Category Archives: Family History

A few musings on fostering and caring for looked-after children

Recently there has been much discussion in the media about a foster child in Hackney. I suspect that there has been misinformation and perhaps photo-shopping of images. I do not wish to comment on this actual situation.

I would however, like to sing a hymn of praise to people who register and spend much of their time as foster parents.

2015 My recent contact with foster parents. A couple of years ago I was invited for coffee by a Muslim friend. She lives quite near me in London. She is originally from Pakistan. She shares her fostering job with her adult daughter. They had just handed over black African twins whom they had cared for, loved and nurtured from the moment of their birth to the age of two and a half years. They had recently handed them over to adoptive parents who were living in the Midlands.

The matter of race, colour, religion was not relevant to the care and devotion of the foster family, nor to the little children involved.

At the time my friend feared that the adoptive mother was not looking for any further contact. I sensed that this was causing the foster family some sorrow. It must be hard to love and care for babies, then toddlers, then to try and explain simple things to them about their “new life”, and then all of a sudden to hear no more.

However, my friend and her daughter had been sufficiently trained in short-term fostering and knew the basic rules. In some cases adoptive parents might wish to keep in contact and in other cases this might not be so. And that is just how it is.

All I could say was that the love and care that they had expended on these twins will have given those vulnerable young children the best possible start in life.

Our story from quite long ago – 1980: Before we took Jah home, many years ago, we had a few visits between our family and the short-term foster family. He was nearly four years old and everybody involved prepared him as well as they could manage. The foster children as well as their parents needed to know where he was going to live, as he had spent over a year and a half with them and clearly at that time he was an important part of their young lives. Their feelings had to be taken into consideration. They all came up to our house, studied the bedroom Jah would share with his new big brother, and meet our two older children – the big sisters and played in our garden

J in Leicester garden

We gathered that the foster brothers and sisters approved of us.

Jah + croquet(the foster family had a field for a garden!)

We stayed and camped in their garden for a few days and had days out with thefamily before we finally took Jah home to live with us. Once Jah had moved in with us, we waited many months before getting him back in touch with the short-term foster family, apart from letters. We had been advised that this would enable Jah to settle down fully with us. All this seemed to work. We were guided in all these moves by excellent social workers.  (Later we arranged to meet up and the children were all happy to be back in touch.)

A story from this year 2017 : The mother in a family well-known to us had a recurrence of a mental problem and was in no fit state for a while to look after her four-year old twins and her 5 year old daughter. Make no mistake. This was an urgent situation! It was an emergency and the local Social Services came up trumps.

Miraculously to my mind, they found a foster family who could take in all three children together. Not only that, she lives in a medium-sized town, and they found a family in the same town, near enough for the five year old to carry on at her school. This must have helped the little girl so much. It would also give the mother peace of mind when she started to feel better. The family in question is a black British Caribbean family. To this day I have no idea what colour or religion etc. the foster family come from. Newspaper reports in the Hackney case made such a big deal about the ethnic background of foster parents, but there are many more important things to take into account when placing children. I just give thanks that everything worked so well for the family I know. Well done Social Services in the area!

Nowadays I understand that there are organisations to help families involved in caring for ‘looked-after children’. It is acknowledged that moving families is not easy. It is obviously a big disruption if it is for a short time, but if it is adoption and thus for life, there are still issues that a child might have.

In our day there was no help. One organisation was just being set up based at Coram’s Fields, but we did not hear of that with our older adopted son and our younger one had left school before we heard of it. I think it was called Parent to Parent Information.

Today Schools are given extra money to assist adopted and looked-after children in any way that seems appropriate for the child involved. There is an organisation called “Virtual School” and staff travel around visiting the children. I met one such teacher. The only example of help given that I can remember was where a certain child had a longing to learn a musical instrument and the Virtual School funding enabled the child to have music lessons. These lessons greatly enriched that child’s life. And that is only one example of what a Virtual teacher can arrange for a looked-after child.

music lesson

With the advent of Twitter and Facebook, parents of looked-after/foster children are able to hear about conferences** and keep in touch with each other in a way that used not to be possible.

**See #AUKConf, Attachement & Trauma in the Classroom, on Nov 11 http://bit.ly/2u7ar9J 

On Twitter one can search #Adoption

Here end my musings for today!

