A Year of St Michael’s Milestones
This year we celebrate 120 years of St Michael’s Fellowship & 50 years of our Director, Sue.
It takes a special place & special people to grow & survive 2 World Wars, multiple financial crashes, the pandemic & more… but here we are in 2023 continuing the work we started over 100 years ago.
Since 1903, St Michael’s Fellowship has evolved with the world around it. Having started out as a place for unmarried mothers to give birth, we have fought hard against the stigma that single parents, particularly young single mothers, often face.
Such stigma has contributed to how we have built our ethos as a charity, where we offer judgement-free support to all families we work with.
Over the years we learnt to build our foundations on an inclusive family approach, where both parents – where possible – are included and offered support. It was in 1986 that we first supported a young father in a Family Court fighting for the right to look after his daughter, as the mother was unable to. It was an insight into the often-invisible experience of single dads and highlighted an un-addressed need within the space of family support. With our help, this young father, who was a capable parent, was awarded custody of his daughter.
As we continued to work with young parents, it became clear early intervention was needed to prevent families from hitting crisis point and in 2000 our Outreach Groups were born. Creating spaces for young parents to meet and learn from one another and to connect in a safe environment.
Since our foundation as a charity we have campaigned for the best care and procedures for our parents, including Family Assessment Centres becoming properly regulated & recognised. This was achieved in the early 2000s. With the government Care Standards Act being introduced in 2000 and Residential Family Centres Regulations in 2002.
In a bid to provide young fathers with the support they needed, we hired our first young Father’s Practitioner in 2002 and have increased our work with fathers of all ages in the last 20 years. With the launch of the Caring Dads™ programme at St Michael’s in 2019, an intense 17 weeks programme with fathers who have been abusive to their children and/or children’s mother/s.
“The heroes I had growing up were fictional…I want to ensure that my son has a real-life hero he can believe in. I want to be that person.” Young Dad
“I still like to go back, St Michael’s they have that place in my heart. I always go back and pop into the office as they played such a big part of my life for so many years.”
“My life changed dramatically since I was introduced to St Michael’s, in ways that will stay with me for the rest of my days. To me it is a heaven-sent organisation.”
“Your help changed my life…if I didn’t have your support it would be the same way, like before.”
A big part of our history has been our Director, Sue Pettigrew.
Sue first joined St Michael’s in October 1973 as a House Manager at 52, Palace Road…and 50 years later she has been working as Director for over 30 years.
Not many people stay in one place for such a period of time, so I sat down and asked Sue what it is about St Michael’s that made her want to stay.
“I’ve seen time and time again that given the right opportunity, people are capable of change.”
Whether that be change in behavior, change in circumstance or a change in understanding.
Sue says she just “really believes in what we do.”
Whilst the landscape and society has changed a lot over the last 50 years, seeing generations of “children & families thrive” is clearly an important part of Sue’s belief in St Michael’s mission.
When I ask Sue what she loves most about the charity, it is clear there is a lot. However, some stand outs are “our staff’s can-do attitude” & how “we can be pioneering in what we do” within the space of charities working with families.
Sue is proud of St Michael’s and how our non-judgmental ethos runs through all aspects of the charity, but she is particularly proud of our work to be inclusive of dads. It has been our goal to get dads on the map within support services and whilst there is still work to do, Sue is proud for St Michael’s to be amongst those leading the way.
When it comes to St Michael’s future Sue shares, she hopes we can continue doing the work we do but even better! Along with a hope for a ‘Step-Down’ facility for parents post residential assessment.
In a time where day-to-day living continues to get harder for so many people, vulnerable children and families are growing. With the Trussel Trust alone distributing 37% more emergency food bank parcels this year in comparison to 2021/2022. It seems now more than ever organisations supporting children and families are needed – and that’s why we are here.