I took the opportunity to wander around the vacant rooms, the beautiful afternoon sunshine streaming through sash windows overlooking ancients trees and grassland. In vast rooms stood rickety old chairs, a random "Dora the Explorer" plastic keyboard and line upon line of empty filing cabinets; care children come with endless paperwork.
I thought of the hope in those rooms, the dreams and the broken promises of children young and old who'd passed through these doors. Did they ever return to their families or find new ones to go to where they grew to feel safe and secure? Outside I saw some lovely outcomes; children who had been adopted jumping on a bouncy castle laughing with delight; their parents watching on proud and happy. But what about the ones who were left behind?
In my support work with teenagers leaving the care system I've seen this side; the children for whom it didn't work out. Many have experienced trauma, neglect and abuse in their childhoods and so their needs often become complex and their behaviour is challenging. Perhaps they never got the chance to be adopted or foster care didn't work out for them? They just kept moving from place to place chased by the ghosts of their past. Now adults, they don't know what it is to settle; they can't stop because to stop is to think and to think is to hurt.
These young people have had a profound effect on me. Many don't know what it feels like to have some kind of bond with their Mum; perhaps the most fundamental instinct of all? I can empathise with them a bit because, when I was growing up, I didn't live with my Mum. I did see her on a regular basis but it's only in recent years that I feel we've truly connected. It was with this mix of emotions that I sat down at the piano and wrote this...
"Once" by Ruth E Dixon (click to listen)