 

 

A Historical Perspective and Looking Forward with the Younger Generation.

 

A Very Happy New Year to everyone reading this!

As we start the New Year I look back with gratitude for many things.  We have had some excellent holidays – to the Highlands of Scotland – to Norway – to Corsica.  The grandchildren have grown – two of them have turned into good readers who love stories. Those were happy events on the personal front.  On more of a “learning front” I have joined a Writing for children Workshop at the City Literary Institute and find this most helpful.  I am also grateful to the BBC for some excellent programmes they showed towards the end of the year during Black History Month.

black-british

Recently a Facebook Friend posted a message about the series which was entitled “Black and British. A Forgotten History” Her message was “Brilliant tv, thanks BBC “  I certainly agree.

She gave a link to the 4th episode.

The Homecoming   Black and British: A Forgotten History Episode 4 of 4

“Historian David Olusoga concludes his series with the three African kings who stood up to Empire, an irresistible crooner, race riots in Liverpool and the shaping of black British identity in the 20th century.”

At Christmas we duly gave Mia the book I mentioned in my blogpost in November “Great Women who changed the WORLD”. I hope it will inspire her.

great-women

To recap our situation for any new readers: in the 1970s we adopted two sons who were born in London, both from a Caribbean background. Now we are blessed with four grandchildren from those sons. Sam has two daughters and Jah has a son and a daughter.

We had the joy at Christmas to all go and see the pantomime “Sleeping Beauty” at the Hackney Empire. Sam who has moved a slight distance away from London, feels the need for constant ‘cultural inputs’. The Hackney Empire is a good place for this and the pantomime was brilliant!

Here is a picture of part of our multiracial family party walking home from the pantomime.

after-the-panto-16-2

These young ones are the future. We hope for great things for them and for our multiracial society.

An Interconnected world “For more unites us than divides us” Jo Cox MP. RiP

 

My brother and I were brought up in an international atmosphere. Our parents were keen members of the Esperanto movement.  As readers of this blog may know, Esperanto is an artificial language.  It was used more in the days before English became such an international language. Our parents met Esperantists from around the world before the second World War. This artificial common language enabled them to talk to fellow Esperantists, regardless of anyone’s mother tongue. It included people who were soon to become ‘cut off’ from many others after the War, as their countries disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia etc.  I am sure our parents must have thought a lot about their friends, whom they could no longer contact.

As a family we have cousins and family in France, Sweden, Tobago, New Zealand, Australia, California, other parts in the United States and I expect that many families have links with even more countries. Today’s children will often meet children in their schools who have come from a variety of countries and who speak a variety of languages. We live in an interconnected world!

*****

Learning about other countries. Refugees.

Today we are able to access world news almost round the clock. However, at a time when the world seems a smaller place and when we are becoming more inter-dependent, recently there has been an unpleasant rise of nationalism and suspicion of people who come from other countries. This is very sad, especially as so many people have been forced to flee their own countries.

I don’t know how much modern parents talk to their children about the plight of so many deprived children around the world (or even in our own country).  I do know that schools try to educate the children about life in other countries.  (One of our granddaughters has been so interested in a school project on China. To her delight, this culminated with making a huge papier-mâché model of the Great Wall of China! )

Gt wall of cChina

However, until recently I had only heard of one children’s book for very young children that addressed the question of being a refugee/Asylum Seeker. (“The Silence Seeker” by Ben Morley and Carl Pearce, published by Tamarind Books.)

The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley and Carl Pearce

In my last blog post I added a P.S.

“On 13th June on the Today Programme I heard about a German book for children about the life of a refugee child. Apparently it is becoming a best seller. I have tried to find out its name……….. If any reader can tell me the title I’d be most grateful.”

 Well. My husband Donald came up with the title, shortly followed by one or two other friends.

 

Unfortunately as yet I cannot provide a direct link, but if you copy the URL below, it should bring up the English translation.

<https://www.onilo.de/boardstories/abspielseite/?tx_bsproducts_player%5Bpresentation%5D=1181>

 

Then a friend Jo posted the Radio 4 link – see below

“How do you explain the refugee crisis to children?

A new children’s book tells the tale of a family who flee the dangers of the Syrian war, make a perilous journey across the Mediterranean, and arrive in Germany in search for a better life.

