, polish and a roll of bin bags, and wouldn’t be allowed out until their room was presentable!
I would also tell them when to strip the bed and gave them fresh bedding, but their room was their private place, and as such, we wouldn’t intrude or invade it.
For many, this was the first time they’d had this kind of ‘trust’. Boys will be untidy boys, but they towed the line sotospeak and I didn’t have any major problems.
The girls though were a little different. Untidy yes, but one in particular was secretive.
I didn’t feel comfortable with that, and although I didn’t expect her to actually confide in me, I hoped she would stop being so underhand and sneaky.
We had no objections to any of their friends coming to visit, as long as we were there at the time. I came home from work one day to find a few of them having a little party, with my records and tapes all over the floor, and the kitchen cupboards raided of whatever they could find.
I was not pleased, and said so.
Shortly after, and without even discussing it with us, she invited her friend to stay as she had problems at home.
What problems exactly I never knew, but I had to clear it with our social worker as the two girls would be sharing a room and there were other things to be considered.
It was agreed that her friend could stay with us for a fortnight whilst Social Services investigated her home life.
We got through tantrums, deceit, theft and truancy, all the while not thinking of invading their privacy, just as we’d promised.
The boyfriend episode a few months later was the end of the line for my partner though.
He did the unthinkable and read her diary.
I never forgave him, and as to whether she knew he’d read it, I don’t know.
A lot of things happened in a very short time after that, the end result being she was moved to another family.
The next year was difficult.
Trust, in all it’s guises, had been shattered and thrown to the wind.