Fiona Phillips: We are failing the children who need us most as thousands go missing

As a child, when I was told off or was in a paddy about something that my mum had said or done, or that I was trying to deny I’d done, I’d shout: “Well, I didn’t ask to be born did I?” Thereby ­ending the spat. And making EVERYTHING my mum’s fault.

I’d then stomp up to my bedroom and ruminate over the terrible ­injustices in my life. Of which there were, in truth, precisely none. Apart from the fact that my brothers defo got the better deal in life and were, of course, treated more favourably than I was. I swear this is true, although they annoyingly disagree.

Anyway, I had an undeniably loving upbringing, especially where my mum was concerned. She was a force of positivity and happiness with a smile that lit up the house. Even though she suffered ­excruciating bouts of depression.

As my teenage hormones kicked in and made me very cross and mostly unlikeable, I had that teen thing of being mortally embarrassed by everything my mum said, did or wore, especially if she did any of it in the vicinity of my friends.

I felt a dark rage coming on if she dared come near my bedroom and embarrass me while mates were round listening to my T. Rex and Queen cassettes.

She often said: “You’ll look back when you’re older and remember how horrible you were to me.”

But another hormone popped and a teenage black mist descended, so I didn’t believe a word of it. What a little prat I was.

What prats we’ve all been at some time or another, especially to the ones we love. If only we’d known that, for some kids, the formative years are often a living hell spent in children’s homes in a chaotic system where youngsters are subjected to physical and mental abuse.

This week, a Mirror investigation found claims that, among other horrors, criminals are alleged to have been working in a children’s home and recruiting children as drug runners.

These poor kids, among the most vulnerable in society, are easy targets for exploitation by criminal gangs. Workers at one home in Lancashire said they could smell cannabis in the home and in staff cars, and reported finding “snap” bags used for drugs.

Last year, 37,070 children went missing from homes, some thought to have been abducted by criminal gangs exploiting children in care.

HOW? Just HOW can this be happening in a so-called civilised society where the thought of a child being abused is anathema to all decent souls?

Surely children’s homes should be among the safest refuges?

Surely there should be a tight, but light-handed, watch on their every movement? Why, year after year, is this still happening? And we call ourselves a civilised society?

We have no claim to that title until the most vulnerable are looked after, cared for and valued.