The Throwaway Children

The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe Read Free Book Online

Book: The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe Read Free Book Online
Authors: Diney Costeloe
she turned first.
    The end of the war had also brought a change of government and with it plans for a new welfare system. Things began to change. There was a shift in public thinking and the new Children’s Departments were expected to explore other ways of providing care for needy children. Different arrangements were to be made and the newly appointed Children’s Officers were placing such children with foster families rather than residential homes like Laurel House. Miss Hopkins was expected to do the same. Public opinion on the child migration scheme had changed too. People began to think that perhaps children as young as three should not be plucked from all that was familiar and shipped off to the other side of the world. English children should be brought up in England. Sir Edward Sherrington’s thoughts that the riff-raff should be sent somewhere else, preferably as far away as possible, were no longer publicly expressed.
    Miss Hopkins did not agree with the changes, and whenever possible she still sent girls in need of care to Laurel House. From what she’d just said on the phone, it sounded to Emily as if she might soon have two new inmates for Laurel House.

    Rita lay in bed, listening. She could hear the sound of Mum’s voice downstairs, high and excited. There was the rumble of Uncle Jimmy’s voice as he replied, but Rita couldn’t hear what they were saying.
    When Uncle Jimmy had come home, Mum had put a plate of sausage and mash on the table and said, ‘Here’s your tea, love. We must talk later. Got things to tell you… you know.’ She nodded her head. ‘You know,’ she repeated.
    ‘What things?’ asked Rita. Why was Mum nodding and smiling like that?
    ‘Nothing to do with you, Miss Nosey Parker,’ said her mother. ‘Now, you girls go out to play till bedtime.’
    Listening to the voices downstairs now, Rita knew they were talking about the things that had nothing to do with her, and she wondered what they were. She crept out of bed and edged halfway down the stairs. She dared not go any further or she’d have no hope of escaping if Uncle Jimmy came out unexpectedly. She strained to hear what was said, but she could only hear snatches… something about the baby.
    Mum was asking about going to an office. Had he been as he promised? Rita couldn’t hear Uncle Jimmy’s answer, but her mother sounded pleased. Then he said something else, and Rita heard Mum say, ‘Yes, I went, I said I would.’
    Uncle Jimmy’s voice again and then Mum said, ‘The welfare woman said just fill in the forms, and I…’ then the clatter of china drowned her next words. Rita strained to hear but the scrape of a chair on the kitchen floor made her scurry upstairs. She was just in time as the kitchen door opened and Uncle Jimmy came out.
    ‘Jimmy, where are you going?’ Mum’s voice was quite clear now.
    ‘Out for a pint.’
    ‘But what about the forms? I need your help with them. We’ve got to decide.’
    ‘We have decided,’ answered Uncle Jimmy. ‘You fill them in. I’m going for a pint.’
    Rita heard the front door slam and her mother’s plaintive ‘Jimmy!’ to the empty kitchen.
    Rita lay in bed thinking about what she’d heard. The baby. Well, she knew Mum was having a baby. It was growing in her tummy and making her very fat. She wasn’t at all sure how the baby was going to get out. When she’d asked, Mum had said that when the time came the nurse would come and the baby would be born. Rita knew there must be more to it than this and she talked to Maggie down the street, who had a new baby brother.
    ‘The nurse came,’ Maggie told her, ‘and she pulled him out through Mum’s belly button.’
    ‘Did you see him come out?’ asked Rita in wonderment.
    ‘No,’ Maggie admitted. ‘I was sent round my nan’s.’
    Rita had given Maggie’s answer a lot of thought since. She couldn’t quite believe that a baby could get out through a belly button, but what other explanation was there?

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