on 27 September 2013
I had a particular interest in this book as I've known Lisa for quite a few years. I too went to that 'Northamptonshire School' although my circumstances were a lot different to Lisa's .... I came from a 'stable' family life, 2.4 kids, family dog ... and we even had a VOLVO! This book highlights to me that you never know what's going on behind closed doors, behind the scenes. Lisa obviously came from a hard and unstable upbringing, I came from the 'model family' yet it was me that ended up in prison, Lisa ended up with a university degree and many more accolades too boot! I'm proud to know her, impressed by her success in life and wish her all the best for her future. Although some of the tales in her book are truly heartbreaking, what I took most from the book was the optimism that whatever your upbringing, life is out there to be grabbed hold of. Your past should not dictate your future, just as your future is not mapped out by your past.
p.s. congratulations on the wedding Lisa.
on 29 March 2013
Before I read this book I knew very title about life in care, other than what I'd picked up through the media. This collection of stories, accompanied by the author's own sad tale of a broken, dysfunctional family, numerous foster homes and eventual homelessness, is not an easy read. As a parent myself i found myself wanting to make a difference, to do something to change the way kids in care are treated because it just seems so damn unfair that children can be given such a bad start to life. I alone am powerless but I hope people in positions of authority read this and see just how much damage can be done by a system where children are numbers and statistics rather than individuals.
Having said all that, it was heartening to read that these people, despite experiencing some very tough situations, have gone on to have worthwhile productive and successful lives. It did make me wonder how many children are not so lucky though ... How many slip through the gaps?
A difficult but inspiring read - well worth buying.
This is an excellent book which sits, to my mind, somewhere between a personal biography and a brief recent history of the development of the childrens social services looked after child system from the perspective of a child looked after by it.
I had listened to the author speak about this book on the radio and was very interested in reading it as I have first hand experience of working in both two seperate homelessness projects and presently work as a residential social worker, I have to say it really does not disappoint. There are a lot of practices which I believe anyone would hope are a thing of the past discussed or described in the book, which is, for the most part discussing the nineteen eighties but which are at least still potentialities or possibilities today.
The book is divided into two parts, the first, and longest, being the authors own experiences, interspaced with lists of music, news, TV, details about relevent childrens legislation and description of context, set piece reminiscence or reflections (such as discussion of being at a meeting as a professional which formerly the author had experienced as a child herself) and charts an unhappy home life, leading to contact with social services, foster placements (and their breakdown), a number of moves, including accomodation in a residential setting she describes as "highly volatile", a further residential placement and finally a period of time spent homeless before contact with AA and recovery. The second part of the book are edited pieces from others, each of which are themed, so focusing upon education, identity etc.
I absolutely loved this book as I found it both very, very readable and also very, very relateable, the author's perspective is one I would share myself, although we have very different experience and life histories. A great deal of time and effort has been invested with training social workers and social care workers to attempt to get them to become more empathetic about the roles they perform, with really mixed results, but I would hope that it would result in greater understanding of some of the more basic things mentioned in this book, such as memories associated with food or the hierarchies among unsupervised groups of young people. The unintended consequences or learning which a growing child or adolescent can draw from frequent moves of school or residence I felt was interesting and insightful, it is something I have seen myself, that no real difficult "working through" or "dealing" is necessary when it has proven possible to make moves instead.
I also absolutely loved the short and simple, briefly stated, insight about staff within the residential context that "they are in care too, they just dont know it", as it is something I have thought about at length but hear too often, unless in jest, or occasionally, with a great deal more ideological sophistication, from conservative politicians who consider it all as so much "picking and unpicking of rope" like in the "poor houses" of old but at an increased tax expense to the financial interests who form their constituency.
