'We were grateful, we had no choice'

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The Independent Online
"THE PROBLEM about the issue of adoption is that unless you know it's an option it is not an issue," says Sue McKenzie, who was in the care of her local authority for 16 years., writes Glenda Cooper.

"Unless you know that adoption is an alternative you are unlikely to want it."

Sue and her sister were fostered after her parents split up and the children were taken into care. "Adoption was never discussed. We probably wouldn't have been in care if we were growing up today. I'm mixed race and when my mother left, my father who is black was left looking after us. In those times it wasn't thought suitable - a black man looking after two young girls."

Her experience of fostering was not positive: "It was almost Dickensian. The foster children would do the chores and wait on the family. We were treated differently from their own children. When the family went on holiday we wouldn't go with them. We would be placed somewhere else until they came back."

"When we first went to our foster home we were only meant to be going for a few weeks, but as it became longer the family would say 'you were only supposed to be here for a few weeks and you were a horrible child' so we tended to feel grateful, as opposed to feeling we had a choice or a say in what happened to us.

Sue says it was very difficult to tell anyone what she felt: "Social workers did visit but they were very good friends with the foster mother and father, and she would say if we said anything she'd get us afterwards, and we wouldn't be believed anyway. And they always visited us at the house and so we couldn't say anything because when you're a child you think walls have ears and you would be heard.

"If you said you wanted to be adopted or that you were unhappy to your social worker it then becomes their problem that they have to deal with, more work for them."

"I think it becomes difficult when you grow up a bit and you see that other people have a different way of living, that other children talk about their family and you realise you are not an ordinary kid. Then you are continually reminded you are only foster children."

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