Friday, 5 November 2010

Boy for Sale

I've always been cynical about those who run businesses caring for the vulnerable, especially since I learned of the extent of the wealth people have amassed in this way.

But I've always been especially wary of nurseries – not least the one you will be in today.

It's impossible to plan what happens in your last years and often, as was the case with your Great-Nana, specialist care of the elderly is required, but I've never understood how it is acceptable for parents to bring a child into the world with the express intention of abrogating their personal responsibility to bring them up.

Don't be seduced by the cutesy titles of the 'settings'. 'Little Ted' is looking through the prison window today. The report into the nursery in Laira, Plymouth, from where Vanessa George sexually abused toddlers, is startling because by all the measured standards, it was 'satisfactory' or 'good' - just like your nusery.

Just as appalling to me has been the response of those who still think that buying and selling the upbringing of little people is a right to be protected, even in the face of this mess.

I really do feel deeply for the woman quoted by the BBC yesterday whose child went to Little Ted's - that could have been you.

But who put the child there?

Who chose to put the child in a nursery - that nursery?

Who set acceptable standards so deplorably low?

Who allowed a nation to believe that putting babies in the care of paid strangers was acceptable, and that not having children when you can’t afford to rear them yourself is an anathema?

Who told us to be appalled when children are taken into care, but that it’s ok to pay to institutionalise our own for five days of the week?

Worse still, we have the response of a father whose children went to Little Ted’s, commenting on the re-branded re-opening of the place: 

The man, who retains anonymity, said: "It had been a good part of the local community, so what happened last year was a real blow to everybody.

"We shouldn't let our communities be ground down by people like Vanessa George.
"It's important to rebuild."

He admitted that the site's history could deter parents.

"It's a big step for any parent to take. But Vanessa George apart, it was a very good nursery.

"I would be happy to send my children to this new one," he said.

That's like saying the Titanic was a superb ship, apart from the regrettable leak caused by the iceberg.

What part of a local community does a business play, which acts as a repository for children whose parents can’t afford to, or won’t, give up working to nurture them to school age?

More to the point, what sort of father says those things when the independent review has stated, very clearly, that a nursery which OFSTED said was ‘satisfactory’ or ‘good’ was “an ideal environment” for child abuse?

When the whole issue was a little more recent and raw, another father said this:

“You look at your child and think ‘how could I let something like this happen’”

I feel nothing but guilt knowing you are languishing in a terrible nursery. I never should have let you end up in one, and I can do nothing about it now, thanks to the courts. I can't find words to express how that pain feels.

I never receive any form of reports on your attendance or achievements. The last time I heard from them was when Mummy's solicitor submitted a report (saying you were doing fine) and a statement from your carer (who claimed I was causing you to bite the other children and staff) direct to the court, bypassing me. That was in June. Nothing since, despite a court order and despite asking repeatedly.

The fact that discriminating against one of your parents like this, and indeed perjury, is illegal, has changed nothing, but with all the other things that are going on, I've not gotten round to pursuing OFSTED and the local authority yet. We're still trying to keep our heads above water here. I have never ever met the women who run the business that has won the contract for your childhood.

In your case, like many other children, the state pays towards, and promotes your attendance at 'Happy Days' so that they can use Mummy to bolster the employment statistics, and the staff to get the NEET figures down.

On the one hand, the taxpayer is justifying funding your childcare to let your 'Single Mum' go to work, and on the other, they are making sure Daddy is out of the picture and under control, when he would do the job much better for free.

It is not arrogance for me to believe that you, my son, are best off in the care of your own flesh and blood in your formative years - God gave you parents for a reason. Your 'Happy Days' are the ones you spend with your family, not in an institution.

18 months or so ago, when your Mummy decided that being a receptionist was more important to her than being a Mummy, the first couple of nurseries we visited were like Romanian orphanages. The novel sight of a real, live, straight man in the nursery had the children looking at me, doe eyed, as if to say 'please take me home'. At one, I witnessed teenager changing a toddler's dirty nappy on a floor that might have been a sandpit, no more than two feet from where another little boy was picking apart his cucumber sandwiches. Meantime, a little boy of maybe 18 months was shut away, alone, behind three closed doors in another room. That was them putting on a show for potential clients!

I thought we'd seen enough to put Mummy off contracting you out, but she pointed out that OFSTED thought these nurseries were perfectly satisfactory. Just like Little Ted's. That, apparently, made it ok - or at least, someone else's fault.

Of course, your attendance at nursery cost almost what Mummy earned, so we didn’t exactly get rich as a result of the sacrifice of your chance to be a toddler at home, either.

Eventually, having little option, I accepted your attendance at a nursery which was, by comparison, exceptional, and had pretty high OFSTED scores. In practice, they were still nowhere near good enough. At one stage I started to avoid going there myself because I couldn't bear to remind myself - I complained about supervision ratios not being kept more than once. Worst of all, I discovered that Mummy had been putting you in there during her days off work, without telling me. If we could have made ends meet on Mummy's salary, I'd have been at home with you all along - with pleasure. As it was, I toiled on to keep a roof over our heads, and took every chance I could to take you out of nursery when I could spare time from work.

Back in March, at the first court hearing where I got any meaningful opportunity to speak, I explained that it was my proposal, on a demonstrably sustainable basis, to give up work and be a full time father to you. It still is.

Essentially, I was saying I wanted to replace the nursery in bringing you up. The amount of time you spent with Mummy would have exceeded the amount of time you spent with me (which was 50% more than you get now).

Mummy burst into tears and stormed out of the room. That wasn't good enough for her - but it was better than I have ever had since she took you.

The District Judge's reply to my offer? "Don't think that will make any difference to where the child lives!".

She was right. It hasn't.

I have been offering all year to give you infinitely more time with both your parents than you currently spend, and that, apparently, is not 'in the best interests of the child'. Nobody is accountable for this decision.

The nursery you are in now, which you were registered at (in breach of court orders) without my prior knowledge, and over which I exert no authority, is not in business because they care about your future.

They are in business to make profits, create employment and justify their existence.

Just like the Solicitors,


and the CSA,

and the stinking Secret Courts.

Fighting your corner this year has almost killed me. Your step-mum and I will be paying off the debts for years. Meantime, your childhood - like so many other children’s - is just seen as a commodity to be traded, although it seems that at no price can we ever buy it back for you.

It rubs it in to see parents who choose not to spend time with their children paying to get rid of them so they can work, when I am barred by the laws of the land from getting you out of that nursery, or even seeing you most of the time.

Some time ago I taught you that the trains from London which pass your nursery bring love from Daddy. Before I was excommunicated, the nursery staff admitted that you used to often go outside and watch them passing. Once in a while, I still sit at Paddington, watching trains leaving for the west and wondering what you're up to. Sometimes, I ask the drivers to make a noise as they pass your nursery, in the vain hope that you will be reminded that I care.

I have no reason to remain in this struggle for any other reason than because I love you. Unlike the others.

Love from Daddy.

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