Care in the time of COVID

As I head towards the end of my time at Oxford as a Research Assistant, I will be reflecting on how I’ve spent the last year. This includes the recent Care in the time of Covid, University of Oxford research project that was set up as a way to understand how COVID-19 has affected care experienced adults in the UK.

The team includes:

Myself / Dr. Aoife O’Higgins/ Dr. Jonathan Taylor/ Dr. Lucy Bowes/ Dr. Sian Pooley

Supported by:

Torch Oxford / Magdalen College / Department of Experimental Psychology

We invited people who have experience of care to complete a short survey about their experiences of COVID-19 and to submit a diary entry to tell us about their day to day lives. They did this by responding to weekly prompts such as: What are the main things which determine your day to day feelings?

You can see some of the diary submissions here.

The prompt I found most interesting, partly due to my PhD research, was: What does Home mean to you?

When I chose Hiraeth as the title for the PhD novel, I did so because it encompassed the feelings I had experienced for many years around home and belonging. I then adopted the word for the care experienced community because for many of us, Hiraeth is part of our DNA and for some of us, our mothers longing started before we were born.

Sometimes the word *home* makes me feel uncomfortable because home and children’s home in my life were synonymous. A children’s home can never be a family home, there are too many rules and regulations for that. A residue of that system is often an unwanted heritage – mental health issues caused by the very organisation that was supposed to protect and create a safe environment. Foster care can provide a family environment but it is usually temporary and that in itself is problematic. This is not to recognise that there are some foster carers who give their fosterlings such love and care that this can last a lifetime and give hope in those darker moments.

Being in care is all about longing and yearning and somehow learning to live with a constant homesickness. For me this is Hiraeth. So many care experienced people I know speak of their ambiguity around home and belonging. It is something that every child wants, a home of their own, a place to belong, a place to feel safe.

It is this ambiguity that I want to investigate a bit more, it’s almost as if there is this really important aspect of the research that I have yet to uncover, to dig deep and find the golden nuggets. The examiners at my PhD Upgrade suggested I think more creatively about the thesis chapters and instead of responding chronologically I give them titles such as ‘Home’ and think about the theoretical issues of what we mean by having a sense of belonging, being placed in people’s homes and the irony of how and why some people with care experience end up homeless.

What this suggestion actually did was to create a freedom whereby I could stop feeling I had to include all the issues faced by care experienced people in the novel and concentrate on being creative knowing I could discuss important themes in the critical piece.

I have enjoyed being part of the Oxford research team and reading the Care in the time of Covid diary submissions. I’m hoping that the responses to the ‘home’ question will help me understand the issues around this and possibly give me even more direction.

In the meantime, I thought I would have a go at responding to the research project prompt myself and this fell out:

What does home mean to you?

What does home mean to me?

I’ve been back and forth through the memories of yesterday

There’s no place like home

Visited old houses – a stone wall here, a front door there

Hoping somebody would invite me in (for a cup of tea and a custard cream)

What does home mean to me?

Peaking, through orange-lit curtains

I-ma-g-i-ning

There’s no place like home

Watching families rush home in the rain

Glimpsing shadows through windows

What does home mean to me?

A mother – pressing her key in the lock, pushing baby through the door.

Turning, catching a glimpse of a welcoming-in

There’s no place like home

Though I have somewhere to live, I’m not settled

My mind is always packing up belongings in blue boxes

What does home mean to me?

There’s no place like home.

 

 

 

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