A survivor of 'the hell of the homes' testifies: 'The violence of the adults supposed to protect us and who beat us...'

During his childhood, Lyes Louffok suffered abuse, rejection and violence. This former foster child tells his story in his book 'In the hell of homes'. We interviewed him when his book came out in 2019. The observation of his childhood still rings terribly true today, at a time when a report by Zone Interdite once again highlights the dysfunctions of Social Assistance in Childhood (ESA).

  A survivor of 'l'enfer des foyers" témoigne : "La violence des adultes censés nous protéger et qui nous frappent..."

Interview conducted in 2019, updated for the first time on November 15, 2021 on the occasion of the broadcast by France 2 of the TV movie, and again on Sunday October 16, 2022 on the occasion of the program 'Zone prohibited' on the dysfunctions of child welfare (ASE).

Lyès Louffok tells his story 'In the hell of homes'

In his book 'In the hell of homes', Lyès Louffok testifies to his childhood. Placed in a nursery at birth due to his mother's psychiatric problems, his biological father having fled his responsibilities during the pregnancy, Lyes Louffok finds himself entrusted to Emilie, his first foster family who gives him so much love. But when she announces to the social services that she wishes to move to the south for professional reasons, the Childhood Social Assistance (ASE) refuses that Lyes moves away from her biological mother. And that's where the problems start. The one he calls the 'fat blonde lady' mistreats him for two years, from 4 to 6 years old. ' I forgot the kisses. I learn the blows. The bad girl hits me whenever I cry or scream. She doesn't feed me three times a day like she should, like she's paid for. She makes me sleep on a polystyrene board, without a pillow, without a comforter, without anything' , he testifies in his sadly touching and revolting book, ' In the hell of homes ', to the editions I read . Lyes is then tossed around from foster families to homes, without ever being informed of his departure. He was then placed with Daniel, the farmer (who took the time to slaughter the sheep he had seen born and bottle-fed before his departure), then in homes of rupture and emergency in which reign between the young people violence, rape and the law of the strongest... ' In total, I changed places of reception eight times' , he tells us. Today a social worker and member of the National Child Protection Council (CNPE), Lyes Louffok is the spokesperson for all the children in care, whom he defends with fervor.

What stood out to you the most during your journey?

What was most terrible for me was the home! This absolute opacity where everything is closed and above all the violence of adults who are supposed to protect us and who beat us, but also these extremely 'battered' children who are made to live together without worrying about the consequences that this may have. What is also difficult is to see that all the people outside the home (teachers, doctors, etc.) considering that we were foster children, therefore protected, did not really care about what we experienced on a daily basis in this structure. It really messed me up. I will always remember a French teacher, when I first entered college in 6th grade, who asked me ' And you Lyes, what did you do to be at La Tournelle? '. We then become guilty of being placed, and almost guilty of what can be done to us!

What are the long term consequences?

“Health support is a disaster!”.

Once an adult, you have to deconstruct everything… It's very complicated to get attached. When you have despised adults throughout your childhood, you then find it difficult to trust others. There are therefore consequences at the same time on the professional, sentimental and friendly levels. We build ourselves differently from others. You have to ask yourself how what you have experienced should not happen again for others. In addition, the support in terms of health is a disaster. There are none for minors or young adults, some of whom should be systematically followed up and taken care of in victimology. Especially since health problems, if they are not treated during childhood, persist into adulthood. Finally, young adults are left to their own devices at 18. The transition is brutal: the child finds himself on the street overnight. You should know that one out of four homeless people is a former foster child, it's dramatic! At the Toulon remand center for example, 80% of young people aged 18 to 24 who are incarcerated have had a course at the ASE. We must therefore be consistent and tell ourselves that it is precisely between the ages of 18 and 25 that the government must invest. For 18 years, at an average of 139 euros per day, I cost society almost a million euros. If it's to end up on the street, it's a big mess!

Child protection in numbers:

- More than 300,000 children placed in France, 53% are between 11 and 18 years old.

- Girls are 13 times more likely than others to have a child at 17

- Placed children are 5 times less likely to pass a general baccalaureate

- One out of four homeless people is a former foster child

- 10 billion euros per year are nevertheless devoted to child protection.

'We should be open to other modes of parenthood, such as simple adoption or the family'

There are many flaws within Child Welfare. I've seen foster families who alerted social services several times that we weren't getting along, but they still insisted that I stay. As for my mother who is psychiatrically ill, under guardianship and recognized as incapable of being responsible for herself, she nevertheless retained parental authority over a child. How then do we define the legal status of a child and how do we evolve it to be as protective as possible? I find it a pity not to open up to other modes of parenthood such as adoption single, or other family members, so as to multiply the chances for children to find their happiness in loving people. Today, single women and men without children, as well as homosexual couples are not foster families. We could also let the host families choose the children when they know them and are ready to love them (as proposed by Agathe, Emilie's sister, editor's note).

ASE: what do you think should be changed?

As Laurence Rossignol advocated in her plan to combat violence against children in 2016, a referring doctor is needed in all hospitals in France in order to identify cases of child abuse . These referring doctors would be responsible for coordinating the action of health professionals, raising their awareness and being the resource person. In addition, the identification of abuse is poor in France. There is a real lack of control in homes and foster families. The problem is that this decentralized policy means that the government has no say on this subject because it is a departmental competence, and the departments point the finger at the lack of means, and therefore the unable to create control cells. In addition, the recruitment of host families is sometimes done 'in a hurry' and some fall through the cracks . What is essential today is to review the national benchmark for the evaluation of worrying information, as well as the host family accreditation benchmark. Furthermore, it should also separate the children by age group in order to avoid power struggles and significant situations of mistreatment. Ideally, boys should even be separated from girls to prevent the latter from becoming sexual victims.

What institutions do you recommend?

None really meet my expectations. We have to think on a human scale, in small houses, with host families. A little like SOS Children's Villages or the Foundation Action Enfance, whose director, Marc Chabant does a good job. It allows siblings to grow together and also promotes the participative approach of children, without being afraid to confront what young people can say about the functioning, and that is interesting. *Comments collected in July 2018.

Source journaldesfemmes.fr