Famous German author Kirsten Boei told presenter Sarah Montague how she managed to get children to understand the lives of refugees in Der Spiegel’s number one bestseller,” Bestimmt wird alles gut” (Everything will be alright).”

 

Kirsten Boel. Bestimmt wird alles gut(Image: children. Credit: AFP)       Release date:         9 June 2016 ”

I must try and get a copy of this book.

The portrayal of children from diverse backgrounds (1)

Princesses (?!)

I don’t necessarily advocate filling girls’ heads with fantasies of being ‘princesses’, but on the other hand I am committed to the view that there is beauty to be seen in all colours and ethnic backgrounds. This should therefore be reflected in images that surround us.

It was in the 1970s that I first thought about the portrayal in the media of girls and princesses. When we were in Malaysia we had friends who were from Northern Ireland. They came from different sides of the religious divide and had left their hometown of Newry on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Later they settled in Northern Australia.

Eileen, the mother raised a topic that I had never considered in those days. She asked “Why are all heroines and princesses in story books and films portrayed as blond with blue eyes?” She was most indignant about this, as their daughter had lovely brown hair and brown eyes.  Naturally she wanted to see a brown haired, brown eyed  princess!

 I am writing this in June 2016 – 46 years later – and diversity is still a contentious matter. I have just read an article by a Dutch writer Mylo Freeman entitled “Black girls can be princesses too, that’s why I wrote my books”

The Princess Arabella books are now famous in Holland and beyond, but publishers worried Arabella’s ‘uncombed’ hair might be considered offensive in the US.

Mylo Freeman

Every girl is a princess

Disney

Someone in our local U3A group (A shared-learning organisation for retired people) has started a film study on animated films. She announced that Disney had at last decided to feature heroines from different ethnic backgrounds.

A few years ago I had pounced with joy on the film “The Princess and the Frog’, which starred a delightful black girl and followed her as she grew into a beautiful young black woman (although for a while she was a frog!!). I bought a Tiana doll for our black granddadughter, Mia.

Princess and the frog

Children however can be very perverse. Mia DID love the film, so that was excellent. Pity that she never played with dolls, so Tiana remains in our home, sitting in a basket, waiting for her cousin, another younger granddaughter (Jah’s daughter) to play lovingly with her.  Well. You can’t win everything!  (Interestingly Jah’s daughter has blue eyes and now her curly hair is very dark, although it started out almost blond.)

 

At our U3A session in June, we watched “Brave” – another Disney film that highlighted a minority culture – Scottish people, many of whom had red hair. Princess Merida Certainly had glorious red curls And I find that very good, as we do notice a large number of people with red hair when we go to our beloved Scotland.

Brave

Films from other countries

Our study of animated films began with a strange but extremely skillfull film entitled “Strings” from Sweden. The entire full-length film was played by string puppets. I don’t remember whether there were any princesses in that film. I do remember a lot of strangeness and fighting. However, I am glad that it came from Sweden. I can only say that the more one learns about other cultures and backgrounds the better.

In my next blogpost I’ll be mentioning an extremely interesting and informative afternoon conference I attended recently  It was organised by “Inclusive Minds”

Learning about other cultures in school.

Jah’s little daughter has been “doing” China in their latest school project  It was lovely hearing her tell me about what she has learned about China and Chinese children. She is now aged eight years old and at such a receptive age.

I am grateful to her school and to the teachers for widening the children’s horizons.   Schools can be such great places in so many ways!

61JaT5d7-XL._AC_US160_

 

P.S.

On 13th June on the Today Programme I heard about a German book for children about the life of a refugee child. Apparently it is becoming a best seller. I have tried to find out its name. Sorry that I have not yet found it. If any reader can tell me the title I’d be most grateful.

ADOPTION TODAY – Help/information/support

My last blog ended with this sentence “I have heard that there is more help for adopted and looked-after children nowadays.”

This is good news for people involved in adoption today.

Sam had been with us for one whole year in 1973 before we ever read or heard anything helpful about bringing up a black child as white parents. This was when our Adoption Agency sent us an article from an organisation called “The Open Door Society” in Canada . As I wrote in one of my earliest blogs:

The main thrust that came through to us was that ‘Love is not enough…  Society will see your children as black…  …… The parents have a responsibility to instil in their child, through the media of literature, art and music, a pride and understanding of his racial heritage.” 

