As we approach Mother’s Day, we want to recognise the many mums out there struggling alone and scared to ask for help.
Their greatest fear
There are lots of reasons why mothers we work with are worried, but one of their greatest fears is having their children taken into care. There needs to be more early support for mothers, so they don’t reach a crisis point. That’s why we started our work with young mothers.
Later we started Securing Change, working with parents leaving our family assessment centres. Many women who leave our centres without support go on to have more children, and the cycle repeats. We believe part of the answer to the current crisis in children’s social care is working harder with parents at an earlier stage.
We wanted to share this story to show the difference working with mums can make
Sally had her baby at 13. She is now 22 and still struggles with her childhood traumas and the loss of her child to foster care. In and out of the care system from the age of five, she has been failed by the adults who were supposed to protect her.
Sally told us she met Lorraine, one of our young parent practitioners, when she was eight months pregnant in her teenage bedroom. Since then, Lorraine has been with her every step of the way.
“It’s just been a big help to be honest because I feel like Lorraine understands me. It’s important to understand…”
Sally pauses and takes a deep breath,
“She’s just never left my side, to be honest. When I’ve been going through a lot of hard things, she’s just been a big support system, probably like my only support system.”
When Sally got pregnant while in the care of social services, they let her return home to her mother, Sally felt sure they would let her and her mother bring up the baby at home; they even had a cot in her room.
Choice: Go home alone or go to foster care
But days after giving birth, seven professionals came without warning into the hospital room and told her that wouldn’t happen. She would need to move into foster care if she wanted to keep her son. It was a tough time, she recalls,
“I had a nurse in there 24/7, and I just didn’t understand why. I always told my mum, I don’t like [the nurse]. She didn’t do anything to me or say anything to me; her energy was just off. She’d come into the room, sit in the corner, and take notes and stuff. I had no idea what she was writing or whatever. But she just had a malicious look on her face.”
Young parents like Sally often feel alone, scared to ask for help ‘In case it is used against them.’
While she went through various assessments with her new baby, she was scared the whole time. She felt whatever she did would be wrong. After foster care, she went to an assessment centre where she had spent time as a child.
“Even that was kind of traumatising, I used to go to contact there when I was younger. It just brought it back as soon as I saw the place, it brought back memories that I don’t really care for.”
Never able to enjoy being a mum
Sally acknowledges that she was not easy or likeable but says she was a scared 13-year-old with a lot of history.
“Even before he stopped living with me, I was always scared that my son was gonna get taken. So I’m looking at my son thinking, this time next year, I’m not gonna be able to see you anymore. I wasn’t able to enjoy any of it.”
A call for help
When fifteen-year-old Sally told the social workers she couldn’t cope and wanted to have her baby fostered after a stressful time with one foster carer, they instantly put the wheels in motion for adoption. Later when she called, distraught, begging them, they wouldn’t stop the process. It was a relief when the decision was made for her son to be fostered within the family.
Admitting to things like mental health, alcoholism, or domestic abuse is hard for most people; add to the fact that you could lose your children, and it can be terrifying. She is not alone; many women are scared to ask for the help they need. Sally said,
“Especially if they look like me and come from care. People will believe anyone over us.”
A stigma follows mothers who have been in care themselves or suffered from alcoholism or domestic abuse.
Sally is trying to make sense of her past and pull her life back together. The repercussions of the abuse she suffered in the childcare system have left her very traumatised.
Reunited after nine-months
A few weeks ago, Sally was carrying bags of Christmas and birthday gifts to a contact centre where she was going to see her son for the first time in nine months,
“I had a lot of thoughts; my anxiety would tell me a lot of things. That he wouldn’t know me..”
“When he saw me, his face lit up, and that made me feel a lot better because then, at least, I am doing something right; we had a nice time.
“I will say, at least he’s been raised very well because he’s so respectful. I don’t have to tell him anything twice. Like he’s a good boy. I’m not just saying that because it is my son!” She laughs, “I’m not one of those parents who says that and then their kids tear up the place!”
Someone who knows your story
St Michael’s Fellowship’s services ensure that all parents have someone to turn to, talk to and consistency. Everyone needs someone who knows their story to be there when times get tough. Sally never had another child and is still together with the father of her baby, though she admits they have been on and off over the years.
The single most significant impact on a child’s outcomes is parenting. The care system cannot provide children with the parenting they need. With the proper support, many more parents can look after their children.
We are proud of the mothers like Sally that we help them find peace and have a relationship with their children.
Thank you to our supporters who make this work possible; if you want to help mums like Sally this Mother’s Day, you can donate here.