As I have stated this is a very readable book, I would recommend it to social workers and social care workers of course but I would also recommend it to the general reader, books of this kind should be read more often and form more opinions than they do presently because I think they could perhaps influence thinking about services, their adequacy to their tasks and what they exist to as a response to in the first place. The author at the commencement of the book is very much at pains to make clear that this book has grown out of her own experiences sharing her story through a variety of forums, including blogging, and it is not doubt not written with the kind of intent I just described. In a sense this is very much true, if you dont care about those questions it will still prove a very engaging read. She mentions George Orwell's book novel about middle class pretensions, Keep The Aspadistra Flying, but I thought this read a little like some of Orwell's other writing, his war diaries, letters or observational journalism or books. The inclusion of the lists of music, news, TV gave a real flavour of the times, causing me to reflect on what precisely I was doing or experiencing at the time that I heard those tunes, knew those events were taking place or saw that on TV too.
There are two "fates" which I truly hope this book does not encounter, one would be classed under that category of "tragic life history", the genre of "tell all" fiction which I've always found a little tabloid, and the other would be to be classified as a "training text" of the sort which professionals begrudging browse or skim over. Instead I hope it reaches as wide a readership as possible and it makes the same positive impression, providing the same food for thought, as it has myself.
on 9 June 2013
As I read the Acknowledgements at the beginning of the book, I started to get a sense of how emotional this book was going to be.
The Brightness of Stars is a first hand account of what it is like to have been a child/young person in the British 'Care' system. It is brilliantly written and comes across as both inspiring and thought-provoking.
Together with the author's own story, there are stories from other 'care leavers'. Although their situations and stories differ, there are several reoccurring themes, including abuse & neglect, but most importantly, what I would call, resilience. These individuals have chosen to make the most of their lives and not let their experiences drag them down. They have "managed to create a positive life from a negative environment". This may have taken time, intervention, assistance & love (including self-love), but it shows that the spiral can be broken.
Within the book Lisa states:
"This 'new' climate of knowledge around abuse and vulnerable children means that there is a very real window of opportunity for change."
I completely agree and I hope that the British Government & its agencies realise this before that window closes and we miss the opportunity to make a difference.
In my opinion, this book should be mandatory reading for social workers, education & medical professionals and anyone else who is involved with the British Care system.
on 29 March 2013
Having connections with Lisa's first book I wanted to follow her progress but without any connection to the British care system and being a mum I was a a little apprehensive about reading this book.
Emotionally I wasn't sure I wanted to be fully exposed to the realities of a system I know deep down is flawed. Did I want the extra responsibility I knew I'd feel towards being part of the solution without having any method of contributing?
Well, I read it. I cried, on the tube for goodness sake, at 7:30am!!!
Lisa's ability to articulate so clearly pictures burst into life in my mind, the little girl she was and the spiky troubled teen. I wanted to reach back down the years and gather her in.
How she has turned herself around in spite of the abandonment from all quarters is truly amazing. Her willingness to put herself out there and be the medium for others to find their voice is truly inspirational.
So now I know.
I've no earth shattering, world changing ideas on how I can be prt of the solution - yet.
But by virtue of Lisa and all her contributors I'm fully aware and conscious instead of vaguely knowing but not really connecting.
So to begin with, at least, I am no longer part of the problem.
Congratulations Lisa, you're an amazing woman and I sincerely hope this book will be a catalyst for change at all levels.
Thank you xx
on 30 September 2013
I can't imagine what it must have been like as a child or any age being pushed from pillar to post and not really having any place or family to call home.
The nearest I got to it was a friend in school who was placed in care - one of twins, her brother was adopted, but she was deemed 'too much of a handful' and stayed in the care system. I never looked at it from the point of view that the adults around her gave up on her, but essentially, that is what they did. We lost touch in school, after she was expelled, but roll forward 25 years, via a Facebook contact I found out she has five children of her own, three of whom are in care due in part to her alcoholism and drug-use and a messy divorce. It sounds like she never got to break the cycle. I've often wondered had she had more help and understanding as a young person, what difference it would have made to her life.
The Brightness of Stars went some way to helping me understand more about what it must have been like for my friend, it seems we are still living with an outdated tick-box system which most young people in care don't fit into.
This book has opened my eyes and inspired me to take positive action to help make a difference to people in care. A great read, a great insight.