 Apart from the only two multiracial families that we met in the North East of England, our support came mainly from the organisation called Harmony that we encountered when we moved to Leicester in the Midlands.

Harmony-badge

Harmony was an organisation for multi-racial families whether by adoption, fostering or through mixed-race marriages. It was at Harmony gatherings in the 1980s that we learned a lot about skin care and hair care, It was a supportive forum where we could share information  for example about books and toys that showed children who looked like our children.

Aurora 006

 

 

 

 

I have written about this before. So what is new nowadays?

  • More books featuring the diversity of our population (even if not yet enough. . .)
  • Recruitment of people from ethnic minorities in most areas of Social Work
  • Adoption websites, discussion forums, blogs, shared Tweets  #Adoption.  THESE CAN BE DISCOVERED VIA GOOGLING “ADOPTION SUPPORT”
  • Greater awareness in schools about the special situation of “looked after” children
  • Training and information for families. See the Pac-UK site:  Here below is information about help that is offered in schools in England.

http://www.pac-uk.org/   “From April 2014, schools in England can receive the Pupil Premium for children adopted from care, or who left care under a Special Guardianship Order on or after 30 December 2005. Schools can also claim the Pupil Premium for children who left care under a Residence Order on or after 14 October 1991.

The Pupil Premium is to help schools raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap with their peers.  It is paid to schools in respect of disadvantaged pupils in Reception to Year 11. The Government has extended the coverage of the Pupil Premium in recognition of the traumatic experiences many adopted children have endured in their early lives and a realisation that their needs do not change overnight”.

***********

I wish this kind of help had been available for Jah in the 1980s. (sigh)

************
+ A Helpful booklet published in 2014

In April 2014 a group of multi-racial families in Cornwall has published an extremely helpful booklet in partnership with Barnardo’s.

“Children Visible by Colour in Cornwall: Suggestions for parents and carers raising BME (black and minority ethnic) and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.”

Kowetha doc

Kowetha is a pioneering community group of parents and carers living in the West of Cornwall who are raising BME and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.

The Kowetha Community group has written a handbook to support other families of diverse racial background, which is also valuable for teachers and practitioners. The handbook has been supported by Barnardo’s and considers the following:

  • How a child’s racial heritage influences their childhood experiences in Cornwall.
  • The importance of moving beyond ‘colour blindness’ and positively educating children in Cornish schools about racial diversity.
  • How schools and agencies might recognise and support the unique social pressures experienced by children who are visible by colour, thus meeting their duties under Ofsted.

The advice, information and shared experiences are applicable for all multi-racial families wherever they live . I can heartily recommend it.

Our boys – Born in London. Back to London in 1983.

When we moved to London, I was overwhelmed by all the amazing things one could see and do in the capital. In earlier days I thought that I would not like to live there, but by 1983 I was truly ready to settle in (and hopefully never to move away.) We were both brought up in Surrey, but up until then, in our married life we had lived in SIX different homes, including one in Western Malaysia.

As I have probably said elsewhere, the moment Sam arrived in London, he felt at ease. I think he relaxed because he saw so many people of different colours, including people who looked just like him. Within three days, he had worked out which bus to take. Actually his school was within walking distance and after the first day he wanted to walk there alone.

D. often travelled abroad for his new post for the church denomination and therefore I had to do quite a lot of exploration myself. Jah was still young, so he had to come along. We saw many wonderful things.

I very much doubt whether Jah will remember two cheerful sculptures that we discovered at Somerset House, but they are joyful artistic expressions that I will never forget. The sculptor/artist was Keith Haring. Sadly he died very young, as a victim of the Aids epidemic that was rampant in the 1980s.

Keith Haring

Haring Somerset Ho

 

 

 

 

I know that we took both boys to Science and Natural History Museums, although I am pretty sure we had to pay in those days. It is much better now that children and families are able to enjoy all the national treasures free of charge and can therefore return again and again – as indeed people do, judging by the huge queues, especially at Half Term.

Entrance_to_Natural_History_Museum,_Cromwell_Road,_London_SW7_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1034304

The Natural History Museum, South Kensington

We went to the Tower of London. Being boys they spent a long time staring at various coats of armour. They also enjoyed the humorous commentary by the guides.

