A local mum has opened up about how her children’s social worker has helped her to overcome some of the biggest hurdles of her life. Having been previously known to social services throughout her childhood and into adulthood, Emma (not her real name) was able to turn her life around after becoming a mum herself and receiving vital support from her children’s social worker. By sharing her story, Emma is hoping to break down some of the misconceptions that exist about the social care system and those who access its services, as well as inspire others to consider children’s social work as a career.
“I was a toddler when I was first placed into foster care. I must have lived with over ten different foster families, often going back home for short periods before having to go back into care. Whilst unsettling, this was also normal to me. A childhood blighted by trauma and neglect was all I’d ever known and as a result, I had to grow up fast.
“I spent my childhood feeling like nobody wanted me and I believe that this is where my depression started, setting me on a downward spiral. After leaving care, I went to live back home and in the years that followed I was trapped living my old life, in what I now understand was a cycle of depression, drug misuse and unhealthy friendships. I also struggled to come to terms with losing a close family member and often felt alone and vulnerable, with nothing to live for.
“When I fell pregnant I was in a volatile relationship. This resulted in Social Services having to get involved and I became at risk of losing my child. But this turned out to be the wake-up call I needed. I felt ready for change and I knew I had to put my unborn child first. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I still had mental health issues but with support from Social Services I managed to end the relationship I was in and when my child was just a few days old, I moved to a mother-and-baby unit. This proved to be the best thing I ever did. It was around this time that I was allocated a children’s social worker, who was to become instrumental in helping me to turn my life around.
“Before I always used to doubt myself but my children’s social worker had such faith and belief in me, I was able to start believing in myself. She supported me every single step of the way, always going above and beyond, and we soon developed a strong bond. When I needed her, I knew I could call on her at any time and she would always be there to put my mind at ease. Whenever there was news, she’d tell me face-to-face then sit with me for however long it took to make sure I was OK. I never had any help growing up, but for the first time, I had support, reassurance and honesty.
“She put me on a few parenting courses and I also had counselling for a year which helped massively. I used to tell people I was OK when deep down I was breaking inside. But now I’m not afraid to say when I’m not alright so I can get help, which I wouldn’t have been able to do before.
“Whilst I would say my children’s social worker was amazing, I would also say the same for the whole profession. They are there to help but they don’t get enough credit. Growing up I only ever heard negative comments but now I’ve actually lived it I know differently. I think there’s that misconception that if people ask for help they’re going to lose their children, but with the right support, I’ve had the chance to prove that I can be a good mother, so I’ve been able to keep my child. I knew if I’d continued on the path I was on, I would have lost my baby, but Social Services gave me a chance and helped keep my family together.
“The mother-and-baby unit I’m living at is a family farm house and I live there with a couple and their child, who are there to support me. I grew up never knowing what love was or what it meant to be loved until I moved here, but being here has opened my eyes to a whole different way of life.
“This has all had a positive effect on my child, who is very contented and makes me laugh all the time. Right now I’m focussed on being a full-time mum, but when the time is right I’d like to live independently and go back to work. My PTSD and depression meant I had to leave my last job in hospitality, but I have qualifications in childcare, working with the elderly, and in hair and beauty. Recently, I’ve been helping out at the farm, so I might even look to working with animals. But whatever path I choose to follow, for the first time I’m able to feel hopeful that there are happier times ahead for my child and me, which is in no small part, thanks to the support I’ve received from my amazing children’s social worker.”
Find out more about how social workers help vulnerable young people across Yorkshire & Humber with Improving Lives campaign