I made enquiries to the Peckham office of The Children’s Society and, after several lengthy discussions with a case worker over the telephone, a date was set to travel to London. My husband and I travelled up the day before and settled into a hotel for the night.
My enquiries into my time in care had encouraged me to try to trace certain old friends that had been in care with me. Through contacting The Children’s Society, they sent me one of their yearly published magazines. Imagine my joy on finding, on the address page, someone who had been in my home, St Faiths, at the same time as me. I picked up the courage to phone and was overwhelmed to find out that she remembered me and, indeed, had photographs and other material.
So, whilst on my visit to Peckham, I coupled the visit with one to see three dear friends as well. We arrived in Peckham on a miserable wet morning and entered the office. We were shown into a small room until a Society caseworker came and introduced herself. There were several formalities to talk about before I was allowed access to my files. These out of the way, we proceeded to go through my case file, page by page. Every page was read out to me, as these were copied from microfilm and some pages were not entirely legible.
I have to say that what I read was very disturbing and we had to stop many times for me to gather myself together before proceeding further. There were various things written about why I was put into care that I did not know about. I was never told the full and honest story.
Reading these pages of my life made me realise that there was a lot missing in my life. Some things can never be replaced. It was very upsetting, but it was extremely needed for me personally to carry on. A lot of unanswered questions were now at last answered and, most importantly, with the truth. Facts about my father, which in later life after leaving the home became reality.
I was 50 yrs old and at last I knew!! I only spent four years in care, but it seemed like a lifetime because I was never told WHY? But now I knew WHY? I was only three when I went into St Faiths, but it left a lasting impression on me. I was very lucky, I feel, as it was a great home and we were well loved by the staff; Matron especially. We were made to feel the same as other children, but as one big happy family.
Several years ago now, I took my three young children back to Torquay and St Faiths to show them where I spent years of my childhood. My eldest was only 13, but we came away from the home with him in floods of tears. He said he felt at home there even though we only stayed about an hour. The stories that I had told him about the home had remained vivid in his mind. He felt he knew the place really well. I must admit, visiting it again after 40 odd years it still felt good.
I was glad I found the courage to face my past. It has given me a good start for my future life.
Thank you, Jeanette.