North Italian armour

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to see the Lord Mayor’s Show and visited the Museum of London where we were able to gaze at this magnificent carriage.

Lord Mayor's carriage

Once, when we had walked through the whole length of the Burlington Arcade, we saw a notice that said “It is forbidden to whistle or sing in the Arcade”. Jah had walked right through the Arcade singing a merry song before we reached the notice. When he saw the notice he was very worried. He kept looking over his shoulder, but calmed down when no “policeman” came to arrest him!

I remember also that Jah had been very impressed by the severity of a notice that threatened all sorts of dire punishments if anybody dared to chain their bicycle to railings in “posh” sreets.

After-school clubs were only just beginning to start when we moved to London, but since we were living in the Borough of Camden, Jah was entitled to attend two weeks’ summer play scheme at Coram’s fields. This was a really good experience.

I’m not sure whether we took the boys to the Notting Hill Carnival, but Sam went every year with his friends as he grew older. (The picture below was taken at Carnival in Tobago.)

06 Tob. more Rox. carnivalThe inventiveness of costumes that are made around the world is so impressive.

 

 

 

 

These are just a few memories of our early days in London – the city that both Sam and Jah were born in.

Since I have covered most of Sam’s and Jah’s childhood, from now on I’ll write blogposts once a month – usually on the first Monday of the month. There is plenty more to say on the theme of Adoption Reflections and a Multiracial family. . .

P.S. to Sam and Jah’s childhood. “Black British Style”, attending the Boys’ Brigade. Playing Football and Basketball.

I do not know anything about the numbers of children who attend organisations today, like the Brownies, Girl Guides, Woodcraft, Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades and Youth Clubs.

scouts

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I fear that many of these organisations are in decline, especially Youth Clubs. Probably the youth of today still have as great a need as before for role models and useful activities, but with cuts in funding and other considerations, I am sure that there are far fewer Youth Clubs around.

Maybe today many  girls and boys prefer to sit in their bedrooms with “virtual” friends via social media?

social media

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am sure that there are good things about social media. (I myself have kept in touch with many friends that way.) However there is also great benefit in a well-run Youth Club. Maybe the unfortunate rise of gangs shows that young people do feel the need to ‘belong’ to a group?

In the 1980s we took both our boys to Boys’ Brigade (BB) a church based youth organisation for boys. There is also a Girls’ Brigade for girls.

BB book

Sam began very young as a sort of ‘mascot’ to the BB in Gateshead. All the boys were friendly towards him and let him march alongside the band when he was quite small. Later he joined as a full member.

Jah joined the BB in Leicester as an Anchor Boy, the younger boys’ branch, prior to being in the real Company. They had many interesting activities, including marching, playing the drums and pipes and taking part in various sports. It made sense for Sam and Jah to carry on with the BB when we moved to London.

Black British Style?

When he was quite senior in the company, Sam took part in a mass BB rally at the Albert Hall. One problem was that he had an aversion to wearing black shoes. He was a pretty reasonable, teenager on other matters, but he could be obstinate about what clothes to wear. For the Parade, he was required to wear black shoes, but he said he HATED black shoes! The BB Captain offered to find him a pair that he could borrow. I suppose if considered vital, we could have bought him a pair, except that he would never have worn them after that one occasion. Eventually he took part in the whole smart event – a line up of hundreds of boys, and he was the only boy not wearing black shoes. He even reported back to us quite shamelessly that someone had complained. “Did you see that black kid in brown shoes”!

Many years later, in 2004 D and I attended an exhibition at the V&A entitled “Black British Style”. It featured black youngsters growing up in Britain. This exhibition emphasised how important their hairstyles and clothes were to their self-image. This is true for most teenagers, but I gather that it was especially important for the youngsters who wanted to project themselves as young black people in British society.

