We left the UK in January 2011, we took 2 of our 5 children with us, one was living in Germany, the other in Reading and the eldest in a care home in Gloucestershire.
If you think putting a child into care is easy, think again about how difficult it is to move 1000's of miles away.
Our daughter is 28, she has been in care since she was 12. She is profoundly disabled and lives in a bungalow with one other woman and is staffed 24 hours a day, funded by Gloucestershire Social Services. She is profoundly disabled, wears nappies and needs 24/7 care as she is a risk to herself if left unattended. She can feed herself if the food is chopped up and she uses a spoon with a plate guard and can drink unaided out of a sippy cup. She has no form of communication, doesn't even make eye contact and recognises us only by our routines with her when we visit.
Contact and communication with her is impossible. We write regularly, send the staff emails, send gifts and when we visit the UK we take her out to see her siblings and other family members. Sadly we can't have her out over night any more as we don't have a base in the UK or anywhere suitable to take her. Family homes aren't appropriate, there's hardly enough room for us to stay and hotel rooms are too small, as she is rather active and needs a lot of space to wander in.
She is too old for ball pools and children's play areas, not mentally but physically and she does grab out at people passing by and small children, she has a particular fondness for long hair. If we go to cafe's or restaurants she swipes everything off the table and we often find the lack of disabled changing facilities difficult to go to other places, so we tend to stick to supermarkets where the ground is even, they have good changing facilities and a cafe without fancy table cloths for her to pull off.
Prior to us leaving the UK, we had her home every weekend and visited her in her own home 30 miles from ours once a week. When we left the UK, we didn't abandon her or our other adult children. She is unable to visit us abroad like the other children can, a car journey is difficult with her and she needs to wear a harness, to stop her climbing out of her seat, so a flight is impossible and not fair on her to pin her in a seat for 7 plus hours, let alone the other passengers.
It was her 28th birthday yesterday. We last saw her in September, my mum calls her once a month, but that's the end of family involvement with her, the boys only visit when they're with us, but to be fair, we can't expect them to take her out and change her in the toilets. It's also difficult to visit her in her own home due to the turn over of staff. Every time we visit there are new staff, new management, new contact people. When I write or email, it's to the staff not to our daughter, she has photos of us on her wall, but we truly don't believe she knows what she is looking at.
I called her last night to wish her a happy birthday, it wasn't a pleasant call, the woman who answered the phone just said 'hello' I said who I was and was phoning from Dubai to wish her a happy birthday and to enquire as to how she was. I came off the phone very upset that the member of staff had no patience for me, I even asked her if she could make an effort to tell me our daughter was ok and reassure us that everything was alright. But I could hear in her voice and her lack of interest in the call that she thinks we've abandoned our daughter, that we don't care, that she knows our daughter better than us as she works 5 x 8 hour shifts with her a week, she probably isn't the person who answers the emails. or is on shift when the post arrives or my mother calls. She has only been in the job since mid September as I didn't recognise her name. The management have made no effort again to fill the care staff in on her history and family background, they probably look at the pictures on the wall and see a forgotten family, a family they don't see, a family the care staff know nothing about and assume we've just dumped and run.
I started my working life with SCOPE, I've worked in care for many years, I've heard the staff gossip, I've heard the assumptions they've made as to why the family don't visit. I've heard the staff moaning about how the family, when they do visit just interfere and they're the ones who are looking after their children whether they're minors or adults and heard them say how the family know nothing about their own child and how on earth could anyone just give their child away.
I'm fed of explaining to people why our daughter is in care, it's no one else's business at the end of the day. I can tell you for sure that if Gloucester Social Services didn't think she needed that level of care they certainly wouldn't be funding her full time.
Yes we feel the guilt, which is self imposed, but there's no need for anyone else, however well meaning or just thoughtless they are to add to it.
We also have a child in boarding school in the UK and no we haven't abandoned him either.