The BB Company was held in a church in Paddington. Reaching there involved a long bus ride. On the occasions when I took the boys, I remember sitting for hours waiting for them to bring them home. I would spend the two hours in a delightful café, surrounded by tempting cakes.

 tea+cakes

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

The other activities that Sam and Jah enjoyed were football and especially in Sam’s case BASKETBALL. He really loved that game and played for the school.

basketball player
Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When Sam was in the Sixth Form he was chosen to coach the girls’ basketball team. Initially, when he was given this post he was disappointed, but he was popular with the girls and he quickly realised that this was a really responsible and enjoyable task, with many added benefits!

girls at play

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1987 Jah reaches secondary school age

I suppose I risk of running out of historical events in writing about the upbringing of Jah and all the family. However, I don’t think I shall run out of reflections and fortunately this blog is entitled “Adoption ReflectionsBringing up a multiracial family”. Our society in 2016 is even more multiracial than in the 1980s so the situation of a multiracial family is still relevant. Therefore let us carry on. Today I am continuing with our story.

We are now in 1987. Strangely not a single child from Jah’s Primary school went on to the school we selected for Sam. However, since Sam was so happy and learning well at his Secondary school, we took it for granted that it would be a good place to send Jah. It had fulfilled its promise of being a good environment for a multiracial society, quite in advance of its time. We did also do the requisite visit to show Jah. He was already motivated to follow his big brother and happily agreed to attend that school.

A few months ago I heard that every school in England has extra money per school year allotted to help “looked-after children” – the current pleasant terminology for adopted or fostered children. (In the year 2014/14 the sum of money was £900 per child) If ONLY Jah had had this help! Sam might not have needed it, but Jah would have benefitted I am quite sure. He had some learning block that we could not understand. It was easier for Sam, as he had come to us more or less a ‘brand new’ baby.

For any reader who has not followed this story, Jah came to us a few weeks before his fourth birthday. So many vital things are learned and absorbed during the very early days of a child’s life. More is known about this today. Jah had obviously missed out on some things, as is the case with many children who move from family to family in their early days.

However, let’s not dwell on the above. We are now just a few weeks before Jah was due to start at the secondary school and a school-related crisis had erupted. Asbestos was discovered in the building. The new entrants had to have lessons in prefabs that were set up on one of the playgrounds. The builders were very busy everywhere. It must have been a nightmare for the staff. I think the children were quite interested, but it must have been a slightly unsettling beginning to their secondary school experience.

construction workImage courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After several weeks working in these prefabs, the building works became more intense and the lower school was evacuated to an old school building in the Kings Cross area. It was deemed to be “rough”, so the children could not go out at lunchtime. The gates were shut. The children were very impressed and apprehensive. To them it sounded like being in a prison. In those days, school entrances were not usually guarded.

Today, in 2016 Sam and Jah’s secondary school has electronic passes to enter and exit, but things were more relaxed in the 1980s. (They were so shockingly relaxed, that local residents used to walk their dogs in the school grounds – with the attendant mess. Nowadays the entire site is surrounded by a metal fence – and a good thing too. This avoids dogs’ mess and unwelcome intruders.)person walking dog

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am not sure how much I shall write about Jah’s secondary school experience. As far as I remember, the aspect he enjoyed the most was an out of school activity arranged by a very gifted teacher with one or two other teachers involved –

– namely the beloved “School Journeys”

of which more another day.

Happy New Year! LEISURE ACTIVITIES with the family in the 1980s +1980s Racism.

Resuming the story of our multiracial family. . .When we moved to London in 1983, we joined a church in Camden Town. The congregation was very small and very friendly. There was one family of two children from a dual-heritage background. The mother was from Northern Ireland. The father was Asian but he died when the children were young, so the mother was bringing them up alone..

There were adults from the Caribbean, from Trinidad and Tobago, but no children.

 

There were also adults from Guyana and a delightful family from Ghana

The Ghanaian family had two tiny children and a baby, but every time their youngest could be separated from the parents, he or she was sent back to Ghana to be looked after by relatives until the young parents had finished their studies and could return to Ghana to join their children.

So we were in a multiracial setting in London, but at church there were no black children for our children to play with. Sam was already 11 years old and we hoped that he could meet other secondary age children as well as his school friends, so we looked around for another multiracial congregation. Fortunately we found one in Tottenham.

Travel to Tottenham was fairly easy by car or public transport and we attended there for many years. The children had plenty of black children and young teenagers to be with and to share ideas with.

The Minister and his wife took the children on holidays. They were very adventurous and took the children as far as Cornwall. This proved to be a learning experience for the London kids. They encountered some hostility from the Cornish children on one occasion, but I imagine that the minister dealt with the situation successfully. We only heard about this later on. The Minister and his wife took children back to Cornwall the following year. Each time many adventurous activities were available for all the children, including abseiling and caving. These holidays were excellent occasions for all.

I don’t have very clear memories about the Sunday school or the activities there, but I feel that we did as much as we could to ensure that the boys would meet other black children. We knew perfectly well the pressures that young black people had to endure in those days. Our son Sam was a well-motivated, polite and lovely young teenager, but he was frequently “picked on” by the police for absolutely nothing. On one occasion he was simply walking home from school and a policeman stopped him

London policeman

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Policeman: “What’you doing round here son?”

Sam: “I’m, walking home.”

Policeman “Oh. YES??” Sneer: “ I bet you don’t belong round here. . .”

This kind of statement was stupid from every conceivable point of view. Yes. Our house was in Primrose Hill, but if the policeman felt that black children could not live in the private houses, there was also a huge Council block of flats in our road, so obviously he could have ‘belonged’ in one kind of property along that road. (It was a very mixed community in every sense. Long may London remain like that.)

I am talking about the 1980s and I don’t want to recount the other occasions when Sam had to endure unfriendly reaction from the police. (Sadly there were a few.) However, I will say, that when I observed young black adults chatting to each other on the Underground, I sometimes noticed that they were discussing their own encounters with the police and that they were always extremely humorous about these encounters. I was quietly eavesdropping on their humorous comments. Of course I kept quiet. Their conversations were nothing to do with me, but inside me I saluted their reaction to this kind of harassment and humiliation. Clearly humour can help in many occasions. As parents when we tried to help Sam, humour was not an appropriate reaction, but among the young people themselves, it probably gave them an upper hand on the situation that they constantly found themselves in. Sharing these experiences with their friends and putting their own gloss onto the encounters would help them to deal with the injustice.

Nowadays, in 2015 I am in the grandparent generation and not involved in bringing up teenagers and I like to think that open racist comments are not so prevalent. I do not know, but let’s hope not!

Follow-on from a blog post about Children’s books, including some books about different countries around the world.

As I said in the last blog post, Lucy pointed out that I had mis-remembered some of the books our children read when they were young.

However, Anna agreed that I had remembered correctly that she hardly read any stories until the summer after her GCSEs. The first book she read then was “Catcher in the Rye”, by J. D. Salinger and after that there was no turning back for Anna. Today she reads mostly non-fiction, such as biography, History of World War 2 etc. but also a lot of fiction.

FICTION/NON-FICTION?

There is no “rule” that says that a child has to enjoy FICTION. They should be free to read what they enjoy. When we discovered that Anna loved funny poems, riddles and non-fiction, we were able to share our love of words with her in the way that suited her best. (She wasn’t keen on sitting still long enough to hear long stories.)

Currently, Nicola Morgan a very respected author, is what she might call ‘banging the drum’ that non-fiction also has a place alongside imaginative fiction and that it is equally valid. Nicola is a respected author.  She serves on the Children’s Writers’ Committee of the Society of Authors and she speaks with authority.

I know this is not meant to be a literary blog and anyway, many people may not ever have known that there has been prejudice against children concentrating on non-fiction. However, here I hope I can point to some books that might be of interest to people who wish to share with children some information and interest in other countries.

Children's Atlas           Big Book of the World

I believe I have mentioned before Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith’s “The Great Big Book of Families”. I wish that book had been available when we were bringing up our multiracial family. Fortunately we now have grandchildren to buy books for. These are lovely books to share with

them.the-great-big-book-of-familiesfamily reading

 

 

 

 

 

NOW Here is a touch of self-indulgence. A few days ago a friend said that she found one of my long-ago-published stories in a doctor’s waiting room. She was there with her granddaughter. Of course I was both surprised and delighted.

Here below is the cover of another story I wrote long ago. I believe that it still gets borrowed from libraries. Hooray!

Sammy's Xmas

Three cheers for libraries, books, writers and artists.

I end with a few Christmassy illustrations.

Santa             Imagescourtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
globe

Image courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 In the New Year I shall carry on with the story of Jah – moving towards the teenage years. . .In the mean time “Happy Christmas” to readers of this blog wherever you are in the world!